Weekend Roundtable: See You in the Funny Papers

While it may not have beaten out James Bond, ‘The Peanuts Movie’ also had a pretty big opening last weekend and is expected to put up a strong fight this weekend as well. No doubt, this will trigger a wave of more movies based on old newspaper comic strips. That dreaded prospect aside, what were some of the favorite comic strips you read as a kid?

To be very clear, we’re talking about the comics printed in newspapers, either daily or the Sunday pull-out section. This is not the same thing as comic books, which are a different beast entirely.

Shannon Nutt

Other than the Sunday Funnies, I wasn’t much of a comic strip reader as a kid. That all changed, however, in college when creator Bill Amend released ‘FoxTrot‘ on the world.

Focusing on the lives of the Fox family: Father Roger, Mother Andy, and kids Peter, Paige and Jason, the strip always had its pulse on pop culture, particularly with 10-year-old Jason, who’s obsessed with all things geeky, including ‘Star Wars’, ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’.

Hilariously funny at times, Amend has never succumbed to whoring out his characters for animation, toys, or otherwise. About the only bit of merchandise available are compendiums of past strips. There used to be a daily calendar issued every year, but it was discontinued. I contacted the calendar company to ask why and got a personal reply back from Amend himself, which said, “According to our records, you were actually the only one buying these.”

Sadly, Amend chose in 2007 to make ‘FoxTrot’ a Sunday-only strip, depriving fans of some of the ongoing storylines that used to inhabit the daily run. Still, the characters are just as much fun as ever. If you’ve never heard of ‘FoxTrot’, do yourself a favor and give it a look.

M. Enois Duarte

Growing up, I loved reading the newspaper comics strips like ‘Doonesbury’, ‘Mother Goose and Grimm’, ‘B.C.’ and ‘Hagar the Horrible’. I have a lot of childhood memories of not only buying the Sunday newspaper just for the three-page cartoon section, but also attempting to draw many of the characters for my own amusement.

However, my favorite comic strips bar none were ‘The Far Side‘ and ‘Bloom County‘. The humor in both was incredibly off the wall and absurd, while serving as subtle commentary on the sociopolitical issues of the 1980s and the early ’90s. I was saddened when both strips came to an end, but I have since purchased book collections of their best moments. Later, I started enjoying ‘Non Sequitur‘ when it came out in the mid ’90s, and it quickly grew into my new favorite for the remainder of the decade.

Today, I still enjoy reading comic strips and a variety of other political cartoons. I loved that ‘Bloom County’ was resurrected as ‘Opus’, although it didn’t last long. I was even more excited when I read over the summer that creator Berkeley Breathed was bringing it back once more, inspired by current political events. Though it doesn’t have the same level of quirky cynicism it once did, I continue to follow ‘Non Sequitur’ and try my best to catch up on the others mentioned above when time permits.

Mike Attebery

I suspect that half of us will pick ‘Calvin and Hobbes‘. That was certainly my favorite strip as a kid and to this day. After Bill Watterson retired, I tried to follow ‘FoxTrot’ for a while, but compared to the timeless perfection of Calvin, the repetitive pop culture storylines grew tiresome. When I saw the trailer for ‘Peanuts’, my first thought was, “Man, I’d still love to see a Calvin and Hobbes movie.” But my fear of it being ruined by Hollywood is the same reason Bill Watterson did the exact opposite of Charles M. Schulz and never allowed any sort of licensing of his characters. That was probably a wise move. Fortunately, we’ll always have the many ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ collections.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

I’m not proud of this, but I was obsessed with ‘Garfield‘ when I was a wide-eyed little tyke. I’d grab all the collected reprints I could get my hands on. I owned stacks of original books. I’d genuinely get excited when I’d see a ‘Garfield’ poster hanging up in one of my classrooms, and I religiously tuned into the TV shows and primetime animated movies. I’m disappointed in you, Little Adam, but not nearly as disappointed as I was by the two mostly-live-action adaptations from a decade back.

I would still read comic strips if I had a newspaper showing up on my doorstep these days, although for a while there, The Comics Curmudgeon was keeping me up to date. The last strip I remember being in love with was ‘The Far Side’, and I don’t think I have to sweat about a movie being hacked together out of that one.

Josh Zyber

When I was a kid, I read every single comic strip in the newspaper as if it were a duty I was obligated to fulfill every day, including the big Sunday section. I couldn’t just skip to my favorites (‘Calvin and Hobbes’, ‘The Far Side’, ‘Peanuts’). No, I had to read them all in the order they were printed, even the ones that bored the hell out of me (‘Prince Valiant’, ‘Brenda Starr’, ‘Beetle Bailey’) and the ones I thought were just stupid (‘Cathy’). I even forced myself to trace little Billy’s dotted-line paths through the dreadful ‘Family Circus’. Did anyone else have that experience, or was it just me? Fortunately, I eventually outgrew this compulsion.

They largely went over my head as a kid, but I grew to appreciate the political satire of ‘Doonesbury’ and the offbeat surrealism of ‘Zippy‘ later in life. Ever since I entered the working world as an adult, I frequently feel like I’m living inside a ‘Dilbert‘ strip.

What comic strips did you like when you were a kid? Do you still read any today?

9 comments

  1. NJScorpio

    I think that ‘The Far Side’ was the greatest comic of my generation, and that future generations won’t know how brilliant it was due to Gary Larson’s stance on online reproduction of his work.

  2. photogdave

    Like many of my age, I think Bloom County, Calvin & Hobbes, and The Far Side were consistently the highest quality and most influential strips.
    When I was younger I , like Josh, read every strip in the paper and remember buying the paperback collections of strips like Hagar and Wizard of Id at school book sales. And, like Adam, I was a big Garfield fan as a kid. Even know I can muster a giggle when I think of the very earliest strips when Garfield actually behaved cat-like. My favorite was when he and Jon went camping and Garfield refused to cross a muddy stream because he has to bathe himself with his tongue.
    Current favorites are Dilbert, Get Fuzzy, and Pearls Before Swine. Pastis’ observations on the stupidity of the general public are priceless!

  3. William Henley

    The Far Side, Family Circus, Lucy, Ziggy, Blondie and Dagwood, Cathy, Garfield, Dilbert and Foxtrot were mine.

    There was also a short-lived strip that appeared in our local paper that was done by a 10 year old called Idjit which was about an extra-terrestrial living with a school-aged kid. Pretty much, think of a clean, tame version of American Dad

    • William Henley

      Oh, and yes, Josh, I also traced the dotted lines of people who were traveling. It was great how a one-frame Family Circus cartoon could entertain me for 3-5 minutes!

  4. Ryan

    Currently you can’t go wrong with POOCH CAFE and SHERMAN’S LAGOON. They had Pooch Cafe set to be a potential CGI film with Sony a few years ago but i haven’t heard much about it lately. Makes me kind of sad because i love that comic strip, but at least they are doing a Ratchet and Clank movie.

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