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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 07/14/2008

Calling All Comics Fans...

By Michael Cavna

Would the Pulitzer folks really mush up great "Peanuts" art? Its creator seemed to think so. (United Feature Syndicate)

I am standing smack next to my boyhood idol in the men's room of a posh Pasadena hotel. Now this is awkward.

Unsure what to utter as we soon wash-and-dry side by side, I turn to Charles M. "Sparky" Schulz and break the ice with: "A journalist friend of mine really thinks you should win the Pulitzer for cartooning."

The man-genius behind "Peanuts" volleys back crisply, cleanly:

"It'll never happen -- the Pulitzers don't take such comics seriously."

With that, the King returned to his court that was the ballroom at the 1998 Reuben Awards, which are cartooning's Oscars. Within two years, the internationally beloved "Sparky" Schulz would be dead, his legacy living on through "Peanuts Classics" in newspapers and enshrined TV specials and the entire merchandising juggernaut.

For Schulz, the Pulitzer might as well have been the eternally elusive Little Red-Haired Girl. But he was confident of one acknowledgment: Millions and millions of people who vote with their eyes take comics extremely seriously.

Which is precisely why today, we are launching this daily comics blog. Because from the funny pages to "Wall*E" and Batman at the cineplex to graphic novels to this month's San Diego Comic-Con, we take cartooning in its many forms seriously.

Comics matter to people, and move people, like few forces in the international publishing world. They are Starbucks, Su-Do-Ku and Oprah all rolled into one.

Even that, however, doesn't fully, forcefully illustrate the power of comics. For that, I need to call on a Higher Authority. So I get on the elevator at The Post and punch "9." Within minutes I am face-to-face with a teenhood hero, former Post executive editor Ben Bradlee. I am before Bradlee to check on a famed anecdote concerning the comics; I want to hear it from the source's mouth.

In 1991, months before he stepped down as editor, Bradlee decided to ax a handful of comics from the Post's funny pages, including a nature-themed strip that had been around for 45 years.

"Arbitrarily, I decided to drop 'Mark Trail.' It was so old," Bradlee says with a glint in his eye, deliciously engaged, as if neither day nor decade has since passed.

"A day or two after," Bradlee continues, he looked across a parking lot from his North Wall office. There, on a neighboring building, officeworkers for a design firm had hung a sign with a simple four-word demand: "BRING BACK MARK TRAIL."

Bradlee picks up the story: "So we put a sign out that said: 'OKAY.'

"Then they hung out a sign that said: 'WHEN?' " Bradlee's reply: "SOON."

The last-panel resolution of this anecdote is that Bradlee -- true to his word and signage -- restored the strip to the pages of The Post, where the strip still lives to this day. The moral of this storyline? The man who helped bring down Richard Nixon couldn't topple Mark Trail.

This is a real dynamic that all features editors face. Adam Sandler's recent comedy is titled "You Don't Mess With the Zohan"; but for newspaper editors, the caveat is: "You Don't Mess With the Comics Fan" -- or if you do, at least at your own peril.

The truest purpose of "Comic Riffs" is for you -- like those upstart "Mark Trail"-loving officeworkers -- to be heard. So: What are your favorite comic strips? What features would you like to see The Post add? Which comics are lacking, lame or woefully unfunny?

Let us know, because the new "Comic Riffs" -- unlike the Pulitzer Board of Schulz's view -- takes its funny pages quite seriously.

-- M.C.

TOMORROW: "Comic Riffs" interviews Pulitzer Prize-winning "Doonesbury" creator Garry Trudeau about this politically historic year.


By Michael Cavna  | July 14, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Introduction  
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Comments

My favourite strip for a while has been "Least I Could Do" (licd.com) but it definitely isn't for a family-oriented newspaper.

