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Nothing Funny About Losing Comics
I guess we all saw where Little Orphan Annie is no longer in the newspapers, joining a long list of things that are no longer in the newspapers (including, in the case of the one where I used to work, news).
I have to admit it gave me a bit of a twinge – not because I was an Annie fan, because I wasn’t. I’m a continuity fan. Annie and her dog Sandy were in the comics for 86 years, and I’m the kind of goof who hates to see the end of a string like that.
And while I never was much for Little Orphan Annie (would it have been that much trouble to give the poor girl some eyes?) I have always been a big fan of comic strips. Even at my advanced years, opening the paper means I have to fight the old kidhood temptation to go first to the comics page, and later turn rather grudgingly to the news. Although in the case of my former paper, it IS kind of fun to see if they accidentally printed something interesting.
Some of the earliest reading I can remember took place lying on my stomach on the living room floor, with the funny pages laid out before me.
My first favorite strip was Alley Oop. Something about the adventures of a time-traveling caveman just got me where I lived. He carried a club, rode around on a dinosaur, had a smokin’ hot wife who ran around in a fur bathing suit, and visited the 20th Century, where he would don business suits but leave out the shoes. My kinda guy.
It didn’t hurt that he was easy to draw. I could impress all my friends with my clever portraits of Alley Oop, which were made more or less by drawing a square and giving it hair and a nose.
For a while, I was a huge fan of all the comic strips printed in The Indianapolis Times, based mostly on a passion for “Freckles and his Friends.” More than once I came to the dinner table and declared the Times to be the comics leader among Indianapolis’ three daily papers. And more than once I was sent to the kitchen with dinner by my father, an employee of The Indianapolis News.
I acquired a lot of “must-read” strips – “Gasoline Alley,” “Dondi,” “Gordo,” “Moon Mullins,” “Rick O’Shay,” “The Phantom,” “Buz Sawyer,” “Steve Roper,” “Prince Valiant,” “The Little King,” “Henry,” “Miss Peach,” “L’il Abner,” “Peanuts,” “Blondie,” “Major Hoople,” “Andy Capp,” “Fred Bassett,” “Dennis the Menace,” ... it took three newspapers a day just to satisfy my habit. I was a nine-year-old with a cartoon monkey on his back.
And then I discovered “Pogo.” The strip starring Walt Kelly’s philosophical possum and his goofball friends instantly shot to number one on my all time favorites list, where it remains to this day, followed closely by strips that came later: “Calvin and Hobbes,” “Bloom County” and “The Boondocks.”
So many of them are gone now, and I can live with that. What else can you do? Times change, tastes change, technology changes. It’s the natural order of things.
But even so, the passing of Annie from newspapers to the digital world strikes me as a loss, a little piece of us to which we must say “So long.” And we can’t even add, “See you in the funny papers.”
© 2010 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.
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