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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 08/20/2008

The Morning Line: Cartoons That Just "Kill"...

By Michael Cavna

A standup comic once offhandedly shared with us what audiences laugh the most at: "Nothing 'kills' like death."

If that's the case, then today's Post toons are the height of hilarity. From the philosophical to the literal, they're to die for.

1. PICKLES: What we've long appreciated about "Pickles" is how often, tonally, it gets the dialogue between a long-married couple so RIGHT. We have a "Greatest Generation" couple in our family who swears Brian Crane is listening in on their conversations (always the highest compliment with such strips). "Pickles" takes a deft angle on the obits that's pitch-perfect. Huzzahs, Mr. Crane.

2. LIO: Perhaps this, too, says something about our extended relations, but we have another relative who, according to family lore, once built a similar toy "Let them eat cake!" guillotine as part of the grade-school class project. Only difference here is that Lio forgot the barrow that carts off the noggins. (Sacre bleu!) We think Mark Tatulli pulls off this gag with a simple artfulness that's worth saluting.

JUDGE PARKER Enlarge Comic

3. JUDGE PARKER: And then there's the most jarring image on the "funny" pages: A guy sprawled dead on the golf course, as stiff as whatever Rat is drinking this week (in "Pearl Before Swine's" Hemingway spoofage). Not often does a comic suddenly pivot from golf-shot to rifle-shot, but one thing is certain: ol' man Cheatham is left with one heckuva bad lie.

We invite your comments -- which of today's comics are to die for, and which read like death warmed over?

By Michael Cavna  | August 20, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Morning Line  
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And then there's "For Better Or For Worse," where Elizabeth's impending wedding has just been emotionally complicated by her grandfather's landing in the hospital with a heart attack (complicated for the reader, anyway -- Elizabeth doesn't know yet). Over the years, that comic has seen its share of fatalities, Ellie's mother and Farley the dog being the most prominent.

This is a diferent kind of death than the above examples where it's either played for laughs or is part of an off-the-shelf murder mystery. I have no problem with death in comic strips SO LONG AS THEY ARE EMOTIONALLY HONEST. "Doonesbury" has also seen the demise or near-demise of a number of characters and it has never felt gratuitous or phoney. I can respect that in a comic strip.

Posted by: Daniel J. Drazen | August 20, 2008 6:31 AM | Report abuse

Well, there goes the judge's $100K advance. All those years getting ready for golf for nothing (it was years, wasn't it?).

Side notes:
Does Stantis know that, after you sketch the drawings, you fill them in with ink and erase the sketch? My guess is no.

And how does the Pooch Cafe pooch know what "that time of the month" is but has no clue as to what "in heat" means? Couldn't someone just tell him they're the same thing?

Posted by: f2 | August 20, 2008 6:35 AM | Report abuse

Pardon me for double-posting, but I posted my earlier post before I read today's "One Big Happy" which also has a death theme. The deceased: Suzette, a tree which Ruthie has been watering the past few months and with which she had bonded. Cause of death: violent overnight storm.

Detorie got one thing perfect in today's strip where Ruthie discovers what happened to Suzette: no dialogue or thought balloons. Purely visual cartooning. The moment calls for it.

Posted by: Daniel J. Drazen | August 20, 2008 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Gotta say, this A.M.'s Pooch Cafe made me snort coffee through my nose, especially the final panel showing our heroes huddling in some dark corner. The drawing enhances the deadpan delivery.

A shooting on Judge Parker! Thank jeebus that Sam left his putter behind like a weekend hacker! Coming tomorrow: more discussion over the dead body!

Posted by: JkR | August 20, 2008 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Sam is a weekend hacker - he was complaining for days how little he liked golf. Personally I started paying more attention to Judge Parker BECAUSE of this blog, and I'm actually enjoying it well enough to my surprise. Barretto's pretty girls help that, but I hadn't bothered with it much even when he got picked up last year.

Posted by: Mike Rhode | August 20, 2008 10:12 AM | Report abuse

I knew Cheatham was a goner as soon as Sam Driver (and he hates golf with that name?) got to the course and heard Cheatham yelling, "I'm going to kill you" into his cell phone. If you ever saw an episode of Murder She Wrote, MacMillan and Wife or Diagnosis Murder, you knew for sure that he would soon be pushin' up daisies.

Posted by: Jack | August 20, 2008 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Doesn't someone die everyday Funky Winkerbean? I know my soul does a little after I read it.

Posted by: Horacio | August 20, 2008 1:38 PM | Report abuse

re: FBOW. just saw today's strip again and it struck me that maybe Lizzie's "STOP" might have something to do with her grandfather not being around?

Posted by: jimbo1949 | August 20, 2008 3:27 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

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