9 Chickweed Lane (3 generations of an artistic family) is great and always evolving.
Adam At Home (work-from-home dad) is pretty good.
Clear Blue Water (indescribable) is interesting.
The Duplex (the other McCoy strip) is sometimes great but it's losing it's luster, I think.
Kevin and Kell (another Bill Holbrook strip about predeators and prey working and living together) is fun.
In The Bleachers is a better sports strip than Tank (although with a very different focus).
Loose Parts is a good one panel strip, as is Strange Brew.
Overboard (modern pirates)is often funny and fun.
Luann (teenagers) is pretty good.
And finally, Rudy Park (the other strip drawn by Darrin Bell, based in an ineternet cafe) is excellent.

My tastes run all over the map.

But I also like the selection in The Post.

:)

Posted by: f2 | July 14, 2008 7:09 AM | Report abuse

Top choice: Pearls Before Swine

Other favs -- all the Peanuts reruns, Get Fuzzy, Overboard, Sherman's Lagoon, Baby Blues (I have 2 siblings, so the number of times I'm sending strips to my parents or brothers'...), Frazz, Lio and the ones I don't like to admit I like -- Mutts for its innocence and FBOFW for its intricacies.

I've also been enjoying BC more lately, I'm afraid to say. I like where Hart's grandson has taken it, and I could definitely tell as soon as the writing changed.

Going to check this space for new ideas to read )

Posted by: NC2 | July 14, 2008 7:17 AM | Report abuse

What a great idea. I once lived in Pelham, NY, a small bedroom community outside NY City sandwiched between Mount Vernon and New Rochelle. Pelham was actually made famous by the comic "Toonerville Trolley" a nutty strip by Fontaine Talbot Fox (google it for more information). The real trolley made its last run in 1937 (the year before I was born), but the comic lived on for many years after.

Probably my all-time favorite was "Pogo", created by Walt Kelly, that first appeared in comic strip form in 1948. Kelly, who died in 1973, had great political insight which he wove into his strips. He was also a wonderful humorist. I can still recite his entire Christmas Carol, "Deck the Halls With Boston Charley."

Posted by: Mike | July 14, 2008 7:18 AM | Report abuse

I love Mutts, a sweet,gentle strip with a message; Pearls Before Swine is very funny; Doonesbury, a classic; Brian Bassett's other strip, Red and Rover, is a charming strip about a little boy and his dog; Non Sequitur is absolutely wicked.

On the other side: Cathy used to be funny, but no longer is. Ditto with Garfield and Dilbert.

And yes, I love Mark Trail.

Posted by: Judi | July 14, 2008 7:20 AM | Report abuse

Doonesbury, FBorFW, Non Sequitur and OPUS are my faves: still fresh and funny after many decades in newsprint. Peanuts in the 50's and 60's was ground-breaking, but it subsequently morphed into a sad shadow of its former self: the example posted above exhibits how trite and predictable it had become.

Walt Kelly's POGO remains to this day the all-time supreme newspaper comic, equalled only by Calvin & Hobbes in its wit & wisdom. A small correction: the Xmas carol begins:
"Deck us all with Boston Charlie.
Walla-Wall, Wash & Kalamazoo!"

Posted by: Joel | July 14, 2008 7:41 AM | Report abuse

Doonesbury, FBorFW, Non Sequitur and OPUS are my faves: still fresh and funny after many decades in newsprint. Peanuts in the 50's and 60's was ground-breaking, but it subsequently morphed into a sad shadow of its former self: the example posted above exhibits how trite and predictable it had become.

Walt Kelly's POGO remains to this day the all-time supreme newspaper comic, equalled only by Calvin & Hobbes in its wit & wisdom. A small correction: the Xmas carol begins:
"Deck us all with Boston Charlie.
Walla-Wall, Wash & Kalamazoo!"

Posted by: Joel | July 14, 2008 7:43 AM | Report abuse

My favorite it Zits. I am using it as a parenting manual for when my son is a teenager.

Doonesbury - always has a clever way to honor our military.
Candorville and Opus - I love how they cross the line.
Pearls before Swine - I love the zeebas!
Baby blues is very entertaining - as well as Baldo, Frazz, Mutts, Red and Rover...
Pickles is great - its my parents to a T.
For computer fans - On the Fastrack and Dilbert are a must.

