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Pen and Inklings » Blog Archive » I would read comics in the daily paper.

I would read comics in the daily paper.

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When I was growing up, I didn’t really read comic books. It just didn’t seem important—I split my time between juvenile fiction (I was a big Walt Morey fan), Stephen King, and Nintendo Power Magazine—and, besides, comics were expensive, man.

So what exposure I had to comic art was limited to comics in the daily paper, and the Garfield, Far Side, and Calvin and Hobbes books I or my siblings would get as gifts on birthdays or Christmas. The books were constant companions, but the daily comics weren’t—we didn’t get the paper.

My grandmother did, though, and so whenever we would go out to her house (every week or two, probably), I’d dig through the tinder bin by her fireplace (which was mostly full of old papers and other burnable waste paper) and kill a half hour reading through the backlog of comics that way.

I don’t know what I made of the art, at the time. I think I looked with a lot of interest on the art in the soap comics—Rex Morgan, Mary Worth, Judge Parker—because they seemed so realistic and hence represented the manifestation of a then-vaguely-defined desire for artistic skill. The more cartoony comics—the comics comics—didn’t excite me in the same way. Anybody, I think I must have thought, can do that.

Now I find myself reversed. Increasingly, I’m taken by some of the simple art of cartoonists, while the drawings in the soap comics seems like the strange artistic purgatory of the half-measured comics inker—realist drawings good enough to get them a gig in a syndicated soap strip, but not good enough to get them anywhere else.

Which is a ridiculously negative way to put it, really. I’d kill to make my living doing something essentially creative. I think the soap snobbery is down to too much snarky enjoyment of the (fantastic) daily comics analysis over at The Comics Curmudgeon.

But, still: give me Bill Waterson, or R. Crumb, over whoever draws Chinbeard and the rest of the Mary Worth crew. The character of simplicity, the art of the line—that’s what I’m in love with these days, more and more.

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