Sunday, October 17, 2010

One My Favorite Comics

Short Post: the attached comic is one that cracks me up every time. It's gross, but funny.

Long Post: It's a too-cool-for-school trait for people to bash Garfield. There's a now infamous product of the 21st Century, Garfield Minus Garfield, which capitalizes on the hatred, attempting to show the strip is funnier without the title character. Yet I, he who takes comic strips way too seriously, find Garfield a reliable read. Why the dissonance from the screaming masses (a.k.a. why am I right and they wrong)?

I believe there's two main reasons for the cultural opprobrium: (1) it's an old strip and people who feel they are out of comic-page reading can attack it as a symbol of the youth they've left behind, and/or to attack the child they used to be and hate.

(2) More likely, it's because of the crass commercialism of Jim Davis, head of Garfield Inc. He's unabashed in his desire to create Garfield for mercenary purposes, and the comic is exploited in nearly every possible way. Note, this exploitation was also performed by Charles Schultz of Peanuts, but he was given a pass because his strip is so deep (it was rarely *funny* but it was solid - almost literary in its resonance and application; Dickens was commercial too, but he's still assigned in English class - Schultz is the Dickens of comics, and you can quote me).

Garfield is very rarely deep, it's commercialism runs through its core. And while Schultz was drawing the strip until days before his death, Davis (early on) outsourced the strip to others (as far as I know Davis just picks up checks). So the main opprobrium comes from cultural doyens, like me to be honest, who resent a guy being so successful in art by intentionally abusing the form.

Two caveats: (1) Some people may actually not find Garfield funny at all - hey, there's no accounting for taste. You may be excused. I'm dealing with people who attack it while not actually reading it (see below). (2) However, the Garfield-bashers, the subconsciously honest ones, don't attack it for being without merit, mainly because they know they can't. It's sorta like attacking Dane Cook - whose success is resented and hated, but whose act can only be considered mean/evil/crass/mercenary and not just straight out inexplicable.

This example, Garfield as Dane Cook, is to distinguish these artists from those who achieve opprobrium for being straight out insults to existence - i.e. they are so unfunny/untalented that it's insane they are still being published/paid. So, in comics, the go to example is often Marmaduke. Which I'm fine with, but it's not so exclusive - the comics page is clogged with strips who have the equivalent of tenure: creative thinkers who may have been productive once, but who have been ossified into obsolescence by the passage of time: Hagar, B.C., Broom Hilda, Hi and Lois, Beetle Bailey, etc.

Who's the stand-up comic equivalent of Marmaduke? Maybe Jay Leno? It's harder to find a comparison, because standup is the most brutal art form there is and has no tolerance for coasters. Maybe Robin Williams has become Marmaduke - except that when Robin was young (and, sad to say, coked out the wazoo) he was the funniest on stage. Wow was he good. I can't imagine Marmaduke was ever good.

This brings up another fascinating point, alluded to above: most of those who attack Garfield don't read the current strip. People just *know* that it's an acceptable bashing-body. How do we know this type of thing. I'm sure, as a half-sociologist, I should know the phrases/reasons, oops.

But it's sort of how I just know that I, as a late-30s male, am supposed to (a) be preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse, (b) hate clowns, and (c) mock Twitter and Facebook. So too, people know that you're supposed to mock Garfield. I probably would too, if I didn't actually read comics.

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