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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 07/10/2009

The Riff: When Refried Gags Cause Deja-Vu All Over Again

By Michael Cavna


This Riffster doesn't necessarily mind that "Frank & Ernest" traffics in old jokes. No, what really galls is when these jokes are old even within the lifespan of "Frank & Ernest."

Or, put in other way: When strips rerun an entire's weeks of previously published strips -- as "Frank & Ernest" has been doing this week -- the comic should include a notice that says: "Rerun." Or "Flashback." Or: "Does this gag seem eerily familiar? Well, it should, because you previously read it right here in 1982, 1993 and -- yes! -- 2001."

Some strips, such as "Doonesbury," properly advertise their "flashbacks." And we all know the "Peanuts" are "Classics." That's as it should be. Sure, we can peer closely to inspect the copyrights on each strip, but who takes the time to read all super-fine print? By comparison, even my televison's channel guide typically tells me when an episode is an "RR" or "Repeat." Why can't more comics?

And to be clear: That's not to say cartoonists should never dip into the archives. 'Riffs doesn't begrudge artists who rerun old strips a coupla weeks a year when they, say, take a vacay or travel to a 'toonists convention. Just advertise a little more prominently that the strip has decided to play some of the oldies.

And then there's the fact that this trend is just especially galling with "Frank & Ernest." The creator of the strip, Bob Thaves, has already gone to the Big Vacation in the Sky. So why not advertise that the strip has hit the archives of the original cartoonist -- that actually might even get my hopes up.

Lastly, the strip below, as one commenter noted here, is a shaggy dog story. Creatively, however, I'll always prefer that my comic strips be puppies.

Does anything about cartoon reruns get your goat? If so, you've invited to share your rants, raves or rationale.


By Michael Cavna  | July 10, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Riffs  
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One Big Happy runs two versions ~ new and "classic" (so labeled). And today's "new" is an instant classic. Worth reading.

Herman, I believe, is all reruns (unlabeled) but it's like re-reading those Far Side cartoons ~ it's all good.

Posted by: filfeit | July 10, 2009 7:27 AM | Report abuse

Most legacy strips such as Hagar could just dispense with the art and dialog altogether, and they could just publish a simple narrative box instead, such as "Gag # 12". Since these strips have only a few jokes anyway, that are constantly re-run with minor variations, this would be more efficient and would free up space so that the newer strips could be printed using larger fonts.

Posted by: seismic-2 | July 10, 2009 8:08 AM | Report abuse

Given the age of the groaners that "Frank and Ernest" keeps peddling, it strains one's credulity to read in Wikipedia that the strip supposedly "has a tradition of breaking new ground".

On the other hand, perhaps this has a germ of truth: what we have here is a LEGACY strip that repeatedly goes into RE-RUNS, apparently for lack of original material. I have nothing against a cartoonist taking a well-earned vacation from time to time, but it would be preferable to use these month-long sabbaticals to loan vacated newsprint space to NEW artists that are trying to break into the business, rather than permitting the descendants of dead cartoonists to profiteer by publishing old garbage.

Posted by: kilby | July 10, 2009 8:09 AM | Report abuse

I agree with kilby, and some of the strips do use alternate talent. But I can see the WaPo editors saying "People keep saying this Outcault guy is 'groundbreaking'. That's what the people are asking for! Maybe we can get his strip in here. Or maybe we can pick up Elzie Segar ~ people seem to like his Popeye strip, although why he's named it after a chicken joint is beyond me."

Posted by: filfeit | July 10, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Sally Forth is running "A recap of Sally's summer" properly labled as such. Still boring tho. By the way, the funniest line today goes to Watch your Head. The silicone coming to rest line is a classic. And this story line is hilarious. Kudos!

Posted by: 2old2readcomics | July 10, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

you forgot beetle bailey ... it's been in reruns since 1967

Posted by: greasypores | July 11, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

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