Tuesday, March 30, 2010

NCCCC 2010 Round 3 - Doonesbury Dopplegangers

For this round of the National Crappy Comics Copy Cats Competition, we look at strips that take a stand.

Politics and comics rarely mix. At least not well. Topical humor does not age well with lead times of two weeks or more. The truly funny political strips of the past like Pogo an L'il Abner had a sensibility that transcended partisanship. The current reigning champion is long-running and Pulitzer Prize-winning Doonesbury. For several decades now, conservatives have chafed under the piercing wit of Garry Trudeau (and just how American can someone named after a Canadian prime minister be?) hoping for a right-wing equivalent. Meanwhile liberal cartoonists labor under Doonesbury's long shadow, which is its own burden.

Doonesbury Dopplegangers

Let's look at political cartoons of various ideologies:

Mallard Filmore

Mallard Filmore or That Fuckin' Duck as I prefer to call him combines the intellectual rigor of Sean Hannity with the rational discourse of Glenn Beck. This lazy compilation of cheap shot sub-Fox News talking points would be the worst comic strip in print even without its infuriating reliance on straw men, poorly sourced quotes, and cheap Ted Kennedy gags. There is no narrative arc and each strip is nearly indistinguishable from the last. Its only redeeming value is that it is universally despised except amongst Washington Times subscribers.

Prickly City

You can't spell Prickly City without 'ick'. Perhaps the most obvious beneficiary of reverse affirmative action anywhere, Scott Stantis seems to be deliberately trying to win a Worst Drawn Comic award. The use of a right-wing big-lipped ethnically-ambiguous girl as his primary mouthpiece is just offensive on multiple levels. And while it tries to use oddball metaphors in incomprehensible thinly disguised allegories (terrorist desert hamsters anybody?), they mostly come off as half-cocked.

The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee

I have not quite yet deciphered the random political leanings of Edison Lee except that it seems to have a vaguely anti-big government and anti-tax stance. Way to go out on the populist limb there. The jabs and cheap shots just seem so forced and obvious. The inclusion of a lab rat pet puts in Calvin and Hobbes range (as write-in nominator john observed), but it's the college-freshman-that's-read-just-a-little-too-much-Ayn-Rand sensibility that makes this strip most annoying.

Non Sequitur

Wiley has toned down his Non Sequitur political rants considerably since the election, which can be considered a weakness. A good cartoonist would stick to his guns no matter who is in office. The ObviousMan and History of Cavemen bits at least provide a slightly different take on the usual ax-grinding. Still, being the second best knee-jerk liberal on the comics page is pretty faint praise.

Get Started with Free Polls Here >

And there is still time to vote in the Calvin Clones and Faux Far Side categories.


DemetriosX said...

This is an easy one.

Mallard Fillmore: This is the duck's to lose. It's never funny, never insightful. I'm not sure it's ever even actually made a point -- other than a talking point, that is.

Prickly City: Another one that's highly problematic and full of political stereotypes. But every once in awhile Stantis manages to actually say something that makes sense or is funny.

Edison Lee: I can't really say anything about this. I've never seen this one in the wild. A lot of people seem to dislike it, though. All I can do is shrug and move on.

Non Sequitur: Jeez, did Wiley key your car or something? Wiley used to be a political cartoonist and this strip was sort of a daily political cartoon, once upon a time. He doesn't go there all that often anymore, but he's no worse at it than any other political cartoonist who isn't Conrad or Oliphant.

Final verdict: the fuckin' duck. He's also now the odds on favorite to take best (worst) of show.

john said...

Oh, this is just not fair. I so very much want to hurt Edison Lee for all it's done, especially since it didn't make it into the first poll, but...goddammit, I just can't make a solid argument for it being a worse political strip (or even a worse strip period) than Mallard Fillmore. I guess part of it probably has to do with the vagueness of its leanings (I'd peg it as more union Democrat, myself, but who the fuck knows?) - after all, it's hard to be truly offensive with your opinions when you're barely expressing any to begin with. Oh well. Next time, Edison Lee, next time...

Claude said...

Gotta go with the duck on this one, for precisely the reasons you cite. It's not clever, it's just the same nonsense ranting. For all its left-leaning, you have to give Doonesbury points for skewering whoever happens to be in charge.

Jeff said...

FYI, having a duck named Mallard Filmore was ripped off from a DC comics series from the early 1980s.


Anonymous said...

Prickly City has no chance in this category, but it'll be a front runner for the strip most trying to copy Bloom County.

Anonymous said...

Which politically oriented strip misses the mark the worst?

That would be Doonsebury itself.

Mela said...

Personally, I avoid political strips like the plague; even when I agree with their points, they're inevitably so heavy-handed that I just want the artist to shut up.

I voted for "Edison Lee" for a very simple reason - I have no idea which side or what goals the artist is holding. With "Mallard Filmore", you get a cartoon animal Glenn Beck; with "Prickly City", you get a "Bloom County" wanna-be without the observational or art skills; with "Non Sequitur", you get Wiley's general insanity.

But what is the point of "Edison Lee"? I can't place it except for someone who likes to rant - like you said, it's a really annoying just-finished-my-Poli-Sci-course college kid feeling, and those bastards ruined my college experience. They get enough exposure; they don't need a comic strip, too, dammit.

Sock Puppet said...

Mallard Fillmore is the worst comic, period. It transcends all categories. So I gave the nod to Prickly City, because it tries harder to mimic the successful formulas of Doonesbury and Bloom County, and thus is even more irritating when it fails (continuously). At least I know going in that Mallard Fillmore is going to be mind-bogglingly stupid; Prickly City is more often apt to string me along before the stupid happens.

Unknown said...

Mallard F. doesn't even qualify as a comic. Its creator takes something he heard on the Rush Limbaugh show, writes it down in a panel, and then scribbles a duck saying it. Never any joke, never any story, never even the mildest effort to be insightful or challenging. It's a wonder that he can manage to put even one out every day, considering the massive amounts of codeine cough syrup he must consume.

Anonymous said...

What, no "Day by Day"? Too easy?

Charly said...

"Mallard Fillmore" was the obvious contender, but "Prickly City" manages to be even MORE annoying, and at least the duck isn't some radiation-influenced monstrosity.

Carapace said...

Prickly City. Ugh. It's even worse than Fillmore because it sometime allllmost manages to be fun. That, and the erratic inking, as though Stantis had more talented artists chained in the basement, and was cycling the work between them, make it much more troublesome than Duck of Hate.

treedweller said...

wait, the PC girl doesn't have a pacifier in her mouth all the time?

Ivy and Haley said...

I think politics and comics mix beautifully. But that might be because I dislike both, hah.

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