Posted by: Caroline | July 14, 2008 7:52 AM | Report abuse

What we need is for more graphic novels to show up in reader groups. Watchman for instance, or 'Y the last man'

What a kick it would be if Oprah did one for her book thingy. :)

Posted by: Richard | July 14, 2008 7:59 AM | Report abuse

There is a very funny web-comic called Supernatural Law, which was formerly known as Wolff & Byrdd, Counselors to the Macabre, when it appeared weekly in the National Law Journal during the 19802 and early 1990s. Its sort of LA Law meets the Addams Family. Very smart satrical stuff on current events and high-profile legal events with the caveat that "monsters are scarry; but monsters with lawyers are even more so." Can you convince the artist to do a weekly Sunday comic or perhaps a daily strip?

Posted by: Bruce James | July 14, 2008 8:01 AM | Report abuse

The workday wouldn't start properly without checking my favorites:
Mutts
Non Sequitur
Opus
The Fusco Brothers
Dilbert
Cornered

Posted by: Flex | July 14, 2008 8:02 AM | Report abuse

Baby Blues for a funny look back at what once almost made my wife and I lose our minds;

Zits as we look ahead to having 2 full fledge teens in the house.

Posted by: Mike | July 14, 2008 8:02 AM | Report abuse

Pearls Before Swine is my favorite. I love Rat -also the ongoing joke with Jeffy from family circle

Posted by: Andrea | July 14, 2008 8:12 AM | Report abuse

I've been into reading the funnies since I could read and understand them. These are my favorites:

Cul de Sac
Pearls Before Swine
Get Fuzzy
Zits
Mutts
Agnes
For Better or for Worse
Dilbert

Can we get rid of the ridiculously huge Soduko on Sunday? It would be great if that was another crossword puzzle.

Posted by: jEN8 | July 14, 2008 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Favorites in the Post:

Cul de Sac (Why did it take so long to add this strip?)
Get Fuzzy
Pearls Before Swine
Frazz
Candorville
Doonesbury
Opus
Dilbert

Favorite not in the Post:

The Fusco Brothers
Gil Thorp (ironic value only)

Posted by: Lindemann | July 14, 2008 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Agree with Richard, the Post needs more graphic novel coverage -- in this Blog if not on paper. I hate the Examiner but I'd actually pick it up every Wednesday when they used to have a weekly column with the highlights of the latest releases.

Posted by: Jim | July 14, 2008 8:27 AM | Report abuse

I can't believe I was the first post. :)

Oddly enough, I never liked One Big Happy or The Fusco Brothers when they were in The Post. Since they were dropped, they've been much funnier.

I'll have to start checking on BC. I read it from the very first strip (when the characters introduced themselves and discovered "girls") but stopped when The Post dropped it. Same with The Wizard of Id. I used to love those strips, as well as Pogo (good to see fans here).

The first thing I can remember picking up to read on my own was a 30-or-so page collection of Peanuts cartoons buried in a volume of condensed literature from Reader's Digest.

Posted by: f2 | July 14, 2008 8:37 AM | Report abuse

I no longer live in an area where I can affordably receive The Washington Post every morning. That being said, my formative years were spent hogging the comics before my parents or sibling made it down to the breakfast table. I devoured everything with my Cheerios, from "The Phantom" to "Apartment 3-G," but my absolute favorites were "Bloom County" and "Calvin and Hobbes." I would love to see those strips back in action a la the "Classic Peanuts."

Anyways. Fast forward to now, 25 years later, and I read the comics online at The Washington Post. As I am juggling kids and coffee and a fraction of the quiet time that I used to enjoy every morning, I've pared down to only four: "FBOFW," "Baby Blues" (which hits wa-a-ay too close to home), "Zits" (filing this away for later), and "Doonesbury." IF I have a chance, I hit Ann Telenes (sp?) for her political cartoon du jour.

While it was here, I enjoyed "___ Meadows"... gosh, what was that called? It was like "Bloom County" Lite...

