The Funny Papers

By Gipp Forster

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The very first daily comic strip to appear in a newspaper, I am told, was in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1907. It was called, "Mr. Mutt" and would eventually become "Mutt and Jeff."

Those of us seasoned with years will remember Mutt and Jeff. Jeff was the little guy in the striped pants and top hat who carried a cane, while Mutt was the tall skinny guy with the bushy moustache and no upper lip.

I miss Mutt and Jeff. I wish they were still around. I'm still mad at Al Capp for retiring and taking Li'l Abner, Mammy, Pappy Yokum, Daisy May and Marryin' Sam with him. The Yokums were family. It isn't fair! One day you have family, the next they are all wiped out. How are we supposed to get along without Sadie Hawkins Day?

I miss Joe Palooka too. Joe was a bit of an enigma: a gentle, kind man who had impeccable manners and spoke of patriotism and peace and goodwill to men - while earning his living nurturing violence in a boxing ring. I wish Ham Fisher were still around. If he were, Joe Palooka probably would be too.

What we call comics now used to be referred to as "the funny papers." That, too, was an enigma. Dick Tracy wasn't funny. Nor were Terry and the Pirates. Some of today's contributions leave me a little cold. Some are a bit rude - others seemingly uninspired.

Marmaduke has been around forever. I find this strip boring. You'd think it was being drawn for kids! Most adults, from what I can see, don't take the funny papers very seriously. My wife seldom glances at them. She says she is surrounded by comedy and doesn't need more. But I've always loved the funny papers. In fact, that's how I begin my day. That and the word puzzle, which is simple, but so am I.Not that long ago, Bill Watterson retired his creation of Calvin and Hobbes. I guess there's a strange justice in that. If Calvin had grown up, he probably would have ended up in prison. And Hobbes would have been sold in a garage sale.

But I miss Calvin and Hobbes the most. Watterson yanked the strip because newspapers were shrinking the space allotted to comics. Even my wife read and enjoyed Calvin and Hobbes. She said that Calvin reminded her of one of our grandsons, although I won't say which one.It follows the story of a little boy who has one misadventure after another. A mischievous child to his parents and teachers, he carries a stuffed toy he calls Hobbes clutched to him wherever he goes. A toy to others, but to Calvin a real and living buddy who is mostly always there for him.

They say that Charles Shultz, the creator of Peanuts, and Bill Watterson based their main characters on their own children. Mr. Shultz must have winced a little when it came time to pencil in Lucy pulling the football away when Charlie Brown tried to kick it. Then hearing people laugh or snicker and say, "Good old Charlie Brown." Poor ol' Charles Shultz harboured such sad and embarrassing memories from his past and coined the term "security blanket," perhaps because such a blanket was a long-ago friend. It seems Charles Shultz was secure in his insecurity! 

Whether we call them comics or funny papers or funnies or whatever, be they juvenile or sophisticated, rude or endearing, I hope they will always be with us to tickle our imagination. The far away ones have rolled up on the shores of the past. And still, I miss them.So, rest well Li'l Abner, Joe Palooka, Andy Panda, Dick Tracy and all those who were and are no more.

As I peruse the comics in this morning's newspaper, I would rather go with Hagar on his Viking adventures to England than go with Dilbert to his cubbyhole office. Oh indeed, I would. I would!


Gipp Forster is a regular columnist with Senior Living Magazine



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