Do you remember the misty bygone days when you were just a wee lad or lass, waking up on a bright Sunday morning (or being ripped out of bed before the sun came up because that’s apparently the only time that church is allowed to happen) and coming down the stairs to the kitchen where your parents were already working hard at breakfast? When the highlight of your morning was cracking open that Sunday paper and finding the brightly colored comics section therein? I’d be surprised if you other comic readers didn’t start your web comic addictions this way. The Sunday funnies were basically the comic world equivalent of the home use heroin starter kit.
After eagerly gobbling down the newest installment of Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, Bloom County, or the Far Side, I can remember reluctantly turning my attention to the rest of the comics. Prince Valiant. Hagar the Horrible. Rex Morgan, MD. Mary Worth. Marmaduke. Each of them was, by definition, a comic. Few of them actually produced hilarity, despite promising us a heaping helping of “laffs.”
That was before Josh Fruhlinger started his personal crusade to find the oddities of the comics page, to find fun where it can’t be found at face value and to make the comics interesting again with his home-brewed blog, the Comics Curmudgeon.
Reviewing a blog on a blog isn’t something that I generally take time to do, but I feel like in the industry of web comics its is important to remember our roots. Many web comic artists started out as people who one day desperately wanted that spot in the local papers. A Sunday spread, heaven. But as we all know, in the field of comicry, many are called and few are chosen. Plus, newspapers have a near endless amount of regulations that prevent certain things from being mentioned. Everything must be wholesome, like a Disney movie but with less actual jokes and more soap opera drama.
The thing to remember here is that most of these comics started out new and fresh. But over the years, well, someone high up determined it was more important to keep the names of the comics in the papers long after their creators have shuffled off the mortal coil. I think Family Circus has been passed down the Keane family line all the way to Jeffy now, Dick Tracy is on their like eighth art and creative teams, Archie has been switched to new artists so often its a theme, and Mark Trail has less actual human characters and more caricatures of gigantic animals than it did back in the 1970s. At some point, comics stopped progressing and accepting safety and stability over new comics with actual jokes.
There are still bastions of funny to be found, sure. But we’re not talking about those. Just look at Beetle Bailey, Hagar the Horrible and Funky Winkerbean. Watch Mary meddle in the lives of those around her for the 150th time. The girls of Apartment 3G keep dating the exact same blonde haired, empty-headed men they just broke up with. It’s all safe, sterile and… boring.
It has been Fruhlinger’s quest since 2004 to show us, exactly, where the funny has gone.
The format for the Comics Curmudgeon blog is pretty simple. Comics will catch Fruhlinger’s eyes and he’ll post them for everyone to see. While you can never really predict what to expect next, certain items are a given. Marvin will feature a punchline involving the title character pooping or pissing himself so frequently its a wonder it makes it past the censors. Mark Trail will solve elaborate court room dramas by punching the facial hair off of anyone foolish enough to defile his precious outdoor paradise. Marmaduke is about a devilish hellbeast who messily devours anyone foolish enough to stand in his way. Rex Morgan, MD., features very rich people being smug at the WORKING CLASS PEONS, and as an added bonus features the sexiest snobs to ever grace the comics page. Slylock Fox frequently documents the adventures of an overactive vigilante trying to arrest anyone who might even consider to commit a crime, his mute slave mouse Max following at his heels.
After reading the Comics Curmudgeon for a few weeks, you’ll never look at the comics page the same way again. The innocence is forever gone, and replaced with a healthy dose of cynicism that actually makes those tired old jokes funny again. I’d say that’s a fair trade off, personally.
The Comics Curmudgeon also has a pretty healthy community behind it. Individual posts can have upwards of 300 comments on them from regulars and first timers alike, each sharing their own personal thoughts on what the hell is going on in each of the comics that day. The best of these comments are hand-picked by Fruhlinger every week and given to us in a nice, compact blog post, which is a fair bit easier than slogging through the comments to find them yourself. The best comment of the week will be displayed at the top of the Comic Curmudgeon site for all to see and to remain in awe. This top spot is coveted by the curmudgeons. If you’re gunning for the top spot, you’re gonna have some stiff competition. The top comment for this week, at least has been brought to you by a Comics Curmudgeon reader by the name of BigTed, and whose comment reads “Wait, Ziggy is a mammal? I hereby renounce my membership.”
Just be careful of what you say. Fruhlinger’s blog has been known to be frequented by the comic artists themselves, and while comic artists are known for their sense of humor (at one point the Archie creative team gave a nod to Fruhlinger’s joke that all comics in Archie are actually written by a sentient laugh generating robot.) just remember that these comics are, for many creators, a family legacy. While it’s fun to poke fun at the funnies, its important to remember why we’re there at all: We love comics and the role those few daily panels played during our childhoods. Keep it all in good fun. Unless it’s Crock. Everyone gets their hate on about Crock.
If you were ever that kid growing up- the one who was irrationally excited to be reading the comics page in the paper every week- you owe it to yourself to read the Comics Curmudeon for just a week. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Filed under: Comics, Commentary Tagged: | Beetle Bailey, comics blog, Comics Curmudgeon, comment of the week, Josh Fruhlinger, laffs, Mark Trail, Marmaduke, Mary Worth, newspaper comics, Red Morgan MD, Slylock Fox, Ziggy