Sunday, January 09, 2011

Spending Sunday with the Times-Picayune

I'm going to start a new Sunday feature coincident with one that occurs in the Times-Picayune.  I read the newspaper every day.  It gets delivered amazingly early so it gives me a nice interruption from whatever it is I'm doing at 3:00 AM.   I look forward to Sundays, as I have since I was a child, because I enjoy the big color comics section.

Well, enjoy may be too strong a word.  I do look forward to it but I'm rarely entertained by the comics.  Firstly, there aren't enough of them and secondly, most of the strips don't make good use of the larger space they are afforded.  Comic strips are an indigenous American art form like jazz.  Unlike jazz, improvisation and craftsmanship are mostly missing from newspaper comic strips.   You aren't going to find Little Nemo or vintage Gasoline Alley.

I won't be providing illustrations to go along with my observations.  If you get the Sunday Times-Picayune, you can read along.  All of these strips are nationally syndicated and easy enough to find online if you are curious about the details.  I also won't be indulging in snark or making fun of the contents.  There are plenty of other sites that do that and I don't much need for another.

I went to see King Kong vs. Godzilla at the Prytania last night and it bothered me that some members of the audience wanted to talk to the screen and titter at the special effects.  I went to enjoy the movie, not to listen to someone trying to be clever.  I enjoyed the film: Japanese artistry.  It wasn't as good as when I was in the third grade and I would discuss it in the schoolyard with my chums, but it had its charms.

I am going to review the comics the same way I watched the movie, trying to enjoy them for what they are.  I admit, some of them are hard for me to enjoy and there are days when I skip whole pages.  I doubt I will dissect them, just view them with a critical eye.  You'll soon learn what I like and what I don't as will become apparent shortly.

Rather than take up too much space in the coming weeks, I am going to spend the first few Sundays describing the layout of the pages, and my general impression of the strips, one page a week in the beginning.  So, let's begin...

Page one of the T-P's comics section holds the following:

Down the right hand side, vertically, is "Dilbert."  This isn't a bad strip.  At first, I was put off by the simple and static artwork but it's grown on me and I find it is expressive of the workplace ennui it depicts.  It is well written and clever.  What it lacks in visual interest, it more than makes up for in guile.  This is one of the better strips being put out today.

The rest of the strips on the front page are in horizontal format.  From the top is "For Better of for Worse." The natural lifespan of this strip has run its course.  Rather than let it die a dignified death, the creator is running reprints in chronological order from the beginning.  It isn't bad but it isn't particularly good either.  Someone obviously thinks people can't get enough of it and so here it is, another legacy strip taking up space.  This will become a recurrent theme as we go along.

Next is "Zits."  This isn't bad either and uses the conventions of comics very nicely.  It is based on teenager-parent differences.  While the subject matter holds limited appeal for me, I appreciate the artistry and effort put forth.

"Baby Blues" is a crudely drawn story of a couple with three young children.  I don't usually skip over this one so much as read it to say I've read the whole first page.  I can't recall ever liking an episode.  It's just kind of there, neither adding to nor subtracting from the luster of the Sunday comics (or any other day for that matter).

Lastly is "Drabble," a strip which gets my bile up.  It seems to be drawn with a ball point pen without any preliminary sketching.  The artist is an adult but the artwork is what you would find on elementary school walls or in elementary school notebooks.  I wouldn't be surprised to see blue lines running through the pictures.  Compared to "Drabble" everything else in the Sunday comics seems to have been written by Voltaire and illustrated by Maxfield Parrish.  I don't understand why anyone would be paid to create this day after day after day.

...And that is the first installment of what will be an ongoing feature.  Just laying the groundwork now, folks.  I know it's a bit dry for what should be a dynamic medium.  Perhaps this is a reflection on me or it may be a reflection on the subject matter.

Tomorrow, we bring you a review of Roman Chewing Candy.  I had my first taste the other day.  Bought two sticks for a dollar apiece.  See you then.


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