Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Comics List


I have always read newspaper comics in massive quantities. When I lived in the Philippines, the Stars And Stripes, the only newspaper available on military bases, had room for just a dozen or so comics, so I used to go down to the base library and read the Sunday comics from all the stateside newspapers. There were always some great obscure comics that only appeared in a few newspapers.

When I was in high school, the morning newspaper carried Bloom County but the afternoon paper carried Doonesbury. Somehow I talked my parents into subscribing to both. I would come home from school and turn up the stereo as loud as possible without masking the sound of the newspaper being delivered. The afternoon 'newsboy' was an older guy in my math class that would make the route with his girlfriend in his poorly mufflered pick-up truck. I could hear his truck coming down the street. After it passed, I would go out to pick it up and wave at the two of them as they rounded the cul-de-sac and headed back up the street.

For years I subscribed to the local paper, the Baltimore Sun, but I would also read the Washington Post whenever I was near a newsstand in part because it had three whole pages of comics. One day my wife subscribed to the Post for me in order to sign up for a discount at the grocery store. It was one of the most thoughtful gifts she has ever given me.

After a major comics page purge, the Sun's comics page only had three or four strips not carried in the Post. Soon afterwards, I dropped the Sun as it continued to atrophy into the pale shell of its former self which is making H. L. Mencken spin in his grave.

Now the Washington Post is sliding headlong down that same slippery slope. It just eliminated its separate business section (where it used to hide Dilbert) and consolidated the comics down to two pages of cataract-inducing fine print. They still carry Doonesbury full size on page C3, but the rest are in four skinny columns. Here is the current line-up:

Page 1
Column 1

Garfield
Tack McNamara
Prickly City
Non Sequitur
Big Nate
Beetle Bailey
Speed Bump
Page 1
Column 2

Zits
Judge Parker
Candorville
Cul De Sac
Spider-Man
Watch Your Head
Baby Blues
On The Fastrack
Pearls Before Swine
Dennis The Menace
Family Circus
Close To Home
Page 2
Column 1

Mutts
Red And Rover
Frank and Ernest
Classic Peanuts
Rhymes With Orange
Lio
Hagar The Horrible
Blondie
Page 2
Column 2
Dilbert
Agnes
Get Fuzzy
Pickles
Mark Trail
Mother Goose and Grimm
Baldo
Sally Forth
Sherman's Lagoon
Curtis
Brewster Rockit

In the purge, WaPo had originally cut Judge Parker but had to restore it after public outcry. In what I consider kind of a 'Fuck you!' move, to make room for it, they moved Frazz from the comics page to the Kidz Page after a brief try with Agnes there. That means Frazz only runs four times a week, destroying the continuity of the weekly gags. They just don't get it.

To get the comics I can't find in WaPo, I use a couple of internet subscription services. I recently had a scare when my GoComics e-mail service stuttered to a stop. After panicking and getting to the bottom of that SNAFU (it seems that they had both an old credit card number and an abandoned e-mail address), I updated the list of comics I have mailed to me every morning. That list now includes the following:

Annie
Brenda Starr
Bo Nanas (which I
just learned is reruns)
The Elderberries
Dog Eat Doug
For Heaven's Sake
Girls & Sports
Housebroken
Ink Pen
The Meaning of Lila
Stone Soup
Tiny Sepuku
Compu-toon
Neurotica
Bound and Gagged
Flo and Friends
Big Top
Cathy
The Fusco Brothers
On A Claire Day
The Other Coast
Yenny
PreTeena
Pigborn
Adam@Home
Gil Thorp
Herb and Jamaal
La Cucaracha
Shoe
Tom The Dancing Bug
Daddy's Home
Ballard Street
The Argyle Sweater
Cleats
Dick Tracy
The Dinette Set
Gasoline Alley
Pluggers
The Quigmans
Real Life Adventures
Rubes
Ziggy

