Saturday, July 07, 2007

A Secret Message for a Select Few

Elizabeth is back with Anthony.

Only members of a tribe that shrinks ever day, as the newspaper habit dies among the old and is still born among the young, have any idea what I'm talking about. Indeed, I speak to a tribe within a tribe because your serious newspaper readers have always skipped over the comics page, rushing on to the op-eds, perhaps mourning the loss of Peanuts.

(News flash: they just keep rerunning the old strips and, for better or worse, Charlie Brown *is* timeless.)

And speaking of for better or worse, cap the B and cap the W and you are on the trail of Elizabeth and Anthony as mentioned above, who are characters in the last of the wholesome comic-page narratives not written for cretins, Lynn Johnston's "For Better or Worse." It's a strip informed by a fundamental decency. Johnston is Canadian. I don't think Americans do fundamental decency anymore. We are all such damn ironists -- or religious fanatics or sex perverts.

All those things do squeeze out decency, don't they?

But Johnston has had me ever since Farley the dog died saving April from the raging creek 15 years ago. How one can weep at 7:30 in the morning for the death of a fictional animal drawn so small it could have been a sheep dog for aphids...? I guess somehow it all sparked a memory of back in the day when one was still fundamentally decent, when did not have to shape one's mouth into a sneer to get through the day.

Newspaper comics. I felt such a loss when Aaron McGruder gave up his Boondocks strip and took it to cable TV. And then I realized he was exchanging a dying medium in which old white men still shape the master narrative for the young strange polychrome world of animated -- frequently badly animated -- cartoon narrative, where there's more money, more fame, a lot more future and *maybe* more influence over the shape of things to come. If he's talking to the malleable youth, there's where the malleable youth are.

The only thing malleable about me is my gut where my belt cuts into it. But, still, this old white man misses him. I've watched the Boondocks on the TV, but it all seems like a night at the burlesque, a little crude, a little overstated. I miss that finger snap of insight or emotion or laughter you get with that rare handful of daily comics.

Of course, in the case of several of the lamentable single-panel cartoons the SF Chronicle now features, you still have the finger snap of the thankfulness that you've only wasted three seconds of your precious gauzy morning. *All* these hacks can't be sleeping with the editor.

But back to Elizabeth and Anthony. Congratulations. I hope to spend two to three weeks drinking coffee and dancing at your wedding.


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