Wednesday, August 11, 2010

forgive the schadenfreude but one of my least favorite comic strips of all time is getting retired

I grew up loathing the comic strip Cathy as much as I loved the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes. If you ever in your life enjoyed Cathy then I trust you will not take it personally that I agree with The Comics Journal's sentiment that Cathy and Dilbert together were the apotheosis of all that was necrotic and artistically stillborn about comics in America in the last generation or so. There, I said it. I have never been one to necessarily agree with the stuff said in The Comics Journal and Gary Groth in print can certainly be a gadfly but Gary Groth in person has impressed me as being a passionate and friendly man. He also was kind enough to let me know that the complete Calvin & Hobbes was being prepared for publication when I heard his lecture about Peanuts years ago. I might disagree with Groth about a few things but on the subject of Cathy the Journal crew and I agree.

But mere contentment in the knowledge that a comic I've disliked seems petty, especially since I haven't read ANY comic strip consistently since Calvin & Hobbes was retired. Boondocks was often at least interesting enough to read and I'll remember Huey's thesis "Ward Connerly is a bootlicking Uncle Tom" for some time to come. Then again if Cathy as a strip was about comics as a personal form of therapy I don't see that indie god Art Spiegelmann was above using comics as a cathartic way to vent about what he was unhappy about in his own life.

In some respects it's respectful of a comic strip I never liked to grant that the indie/alt/underground comics ranging from the likes of Spiegelmann to Adrian Tomine are just as much one-trick ponies who hide the limitation of their trick behind brilliant visual sensibility and approaches to design. But simpering about the things that might have been and can't be or the stuff that is lame about life that isn't so different. Years ago Andi Watson once wrote that the lines in the sand people draw are social. It's not that the lines can't be crossed it's that people don't WANT to cross them. I admit I've never much wanted to cross the line and seriously read, let alone enjoy, Cathy! Of course I can be fair-minded enough to grant that the readers of Cathy are not likely to spend a huge chunk of a weekend blitzing through season 2 of Justice League. As the old axiom goes one person's trash is another person's treasure.


JS Bangs said...

I agree about Cathy... but Dilbert? Not very artistic, for sure, but usually funny. That has to count for something.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Yeah, you've got a point about Dilbert. I have occasionally found Dilbert strips funny. The Comics Journal has always been more than a little snobby and elitist. Dilbert is higher on the ranks of funny for one strip I read years ago. In it Dilbert asks Dogbert to read a poem he wrote. Dogbert explains that it has been said that ten thousand monkeys given ten million years at typewriters would produce the complete works of Shakespeare. When Dilbert asks what that is supposed to mean Dogbert replies, "three monkeys, ten minutes". That was a great joke. Plus having had office work over the last ten years I can better appreciate the setting in which Dilbert jokes arise. Dilbert's not likely to be a personal favorite but I'm more generous toward it now than I was ten years ago.