October 5th, 2005

krazy koati

Friends are there to help you get started

Some surprising news out of New Jersey, that in the Star-Ledger -- which was the newspaper we read around our house, with maybe an afternoon paper for local news -- the comic pages have dropped Garfield. I didn't know newspapers could do that; I thought Garfield was impossible to remove, a solid lump of neutronium in newspaper ink. But, there it is, according to rec.arts.comics.strips, pushed off alongside a couple of other go-nowhere strips like Cathy, Hi and Lois, Heathcliff, and Marvin (which, when it came out, I had always thought was drawn by Jim Davis's staff) in favor of ... well, Heart of the City and a bunch of other strips I don't read. (Part of it is the extension of Rhymes with Orange to seven days a week; that seems like at best a lateral move, maybe even a step backwards, from Fred Basset.)

The Star-Ledger was good for training me to be a devoted comics reader, since it always had the best comic section of any local paper, one and a half broadsheet pages daily plus a couple (John Darling and Peanuts) tucked in the TV listings. (The only better one I ever encountered, growing up, was The Washington Post, with three or four full daily pages and stronger strips.) Even if much of one half-page was soap opera strips that was still plenty of material, and I found looking through microfiche the paper more flexible in picking up new strips than I thought it was. I still can't take seriously any Sunday comics section that doesn't have as the front page a 15-panel Blondie on top and Peanuts below the fold, even though they changed the strip order away from that years ago, and Blondie Sundays sadly dropped almost all their panels.

I don't have any grand conclusion here, just amazement that a newspaper can drop Garfield. I do think the strip's improving, though it wouldn't win me over as a fan if I were seeing it for the first time now -- too many three-panel motionless strips of ``I'm bored''/``Is it boring in here, or is it just boring?''/``It's boring'' comedy-free sequences. But I distinctly have faint memories of being moved to smiling at a few strips the past few weeks, and chuckling aloud at least once since the first of August, which is a step up.

And yeah, I read my comics online these days -- even when I think to buy The Straits Times, which has a meager half-page comics section, I forget to read it too often -- but they tend to be syndicated comics. There's a tiny set of web comics I read (hi, bluerain!); most just don't catch my interest. Of course, I choose to read They'll Do It Every Time, possibly out of a desire to see if Al Scaduto ever has one of his anti-funny comic ideas (it actually drains humor from adjacent strips, somehow) not given to him by a deceased retiree in North Jersey or South Florida, so obviously my tastes are odd ones.

Trivia: The Swiss patent office granted 14 patents on electric clocks in 1904. Source: Einstein's Clocks, Poincaré's Maps, Peter Galison.

Currently Reading: The Wellstone, Wil McCarthy.