January 19, 2004
Comics (yawn) controversy

This Chron article is reasonably well done, even if I've read way too many "Are the comics getting too serious?" stories. There are a couple of points to discuss:

[S]ome newspaper editors -- including here at the Chronicle -- viewed the B.C. strip originally scheduled to run today as insensitive. It featured two cavemen discussing Asian brothers who failed at building a working airplane. "Two Wongs don't make a Wright," one caveman says.

After some papers elected not to run it, Creators Syndicate supplied an alternative, which is printed in today's Chronicle.

"I wouldn't be surprised if most papers run the alternate strip," said syndicate president Richard Newcombe, who added, "I know Johnny didn't mean to offend anybody."

He was referring to Johnny Hart, creator of the 36-year-old strip which appears in more than 1,200 papers. Because of the combined circulation of B.C. and The Wizard of Id, on which he collaborates, Hart frequently is called the most widely read cartoonist in the world.

First things first. The comic in question can be seen here, though there's not really much to add to the description of it above. Yes, it's Johnny Hart again, fresh off the controversy of last year's "Islam" comic. Never mind whether or not the punch line of this strip really is an ethnic slur or not, I just want to know this: Was Hart completely unaware of the Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt with a similar gag that caused an outcry in 2002, or did he knowingly crib that lame joke? Either way, the boy needs to get out more.

Second, the only people who call Johnny Hart "the most widely read cartoonist in the world" are people who can't do simple arithmetic, as Mark Evanier pointed out nearly three years ago. Not that it matters, since if something gets repeated often enough, it may as well be considered a fact.

"In the late 1980s, Johnny became what we call a born-again Christian," Newcombe said. "He asked me about whether he could put Christian messages into B.C."

"What we call a born-again Christian"? Maybe Richard Newcombe needs to get out more, too.

Unfortunately, the article cuts off before it gets into a discussion of why comics have always really been for adults, and that political content goes back at least to the time of Walt Kelly and Pogo. Too bad, because that was the best part of it.

Finally, in the Things You Can Learn About Your Spouse After Five Years Of Marriage department: While perusing the Sunday with our friend Matt, who used to work for the Chronicle, Tiffany told me that she actually reads Apartment 3-G, Mary Worth, and Rex Morgan. I never thought I'd meet a person who actually read "Mary Worth", let alone marry one. She said reading them takes the place of watching soap operas. I'm still shaking my head. Does anyone else out there read those strips? Why? Please let me know.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 19, 2004 to Society and cultcha | TrackBack

I read everything. Even Mallard Fillmore. OK, maybe not Ziggy and the Lockhorns.

Mind you, Tiffany is right about the soap strips. Read them once a week and you're more than adequately kept up on the stories.

Posted by: Ginger on January 19, 2004 1:23 PM

If you're not reading "Get Fuzzy", there's probably no point in talking to you. :)

Having said that, I miss "Calvin and Hobbes".

Posted by: Morat on January 19, 2004 1:32 PM

No worries, I'm a big "Get Fuzzy" fan. Yesterday's strip still cracks me up.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on January 19, 2004 1:57 PM

I'm still waiting for the next "Bloom County" or "Calvin and Hobbes", but I'll take "Get Fuzzy" until then.

Mary Worth isn't the strip I find disturbing. Apartment 3-G is probably the second least read comic strip in the world, ahead of Prince Valiant.

As far as Johnny Hart being "the most widely read cartoonist in the world", compared to Charles Schultz when he was living and probably Lynn Johnston ("For Better or For Worse") or Jim Davis ("Garfield"), Johnny Hart doesn't come close.

Posted by: William Hughes on January 19, 2004 2:30 PM

Several years ago our local paper did a survey on the comics page and purged the least popular ones like "Judge Parker" and "Mary Worth." My dad (a retired engineer who turns 80 in Feb.) told us they got rid of all his favorites. Until then none of us including my mother had any idea he ever looked at the comics page!

Posted by: parsec on January 19, 2004 5:25 PM

This is the first time I've admitted it, but I faithfully follow Mark Trail and Judge Parker.

Coincidentally, the only one I'm tempted to skip is B.C., because it's either lame or it pisses me off. Well, that and Family Circus. But it's just lame, not offensive.

Posted by: CrispyShot on January 20, 2004 10:25 AM

My favorite thing about the Chronicle's comics is that they put the Jumble online, so I don't miss it while I'm out of the country. :) It's not really a comic, of course, but they do put it up with the rest.

Posted by: Alexis on January 21, 2004 7:07 PM