Drooling on the Pillow

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Name That Toon 

As evidenced by my Toonroll over on the right (a feature I don't see on too many blogs) I take my cartoons seriously. Always have. As a kid I would start the paper with the toons and then move to the sports. At some point I reversed the two, but I still have to complete those before moving on to the rest of the news. Except, of course, for the NY Times which, weirdly, doesn't carry any cartoons, even editorial ones. In the case of the Times I start with the sports and then turn to the Op-Ed page so there's really very little difference.

It used to be that the cartoon page was safe from politics in any conventional sense, except, of course, for Doonsbury, the only nakedly partisan, overtly polemical stop on the page. It never really occurred to me to wonder why others didn't follow Doonsbury's lead. It was just there, often amusing, sometimes annoying, the exception that proved the rule of non-partisanship.

Now, we all have our theories. I'm certain that Sarge from Beetle Bailey is a Republican and that Mary Worth is a Democrat. I have a feeling that the Phantom voted Green and that Linus grew up to be a Libertarian. One senses that the Bumstead house is divided, but I am unsure of which way it breaks, especially now that Blondie is a small business owner.

Recently, though, the cartoon page has become another battleground in the culture wars, I'm not talking about Ted Rall or Tom Tomorrow, but the daily strips. It's ironic that Doonsbury has been circling the bowl for the past few years just as a whole new generation of highly polemical strips have emerged. Just a few years ago Johnny Hart got in trouble for making some overtly Christian remarks in B.C. Today strips such as Boondocks have kicked up the topical flaming a number of clicks. Aaron Magruder's views on race, the war, the economy, Republicans and just about everything else are, to my mind, hateful and bizarre, but they are refreshingly candid and often amusing. He knows how to run a strip.

In an evident attempt for political balance, the News has been running an equally biased strip from the right for the last few weeks. I can't remember the name at the moment, but it's not important because it's one of the worst strips I ever saw. Worse than Cathy. Much worse than Garfield. When I open the cartoon page these days it's always with the conscious hope that it's gone. If they wanted a Republican strip why didn't they go for Mallard Fillmore? At least it's well drawn. And why, oh why didn't they pick up Chris Muir's Day by Day when they had a chance?
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