Tag Archives: newspaper comic strips

So cool: ‘Calvin’ creator comes back – briefly

bill watterson pearls before swine

How cool is this?

Artist Stephan Pastis, like other comic strip artists, sometimes makes reference to Bill Watterson’s much-loved and long-gone strip “Calvin and Hobbes.”

Pastis and the notoriously private Watterson struck up an email friendship recently and that led to Watterson actually drawing a couple of days worth of Pastis’ strip, “Pearls Before Swine.”

One of those days’ strips is above.

Here’s Pastis’ blog explaining how it happened.


Classic comics: ‘They’ll Do It Every Time’


When I began reading newspapers in the 1960s, I was an exhaustive reader of newspapers. I was always the type of kid – and still am now, as an adult – who usually checked out every page of a book, every second of the credits of a TV show or movie and, yes, every story and ad and illustration in the newspaper.

It goes without saying that I studied newspaper comic books closely and was puzzled and fascinated by “They’ll Do It Every Time.”

Unlike “Peanuts” and strips from the time that felt contemporary, “They’ll Do It Every Time” felt like a holdover from an earlier day. And it was.


“They’ll Do It Every Time” was created in 1929 (!) by cartoonist Jimmy Hatlo, who first drew his complex, gag-filled strips first for William Randolph Hearst’s San Francisco papers. But by the time I was seeing the panel (rather than multi-panel strips) it appeared in more than 600 papers.

Stop and think about that for a moment.

I’m a lifelong lover of newspapers, and it’s where I have made my living. But while the influence of newspapers has moved from print to online in recent years and the heyday of newspaper comic strips ended with “Calvin and Hobbes” and “The Far Side,” it’s impossible to overstate the impact of a daily comic strip in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

Everybody, every member of the family, read the newspaper, or at least part of it.  And nearly every member of the family read the comics.

Hatlo’s comic entertained and puzzled me. With its sarcastic assessment of the foibles of mankind, the strip was, as the comic strip history website Hogan’s Alley noted, an early practitioner of observational humor.

hatlo tip of the hat

My favorite element of the strip was the Hatlo “Tip of the Hat” to a reader each time. Hatlo accepted ideas for strips, refined and expanded on them, and then thanked and credited the reader who gave him the idea.

It was unlike anything else in comics before or since and I thought it was fascinating.

Hatlo continued the strip until he died in 1963, so it’s likely the strips I saw were reruns or some done by his successors, Al Scaduto and Bob Dunn. Amazingly, the comic ran until February 2008.

Classic comic strip: ‘The Lockhorns’

lockhorns sofa

I’m kind of amazed “The Lockhorns” didn’t debut until 1968. Even when I read it as a kid – when it was still new – it felt like a comics page panel that had settled into routine decades ago.

The strip was, for those not familiar with it, about a long-married couple who plainly couldn’t stand each other. I never read a panel that gave any indication these people did anything but loathe each other. Love? It was gleefully, horribly, humorously missing from this union.

Each daily panel carried an insult. Loretta Lockhorn would criticize hubby Leroy’s drinking or his wandering eye. Leroy Lockhorn would criticize his wife’s cooking, driving, spending, etc.

Maybe it’s no surprise that this caustic comic didn’t come about until the late 1960s, though. It’s like the comics page version of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”

Bill Hoest created the strip. It’s continued to this day by Bunny Hoest.

And Leroy and Loretta still hate each other.

The Great Newspaper Comics Challenge Part 19

Because we’ve shamefully, woefully neglected our look at what’s funny in the funny pages for too long. So here goes!

“Classic Peanuts” finds Lucy railing at Charlie Brown and telling him to put up his dukes and fight. Chuck raises one hand and hits Lucy in the nose. He feels so guilty he goes to his psychiatrist – Lucy, of course – and when she punches him, he happily announces, “I don’t feel guilty any more. Psychiatry has cured me!” There are so many levels to this comic – criticism of psychiatry, the male/female dynamic, etc – but I think my favorite element is the simple little “BOP!” when Charlie Brown’s fist comes into contact with Lucy’s nose. That and the little stars that shoot out.

“Baby Blues” made me laugh. One of the kids reports to mom that Wren, the baby, is crying. The mom asks if she seems hungry or needs a diaper change or other issues. When those are discounted, mom asks the kid to go to the baby and “give her some encouraging words.” Those words? “Man up, Wren.”

“Garfield” offers proof the strip isn’t reprinting old strips like “Classic Peanuts.” Garfield and Odie are sitting at a table, taking turns buzzing and vibrating. “Stop texting each other,” Jon orders.

Finally, in “The Family Circus,” the kids are watching TV and mom is putting food on the table. “Yeah, okay, Mommy. We’ll be there as soon as we finish watching this commercial.” And the joke is?




The Great Newspaper Comics Challenge Part 12

It’s our weekly look at what’s funny in the funny pages. Because surely we’re still enjoying the “tip of the hat” from “They’ll Do It Every Time.”

“Classic Peanuts” gets an “awww” from us this Mother’s Day. Charlie Brown calls Snoopy to the phone. It’s Snoopy’s mom on the other end of the line. Snoopy sniffs and Charlie notes, “On Mother’s Day, you should have called her.” What do you want to bet we’re going to get a lot of Mother’s Day premises today?

Once again, “Baby Blues” hits the target as the kids watch clouds, spouting the scientific names for the types. Dad says somebody invented a lot of new cloud names since he was in school. Mom says, “Probably the same guy who keeps coming up with new ways to confuse me about math.” Right there with ya!

Finally, a good “Wizard of Id,” and it’s a Mother’s Day gag. The king’s mom comes for Mother’s Day and Rodney persuades the king to let his mom be queen for a day. The end result is the king is in irons, hanging in “Wizard of Id’s” Amnesty International-approved dungeon.

