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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 01/29/2009

What Comic Do You Read Despite Yourself?

By Michael Cavna

I'm relieved, somehow, to learn that it's not just me. Others suffer the same compulsion.

I'm chatting with colleague Henry Allen about comics -- or more specifically, about how we READ comics. What we gravitate toward, what we avoid (if not professionally obligated to follow). Then Henry (who wrote The Post's first-rate John Updike appreciation this week) shares a sentiment that rings pure and true:
"I still read 'Peanuts' every day, but I don't know why. I go to it still expecting greatness -- and it always disappoints."

(United Feature Syndicate) Enlarge Comic


There are strips that we read and we know not why. You might call it Involuntary Readership Syndrome. Sure, we can chalk it up to mere force of habit, but it's more than that, really.

The reasons, it seems, could fall into at least several categories. Among them:

1. The strips that are so compellingly bad that -- like driving past an accident -- you cannot help but brake and rubberneck at the gnarled wreckage.

2. The strips that you are drawn to because they are so quick, so easy -- the I Read It Because So Little Effort Is Required. A low bar, indeed. And typically, a low payoff.

3. The strips that were once grand, once glorious -- towering monuments to aesthetic excellence that, through death or disintegration, are now sad shells of their former selves. Like a lost limb, you keep looking down daily, hoping to feel their phantom greatness.

(David Levine)Enlarge Comic

So inspired by Henry (as I often am), I now open up the floor to you: What comics do you read only because they are dreadful, easy or a shadowy symbol of former greatness?
Or, put more simply: What strip do you read despite yourself?


Speaking of appreciating Updike, the Boston Globe cartoonist Dan Wasserman has a very interesting blogpost about Updike's love of cartooning. Well worth checking out.

Also, amid the thousands of layoffs landing daily, I share this, my FAVE EDITORIAL CARTOON OF THE DAY, by the Washington Examiner's Nate Beeler:

(Washington Examiner) Enlarge Comic

By Michael Cavna  | January 29, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Morning Line  
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Next: The Interview: 'Dilbert' Creator Scott Adams



Posted by: marshlc | January 29, 2009 8:13 AM | Report abuse

Mark Trail and Spiderman. They're the same old, same old. Could the current Mark Trail story be a repeat? It sure seems like it.

Posted by: oldgal49er | January 29, 2009 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Have to agree with Cathy. She used to be funny, now she's just a whining yuppie. Garfield gave up the ghost long ago.

And yet, I continue to read.

Posted by: jhershelredpuppy1 | January 29, 2009 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Spiderman. The comic went "back in time" and yet the storyline is exactly the same as before.

Posted by: strohminator | January 29, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

I only read the Sunday comics, but two that I read for no reason other than they are there are Prickly City and Watch Your Head. They're completely unfunny, but I keep reading them to try to figure out what in God's name the Post editors were thinking when they added them.

Posted by: mike_usagisan | January 29, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Beetle Bailey. I read it every day, and every day it's horrible. One day I'll stop.

I was able to stop with Peanuts, Curtis, On The Fastrack, Prickly City, and Little Dog Lost, and I never started with Mark Trail and Spiderman, but somehow I still always read Beetle. Probably because I forget what it was about almost immediately, and there's some subconscious hope that it'll actually make me laugh one day. Not going to happen.

Posted by: stickler | January 29, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

even when I don't intend to, I read Garfield. I "hate" it...worse than Peanuts, which I no longer read.

My cursor just seems to drift that way...or my eyes on Sunday in the paper.

Posted by: ZeldaJane | January 29, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Beetle Bailey, BC and Garfield.

Mike, I swear I literally was just reading B.C. on and thought; "why do I even waste time reading this? lets see what comic riffs is up to today"

Posted by: jessecline | January 29, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

"Mallard Fillmore," in the expectation that it may actually be FUNNY some day.

Posted by: drazen1 | January 29, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Reading comics on the web means I'm more selective. I actually have to click on the link to see it, rather than move my eyes across the page.
That said my favorite car wreck is Barney Google. I figure one day he might actually show up and I don't want to miss it.

Posted by: jimbo1949 | January 29, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

I'm horrible about this. I open up the Post Style section, and I read everything but the serials, Zippy, and Tank McNamara. I don't like Beetle, I don't like Hagar, I can't even figure out what's going on in Piranha Club, and yet here I am, reading them every day.

