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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 07/18/2008

The Morning Line: Introducing the "Riffy" Awards!

By Michael Cavna

In our minds, the arrival of Friday means three things of note professionally: (1) San Diego Comic-Con is less than a week away; (2) hordes of "Dark Knight" fanboys and fangirls will be pushing past the "Mamma Mia!"-heads for uber-tubs of faux-butter popcorn; and (3) it's time to announce the very first weekly Comic Riffs awards. (Yep, technically, the week's not over, but many cartoonists run their weakest material on Saturdays anyway -- hope I didn't just give away a trade secret -- so we're awarding them today.)

So herewith: the inaugural "RIFFYS" (and no, the name only sounds like a mash-up of the Family Circus and Dennis-the-Menace dogs)...

Gag of the Week: "Sherman's Lagoon" (Friday)
Once we all agree that we're wandering into absurdly subjective terrain, we can move on to say: This day's strip not only surprised us, but it also made us laugh out loud (and we mean that in a gen-u-ine way and not a cheap "LOL" way). Here's our argument, if it pleases the court: The word "codpiece" is reliably chuckle-worthy, especially in a superhero-y context, but what elevates this is the kicker. "It's a cod" is funny to "hear" and imagine -- and it's perfectly organic to the strip.

Sherman's Lagoon (King Features)

Strip of the Week: "Brewster Rockit: Space Guy!"
This award will go to the feature that has a great concept and storyline that's executed on a high level throughoutthe week. This "Brewster" met our criteria. It opened with a group introduction to the amusingly named characters (the punning "Irritable Belle"!), then let the various scenarios play out in a satisfying way. Simply put: Brewster rocked-it.

Brewster Rockit (Tribune Media)

Art of the Week: "Cul de Sac"
It's not a simple thing in 2-D to breathe life into, well, vegetation (sure, Cezanne could do it, but could the great Frenchman do it in a microscopic comic-page panel wielding nothing but a thin-nibbed pen, a-ha?). Richard Thompson succeeds at capturing the towering flower that's the bane of Petey's nature-averse existence. We not only see the attack flower; we feel it (this is the week's real "prickly city"). Bravo, Thompson, and please send word if you've got the name of a good gardener.

Cul de Sac (Universal Press Syndicate)

Agree? Disagree? What are your fave comic picks this week? Our lines are open...

By Michael Cavna  | July 18, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Morning Line  
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I'm loving the Brewster Rockit. Agree with this. I'll give you Sherman's Lagoon as well.

But the style of Cul-de Sac is all a bit busy for my taste. I read it, and enjoy it, but the art - meh. Normally I'd nominate Judge Parker here, but we havn't seen Abby or Gloria in a week...

Posted by: JkR | July 18, 2008 7:55 AM | Report abuse

What's the art standard here? A flash of okay in the midst of a strip's Mediocrity? How does one judge inherent differences in skill levels? For me, the best of the week would the Zits strip of a few days ago where Scott & Borgman squeezed a herd of elephants going through Jeremy's room: excellent use of the space at hand.

Posted by: Ollabelle | July 18, 2008 8:16 AM | Report abuse

Surprise of the week:
Today's "Hagar" made me laugh.

Posted by: wiredog | July 18, 2008 8:16 AM | Report abuse

For me, I enjoyed "Baby Blues" yesterday (7/17), because it reminded me of those precious times that I teased my little brother and whipped him into a frothing frenzy of insecurity.

Ahhh... gee, I think that I have a phone call to make.

Posted by: erin | July 18, 2008 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Okay, the blog is working - I read Hagar for the first time in ages (not worth the trip). Art definitely goes to Cul-de-sac (what you like about Zits and LM is composition and draftsmanship, but Richard T could draw a character standing still and you'd still laugh at it). How about a "new low" award? Sally Forth and her mom crabbing at each other over the phone for 5 days? Made me want to stick an icepick in my ear and swirl it around.

Posted by: JoE | July 18, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Good draftsmanship is always an element, but I consistently like Close to Home despite receiving a lifetime achievement award for BAD draftsmanship. I'm just looking for guidelines for what is worthy of the Art award, 'cuz a freakin' flower in Cul de Sac just doesn't do it for me.

Posted by: Ollabelle | July 18, 2008 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Ollabelle, you have hit upon the crux of the hub, as it were. I fought for years against adding a humor category to the Illustrators Club show. When it finally happened, there was a lot of crabbing about the winners because they weren't very funny. I think that line quality and character design as they contribute to the strip should be the basis for judging the art's success, and in this way I think the flower wins (also, I have one just like it growing in my backyard.)

Posted by: JoE | July 18, 2008 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Let me guess: Pixar shot down Ray Billingsley's pitch for a CG Curtis movie. Can't think of any other reason why he'd suddenly take up the cause of fired Disney animators (an old, old story, btw) and act like the rest of us are supposed to care.

Posted by: Barmy | July 18, 2008 4:01 PM | Report abuse

The art of "Cul de Sac" has always struck me as something that could only be created by making Pig-Pen the principal character of Charles Boyce's "Compu-Toon."

Posted by: recul | July 18, 2008 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Are these cartoon commentaries limited to ones that run in the Washington Post?

Even if that is the case, I totally agree with the Cul de Sac pick.

Alex Hallatt
Arctic Circle (not yet running in the WP)

Posted by: OscarThePenguin | July 21, 2008 8:17 PM | Report abuse

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