The funny pages: “What’s Left?” December 2008, MRR #307

When I was three, four years old, my dad sat my sister and me down on the living room rug most Sunday mornings, spread out the color comics, and read them to us. I quickly picked up on what was going on in the word balloons and captions, and that’s why I could read before I entered kindergarten. Of course, that’s not how reading was taught in schools at the time. I saw whole words, not words made up of individual letters in an alphabet. My teachers had to teach me to read all over again, a very painful experience especially because I could read to them the very words they insisted that I couldn’t read.

I’ve had a special fondness for the comic section of a newspaper ever since. It’s the first section I turn to when I’m reading the local paper, which is why I was pissed off when the SF Chronicle announced a month ago that they were cutting back the Sunday comics from six pages to four. Here’s a newspaper going down the toilet, losing a million dollars a month according to rumor, and they’re cutting back on one of the few things that people purchase the paper for? Makes no sense. They cut some strips and reduced others to magnifying glass size. Fortunately, they haven’t messed with the daily black and white comics page. If they ever do I’ll boycott the Chron. Maybe make it a campaign

Comics are important. That’s something I have to say to folks of my age and older. Comics aren’t merely entertaining. They frequently convey the “news of the day” much more effectively than the printed pages in which they’re embedded. That’s why a good editorial cartoon is worth a thousand editorials. On their own, as comic books, graphic novels, and the like, they can convey most anything a short story or novel can, and then some. This is old news to people who are younger than me, but worth repeating anyway.

As a newspaper comics aficionado, I discovered that the Oakland Tribune printed their daily strips in color, and that the LA Times had not just two plus pages of daily black and white comics, but two full sections of color comics on Sunday. Heaven! On line, the Washington Post has a pretty good, free comics section. That’s where I ran into the September 27, 2008, “Tom the Dancing Bug” by Ruben Bolling.

Entitled “Today’s USA is the USSR of the 1980s,” the comic draws hilarious, not to mention striking parallels between present day America and a bygone Soviet Union. There’s state ownership of a command economy, secret police spying on citizens, loyalty oaths and mandatory patriotism, a military quagmire in Afghanistan, and an economy going to hell in a hand basket. What particularly tickled me was the last panel: “Next: The Breakup of the Empire.” Depicted is the front page of the New York Times with a report that the USA has been reduced to its original thirteen colonies. The Anchorage Daily News features a President Todd Palin declaring Alaska an independent nation.

Clever stuff.

I do a lot of on-line news and information gathering, but I also peruse physical copies of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal for ruling-class news and opinion at my local public library. Remember libraries? I also subscribe to the Guardian Weekly, to get the acceptable leftist slant on things. All serious newspapers, with no comics sections. Deep down though, I guess I don’t feel a newspaper is really worth much without comics.