Wednesday, May 09, 2012


I gotta admit that this one did look tasty. After all, I'm a fellow who really could use a new and exciting comic strip to brighten up my usually dour-encrusted day, kinda in the same fashion that I'd look forward to a page fulla funny and truly copasetic cartoons after a hard day in third grade. Unfortunately for me, most comic strips created after 1963, like most television programs, automobiles and general gulcheral concerns, really don't have the same energy and creativity that most strips et. al. created BEFORE that date did. Even when I was a kid I noticed that the newer comics that were being introduced at the expense of the long-running standbys weren't as funny, interesting or overall eye-catching even with their simple, quickly slapdashed style that did have a certain appeal. When I was ten, comics like DICK TRACY, LI'L ABNER and ARCHIE were what tickled my fancy along with the deceptive simplicity of NANCY, HENRY and FERD'NAND. These titles certainly mirrored my own growing up existence more'n CAMPUS CLATTER or THE DROP OUTS ever could!

The fine, thin penned OUT OUR WAY's also had a neat look about 'em that really did not seem that far distanced from the type of existence I was leading at the time, one which although firmly implanted in "modern times" still had a strong undercurrent of past experiences from the early-twentieth century to World War II cursing through its veins. Such new entries onto the funny pages such as FUNKY WINKERBEAN and DOONESBURY (both of which I could not tell apart given their penchant for soon to be outdated early-seventies youth relevance) just didn't cut it the way that the old faves from the thirties onward  could, and somehow I feel that one of the real reasons that newspapers are dying out is not because of internet supremacy or the alienation of a good portion of its readers, but because the comic pages are filled with unfunny, quickly drawn, uninteresting efforts that dare not insult or offend anyone no matter how slightly it may be, unless its somebody like myself natch!

But as for MUTTS sure seem to hearken back to some of the old 'n reliable standards I like in comic strips. The two main characters, Earl and Mooch, remind me of Chip and Bobo from those old John Schaum piano lesson books my sister still has stashed somewhere. And one thing we could all use here in the jaded and downright evil teens is more pre-hippoid visuals and attitudes to counteract the ever-enveloping actions of the modern day equivalents of the uplifters and do-gooders of the past who want to make sure we all walk in perfect unison and smiling smack dab into that big mass grave they've dug up for us! Can't argue with the retrogarde actions of anybody who'd wanna send us back to those halcyon and comparatively saner times now, can we?

Gotta admit that the art is actually halfway decent in its attempt in recalling the early fine-line comic strips with a more "modern" approach that's bound to appeal to the youthful fans of the up and coming underground comics that were coming out in the nineties. Trying to balance the old stylings with the contemporary doesn't always work out the way it was intended to, and at times MUTTS unfortunately reminds me of something that wouldn't look out of place in THE NEW YORKER not to mention some new kid book that their cartoonists always seem to illustrate. More often than not it ends up looking more or less like artist Patrick McDonnell* was trying a bit too hard to flash on past accomplishments while mixing in more modern references that don't always translate well to the comic page, hence the downright cringe I got when I glimpsed his CRUISING WITH RUBEN AND THE JETS spoof on one Sunday title panel. And true, McDonnell was trying to utilize the best of the past with the current slapdash in order to blase a path to the future I might suspect, but his overall effect doesn't quite hit my sarcastic comic strip psyche the same way Bobby London did with his DIRTY DUCK and POPEYE efforts. And ya gotta give London credit for having to put up with all of the current comic strip limitations and still coming up with a high-larious product in the process, at least until he got the 86 for introducing the subject of abortion into POPEYE when no one was looking!

I find most of the strips I've read in the four books pictured (one which contains nothin' but Sundays in color with a few repros from the reg'lar series) to be nothing quite out of the ordinary, but like I said you're talking to a guy who would love to latch onto a PRISCILLA'S POP collection done with the same care and quality as a volume of LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE reprints. I will admit that I thought the strips dedicated to picking up pets at the local animal shelter had the right amt. of proper heart-tug w/o looking like utter pap for the mooshies out there, but when McDonnell gets into the same ol' tired ecological concerns the strip comes off worse'n some seventh-grade sermon which we all HAVE TO bow our heads in solemn sanctimony! And it ain't like I'm exactly willing to re-live those "sky is falling" days which used to scare the bejabbers outta me long before I learned to take my teachers (and others) with more than a grain of salt! (Come to think of it, where is Paul Ehrlich hiding out? I wanna smash his brains on the concrete RIGHT NOW if only for inspiring all of this doom and gloom that had us all cringing in the closet in abject fear!) When McDonnell sticks to putting out a pleasant, cutesy and hopefully witty effort he's doing OK,  though when he strays from the straight 'n narrow WATCH OUT!!!

Still, MUTTS beats out all of the new flash competition from DILBERT to FOR BETTER OR WORSE and the rest of those unfunny and stagnant comics that seem to appeal only to women who like to clip and affix comics to their work cubicles in order to say something they wouldn't have the ovaries to say face-to-face ifyaknowaddamean... Go figure. It ain't like I'd give the thing any awards, though I ain't ashamed to say that I do read it (along with DENNIS THE MENACE and BLONDIE) whenever I do pick a comic section up even this late in the sorry ol' game I call life. And you can go figure that 'un as well!
*yes, the same one who used to slam the skins in the infamous New York underground group Steel Tips alongside eighties outsider artist Joe Coleman


diskojoe said...

You're right about the comics being shrill 'n dull these days. A couple of weeks ago Stone Soup was ranting 'n raving about Karl Rove like it was 2006 while cheerfully ignoring reality.

What's your opinion about the old comic strip Penny about a red-haired teenage who looked like Kathleen Hepburn? I enjoyed reading them going through old papers on microfilm looking for obits on my job.

Christopher Stigliano said...

I used to peruse PENNY back when it was running in the Youngstown paper, but I never really zoned into it the same way I would all of those old comics that I continue to namedrop to this day. Maybe it seemed I mean in socially/intellectually advanced as opposed to dirty of course. I think I'll hit the web for some examples if only to re-educate myself since you've gurgitated some long-lost memories in me diskojoe!

top_cat_james said...

Chris & Joe: The latest issue of "Hogan's Alley" magazine (#18)has a good feature about PENNY and creator Harry Haenigsen.

You can check out a generous sample of the strip-many in color-at their website-

Anonymous said...

You would really link Dilbert and For Better or For Worse?? And then diss them both as stagnant?? The former is lively, insightful, and clever. The latter IS stagnant, literally, as it is one long ongoing rerun, which is shameful. Your diss of women in that paragraph is uncalled for, by the way, and a show of your true colors. And I'm a guy!! Well, keep reading the comics, and so will I!