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CSotD: Anniversaries and suchlike

This Ink Pen (AMS) was the first strip featured on Comic Strip of the Day, back on February 6, 2010, which you will, by a simple arithmetical process, easily discover was not 11 years ago today.

However, today is the day I can get my car in for inspection and a new sticker at 8 am, and given how backed up everyone is, it therefore became the day I would write the blog entry in advance.

Phil Dunlap’s strip is still in GoComics backlog and you might want to follow it, because it was terrific.

I’ve decided to mostly pick up on some gone-but-not-forgotten strips today, but, first, a bit of an FAQ about CSotD:

I started it because of the popularity of wiseass blogs by wiseass wiseasses who couldn’t draw a bath, much less a strip. They still get more clicks than I do, but that’s life. (BTW, “sharing” is more helpful than “liking” on social media. Your choice, of course.)

The system is this: I could stay up until 1 am to get the strips as they are released but that seems foolish, so I get up at 4 am and there they are, my goal being to have the blog up by 9 am Eastern time. There are times when I’m following a news story and know my general topic in advance, and there are times when I have a lot of “funny” strips piled up (a week is the rule) and feel like I need a break.

But most times I come to the morning a blank slate and we go from there. The “terror of the blank page” beats the hell out of Wordle as a wake-up each day, but getting into the groove as a writer is sweet, and releases endorphins like you wouldn’t believe, so it’s worth an occasional bumpy start. I imagine cartoonists feel the same thing as they draw.

About the name: When the blog began, it was mostly about comic strips, but recent times have brought politics to the forefront. I don’t apologize for dealing with the fire, and look forward to more whimsical times.

So here, in no particular order, are some high points of the last 11 years, focusing mostly on strips that are no long with us but that you can still read in reruns.

 

I loved Edge City (KFS), for example, because it managed to mirror real life so well. Specifically, my poor parents went through this every year and then I went through it with elder son.

I think, based on kind of eavesdropping on my grandchildren, that the schools have gotten better at figuring out why a kid is coloring outside the lines, but the system isn’t perfect and perhaps that’s okay. Or at least inevitable.

I can laugh because I spent several decades among teachers, and the good ones understand all this and do what they can to compensate.

Anyway, I miss Edge City. It was an oasis of reality.

 

Pajama Diaries (KFS) mirrored Edge City in two ways: It was a cold splash of reality, mirroring the real world rather than the stereotypical cartoon world of kids and parents, and it was unapologetically Jewish, which was not the point of the strip except when it was. And then it was, because why wouldn’t it be?

I went to a presentation she did at a temple in which you’d think she was Sholem Aleicham for all the kudos she got from her audience. One woman even had an accordion folder of lists and reminders for her son’s upcoming bar mitzvah decorated with appropriate Pajama Diaries strips.

The point, however, is that Libenson’s cartoon family was who they were: A realistic family with realistic issues, and when culture and religion came into it, that’s also who they were.

Which is how you get out of stupid comic strip stereotypes and create something three-dimensional and that matters.

I’m sorry the strip is gone, but the kids in it were reaching an age that challenged things, and, fortunately, that was the point at which Terri Libenson became a best-selling author of middle-school graphic novels.

And they’re very well done, so ending the strip was a sad but positive move.

 

Another strip that probably ended when it should have but was wonderful while it went on was Stone Soup (AMS), which had a depth of character that gave it body well beyond the gag of the day. I greatly admire cartoonists who know when it’s time to stop, and Jan Eliot pulled the plug on a successful strip because the moment had passed and it was time to go do something else.

I’d interviewed her a number of years ago and met her at the Kenosha Cartooning Festival, and, when she retired, she dropped me an email asking if I’d like an original. I didn’t have to think a moment before coming up with this one, which is framed and hanging over my desk. As a dad, it gets me every time, and I don’t know how many comic strips can make that sort of claim, ever.

 

Though, of course, the greatest of the no-longer-there strips is Cul de Sac (AMS). Calvin and Hobbes went off to seek further adventures and Far Side ended when it ran out of gas, but Cul de Sac was cut short by Richard Thompson’s bout with Parkinsons.

