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Posted at 11:45 AM ET, 06/ 8/2009

Reader Poll: Does Religion Belong on Your Comics Page?

By Michael Cavna


From Charles Schulz to Johnny Hart, expressions of spiritual faith have long found sanctuary on the comics page. On the other hand, relatively few creators choose to do this -- and syndicate editors commonly warn cartoonists of potential reader/newspaper editor backlash before such strips ever potentially see publication.

Similarly dicey, of course, is making any reference to religion, especially if it's perceived as insensitive. (See: Last week's "Doonesbury," or "Opus" strips from last year that featuring a Muslim characters.)

'DOONESBURY' (UPS)Enlarge Image

So the Official Riffs' Reader Question of the Day is: Do you think expressions of faith -- and not just satiric references to religion -- belong on the comics page?

By Michael Cavna  | June 8, 2009; 11:45 AM ET
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No I don't. But I don't believe Mark Trail should have a place on the funny pages.

Satire definitely belongs. That's the difference between Walt Kelly and Johnny Hart (to name two).

Oh.... As a Jew, I found nothing offensive about Doones. I am generally puzzled by this old/new reference though. There's the bible and that book that some people use.

Am I in Mallard territory yet? :)

Posted by: filfeit | June 8, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

If a comic strip offend thee, pluck it out - from your reading list, not from the newspaper. After all, other people may still enjoy it.

The principle exception, of course, is Family Circus. It should not be censored; rather, it should be exorcised.

Posted by: seismic-2 | June 8, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

The only criteria for the comics should be, did the cartoonist succeed in being [funny] [sharply satirical] [emotionally moving] [fill in your own blank] today? So, yes, include religion. It is just another part of who a person is, and what our society is about, so why should a cartoonist (or anyone else, really) be cut off from commenting on it or discussing it? Cartoonists can be as preachy or controversial or spiritual as they (and the publishing syndicate) want; as always, we readers will judge the final product.

Just to put my views in context: I'm a Jewish atheist, generally suspicious of organized religion, and with virtually no spiritual life. But among my favorite strips -- and the one I consider most spiritual -- is 'Rose is Rose' which I usually find to be entertaining, charming and often uplifting.

Posted by: Paul729 | June 8, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

The comics page is my religion on Sunday morning... I want to know why out in the wastelands of the OUter Banks we got a repeat of last weeks's cartoon section. What a bummer... and for this I pay $4????????

Posted by: bethtrash0 | June 8, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

It's hard to see anything "funny" in the ham-handed preaching of strips like B.C.

Posted by: pltrgyst | June 8, 2009 10:50 PM | Report abuse

I definitely think that all creative media is a statement about the person creating it and comic strips are no exception. I find Doonesbury's ignorance of Judaism and his anti-Semitic slurs to be off-putting, but Gary Trudeau has the right to develop his characters any way he wants and I have the right to choose not to read the strip if I don't like it.

I think that it should certainly be expected that a Christian cartoonist living in a Christian country [which America is, though there are people of all faiths living there] would tie in any current Christian holiday to their strip. Why on earth should they be expected to ignore something that is blatantly obvious such as a national holiday?

Posted by: comicfan1 | June 9, 2009 4:58 AM | Report abuse

bethtrash0: It just wasn't you folks out in the Banks who got week-old funnies last Sunday. Here in civilization (NoVA) we got old funnies as well.

Posted by: FurnaceCreek | June 9, 2009 6:37 AM | Report abuse

It's no harder to avoid a moronic strip like Mallard Fillmore (or Mother Goose and Grimm) than it is to avoid going to church or whatever else you don't want to go to, and the right not to be offended is not written in the constitution.

It takes all kinds of comics strips to make a good comics page, and the more the merrier---and since you've shrunken them to where you need a magnifying glass to read them, it's almost getting to be a moot point anyway.

Posted by: andym108 | June 9, 2009 6:55 AM | Report abuse

if it's funny, it belongs on the funny page. if it's not funny, well....

Posted by: rwyckoff | June 9, 2009 7:34 AM | Report abuse

Since when do the comics = government?

Posted by: mjc570 | June 9, 2009 7:48 AM | Report abuse

It's a matter to degree - I was fine with Hart's occasional insertion into the strips. His infamous outhouse cartoon though was beyond the pale - that was downright mean.

Posted by: tws1372 | June 9, 2009 8:05 AM | Report abuse

The degree and the humor level in which religion is handled matters quite a bit. Not all comics are meant to be funny. Some are touching, sad, awe-inspiring or thought provoking. I don't think you can separate religion out of someone's psyche when they create a comic. That doesn't mean I like it overplayed, but subtlety works for me. I liked B.C. years ago before Johnny Hart seemed to flip the crazy switch. After that I avoided it. It's better now that he's dead.

"Rose is Rose" I think is sweet and although it it does have spiritual elements they are handled exceptionally well. Doonesbury never offends me (bores me now and then). I appreciate Trudeau's point of view and like to see where his strip goes. I have read the Sunday one that seemed to get people riled up and I really don't see why all the fuss.

So - yes to sex, politics and religion in the funnies.

Posted by: elyrest | June 9, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Much like anything else, it's how it's handled.

I am more deistic than anything, but one of my favorite books is Christoper Moore's "Lamb". He manages to treat the (fictional) life story of Jesus between 6 and 33 with respect while making it interesting and hilarious.

He explained away bunnies at Easter by Jesus getting tipsy on the wine at Cana and playing with a child's bunny. And this is what he says:

"I love bunnies. They toil not, neither do they bark.

Henceforth and from now on, I decree that whenever something bad happens to me, there shall be bunnies around."

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | June 9, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Where shall we begin (or stop) splitting the hairs? Is it religion if Wiley does a strip like Sunday's "B.E. Before Eve, Life in an all-guys Paradise"?

Stop all this foolishness. Leave the funnies alone.

Posted by: MSchafer | June 9, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

I voted yes, and I'm an Atheist. If you can't handle the occasional pointed comment or expression of belief that differs from your own, you've got deeper issues than the content of the comics.

However, what DOES offend me is when (usually conservative)dimwits such as Bruce Tinsley use their space as a vehicle to make ASSumptions about people who don't share their viewpoints, while simultaneously whining that they're being "silenced" by the Big, Bad Liberal K-O-N-Spiracy. The cartoon above being a perfect example.

Posted by: drewdane | June 9, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

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