CSotD: Have a Retro Christmas

It’s always nice to get the family together for the holidays, and here they are before they went Hollywood.

As for the current holiday, Greg Kearney noted the downpour in Maine, which was worse than we had it next door, but we also had some power failures and erasure of snow-making on the ski hills and trails. At the moment — 8 am — it’s 34 degrees out, so I don’t expect a white Christmas, though at least the rain has been gone for several days.

I think this odd weather is more El Nino than climate change, but they’re related, and it makes walking the dog more pleasant but I worry for the maple syrup makers if it doesn’t change over the coming months. There may well come a day when most syrup comes from Quebec rather than New England.

Most Christmas strips are formulaic, which is appropriate to the season but makes it hard to pick out excellence. However, Big Nate (AMS) has had a major plot change in the past year, in that Nate has a girlfriend who manages to bring out the best in him, as seen in today’s strip.

I particularly like that Daphne is a very nice person but not a pin-up girl. I’ve been pondering Archie, who I see on a lot of retro sites, and how much that strip sold generations of youngsters on the notion that girls had to be gorgeous to be worthwhile, and that guys would both make fools of themselves and fight over pretty girls. Seeing Nate have a normal relationship with a normal girl is refreshing.

It also cleared the way for a sweet Christmas strip that broke with formula without breaking character.

Several political cartoons have commented on how little peace there is in Bethlehem this year, and indeed they canceled celebrations there. But given that the conflict is between Jews and Muslims, and more about land and civil rights and security than about religion, its relevance to the Nativity seems strained.

However, Frances is based on the Pope, and this conversation, between a Muslim woman and a Catholic brother, is appropriate to the strip, to the situation and to the holiday. As noted here the other day, there shouldn’t be a line between religion and philosophy, nor should distant suffering seem any less pressing than if it were local.

I had thought about filling out today’s entry with some editorial cartoons from a century ago, but Paul Berge beat me to the punch with just that, including this one by William Ceperley of the Davenport Democrat. So go have a look.

Instead, I went back to the early days of Comic Strip of the Day, when I was out there on my own. The blog started in February, 2010, so by Christmas I had hit the groove, and among those chosen picked this Real Life Adventure.

And I not only remember an electric train that constantly derailed, but metal Christmas tree floss that would crackle and burn if you laid it across the track.

In 2011, Pajama Diaries (King) topped the selection with a nice example of how much more there can be to Christmas for non-Christians besides Chinese food and movies. Again, much of what happens at Christmas is secular and could happen any time, but I particularly liked the affirmation the parents make in drawing a line at the end.

Joining in doesn’t have to mean joining.

The next year, Frazz (AMS) also waxed philosophical, as he often does, and it occurs to me that, given the low unemployment numbers, we’re seeing more holiday closures this year than in 2012 because workers aren’t as desperate to keep their jobs.

As a reporter, I used to work the years the boys were with their mother and stay home the next when I had them, but I don’t recommend divorce as a solution to the issue.

If I had my way, we’d go back to Sunday closures so that families would have one day a week together.

Bug Martini appears to have shut down, but it was at its best in 2013. I got a particular kick out of this one because our eldest was born in August, 1972, so his first Christmas was more for us than him. But he figured out the second one in ’73, when he was a year and a half old.

Problem was, he didn’t figure out that it was only one day. He wanted to do it again on the 26th, and, had we gone along with his plan, he’d have wanted Christmas on the 27th, too.

Well, so would I, but by then I was nearly 24 and tragically pragmatic.

You’ll have to click here to read Julia Wertz‘s entire comic from 2014, since the Nib used to post things one panel at a time to frustrate copying and I can take a hint. But it’s still there on Medium, and I promise it’s worth it.

This Norm was my choice in 2015, but I note it appears to be dated 2013. I see from Wikipedia that he’d gone out of syndication a decade earlier and only occasionally posted a strip. I still liked his stuff, so I guess I may have gotten this repeat from Facebook or somewhere.

I noted the other day that new cameras will let you cheat on group photos, but I hope we don’t also start seeing bogus hand-drawn Christmas cards that use AI. Though getting any cards at all these days is a Christmas miracle.

