It occurred to me the other night, while reading my copy of ‘The Complete Calvin and Hobbes,‘ that kids today don’t read the newspaper anymore. Hell, does anyone read the print newspaper any more? Most people I know get their news through their phones and it comes in 140 characters or less. There’s a whole generation of people running around now that are not reading the comic strips in the paper and might not have any clue who the fuck Ziggy, Zippy, Cathy or Hagar are. These days, the Sunday (print) comics are mostly only being read by the idiots that write letters to the editor and or the people (shudder) who flood their websites with hateful comments ad nauseam.
This makes me sad.
I have fond memories of reading the ‘Sunday funnies’ with my dad. I grew up discovering comic strips in the newspaper of my hometown, Denver, Colorado. I am so old, in fact, that the paper I grew up on, The Rocky Mountain News, no longer exists. It was within the pages of the News that I discovered the work of two favorite artists, Bill Watterson and Drew Litton, and for that I am grateful. Thanks, dad.
There were, of course, the classics; Peanuts, Garfield and Family Circus – lord how I learned to loathe Family Circus! Fuck you Billy, Dolly, PJ and Jeffy! But it was Calvin and Hobbes that really sucked me into reading the comics on a daily basis and eventually the rest of the paper. It meant that there was something in there for me and that was important as a kid!
The joy of reading the Sunday funnies later expanded to reading the arts and entertainment section, the sports section and eventually (much later) the actual news. But it was the comics that I waited for and what kept me coming back for more.
You see, waiting for the the Sunday paper used to be a thing! I remember waiting for my dad to finish the paper on a cold winter morning so that I could read the latest Calvin and Hobbes, in color no less! What a treat!
And I realize that I sound about 100 years old as you’re reading this but that’s the way it used to be. There were no other mediums to get these kinds of comics. You would have to wait until the artist released a collection of strips in a book, if anything. We collected those also.
I went through the era of pirated ‘Calvin pissing on things’ stickers on cars and trucks and I see Waterson’s strips show up now on blogs with little to no context. People think they’re cute/funny etc. and move on. There are artist tributes and spin offs etc. But when I was a kid, it was a brand new strip and I waited every day to see what Calvin and his tiger would do next. It was a beautiful thing and one that I’m sad that my own kids will not experience the same way.
But I do feel a great sense of joy as they flip through the pages of my book, just as I do when they read my Spy Vs. Spy books or my comic books. It delights me to share these things with my kids.
The simple joy of reading the Sunday funnies is difficult to explain in these times because there’s nothing to compare it to. I realize that you can get these comics on your phone or tablet and I guess there are people who do that. I’m not one of them. It’s not the same.
I have a few friends and colleagues that create comic strips now. Lalo Alcaraz, who has been grinding since the old days to become a household name, seems finally poised to do just that with a new series on Fox. Bravo, man, well deserved.
I recently published a book collection of the entire run of Ducktown strips from artist Josh Divine. Ducktown used to run in The Colorado Daily until it was replaced by Sudoku. I was happy to bring it back to life.
You could argue that the Internet has made it easier for artists to get their work out there now and be read by many more people. There are tons of comic strips on the Internet now – many of them are great – and many of them have content the old newspapers would never touch. But it’s just not the same thing as waiting for the Sunday funnies when you’re a kid.
And you probably won’t relate to that unless you experienced it firsthand.
I often opine for simpler times, when things lasted and were savored a bit more – hell, a lot more. Maybe it’s just my imagination or my addled and aging brain. The grass is always greener right? But there are quite a few things I miss from my childhood.
I miss catching the game on local A.M. radio and waiting with bated breath for the next play. I miss calling into the local radio station for them to play my favorite song and trying to record it on cassette, station identification and all. I miss waiting to catch my favorite show on only one the three channels on the TV, which was black and white for a long time.
I miss when the news – news of anything – would last for longer than an hour. It seems these days we chew and swallow things whole and then ask for more, more, more! Nothing satiates any more – certainly not art and certainly not the comics in the paper. Not any more.
Most of all, I miss waiting for the Sunday paper on a blizzard-filled morning so that we could unwrap it over a bounty of scrambled eggs, bacon and potatoes and devour the Sunday funnies, color ink and all. I miss laughing out loud (for real) with my old man over whatever Calvin and Hobbes were up to.
Maybe the day would hold shoveling snow or raking leaves, maybe a football game or listening to oldies in the garage while working on the car. But mostly it would consist of spending our time together, enjoying things collectively rather than individually as so many of us do now with our technology.
The Sunday funnies would tide us over until the next weekend and then we would do it all over again.
Simple pleasures seem to be a lost art form.