But even that service doesn't cover all the comics I want to read on a daily basis. I also subscribe to Comics.com which e-mails the following strips:

9 Chickweed Lane
Arlo & Janis
Cow & Boy
F-Minus
Frazz (which I just added so I don't miss some)
Grand Avenue
Jump Start
Little Dog Lost (which got dumped by WaPo in the purge after only a month)
Luann
Monty
Rose Is Rose
Rudy Park
Secret Asian Man
The Knight Life (which is Sunday only in WaPo)
Working Daze
Working Out
Zack Hill

Finally, I know that Josh, THE Comics Curmudgeon uses the Houston Chronicle's rather comprehensive comics page for his comics reading since he, like me, has been abandoned by the ever-shrinking Sunpapers. I have two beefs with the Chron. First, they don't have Sunday strips and second, they won't throw it on my lawn or e-mail it to my inbox. That makes it the source of last resort since I forget to check it every day. So here are the strips carried by the Chronicle not available anywhere else:

Archie
Apartment 3-G*
Better Half
Between Friends
Boffo
Buckles
Cleats
Crock
Drabble
Edge City
Funky Winkerbean
Grin and Bear It
Lockhorns
Mallard Fillmore
*added after initial post
Mary Worth
My Cage
Pardon My Planet
Phantom
Popeye
Rex Morgan
Safe Havens
Six Chix
Slylock Fox
Snuffy Smith
Edison Lee
Tiger
Willy & Ethel
Zippy the Pinhead
That makes the total number of comics on my daily or near-daily list:
WaPo: 38
GoComics: 42
Comics.com: 17
The Chron: 28
Grand Total: 125

That sounds like a lot, but it's probably less than fifteen minutes a day of reading. The biggest hurdle has been weeding out duplicates. For example, Dog Eat Doug is available on both GoComics and Comics.com. Since GoComics shows up in the inbox before Comics.com (which often doesn't arrive until I'm already at work), it makes sense to delete it from the Comics.com list.

The other hassle is keeping up with the current purges. Willy and Ethel was once in the Sun and Zippy was perhaps the cruelest cut from WaPo's line-up. All the hippies that used to defend it seemed to have switched their efforts to the rejuvenated Judge Parker. Even the Houston Chronicle has its issues. I hadn't updated my reading list in quite a while and for some inexplicable reason 9 Chickweed Lane appears in the place of the dropped strips. I like the comic, but I don't need to read it four times.

Also, note the conspicuous absence of the time-warped For Better Or For Worse on any of these lists. It's dead to me.

All of this is a lot of work, but it sure beats going to the library and reading back issues of out-of-town newspapers. And as the dead trees industry continues to hemorrhage, even that might not be an option some day.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: The obvious question is: What am I missing? Which comics from one of those services should I be reading? The other burning issue is if there is another way. How can I get as many comics as possible with the least effort?

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

What are you missing?!? If you weren't so busy doing a million other things, I would say a life - but clearly you pack way more in your day than I can imagine.

seasea

yellojkt said...

I had a life once. They're over-rated.

Life is all a matter of priorities. I have never even hinted that mine were not terribly misguided.

Cedar said...

Frazz is on the kids' page?! I can't really imagine a child legitimately enjoying the strip, which, altho it has child characters, tends to veer into the serious and adult (and, in my opinion, preachy) quite often.

(Just out curiosity, why bother reading Crock, which is not funny, or interesting, or well-drawn? All the other comics I understand, even ones I don't like--like Edison Lee and Mallard Fillmore, but I can see why you'd chose to check them out--but Crock just doesn't seem to belong).

I thought Preteena was no longer being published.

I am also surprised at the appearance of so many one-panels. I should add, I love reading the funnies, and read probably about 80 regularly, but recently found that all the one panels were just sort of running together in my head, and limited it to just F-Minus (which is hit and miss, but when it's hit, it's really good).

yellojkt said...

