Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Comic Strips That Totally Blow

Now that I got all that praise out of my system, it's time to dish out the hate on some comics that fill me with anger. These are the comics that excel at being lame, and totally missing the point that comics are meant to be entertaining, funny, or at the very least interesting.

5. Cathy (1976 - present)
It boggles my mind that a comic that is completely awful to read and look at, has somehow stuck around for more than 30 years. Why hasn't this gone away!? Have you ever met someone that has told you they like this comic? See? No one has ever said, "I love reading a comic strip about a guilt ridden she-ogre who sweats when she cries and cries when she sweats." Why should we derive enjoyment from a shrieking emotionally unbalanced ugly shopaholic. And calling Cathy ugly is being generous; she looks like someone put her head in a vise until her eyes met and then beat her face with a sack of lemons. Plus, while the comic seems to be aimed at women, it comes across as an offensive stereotype. I'm pretty sure there's been hundreds of strips done about Cathy eating something and then worrying about it going "straight to her thighs". It's dull, it's annoying, and it should have ended back in the 70's.

4. Family Circus (1960 - present)
Forty years of kids saying stupid things. Hooray. As far as humour goes, you'll find none safer than the 'jokes' of Family Circus. It's so tame and boring, it would put an elderly nun to sleep. Sure, I see the general appeal, kids say surprisingly honest and quirky things. They confuse the meaning or pronunciation of words and then one bowl of "Pa-sketti and meatbulbs" later, your grandmother has ripped the newspaper in half and is yelling at the dog. If you want a comic strip about kids saying the darnedest things, check out Calvin and Hobbes, or Baby Blues. They are both executed with much more style and substance.

3. Rose is Rose (1983 - present)
Anytime I've read this comic, I've been utterly befuddled by what the hell is going on, which is a big problem. The strip is centered around a wife and husband named Rose and Jimbo Gumbo, and their son, Pasquale. Sigh. I know it's just a comic, but goddamn what miserably stupid names. Are you honestly suggesting that we should care about a character named Pasquale Gumbo? Why don't you just go ahead and call their cat Peekaboo or some shit. What? The cat's name is Peekaboo? What the hell? I guess calling it Captain Fluffykins would be a bit much.

A lot of the comic's material comes from the character's elaborate fantasies, and I've seen whole strips with virtually no dialogue, but just extreme angles and weird psychedelic settings and images. You might think that sounds cool, but trust me when I say it isn't. Humour in the comic is non-existent, instead substituted with "cute". It's hard to explain, but the comic seems to just throw all manner of cutesy ass stuff at the reader to show love and happiness; like stars, hearts, and twinkling candies floating around. You're waiting for a punchline, and suddenly panel five is a bowl of lucky charms. I really don't get it. It's nice that a modern comic is so cheerful, but rainbows and toys erupting out of a cat's face is not an understandable joke.

2. For Better or For Worse (1979 - 2008)
I hate to attack one of the only successful Canadian comic strips, but this is not a good comic. I'm sorry. It's not. It has never been funny. It's never even been in the same district as funny. More often it ends on an awkward, stupid, wistful, or depressing note (I've actually seen the "punchline" be an elderly woman collapsed on the floor). People seem to like the comic for having a continuous storyline with characters that age and develop, but that's really not a good idea. Yes, it's unlike other modern newspaper strips, but why would we want to watch characters get older and die? And with an ongoing story running in "real time" each strip feels horribly incomplete, as if you're experiencing a somber drama a few lines of dialogue at a time.

I can admit that the art is quite good. The characters look like they're all part of a cohesive world, but everything they say and do feels pointless, painfully ordinary, or sad. Here's my example of how your typical strip would go:

Panel One: Elly and John are sitting at kitchen table.
Elly: "I still can't believe that Elizabeth is getting married. Did you call the Donnells to tell them."
John: "And steal that pleasure from you? Not a chance."

Panel Two
Elly: "Do you remember when she used to run around the backyard and get so dirty? You loved to chase her around and she'd laugh and laugh."
John: "How could I forget? Though I don't think these old bones would still be able to manage that sort of thing nowadays. You see, I've gotten older because I'm a real person."

Panel Three
Elly: "How true. Speaking of getting older, did know that Anthony's uncle had a stroke on Thursday? He's in a coma now, but the doctors say he may recover."
John: "We should really go to the hospital and see him."

Panel Four
Elly: "Good idea. His wife has been a wreck. First her youngest son loses his arm in that snowplow accident, then this. We're so lucky that out children have all their arms. Let's go after we finish breakfast."
John: "Okay, but remind me to get a load of laundry started before we leave, and I should really call Lawrence and-"

What a great way to start your day. Some incomplete sappy rambling.

1. Beetle Bailey (1950 - present)/ Hagar the Horrible (1973 -present )
I don't care if you think I'm breaking the rules by using two comics for one entry in the list. These comics are interchangeable. They might as well be the same comic they look so much alike, and I can't believe there hasn't been a major lawsuit over it. Hagar and Sarge look identical except they wear different costumes, plus their dopey counterparts Beetle and Eddie also are practically the same. Hagar has a dog named Snert that wears the same viking helmet as he does, and Sarge has a dog named Otto that wears the same clothes as he does. Both comics have only one pretty girl character, and both comics have an overbearing bossy wife character.

Besides looking like two comics that are drawn by twins separated at birth, they also share the same painfully lame jokes. An ageless kind of lame that makes it impossible to tell if your reading a bad comic written this week or 35 years ago. The two comics are about a group of inept men who are trained for battle and constantly screw things up. Hagar/Sarge is the fat short-tempered boss figure who is constantly dismayed by the bumbling ignorance of Beetle/Eddie. And that's about it. A fat guy and a skinny guy. It's abysmal.

Oh wait! I almost forgot! Sometimes there are jokes about mother-in-laws. Whew...I almost forgot to mention that. That must be why these comics have been running for a combined 95 fucking years.


Cole D'Arc said...

i only would have stuck For Better or For Worse at the five spot, i understand its failings but can't hate it the way i hate others.
ive simply never bothered to read Rose Is Rose - i recognize it but the title alone would have meant nothing to me. Didn't know it was so old.
I probably hate Family Circus the most and as lame as Hagar the Horrible is, i feel more venom towards Denis the Menace. It boggles my mind that Beetle Baily is still going.

Shane said...

I suppose that For Better or For Worse placed so high because instead of simply failing to be funny, it manages to be depressing and sappy. It's one thing to tell a lame joke, it's another thing to be a complete downer.

I've never seen a Dennis the Menace strip, so it fell under the radar for this list.

Also, Beetle Bailey is bullshit.

RyHo said...

Please don't forget The Piranha Club. God I hate that strip.

Shane said...

I had to look it up, because I've never heard of the Piranha Club. Turns out it's been around in one form or another since 1988. Jesus.

I've not read enough to know how bad it is, but lameness combined with inexplicable longevity is usually the formula for comics that blow.

Sam said...

Sam said...

Why isn't that clickable?

Shane said...

Because a link is only clickable when you really mean it.

The Nietzsche Family Circus is the total shit. It`s pure proof that organized humour is no match for randomness.

Another example of a comic finding a whole new side of funny with some slight tweaking:

Shane said...

Hmmm...apparently I didn`t mean it.