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Should Comic Strips Mirror Reality?

[O]n the funny pages of America’s newspapers … artists (and readers) wrestle with whether the comics should be an escape from the giant elephant in everyone’s living room, or a reflection of it.

Reporter John Wilkens talks to some local comic strip cartoonists about the reality of the coronavirus:

In the 35 years that Greg Evans has been drawing and writing the comic strip Luann,” he’s tackled many difficult topics. Date rape. Menstruation. Cancer.

The novel coronavirus? Evans, a San Marcos resident, is observing his own form of social distancing.

For now, he doubts his characters will address the pandemic directly or wear protective masks. “I think readers want a variety on the comics pages,” he said. “I don’t think they want to see everybody talking about the coronavirus all the time.”

Lalo Alcaraz, the Lemon Grove native who does La Cucaracha,” finds the subject unavoidable. “We’re having this once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said. “We’re all in it together, we all have the same reference points. For me, it needs to be in there.”

In one of his strips, a clerk in a coffee shop expresses relief that a masked patron is a robber and not someone infected with the virus. In another, a parent with a school-age daughter stuck at home realizes how hard it is to be a teacher.

Then reporter Wilkins goes around the nation asking cartoonists:

“It is a hard curveball to try to hit,” said Jerry Scott, a San Luis Obispo writer who co-produces the strips “Zits” and “Baby Blues.”…

Francesco Marciuliano, a New York writer, does Sally Forth with Minnesota illustrator Jim Keefe. They had put together a series of strips to run in late April about girlfriends Hillary, Nona and Faye going to a school dance … They scrapped a months-worth of comics and did new ones that include the virus…

Connecticut-based cartoonist Ray Billingsley also pivoted to the virus for his strip, Curtis.” He said the key has been “keeping the story line going without it getting too preachy or dull.”…

Read John Wilkens full report at the San Diego Union-Tribune.


Community Comments

#1 Garey Mckee
@ 6:49 pm

Creators should keep in mind that in the future, the comics dealing with the pandemic will be an interesting footnote in history, like reading cartoons from WWII now. They may have historical significance. That’s fine if that’s what you want, but perhaps cartoons that skirt the pandemic will maintain more resonance with future readers and their daily lives.

I think it depends on the flavor and mission of the cartoon or comic strip itself. There is no wrong choice.

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