In 2016, Hannukah began on Christmas Eve, and Rhymes With Orange (KFS) took advantage of the coincidence. This year, it’s been over for 10 days, but I saw a stock clerk at the grocery store yesterday putting price tags on dreidels. Either she was confused or she was marking them down and it’s time to go buy some discounted macaroons.

2017 was my last year on my own, and it’s fitting, I suppose, to close out this collection with another favorite strip that is no longer amongst us. Pros and Cons (KFS) was a favorite and I didn’t feel it ran out of ideas but, rather, that Kieran Meehan just decided to turn his attention elsewhere.

By Christmas, 2018, I was with the Daily Cartoonist, and the archives exist but I’ll dig into those another time.

We’ll let Cynthia from today’s Barney and Clyde (Counterpoint) remind us that comics still matter, because you may have noticed how many of the strips featured in this retrospective are no longer in production.

I’d rather have cartoonists retire their strips than have limited comics page space clogged with zombies and hand-me-downs instead of new, dynamic material, but editors and publishers seem happy to cut the number of strips they carry in print and rely on the Old Faithful ones that “win” their phony readership surveys. (Here’s the rant, and the solution.)

Depressing as that is, I’m equally depressed when people comment here to complain that their local paper dropped their favorite strip. Don’t they know that they can still almost certainly read it at GoComics or ComicsKingdom? Subscribing to both costs a grand total of $3.33 a month or about 11 cents a day, to access hundreds of comics.

If you’d like to do more than that to keep the artform alive, check out this list of Patreons and other funding sites, but, come on, at least toss a dime in the bucket and subscribe to the syndicates’ online sites.

Bonus Time!

As I was poring through my archives, I came across this 2017 Politico piece, wherein Matt Wuerker gathered tips and examples on how to draw Donald Trump from Pat Bagley, Barry Blitt, David Horsey, Kevin Kallaugher, Mike Lester, Ann Telnaes, Signe Wilkinson and hisownself.

If you can’t get together with your own family, enjoy this one!

(Here: Sing along!)

10 thoughts on “CSotD: Have a Retro Christmas

  1. Merry Christmas Mike, and to all the others at the Daily Cartoonist and all of your readers. I am a terrible artist but a terrific fan. ??

  2. Merry Christmas Mike. As you are always one of the first things I read everyday, you are part of my community. Peace my friend.

  3. Merry Christmas, Mike! Stay warm.*

    *Yesterday I called my sister, and while we were talking noticed that it was warmer here in Rockford IL than where she lives in the Southern California desert (Wildomar).

  4. Merry Christmas, Mike, and thanks for the link!
    I can’t speak for the Nib’s reason for breaking up their multi-panel cartoons, but mine is partly to make my multi-panel cartoons more handheld-device-friendly… but primarily out of frustration at Facebook’s habit of displaying everything but the top and bottom 5% of the cartoon when I link from there.
    And, yes it’s beginning to look a lot like the middle of November around here, too.

  5. Merry Christmas, Mike. It got up to almost 60 degrees in the DC area, our rain is scheduled for delivery tomorrow and Wednesday.

  6. As to the “Pajama family” strip, while it SEEMS nice, it’s about acquiescence to oppression. It’s about the shame of being Jewish and how to avoid it. Terri Leibenson somehow forgot about that.

    1. Disagree completely. For one thing, the strip repeatedly confirms the family’s pride in identity, but even for this as a standalone, they join in secular activities, not religious ones, and these are activities that, viewed from a religious/cultural standpoint, are not simply recommended but commanded in all major religions. (Do you have any idea how much free food is handed out at sunset during Ramadan? It totally dwarfs anything done at a soup kitchen on Christmas.) What they do is an alternative to going to a Chinese restaurant and a movie theater, which is far more a case of “giving up.” It’s more akin to the common practice of swapping workdays with Christians on religious holidays: They are pitching in, not changing sides.

      The joke is that the girls want to bring a secular part of the holiday into their home — not a creche but simply a decorated tree — and that’s where the parents draw the line. Which made me LOL.

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