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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 09/ 1/2008

The Morning Line: From Cartoonists, the School of Hard Knocks

By Michael Cavna

Cartoonists, one could surmise, are a cruel and spiteful lot. How else to explain why so many of them are teasing the tots with today's back-to-school taunts?

Hey, kids! Read the funnies and let us quasi-grownups pepper you with scholastic jibes! C'mon, now -- no child left behind, hahaha!

One could surmise that, but actually the fact is that cartoonists are just a savvy lot. See, many syndicated scribblers are mindful of two truisms:

1. A core demographic of the funnypages, of course, remains the grade-school set.
2. If most all humor is rooted in someone's pain, then there are laughs in the woes of the wee ones.

A half-dozen or so Post toons go back to school today for pain-laced high jinks. Some dip in the schadenfreude, some seem born of still-raw memories. To wit:

The reigning daughter of big-time denial. (Creators) Enlarge Comic

AGNES: O Agnes, queen of summertime denial. The tots can feel your pain, even if they have no idea what "hate-filled rhetoric" means. In this political season, they will know soon enough.

Mopey Baldo needs to take a few lessons from "Zits." (UPS) Enlarge Comic

BALDO: In two panels, the all-too-bitter irony. We stare into those mournful doe eyes of Baldo and, after the split-second urge to console, we come to our senses and order: "Snap out of it, B.! Take a lesson from your cartoon cousin Jeremy Duncan! Choose self-empowering snark over your self-pitying sulk!" Even Jeremy knows: Snark is funny -- sulking, notsomuch.

Red, a.k.a. the word-man of Alcatraz. (WPWG) Enlarge Comic

RED AND ROVER: This strip most effectively summons our glummest end-of-summer memories. Not because of Red OR Rover, however, but rather because of that slowwwly approaching, gear-grinding bus. Damnnnn you, Mr. Bassett -- you have plumbed our childhood.

The new school fight-song: "There's a fungus among us!" (NEA) Enlarge Comic

BIG NATE: At least Lincoln Peirce offers the kiddies a glimmer of hope. How many fourth-graders will read this and have an epiphany worthy of an overhead cartoon light-bulb: "Mold! All we need to do is sneak into school and plant mold!"

Ask Agnes for it, kids! If anyone keeps black-market fungus on hand for such occasions, it is the dour but resourceful Agnes.

By Michael Cavna  | September 1, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Morning Line  
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While I agree this annual knock at the kids is partially aimed at that audience, I can't help but think it's more schadenfreude for the parents eager to get the kids out of the house. Even Family Circus managed to (lamely) convey the concept.

Posted by: Arlington Gay | September 1, 2008 9:44 AM | Report abuse


Made me laugh. Out loud, even.

Posted by: buggit | September 1, 2008 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Is it just me, or did Red lose a big moment with "56733490923" over, say, "24601"?

Posted by: tidalwv | September 2, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

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