Posted by: erin | July 14, 2008 8:42 AM | Report abuse

Dilbert, Doonesbury, Pickles, Cul de Sac, and believe it or not, Prince Valiant. Only suggestion would be, with an election coming up, to put Doonesbury back on the political opinion pages where he belongs, with the other Obama ads.

And I like the giant Sudoku.

Posted by: Bob | July 14, 2008 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Erin, I think you're thinking of "Liberty Meadows" by Frank Cho, an amazingly good artist. He's another fabulous artist from the University of Maryland.

As to strips I read, I frequent "On the Fastrack", "Non Sequitir", "Doonesbury", "Dilbert", "Cathy", and "Baby Blues". I also think it would be nice if occasionally we could delve beyond the strips and graphic novels and hit the medium of webcomics. Lord knows there's enough out there and some of the popular ones are even local to the DC metro area.

Posted by: CentrevilleMom | July 14, 2008 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Zippy - Yes, there ARE people that get it!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2008 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Hey, nice idea for a blog. My wife's the Mark Trail fan, and in fact, complained back when you dropped it.

I like Cul de Sac, 9 Chickweed Lane, Prince Valiant, Doonesbury, Pearls before Swine, FBoFW, Tom the Dancing Bug (bring it back!), Funky Winkerbean, Zits, Agnes, Pooch Cafe, Non Sequiter, Lio, Brewster Rockit among others.

This is another golden age of strip reprint books too, which might be interesting to look into. Right now, Gasoline Alley, Peanuts, Dennis the Menace, Popeye, Dick Tracy and others are being reprinted in high-quality formats.

Posted by: Mike Rhode | July 14, 2008 9:09 AM | Report abuse

I'll be honest. I hardly read any of the comics in the paper anymore because they seem stale. My favorites are on the web.

Penny Arcade
Least I could Do
Pvp
Schlock Mercenary
Girl Genius
Sluggy Freelance
Kevin and Kell (Done by Bill Holbrook of life in the fast lane)
Starslip Crisis
Order of the stick

All appeal to those of us bored with regular comics.

Posted by: Jonathan | July 14, 2008 9:12 AM | Report abuse

I'm in China and haven't had my hands on the Post in months. According to my recollection, "Pearls Before Swine," "Get Fuzzy," "Dilbert" and a few others were my must-have favorites. In the past, I complained at least once a year about strips like "The Wizard of Id," "Blondie," "Beetle Bailey," and "Dennis the Menace." The original artists are dead or retired, and their successors are too scared to try new ideas. So they just produce boring daily gag strips.

Posted by: William | July 14, 2008 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Cul de Sac is perhaps the most perfect comic strip I have ever seen, followed closely by Richard's Poor Almanac. Interestingly, I read an interview with Richard in which he said Lio was one of his favorites, and that is by far the lamest strip I have ever seen; a poor rip-off of Gahan Wilson. Wilson's strip, "Nuts" opened with the best first strip, first panel quote I ever heard "Those who remember how great it was being a kid don't remember what it was like being a kid." For single panel cartoons, I don't think anyone will ever match The Far Side.

A question: why did the Ppost run an alternative Opus on 7/6? I never would have caught it because I read the online version, but I saw the print version by accident.

Posted by: JoE | July 14, 2008 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Oh yeah, Richard's Poor Alamanac rules. As do the gag illos he does for the Health section on Wednesday. You should pay for a clone of him now, and put him to work doing something for every section, every day.

Posted by: Mike Rhode | July 14, 2008 9:31 AM | Report abuse

I feel extinct, but here's my list.
Mary Worth
Mark Trail
Peanuts
The Far Side
Bloom County/Outland/Opus
Calvin&Hobbes
Gasoline Alley
Apt 3G
Terry and the Pirates
Peanuts
Beetle Bailey
Blondie&Dagwood

And, just about every other comic strip that's still running. Even that do-gooder Gil Thorp. But not Cathy or Garfield.

