Friday, July 18, 2008

My Reviews of Daily Comics

This list refers to strips appearing in the daily Seattle Times.

These are the strips I look forward to every day:

Luann (Greg Evans) – A must-read strip every day. A favorite of mine ever since Brad met Toni Daytona. The story lines are (almost) always interesting, and keep me wanting to check in and see what's happening next. Engaging, believable characters. I enjoy the breadth and variety of character types and differing points of view.

Pickles (Brian Crane) – Great observations on an endearingly crotchety elderly couple. Consistently funny setups and punch lines. The art is functional; always clear.

Between Friends (Sandy Bell-Lundy) – Both well-written and well-drawn. As a man, I appreciate the intelligent and believable conversations from a women's point of view (unlike Cathy).

Frazz (Jeff Mallett) – Interesting characters with unique points of view, although it is sometimes repetitive, and not much happens. Nice graphic style; good use of varying lines weights adds interest.

Candorville (Darrin Bell) – I like the storylines, especially the relationship between Susan and Lamont. I also appreciate the diversity.

Herman – Inventive and funny, wryly cynical. Very distinctive look.

Frank and Ernest (Thaves) – Worth keeping for the occasional gems. A recent favorite: One anteater says to the other, "Sure we eat ants, but we shouldn't let that define us." Another, outside the insurance claims office: "They say they don't cover 'acts of God,' and boy, are they ever pious!" These gems make up for the usual faire, which plays on obvious puns.

Betty (Gary Delainey and Gerry Rasmussen) – Lots of interesting ideas make this strip enjoyable. On the minus side, the characters don't have clear individual personalities, and the drawing is a bit flat.

The Duplex (Glen McCoy) – Inconsistent, but sometimes very clever and funny. One of those strips that are drawn so stylishly they're hard to look at.

Crankshaft (Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers) – The only reason I enjoy this strip is because it is drawn so well. It is well-grounded in good drawing principles, almost to the point of not being cartoony enough. I wish Ayers could hook up with a better writer.

Monty (Jim Meddick) – Although this strip is stiffly drawn and features several characters that are to me indistinguishable, it's offbeat inventiveness keeps me reading.

The sooner you drop these, the happier I'll be...

Lio (Mark Tatulli) – I avoid reading this strip because it annoys me so much. When it was first introduced, it looked edgy and engaging. I can see why you chose it. But very soon it became apparent that it has no range: it's just about an unappealing boy who exhibits cruel and/or dangerous behavior. Worse, Tatulli has no idea how to pay off a joke. Example: Lio is reaching into the cookie jar. He reaches deeper and deeper. In the last panel, only his shoes remain on the counter next to the jar. And the punchline is… Oh sorry, that was the punchline.

Prickly City – I would like to think I'm open-minded enough to tolerate a conservative-minded comic strip in the funny papers. But if so, it's not this one. The last thing we need in this country is more sloganization and reduction of important issues into reductionist he-said/she-said sound bites. Give me a strip where the honorable values of both viewpoints are lovingly respected. (Stantis is also an editorial cartoonist, and from what I've seen of his editorial work, he's on much stronger footing making his political points directly. He's also a much better graphic artist than this strip would indicate.)

Garfield – Please let this past-its-prime turkey die a decent death. What's the joke, that being fat and lazy is funny? Every one of the flatly-drawn characters looks the same, with different hair styles to distinguish them.

Get Fuzzy (Darby Conley) – Seemed interesting at first, but I've never been entertained by this strip since it first appeared. I stopped reading it long ago. Waste of time and space.

Cathy (Cathy Guisewite) – Same old, same old. If this artist hasn't learned to draw by now, she probably never will.

Family Tree – Terribly drawn scribbles, with non-interesting stories and characters.

Wouldn't Miss 'Em
These strips are okay. I don't mind them, but I wouldn't miss them much either.

Baby Blues (Jerry Scott & Rick Kirkman) – A pleasantly cartoony style that still reads clearly, but the jokes are not particularly funny.

Adam @ Home (Brian Basset) – Well-drawn, interesting concept, but not particularly funny. Pretty much the same joke every day.

Wizard of Id (Brant Parker) – Nice, familiar style. Yes, familiar – I've been reading this strip for the last 40 years.

Shoe (Chris Cassatt) – Interesting drawing style, but I have never related to the characters. The jokes and situations are not that engaging.

Lola (Todd Clark) – Very clear and expressive strip with a ton of attitude. Rarely funny, though, and I don't actually like any of the characters as people.

Classic Peanuts (Schultz) – I don't read this anymore. It just doesn't hold my interest. How about something really classic, like Krazy Kat?

For Better or Worse (Lynn Johnston) – The drawing style always engages me, but I'm wary of reading this strip because it's so often uninteresting.

Sally Forth (Francesco Marciullano) – If this were a newer strip, I would have included it as a keeper, because it features believable characters and a wry wit. However it's pretty badly drawn and very repetitive. I'm ready to move on.

Arlo & Janis (Jimmy Johnson) – Mildly interesting. Not terribly drawn, but not very solid either.

Rose is Rose (Pat Brady & Don Wimmer) – I can see where this strip's romanticism might appeal to other people. I don't get much out of it.

Family Circus (Bill Keane) – A little apple pie never killed anyone, I guess.

On A Claire Day (Carla Ventresca & Henry Beckett) -- The characters are actually pretty interesting, but the fact that this strip is drawn in such a sloppy way insults the history of comics. If this were a newer strip I'd be more forgiving of the graphic deficiencies -- Greg Evans has improved his drawing skills dramatically over the years that Luann has been in print – but Ventresca has been drawing this childlike style for years, apparently with a dose of smug pride. I do like the writing in this strip, but I almost hate to see space given to someone who degrades the art form even further.

Chuckle Brothers and Argyle Sweater – I lump these together because they are indistinguishable to me. Both are obvious Gary Larsen rip-offs, drawn by poor artists who apparently admire Larsen's offbeat humor but lack his intelligence.