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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 10/ 1/2008

The Morning Line: Market Blues? Political Strips Need to Bail Us Out

By Michael Cavna

We're entertained by Tina Fey's latest eerie take on Sarah Palin. We smile as Stephen Colbert skewers failed bipartisan bailout efforts. We laugh at Bill Maher's new election-themed interview with Chris Rock.

Healthy campaign humor abounds on the screen, but what about on the funnypages? Honestly, some weeks, not so much.

The comics serve a wide array of readers, of course, and a limited number of strips wade into topical waters to begin with. But even among those chosen few, it has often felt -- in this historically fertile year -- that if the funnypages have not missed the boat, then they are at best clinging to a puny dinghy.

When we interviewed Garry Trudeau some months ago about satire's potential influence on the electorate, the one field he felt was in flagging health was his own. And we couldn't help but concur.

Which is why today, we're pleasantly surprised by some of the politically themed strips. To wit:

BREWSTER ROCKIT: Does Henry Paulson have this strip bookmarked? (TMS)Enlarge Comic

1. BREWSTER ROCKIT: In its pure and simple reaction to the bailout figure, today's "Brewster" is an absolute beaut. As cathartic as it is funny -- even if only to distract us from our our own personal fiscal bloodbath for a few seconds. (Brother, can you spare an extra hobo bindle?) And bonus huzzahs for the timeliness.

GET FUZZY: A guns and butter debate turns into a heated milk kerfuffle. (UPS)Enlarge Comic

2. GET FUZZY: This storyline is hitting its stride, right down to the signs ("Satchel News Network" is great, and "Re'Lic" helps make plain Darby Conley's political leanings). The debate is mostly premise for his characters' lactose-fueled shenanigans, yet read closely ("the temperament lead") and you realize Darb's painting in several shades of commentary here.

PRICKLY CITY: Can't field-dress a satirical target without sharpening your wit. (UPS)Enlarge Comic

3. GET PRICKLY: By having a female veep candidate even prior to McCain picking Palin, this strip was perfectly poised to hit this storyline outta the park. Some days, though, it feels as though Scott Stantis is settling for infield singles. "Field-dress" is a too-easy gag -- though we appreciate the "Straight Spin Express" signage.

By Michael Cavna  | October 1, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Morning Line  
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Best Palin play was in "Cleats", a strip that focuses on kids and sports.

Woman: do you know the difference between a soccer mom and a pit bull?
Man: I sure do. (pause) You're a soccer mom, right?

Posted by: f2 | October 1, 2008 6:57 AM | Report abuse

The soon-to-be-departed "Opus" (and of course before that "Bloom County") does the best job of pulling the powerful down a peg or two.

Posted by: Seismic-2 | October 1, 2008 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Doonesbury owns this category in 3 panel political cartooning. Nothing else comes close to it's timeliness and ability to reach back to the appropriate character.

Posted by: JkR | October 1, 2008 8:53 AM | Report abuse

The two-week production delay really drags down the relevance of the daily strips. Candorville has had good zingers, but the timing is just a little off.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 1, 2008 8:57 AM | Report abuse

As yellojkt observed, the delay built into the system makes it difficult for strips to keep up with current events. That's why, in the poll accompanying this column, we no longer have Aaron McGruder's "Boondocks" as an option. Pity. Before he jumped to animation, his political bite was primo.

Posted by: Daniel J. Drazen | October 1, 2008 9:18 AM | Report abuse

I've been loving how Brewster Rockit and Get Fuzzy are taking on politics. They're not only making points, but the strips have stayed funny and true to their characters.

Posted by: Jayelle | October 1, 2008 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Meanwhile, I see from today's "Candorville" and "Curtis" strips that the motif of the day is to abuse someone by opening one's mouth a foot and a half wide, sticking out a worm-like tongue, and shouting the word "Maggot!" I look forward to seeing how this theme will be handled by Jeffie in "Family Circus".

Posted by: Seismic-2 | October 1, 2008 3:25 PM | Report abuse

fr Seismic-2:

>...I look forward to seeing how this theme will be handled by Jeffie in "Family Circus"<.

I remember a strip that someone did lampooning FC. One of the kids was still living at home, dolly had been "married" SEVERAL times, one boy was referring to his parole officer, and the oldest had a beard, belly and tattoos!

Posted by: Alex | October 1, 2008 5:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm confused by some of the comments. Brewster Rockit has to be one of the worst strips ever. It is bland, predictable, uses tired stereotypes for characters and is unreadable. A real waste of ink.

Posted by: Jimbo | October 7, 2008 9:33 AM | Report abuse

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