Comic Strip: A Gloriously American Institution

James Jeffrey, for The American Conservative, appreciates the comic strip.

The newspaper comic strip section is a particularly and peculiarly American institution. I can’t deny that, being British, when I open the special Sunday edition comic pull-out—six pages’ worth, and all in color!—I feel a twinge of self-consciousness.

But I also won’t deny that I fight through that DNA-inscribed British snootiness to read on—and I’m always rewarded with more than just a chuckle. There’s plenty of underappreciated wisdom in the comic section.

Snoopy’s philosophizing in Peanuts alone is enough to justify checking in. By way of illustration in a recent panel: Charlie Brown and Linus are strolling past Snoopy. “Do you ever feel like running away?” says Linus, to which Charlie Brown replies, “Of course…sometimes I feel like I want to run away from everything.” Snoopy watches them walk on before thinking to himself: “I remember having that feeling once when I was at the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm…I climbed over the fence, but I was still in the world.”

Though, as Jeffrey notes, not everyone is taken with the art form:

American writer Paul Fussell has no time for newspaper comic strips in his 1991 book Bad, Or The Dumbing of America. He says that when it comes to the worst newspapers in the country, “By their features ye shall know them: comic strips…and daily horoscopes.”

Fussell’s wider point about comic strips being an example of the atrophying of serious reading habits, set within a general malaise that afflicts the newspaper industry, has credence. Nevertheless, I think the situation has changed. At least regarding comic strips, the decline of newspapers and discerning content continues and doesn’t show much sign of abating as media conglomerates purchase papers to extract maximum revenue from minimum resources.

Read James Jeffrey’s full essay, which ends with this maxim:

“[A]lways remember to keep a sense of humor. Otherwise you’ll be fucked.”