But what's with Funky? Ever since his squeeze got killed off he's aged 25 years? What's up with that? Shouldn't there be vegetable-oil cars floating around? Shouldn't he be speaking Spanish or esperanto? Where's all his survivalist gear stowed?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2008 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Review of Daily Comics:

I'm adding some comments where I have something to say.

Excellent:
Get Fuzzy: brilliant; I still can't stop laughing whenever I read it
Frazz: love it; funny, makes me think, almost perfect

On the Verge of Excellence:
Candorville: very good, just not quite that funny
Cul de Sac: the dailies are still growing on me, but based on the Sundays in the WaPo magazine, this is a great comic
Doonesbury: I know, it's great and all, but given that I often skip it (mainly because it's separate from the other comics), I can't quite proclaim it great
Mother Goose and Grimm: sometimes ridiculously funny, sometimes just funny
Pickles: always solid, always funny, but rarely laugh-out-loud
Pooch Cafe: it's been on the upswing--I found it solid originally, and it's only getting better
Tank McNamara: a solid comic that still occasionally hits it out of the park

Solid:
Agnes
Frank and Ernest
Baby Blues
Big Nate
Brewster Rockit: Space Guy!
For Better or For Worse
Non Sequitur: used to be better, before the horse appeared; plus the political angle doesn't work for this comic
On the Fastrack
Pearls Before Swine: used to be THE comic, but really fell off after a year or so; still decent, though the crocs are not a good storyline
Sherman's Lagoon: good and solid--Sundays tend to be great, but dailies are just solid
Speed Bump
Watch Your Head: has really been growing on me; when it first filled in for Boondocks, it couldn't really compare, but it's slowly come into its own
Zits

Just Above Mediocre:
Dilbert: used to be THE comic, and probably was tops for about five years or so; has really fallen off
Mutts: solid art, but the story never goes anywhere
Sally Forth
The Piranha Club
Zippy: usually over my head, but occasionally, when I get it, brilliant

Mediore:
Blondie
Brevity
Classic Peanuts: I know, heresy; honestly, I don't know whether Peanuts just don't do reprints well, whether they're choosing the wrong strips, or whether Peanuts just doesn't age well
Judge Parker
Red and Rover
Rhymes with Orange

Bad:
Baldo: not quite sure who finds this funny; just a terrible comic; so bad, it might join Mark Trail and Spider-Man below soon
Beetle Bailey: I understand this used to be a funny comic; it isn't any more
Curtis
Garfield: I could swear Garfield used to be funny; it certainly isn't now
Lio: just bizarre, I can't stand it
Prickly City: nice to see that it's become less predictable (politically), it's still not a funny comic

So Bad, they're good:
Mark Trail: the world in black and white
The Amazing Spider-Man: the weirdest storylines

Posted by: DC Comics Fan | July 14, 2008 10:07 AM | Report abuse

How about dropping all the zombie strips to make room for some fresh talent?

Posted by: Islamorada Girl | July 14, 2008 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Calvin & Hobbes - hands down favorite.

Posted by: Alex | July 14, 2008 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Love For Better or Worse. I am heartbroken that it will be going to reruns soons.

Most of the family oirented ones are cool. I can't stand Lio. I actually skip it on Sundays. It's just monsters and a weird kid.

Posted by: ep | July 14, 2008 10:11 AM | Report abuse

For the love of Christ, please pull Family Circus!

Posted by: No more corn | July 14, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

As a comics consumer, I'm looking forward to this blog.

Re: Family Circus

I quote the 1999 Doug Liman movie "Go"

Claire (Katie Holmes): "What do you have against the Family Circus?"

Todd (Timothy Olyphant): "You read your paper and you're enjoying your two-page comic spread. And there's the (bleeping) Family Circus bottom right corner, just waiting to suck. And that's the last thing you read so it spoils everything you read before it."

Claire: "You could just not read it."

Todd: "I hate it, yet I'm uncontrollably drawn to it."

Best line of a so-so movie.

Posted by: J. May | July 14, 2008 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Anything Berke Breathed works for me - could you try and snag an interview with him?

I sorely miss The Far Side.

