Some Thoughts on the Legacy of the Creator of The Family Circus and the State of American Comic Strips in General
First of all, sorry about the erratic-to-nonexistent update schedule. As you probably gathered from the title, I’m writing this post in response to the recent death of Bil Keane, creator of The Family Circus. Keane died on the eighth of congestive heart failure; he was 89. Keane is survived by his son Jeff and the strip itself, which is now being written and drawn by Jeff, so it’ll continue unabated for the foreseeable future. The Internet’s mockery will, too. And now…on to tonight’s main topic: The sad and sorry state of the modern American comics page. I personally agree with PvP creator Scott Kurtz on this one: American strip comics are a moribund business, drained of creativity and with their golden years long behind them. The closest they ever came to a “renaissance” was during the 1980’s and ‘90s, when the industry was renewed, filled with a sense of purpose that made it grow and swell with pride and optimism. From this time spring some of the greatest works of comic-strip storytelling and art: Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, This Modern World, and FoxTrot's "golden age" all date back to these years. Sadly, these years of greatness and the earlier blossomings of the 1900's through the 1970's are long behind it, and the average comics reader is left to scavenge through the blasted wreckage. Doonesbury. Stone Soup. Peanuts. Mother Goose and Grimm--on a good day, which are few and far between. Non-Sequitor--although the above caveat also applies. These, my friends, are all that remain of the regularly syndicated quality strips. The rest--the word dreck springs to mind all too readily. Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side both stopped publication about a decade and a half ago, and, it seems, so too went all but a few small vestiges of comic strips’ creativity. Now? Maybe a swift death would be less painful than watching this titan grown sterile slowly fall to pieces. In no particular order, here is a sampling of the comics I would most like see vanish from the comics page forever:
- Beetle Bailey: I know that Beetle Bailey is a beloved American classic—but so is gender-based discrimination, and I for one would like to see that gone forever. It’s just not funny anymore—and that is the kiss of death for a comic strip.
- Garfield: the humor ran dry on this ‘un a long time ago, and Jim Davis has just been recycling the same seven or eight jokes ever since.
- Cathy: DO. NOT. GET. ME. STARTED. ON. THIS. ONE.
- Dennis the Menace: another strip where the humor ran dry years back. Moreover, Dennis hasn’t been actually, y'know, menacing in decades, having long since decayed into harmless sap. End it now, man! END IT NOW!
- The Born Loser: this is the poster-child for cliched, formulaic storytelling. Once you have read one The Born Loser strip you have, in effect, read them all.
- Blondie: for whatever reason, this is both immortal and obscenely formulaic. It's just not that good
- For Better or For Worse: once, this stood as one of the titans of comics. Now...it's just reprinting old strips, definitely for worse.