Posted by: oceanchild | January 29, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

I'm reading my comment and thinking to myself, why do I skip those and not the others? I think it must come down to your point about effort. With Tank and Zippy, I dislike them AND they have lots of words. I guess I don't mind continuing to read the other ones because I don't have to expend a lot of energy figuring out what they're saying.

Posted by: oceanchild | January 29, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Mark Trail syndrome must be contagious. Six Chix today has talking shoes deliver the punch line.

Posted by: jimbo1949 | January 29, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

I loved Peanuts back in the day and I still read it in the Sunday dead-tree newspaper. For those that never read Peanuts, "It's New to You.", applies.

But I stopped reading the strip online. What do they say about people that repeatedly do the same thing, expecting a different result?

Posted by: MSchafer | January 29, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

The one comic I read despite disliking it (and wishing the Post would drop it) is Prickly City. It is always interesting to see what new -- and almost invariably unfunny -- cheap shot the cartoonist can take against liberals.

Posted by: OTBerbur | January 29, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Mark Trail. A perfect aesthetic experience - the awkward poses, the musty plots, the lack of contractions.

Prickly City. Because I need the rush that comes from getting myself really irritated every morning. Why is the Prickly City global warming thing allowed when Doonesbury is banished to E3 for being too political?

Peanuts. Because you can choose to be bad. Not Schulz but the syndicate that feeds us the '90's stuff instead of the '60's stuff.

Little Dog Lost. Because it's a mystery and life needs myster.

Posted by: Alan_A | January 29, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Mark Trail is a guilty pleasure. I check it every day for a badly drawn gesture (e.g., the hand slapping the face of the woman who has the pet deer earlier this week) or outrageous speech ("you stole a friend of mine's pet bear!" from a few years ago).

I try not to read the Family Circus, even going so far as to cover it up, but it invariably infects my eyes.

Posted by: lgdc | January 29, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Still getting read despite not liking it:

On the Fastrack

Finally dropped off the read list after years of reading and hating:

Piranha Club
Tank McNamara

Posted by: JkR- | January 29, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Family Circus. It takes .8 seconds to read. So why not.

Posted by: maynardjf | January 29, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Igdc: I also have to physically cover Family Circus and if I accidentally read it my whole morning becomes depressing.

Posted by: HallieRoseC | January 29, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

I still read Peanuts, Hi & Lois and Hagar the Horrible. I still go awww at Peanuts sometimes (wish they carried the much older strips) and I get nostalgic for childhood with the Flagstones, but I can't even explain the Hagar thing.

Posted by: elyrest | January 29, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Every day I read Family Circus, and every day I am amazed (and depressed) that the Keane clan actually gets **paid** (quite handsomely, I suspect) for cranking out that drivel.

Posted by: seismic-2 | January 29, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Despite my better judgment, I read Mark Trail! Just to see if every line of dialogue still ends in an exclamation point!

(It does.)

Posted by: aweintraub | January 29, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Man, can't believe some of you folks don't think today's Prickly City was funny -- and I live in an all-liberal household.

There are only about eight or ten strips that I actually need to read, but I consume all the rest anyway. The toughest of all for me to take have been BC's evangelical efforts.

Posted by: pltrgyst | January 30, 2009 12:00 AM | Report abuse

Doonesbury. Politically I'm very similar to Trudeau. So it's not that. It's just the thing is boring, mopey, snide without being outrageous, satirical without humor, complacent, and dull. Other than that, it's fine.

As for Peanuts, I have a dislike for recycling. But it used to be very good, and occasionally I am reminded of that, laugh anew, and appreciate its presence.

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 30, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Beetle Bailey ... it gives hope to all that you don't have to be talented to have a long career in comics.

Posted by: horacio2 | January 30, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

fr OTBerbur:

>The one comic I read despite disliking it (and wishing the Post would drop it) is Prickly City. It is always interesting to see what new -- and almost invariably unfunny -- cheap shot the cartoonist can take against liberals.<

I think PC is pretty darn funny, and just wish the paper in my area, the Sacramento (CA) Bee hadn't dropped it!

Posted by: Alex511 | January 30, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

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