“Pickles” has old guy Earl making a BLT but using the dog snacks Beggin’ Strips instead of bacon by mistake. Finally the comics page addresses the societal problem of old people being forced to eat dog food.

Can anybody explain today’s “Speed Bump?” A rainbow leads to a pot of gold. A man finds it and the leprechaun offers his treasure … a french fry? I just don’t get it.

“Hi and Lois” addresses Mother’s Day, of course. Hi notes that Lois doesn’t want anything for Mother’s Day but to be left alone in bed. Marital counselor on speed dial?

“Dennis the Menace” marks Mother’s Day by that age-old gag of male incompetence in the kitchen. Dennis and his dad burn all the bread trying to make toast — in a toaster, for frak’s sake — and burn the eggs. Guess what? the family goes out to eat, just like in “Blondie and Dagwood.” Authorized and paid for by the National Restaurant Association.

Finally, you thought “The Family Circus” would have some maudlin Mother’s Day panel, didn’t you? The strip begins with PJ crying in a store. “I’m right here, PJ,” mom says from nearby. “Heh-heh — Just checkin,'” PJ thinks. When did PJ become that round-headed kid from “Family Guy?”

The Great Newspaper Comics Challenge Part 8

Our weekly look at the Sunday funnies. Because surely the best comic strips didn’t set sail with Prince Valiant?

“Classic Peanuts” gives us Charlie Brown vs. the Kite-Eating Tree, Part 127,423. Charlie taunts the “stupid tree,” avowing that it won’t get his kite this time. What does the tree do? It “wumps” over onto the kite. Look at it this way, CB: The tree’s roots are pulled out of the ground, so surely that’s the last time this will happen, no?

“Baby Blues” finds the parents worried that the kids haven’t uncovered all the Easter eggs. They do … except for the one left over from last year. Mercifully, it was on the porch. Otherwise, you know, I think they would have noticed it before now.

“Pickles”: Grandpa advises Nelson not to take it personally that Gramma is grouchy. “We need to be slow to judge others, though, son,” Grandpa says. Then Gramma comes in, announces “I believe these are yours,” and throws dirty laundry all over Grandpa. Funny.

“Lio” shows the little boy wishing for a companion. The Good Fairy turns his doll into a real boy, ala Pinocchio. Final panel: The newly created boy is doing Lio’s homework. Good, very “Calvin and Hobbes.”

I literally laughed out loud at today’s “Dilbert.” A female office worker asks Wally to lunch. He tells her he’s become “digisexual” and is no longer attracted to people. “I only like technology. People creep me out. You’re basically a delivery system for viruses, germs and unreasonable favor requests. I’m willing to take a picture of you, but that’s as far as I’ll go.” he says. “This is the most disturbing conversation I’ve ever had,” she says as Wally snaps a picture. “Thank goodness for photoshop,” he says.

In “Blondie,” Dagwood gives us our second Easter egg hunting joke, finding his treat in the attic. Not a lot of laughs, but it’s topical!

“Foxtrot” brings the Easter funny as the kids dye eggs in a manner that turns the egg inside funny colors, thus convincing kids at school that they’re eating rotten eggs when they takes egg salad sandwiches for lunch. Funny, but do kids take egg salad sandwiches to school anymore? Do kids even eat egg salad anymore?

And it’s the return of Ghostly Grandpa in “The Family Circus.” The spectral ancestor shows baby PJ where to find hidden Easter eggs: On a step (that’s just asking for a smashed egg), under a bush, behind a trash can. Then Grandpa’s ghost lifts PJ up into a tree so he can get one there. Now, let’s think about this for a moment. Grandpa’s ghost lifts PJ up. How can he do that? How can he touch PJ, no less lift him? And what would the rest of the family think if they saw PJ suddenly floating up into a tree, aided by invisible Grandpa? I think the Keanes just wrote the script for the “Poltergeist” reboot.


The Great Newspaper Comics Challenge Part 5

It’s Sunday and that means (at least lately it does) a look at what’s in the comics pages. ‘Cause there’s still something good even though “Calvin and Hobbes” and “The Far Side” are long gone. Right?

“Classic Peanuts” jumps into March Madness with the kids playing basketball. Unfortunately, the hoop is on Snoopy’s dog house and baskets wake him up. Not one of Charlie Schulz’ best.

“Garfield” sits by with a cup of coffee while Jon cleans out his wallet, then advises his person, “Time for a man purse, pack rat.” Is this thing on?

“Wizard of Id” has the wizard walking past various ogres and giant spiders and rats, unperturbed, only to squeek when he seeks his wife with her hair in rollers and green stuff on her face. Hello? Hello? (Cricket noise.)

“Speed Bump” is a play on old “Frankenstein” movies with the mad doctor and Igor choosing a brain for the monster. The jars are labeled “Normal Brain,” “Abnormal Brain” and “Brain With Song Stuck In It.” “No, Igor! That would just be cruel,” the doctor says. Pretty good.

“Blondie” tries out a new hairstyle and Dagwood reacts with shock. Frankly, so did I. Doesn’t this look like Donald Trump’s hairdo?


“Dennis the Menace” discovers, about 15 years late, that truism about how kids are better with computers than adults. Next they’re going to show Dennis signing up for an AOL account.

Finally, “Ziggy” just confuses me. Ziggy’s bird is hanging upside down on his perch with comic strip “confusion” circles around his head. Ziggy asks his dog and cat, “Did you put butter on his perch again?”

Is butter why the bird is hanging upside down? Wouldn’t he just fall off, completely unable to hang on at all, if the perch were slippery? Why does he look like he’s taken a blow to the head?

Maybe Dennis the Menace could explain it to me.