I love Non Sequitur.

As others have noted some strips are less funny than they used to be, I'm going to add User Friendly (at userfriendly.org) to that list. (Okay, maybe "less funny" isn't correct - super targeted is better. It's more tailored for those completely submerged into a tech-geek lifestyle.)

"XKCD" I find interesting. Some are bad, some are good, some are great. (I love this one: http://xkcd.com/407/)

I also find "The New Adventures of Queen Victoria" to be interesting.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | July 14, 2008 10:30 AM | Report abuse

It's nice that you take the concept of comics seriously, but the WP doesn't seem to care about the reality. Strips are so shrunken, I can no longer read the captions. I am older, but I don't need glasses to read or drive - except for the WP comics. I have more or less given up some strips - not because I don't like them, but because of how the WP prints them.

Posted by: Fred | July 14, 2008 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Please get rid of Beetle Bailey - physical violence and abuse are NOT funny! Also, Lio is just plain creepy.

I love Zits: with two teenagers, I can identify with so many of the situations. Also, I particularly like Cul de Sac and Non Sequiter.

Posted by: jct | July 14, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Bring back Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side and Bloom County.

That's when I'll start reading the comics again.

Thx,

Jay!

Posted by: JayRockers! | July 14, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse

The Post comics selection is awful. There isn't a single funny strip in the whole comics section. If you want to know what a good comics section looks like, pick up a copy of the Onion sometime (100% cheaper than the Post). The section is short and the comics are all funny. That is to say, it's the polar opposite of the Post comic section.

(P.S. The two best comics that appear in the Post -- Doonesbury and Dilbert -- are not even printed with the rest of the comics. Whose brilliant idea was that?)

Posted by: Meeph Bleek | July 14, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

The Onion prints its strips even smaller than the Post though. At least when the City Paper was running Red Meat, you could read it. BTW, Shannon Wheeler's Postal Comics was collected recently - you can buy the tiny boxed set at Big Planet Comics in Bethesda.

Doonesbury not being with the comics is Trudeau's fault, if not his idea. Contractually that's as small as the Post can print it. Yeah, GB! Newspapers used to run comics all over the place to get readers to pick up different sections. The Wash Times also did this until recently with In the Bleachers in the Sports and Bottomliners in Business, but I think they stopped.

Jay, Bloom County is back in the Post, as Opus on Sundays. C&H ain't never coming back - Watterson is painting landscapes in seclusion. Larson went onto environmental causes after the Far Side.

I'm surprised at how many people dislike Lio - it is meant to be in the Charles Addams vein, but hey Addams has been dead for years. Where else are you going to get demented horror humor?

Garfield's aimed at kids. My 10-year old loves it.

3rd post of mine this morning so I'm sticking in a plug for my ComicsDC website - http://comicsdc.blogspot.com - I try to let people know what's happening w/ comics in the area.

Posted by: Mike Rhode | July 14, 2008 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Bad Comics

Close to Home: Worst art on the comics page. Many times it's impossible to tell what the joke is supposed to be. Dump it.

Zippy: Lost its originality long ago. Over and over, it's just pinheads babbling about goofy product names, and oversized road signs uttering banal observations. Yes, I get the joke. I got the joke the first ten thousand times, in fact.

Pearls Before Swine: I'm tired of the puns; I put it in the same category as Frank and Ernest. Moreover, I don't read it anymore because I can tell what the joke will be just by looking at which characters appear. Not my taste.

For Better or For Worse: Long since run out of gas, and the family dynamic, as the daughter's individuality is slowly crushed, has just turned creepy.

Cul de Sac: I don't understand the fuss. It's Baby Blues with slighly edgier art.

Non Sequitur: Unreadable. The Sunday strips with the dull texts about Basil's adventures and the deliberately incomprehensible fisherman grew to be too much of a chore long ago. The angry little girl is charmless, and Wiley's political writing has all the charm and subtlety of being hit by a two-by-four.

Prickly City: Waste of time. It's as if "Love Is" starred "Mallard Fillmore" and "Mutts."

