Martha Thomases: Stripping for Summer
There were six of us, plus a pre-teen who just wanted to play video games, a form of graphic storytelling perhaps but not one we are going to discuss. At least four of us had a jones for newspaper strips. Four of us liked comic books. And at least five of us liked gag panels. It’s also possible that all of us liked all forms, but I’m not sure, nor does it really matter.
I was especially intrigued by the love given to newspaper strips. When I was a girl, they were my favorite part of the newspaper. I read everything, even Mary Worth and Dondi. I loved Li’l Abner even when Al Capp went right-wing crazy.
But I loved the funny strips more. Peanuts, Blondie, and later Calvin & Hobbes My parents had a subscription to The New Yorker, and a book that collected New Yorker cartoons from 1925 to 1955, and it is from these that I learned what funny drawings looked like.
When I was old enough to appreciate the skills involved in graphic storytelling, I enjoyed Milton Caniff. And I wanted to like Little Orphan Annie and Dick Tracy, but they never grabbed me on an emotional level. I never had to read the next day’s strip.
By this time, I was rabidly into comic books. Instead of waiting weeks to read a whole story, as required by newspaper strips, I got the whole thing between two covers. I liked this better.
In modern times, there aren’t very many comic books that tell a complete story in a single issue. There are fewer and fewer newspapers comic strips (and fewer and fewer newspapers), and serial dramas seem much less popular than humor strips. And there are fewer and fewer markets for gag panels.
Each of these forms combine words and pictures. Each needs to communicate story and character quickly, in a small space. And yet, each is completely different, one from the other.
I personally don’t enjoy collections of newspaper story strips. I find that the form requires a grey deal of repetition, and it hurts my head after a while.
I frequently don’t enjoy collections of comic book stories for the same reason. The passing of time between individual episodes requires something that will jog the reader’s memory, but it is less effective in a collection. A graphic novel should stand by itself, and so should individual issues.
I love gag panel collections, and feel that is the best reason to have bookshelves in the bathroom.
Is there is any title that works best in all three genres?
SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman
SUNDAY: John Ostrander