Archives » July 19th, 2006

July 19, 2006

Making the Funnies Funny Again

The funny pages aren’t funny. I don’t know if they ever were; I mean, supposedly these little four-panel strips are meant to have some kind of joke in them, but they don’t really. I used to read the comics regularly when I was younger, and I don’t remember laughing a lot. Now I just find the whole comics page tedious. A couple of times a month I’ll try to look it over, but I find myself having to force it down like bad oatmeal. Reading the funny pages is not fun.

So that’s why it’s such a great thing that we have people like Josh Fruhlinger to make it easier. On his blog, The Comics Curmudgeon, he does what I previously thought was impossible: he makes the comics funny. He and his crack team of commenters are able to deconstruct the comics, and find that there’s so much more humor in laughing at the comics than laughing with them. Like this strip where Mary Worth is horrified at the thought of having to visit the downtown’s women’s shelter, and Josh’s spot-on commentary:

Meanwhile, here’s Mary Worth’s advice to women in trouble: no matter how bad your situation, no matter how badly your husband or your parents beat you, no matter how intolerable your life behind the graciously weathered walls of your suburban condo may be, for God’s sake, don’t go to the Women’s Shelter! Mary seems to be under the impression that a women’s shelter is meant to shelter us from the thieving, violent, criminal women who no doubt use it as their lair. Like Dante, Mary passes through the gates of her everyday life to descend into the brutal slum that is “downtown,” where, in rapid succession, she comes face to face with:

* A beatnik
* A jaundiced man with a tattoo
* A muscle-bound man wearing a powder-blue tank top, possibly homosexual
* Slightly cracked plaster
* Garbage protruding from the top of a trash can

Apparently Mary believes that a merciful death, drunk and face-down in Charterstone’s beautifully landscaped pool, would be preferable to this degradation.

On the other hand, in today’s strip, residents of the Women’s Shelter seem engaged in nonspecific, but definitely non-robbery-and-violence-related behavior. Maybe it’s Mary who’s going to learn a Valuable Lesson this time around — and she’ll find out who the real sheltered woman is.

Josh also brings to light a ton of horrible new comic strips that I had no idea existed, little gems like They’ll Do It Every Time, which is supposed to be “a humorous look at human hypocrisy, inconsistencies or one of the quirky twists of fate that beleaguer us all.” But it’s really an archaic and baffling litany of complaints by people who don’t understand the modern world. Its essence was captured perfectly in this post that Josh pointed to last week:

This comic is stuck in the 1930’s. It’s a little tiny time machine back to comics past, where men wore fedoras and people fell the hell down anytime someone told a punchline.

That office is the DAILY FUCKING PLANET from the Fleischer Superman cartoons. NO COMPUTERS, NO TELEPHONES, NO CUBICLES.

Just books.

BOOKS.

Again, this comic was published and written THIS VERY YEAR. This comic is not from some old magazine dusty with age and rotted away, this comic is in YOUR VERY NEWSPAPER.

PERHAPS YESTERDAY

And that’s the other thing about The Comics Curmudgeon, he doesn’t just write his own material. He also opens the window on this whole subculture out there that’s devoted to making fun of the comics. He brings light to other sites like Crap Every Time, Marmaduke Explained, Permanent Monday, which explores Garfield far more than it needs to be, and Dinette Set Deconstruction. I think we’ve reached the point where the comics themselves are meaningless; their only use is as source material for other folks who actually are funny.