This particular strip was featured on CSotD and, in the text, I likened Alice Otterloop to Alice Roosevelt, which drew this response on Richard’s own blog:

It would be name-dropping to say that Richard and I had an ongoing email relationship that predated CSotD, except that I find he had all sorts of friends with whom he exchanged brief, dry, witty observations, and that, as much as I loved the guy, so did everyone else. It’s like taking pride that you like chocolate ice cream or something: Who doesn’t?

I miss him more than I miss the strip, but, again, so does everyone else who ever met him. That’s one helluva legacy.

 

Name checks are fun, and I also have the original of this Edison Lee (KFS) — which is still around and doing well — over my desk. As it happens, CSotD came out of a conversation I had with John and Anne Morse-Hambrock at a comics gathering, in which I bemoaned the aforementioned wiseasses who profited from the art form while tearing it down.

And, like Orville, I got the part about lunch, if nothing else.

 

And if you wonder at my repeated slams at editors who just don’t freaking get it, this discussion of Retail from several years ago lays it out. I remain furious that editors didn’t recognize that the young adult readers they needed to keep their medium alive were working at the mall and that this strip was right down their alley.

I’m cautious about the idea that comics sell papers: I think that was a much bigger factor when each city had two or three papers, which was a long time ago.

However, declining to serve the demographic you most dearly need in order to survive is damned stupid.

 

Finally — and only because I’m well over length, not because I’ve run out of things to talk about — here’s Rhymes with Orange (KFS), which is still around and serves as a reminder that cartoonists are real people, and, in this case, a person who every fall has an open studio.

If you pay attention to DD Degg’s news here, and to your local papers, you’ll find that chances abound to meet cartoonists in your area.

Hilary Price has partnered with Rina Piccolo in recent years, and I hope Rina will come down to Western Mass some November to mix and mingle.

In the meantime, note in both this Rhymes with Orange and the one above that Hilary acknowledges her sources.

And here’s the 2009 conversation from which that second cartoon sprang. Or sprung. Or whatever:

 

Thanks for all the support. See you tomorrow.

Community Comments

#1 mark allen johnson
February/9/2022
@ 7:52 am

Very fun to see you through Hambrock’s art

#2 Andréa Denninger
February/9/2022
@ 8:19 am

RE: Richard Thompson. I first saw this documentary last week . . . well worth a looksee . . .
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8-tqh4N_EE

I never knew about his non-Cul-de-Sac art. As someone who hasn’t kids, and doesn’t really like ’em, his strip makes me laff – I swear, if I’d known I’d have a child like Alice, I might’ve considered it. And the Mom and Dad – just wonderful parents. Her fancy sweaters for Halloween and Christmas make me laugh every time I see ’em (and make me wonder . . . where can I get those??).

#3 Kip Williams
February/9/2022
@ 8:32 am

I probably read about the demise of each of these strips, but it still seems shocking to see them laid out like this. I thought of at least some of them as the solid ones that might replace the dead weight of strips that once made respectful fun of Teddy Roosevelt.

Maybe we won’t create any new self-perpetuating dinosaurs any more. (Glances over at Garfield.) Well, maybe.

#4 Rick McKee
February/9/2022
@ 11:34 am

Congrats on the anniversary. I sincerely appreciate that you’re not one of the aforementioned wiseasses tearing down the art form and that you have promoted my new, little strip as much as you have.

#5 Harley Liebenson
February/9/2022
@ 11:34 am

Richard Thompson was a friend of mine, long before he was The Richard Thompson.

We hung out, went to movies, and practiced baseball with our intellectual but athletically challenged compatriots.

We were in our 20’s. He definitely was the tallest of our group.

Richard and I renewed our friendship over emails with talks of families and children- normal stuff.

I miss him, more than just his art. He was my friend.

Damn

#6 Tara Gallagher
February/9/2022
@ 11:42 am

Thanks for the “Edge City” mention–hadn’t occurred to me to look for that strip on ye olde Comics Kingdom; it’s on my list now.

When I worked at a mail-order place, had to be highly selective about which “Retail” strips to tack up; so many were so hilariously true we could have wall-papered the call center with them.

#7 Fred King
February/9/2022
@ 2:09 pm

I used to start my day with Retail. One common theme in the comments was along the lines of “Why are you so worried about what’s going to happen? It’s a comic strip.” I’d sometimes reply that it was a very *good* comic strip with engaging characters. I miss Retail and Stone Soup the most.

Now I start my day with CSOTD.

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