Peanuts: If you're going to keep running Peanuts, run all classic Peanuts from the early years. The mid-90s stuff is his stalest work and not what should be re-run.

Red and Rover: It's great that you have comics for kids, but can kids of today really relate to a kid in 1970, wearing a space helmet and worshiping Marcia Brady?

Lio: This strip was repeating itself before the first week was up.

Agnes: Same strip every day. Baffling tirade of non-sequiturs from Agnes; incomprehension from other character; declaration of triumph from Agnes. Not my taste.

Tank McNamara: Formerly cutting-edge, now just wordy and way too lost in the details.

Frazz: The art is great, but the main character is so unlikably judgmental that the strip generally leaves me sour.

Mutts: Awwwwwww. Isn't that cute?

Dilbert: Retirement beckons.

Opus: Retirement should never have ended. Breathed has nothing new to say, and he's not solving this problem just by putting his characters in underwear and having them shout a lot.

Good Comics

Get Fuzzy: Consistently inventive and surprising. Has done more than any strip to establish a funny tone that doesn't depend on the cliched routine of setup-setup-punchline.

Brewster Rockit: One of the two best acquisitions of recent years. A delightfully fresh and wacky voice.

Watch Your Head: The other best pickup. This one is truly alive and written from the heart.

Rhymes With Orange: Always something new.

Sally Forth: Marciuliano is on fire! He's totally revitalized a boring strip, making the Forths into interesting people with real lives.

Sherman's Lagoon: Generally something new going on, and at least tries to come up with new contexts for the same old running gags.

Speed Bump: The best of the successors to the Far Side.

Brevity: The second-best.

Posted by: Tom T. | July 14, 2008 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Poor Richard's Almanac
Cul De Sac
Pooch Cafe
Pearls
Get Fuzzy
Lio
Sherman's Lagoon

Posted by: Hodown | July 14, 2008 11:35 AM | Report abuse

I use the "Morning Coffee" application on Firefox to load my comics ever day (and Sudokus at the end of the week). Of the Post offerings I read:
Adam
Dilbert
Doonesbury
F Minus (only one-paneler I bother with anymore)
For Better or For Worse
Foxtrot classics
Red and Rover (same artist as Adam, in case you weren't aware)
Tom the Dancing Bug (loved this one for years!)
Zippy
Zits (though I don't have any kids, let alone teens)

and non-Post:
Frazz (I don't mind Frazz's occasional preachiness -- though I stopped reading BC for that reason among others)
Monty (nee Robotman)

Posted by: Billy Dare | July 14, 2008 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Pearls Before Swine and Mutts, unquestionably. But then, I am an affected Jack Russell terror owner.

Posted by: Kay Jackson | July 14, 2008 12:27 PM | Report abuse

How is it that "Marvin" hasn't gotten at least one thumbs-down? Haven't gotten tired of the poop-and-pee jokes yet?

I concur with Islamorada Girl -- kill the zombie strips, before they eat our brains!

Posted by: enogabal | July 14, 2008 12:35 PM | Report abuse

IMO...

What is and is not in the paper doesn't matter that much. So many of us read everything online anyway. BUT... if it isn't in the paper, then there's no money for the cartoonist and, pretty soon, no strip. It's just another aspect of the problems papers are facing with the 'net. How do you deliver and still make money?

Having said that, what I do and do not like doesn't matter that much. If enough people like it, nationwide or worldwide, it'll survive. Expressing my preference by any manner other than reading the strip (and, preferably, in some fashion that delivers money to the artist) is pointless. One group of office workers make a sign and, (*boom*), Mark Trail lives? It seems so random.

With the web, y'all know EXACTLY which strips are being read and which aren't. Any sort of poll, be it online or in the printed version, will primarily appeal to those who feel their favored strips are a) not so popular and b)under threat.

For an interesting perspective on the life of a cartoonist (and many other random topics), I highly recommend Jimmy Johnson's blog: www.arloandjanis.com

Posted by: Thad de la Plane | July 14, 2008 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Since we're listing daily reads . . .

