Washington Post Sunday Comics Section Reviewed

Erik Dussere gets the hard copy of The Sunday Washington Post:

I really never intended to start reading the comics page of the Sunday newspaper again. As a kid, I always read the funnies, but when I was old enough to start getting a paper myself, it was the New York Times, which famously has no comics section. But then after Donald Trump was elected US president in 2016 I, like a lot of people, found that I was spending a lot more time reading online articles in various states of panic, anger, and horror, and also decided that the press deserved all the help it could get. So I got an online subscription to my local paper, the Washington Post.

It turns out that, in our particular historical moment, it’s significantly cheaper to get an online subscription of the Washington Post if you also agree to let them deliver you a physical copy of the Sunday paper. So I did, and the Sunday paper arrived with all sorts of interesting and archaic items: things like advertising circulars, and Parade magazine—which I thought had disappeared quietly sometime during the Reagan administration—and of course the well-remembered, full-color, read-it-in-your-pajamas comics page, just like when I was in school.

Erik then dives, rather harshly on occasion, into those “40 or so” Sunday comics.

I assume that the front page of the Sunday funnies is valuable real estate, and therefore tells us something about which comics are most popular, or most valued by the editors. In the Washington Post, the three strips that are usually centered on the front page are a kind of trilogy devoted to the life cycle: Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott’s Baby Blues (about parents of small children), Jerry Scott’s Zits (about parents and their teenagers), and Brian Crane’s Pickles (about retired couples). Maybe this, then, is what Americans most want to see in the Sunday funnies: a version of their everyday lives—past, present, and future—reflected back to them with a slight overlay of humor.

He  doesn’t show much excitement about some newer comic strips:

Then there are the “indie” strips, comics like Scott Hilburn’s Argyle Sweater, Mark Tatulli’s Li?, Tony Cochran’s Agnes, Gene and Dan Weingarten’s Barney & Clyde, Dave Blazek’s Loose Parts, and Hilary B. Price’s Rhymes with Orange that tend to be more crudely drawn and less professionally produced than the others.

Though later he praises their forebearers as not “crude” but stylistic:

… by the ’80s there were a number of independent publications and college newspapers that ran comic strips by a new generation of dissidents in Reagan’s America, like Ernie Pook’s Comeek by Lynda Barry, Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel, and Matt Groening’s Life in Hell … (However unusual their drawing might be, Crumb, Spiegelman, Barry, and Bechdel are all talented artists and consummate stylists.)

He doesn’t care much for the legacy strips, not even the adventure strips, in The Sunday Post. Remember that “just like when I was in school” remark above?

Maybe a little bit too much like that, in fact. A solid third of the comic strips that are published today were already old when I was a kid.

As a kid I skipped over the dramatic comics entirely … I still find them dull.

Though he does make an exception for one zombie strip:

Which brings me to the last comic strip that I’d like to talk about. And honestly, if you had told me a few years ago that I would pick up the Sunday funnies and become fascinated by Sally Forth—well, you might as well have told me I would develop a keen interest in watching reruns of Full House.

Erik’s review, for PopMatters, is an interesting, and knowledgeable, look at The Sunday Funnies.