Right you are, Cedar. Preteena is reruns. It has been on my list for several years and I guess GoComics just went with repeats when it quit publishing.

Croc is often ridiculed by Josh, so I keep it there. The zombie strips B.C. and Wizard of Id don't get as much ridicule as Croc, so they don't make the cut.

When the WaPo Comics blog Comic Riffs addressed the issue, there were dozens of strips mentioned as being more appropriate than Frazz. But the comics editor, who is neither Michael Cavna nor Gene Weingarten, is clearly tone deaf.

spanghew said...

As for remembering to check the Chron's page: I just set my custom Chron comics page as my browser's home page, so it's the first thing I see in the morning.

125records said...

I love Bliss, which is available on gocomics.com.

yellojkt said...

spanghew,
That is a clever trick. I may do it as a tab behind my iGoogle home page.

sue,
The artwork is beautiful and the jokes are clever. Consider it added.

dbG said...

Great post. Too many people don't understand how important comics are, especially for adults.

As I type, I'm looking up and over to the left, where I have an original, framed, signed Dilbert lithograph (Scott's also added a little, pencilled Dogbert). It's the "nerdvana" one, no big surprise there.

One of my regrets is we weren't allowed to ask Bill Waterson anything if we saw him on campus when I worked at his alma mater. Otherwise, I'd have loved to ask him to autograph one of my Calvin & Hobbes' books.

baltimorediary said...

Gee...I thought I had a big comics load.

I don't bother with the dead tree editions of any newspapers nowadays, so in addition to Comics.com and GoComics, I'm also subscribing to the King Features stuff via DailyInk.com. That still leaves me with a few that I have to go to the Chronicle for.

I also tend to read Dilbert directly from dilbert.com to see what's in Scott Adams' blog.

DemetriosX said...

It's kind of hard to tell, since only some of your lists are alphabetized, but I don't see Heart of the City (which is at GoComics) or Over the Hedge (Comics.com), both of which are far more worthy than a lot of the dreck you apparently read. I mean, I know you need to read some of it to be a proper cardinal and all, but some of it... yeesh! (Another weirdness: I get the Phantom at the WaPo website.)

I'm really unhappy with the latest GoComics site redesign. They keep making it harder and harder to navigate. It was bad enough when the pop-up list of comics was divided into several pages, but now I have to keep the list page open and open the comics in another tab.

I can't really comment on the decline in comic space. Our paper here offers a grand total of 4 badly translated comics (Fred Basset, Hagar, Garfield, and Zits) plus one page on Sundays for 2 German strips, Calvin and Hobbes, Red and Rover, and Sherman's Lagoon. Thank God for the Internet.

yellojkt said...

Heart of the City (which got accidentally omitted from my list) and Phantom were both lost in the Post purge. WaPo carries a lot of comics on their webpage, but the navigation is awful because you have to click on each one individually.

The lack of alphabeticalness is because GoComics sends me comics in the order added to the list.

I boycott DailyInk because I hate that you can't get current strips straight from the King Syndicate site.

A Free Man said...

I hadn't thought about comics as being another of the victims of the steady collapse of the newspapers. Shame really. I don't read many (comics) these days. They aren't so popular outside of the U.S.

VE said...

Far Side sort of changed my whole concept of comics. I used to like the regular funnies but then I deplored Garfied (which hasn't been funny since the 70s) and just sort of stopped reading them after Far Side stopped.

Charles Whitney said...

I'm surprised that since you read at least a couple of them because Josh comments on them every so often that you don't have Crankshaft listed anywhere. It's certainly available at at least two of the spots you've listed.

I'm also surprised you don't read Pooch Cafe, since many people (including me) feel that it's just about the most consistently amusing comic printed in the papers these days.

yellojkt said...

I did notice that Crankshaft is missing and I need to do something about that.

I like Pooch Cafe and think it got lost in the WaPo shuffle. I'll have to hunt that down as well.