Dilbert
Doonesbury
For Better or For Worse
Get Fuzzy
Pearls
Sally Forth
Zits
Big Nate

A couple of possible topics for future discussion -

- Darby Conley (of Get Fuzzy fame) seems to be playing with language quite a bit lately - puns, etc. - are we ready for him to return to the psychology of interspecies interaction. And what's Joe been up to? And Francis, for that matter.

- The FBorFW flashbacks . . . love'em or hate'em? I could do without them, myself.

- Is it just me or has Sally Forth been way edgier over the past couple of years than it's previously been? Sometimes (not often) but sometimes it's Pearls edgy.

- Is anyone still reading Foxtrot since Amend went to Sundays only? As a fan since way, way back, I've kind of lost interest.

Love the blog.

Posted by: pholman | July 14, 2008 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Some of my current favs are those not in a regular newspaper; web comics like Girl Genius, Theater Hopper, PhD (I especially like that one), and Something Positive.

For the pen/paper set, I loved Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, Pearls before Swine. 9 Chickweed Lane, Cow and Boy, Clear, Blue Water, Frazz, Jane's World, La Cucaracha, and non Sequitur are all must reads.

Posted by: Mephisto | July 14, 2008 1:55 PM | Report abuse

The comic strips which I must read every day which are consistently funny are Pearls Before Swine and Get Fuzzy. To a lesser extent Monty, which is not in the WP, falls in the same category.

Most of the rest is unfortunately mediocre to downright laughably bad. For the latter category, I include Luann (I understand that this strip might appeal to a particular demographic though), Family Circus, and Dennis the Menace. These induce laughter, although for the wrong reasons.

At times, For Better or For Worse falls into that category, but since it is going into reruns in the near future, I feel it should be cut, since it is now quite stale.

As for the terrible strips that should be eliminated, I must put Zits, which hardly reflects a useful perspective on teenage life for parents or children and lacks any ability to create humorous situations beyond stereotypes and Garfield which hasn't had a decent or fresh joke at least a decade.

Cathy is similar to Garfield in this respect but with grating illustrations and too much writing for the panel. Non Sequitur's gag strips are just variations of any other strip in the paper and its storyline strips are exceedingly poorly constructed political commentaries that hardly entertain.

Posted by: Aulus Hirtius | July 14, 2008 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Thad for mantioning Arlo and Janis, this is my favorite always fresh and insightful.

Posted by: Roy Bickley | July 14, 2008 3:34 PM | Report abuse

I'm excited about this blog! I'm apparently one of the few holdouts who actually reads the comics in the paper. They may be the whole reason I subscribe to the Post, actually.

My favorite strips are probably Frazz, Pearls, Mutts, Frank and Earnest, FBOFW, and Cul de Sac (liking the dailies!)... but these comments have been an interesting read, that peoples' tastes are so vastly different.

Posted by: Julia | July 14, 2008 3:51 PM | Report abuse

i don't think any cartoon whose creator is dead should still be hogging space. make room for fresh blood!

Posted by: cartoon in a cartoon graveyard | July 14, 2008 5:48 PM | Report abuse

I love Sherman's Lagoon, Pearls Before Swine, Knight Life, and Rhymes With Orange.

At comics.com (United Media's website) I like
Minimum Security, F Minus, and Boy on a Stick and Slither.

The worst comics in the world are Marmaduke, Family Circus and Pluggers. And Garfield. Bleh!

Posted by: Samantha | July 14, 2008 7:02 PM | Report abuse

I'm a bit vintage so my choices probably aren't "cool" (our word incidentally. We said it way back when). Here goes:

Pickles

Garfield

The Humble Stumble (recently defunct)

Luann

Stone Soup

One Big Happy

Shirley and Son (cartoonist deceased so only in classic form)

Bizaro (sometimes)

Adam at Home

Baldo

For Better or Worse (it's a story though, not really funny)

The Other Coast (sometimes)

Posted by: Pat | July 14, 2008 7:42 PM | Report abuse

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