The Star-News


Today's funnies aren't anything to laugh about

Sat, May 21 2011 12:00 PM Posted By: Richard Pena

I would suspect that I have been reading newspapers as long as I have been able to read.

When I was a youngster the daily paper was always delivered to the house. My home town had three dailies, two in the morning and one in the afternoon. We took the afternoon paper, the San Antonio Evening News. Why this one was selected I never knew. I suppose there was no particular reason for it. In any event the paper was there, and since the household was lacking in other reading material this became our daily exposure to literature.

My dad, though he had a scant education, would read the paper from front to back.

I always marveled at how he did this. He had dropped out of school when he was in the sixth grade and went to work, things, I suppose, being rough in his growing up years.

This did not deter him from reading the paper when he was grown. He would not only read it but make comments on it to my mother or to me, I being the oldest and supposedly the one who should understand the way of the world at that time.

I know not whether I did or did not understand. I do recall that I could hardly wait to get my hands on the paper.

I no doubt read the news. And surely I thoroughly devoured the sports section. But it was the comic pages that got my undivided attention at that early age the section of the paper that we would certainly not miss.

This was known as the funny papers, or simply, the funnies.

Two or three pages of the daily paper were devoted to the funnies, and the Sunday paper had at least four pages of full color art to delight the reader and complement those biscuits and molasses we had for breakfast.

We grew up with the likes of Little Orphan Annie, she who never grew up. It is said that Annie was 80 years old and still an orphan and still with a dog who could only utter "Arf."

Then there was Skeeziks who did grow up. He was an orphan also, put on the doorstep of Uncle Walt. He was a grown man when the strip was finally discontinued.

I remember that one my favorites was the Katzenjammer Kids. These were two boys named Hans and Fritz who used to give the adults of the strip constant fits. I suppose we liked them because they pulled stunts on their parents and other adults that most of us mortals would not have dared. They always seemed to get away with most of the antics that they perpetrated.

Then there was Harold Teen, the perpetual teenager who hung around with other teen-agers. Their favorite hangout was a place called the Gedunk Stand, something that was probably the Dairy Queen of its day.

Gedunk Stands were later popular attractions on Navy vessels. I wrote about Gedunk Stands before and someone asked me if I knew the origin of the name. I replied that it is the sound a mound of ice cream makes when it is plopped in a glass. It was all I could think of at the time.

We mention the comics of yesteryear with a sort of nostalgic air simply because the comics of today leave something to be desired. In other words the funnies are no longer funny. It seems that the artist - and I use the term generously - thinks that the humor in his strip lies in bad drawing.

Most of them have stick figures, most of them are talking animals, and most make about as much sense as the financial pages. I think they are trying to send us a message that is not designed to entertain but rather to confuse.

Oh, there are some that we like and we faithfully read. Marmaduke, for example, is entertaining. He is a big dog that sometimes acts more human than his human owners. But he is lovable. Then there is Stone Soup and Frazz two expertly drawn cartoons that also make sense and most times make us smile, if not laugh.

If I had to select a favorite it would have to be Ed Crankshaft. I kind of relate to him. He is an old guy who drives a school bus and used to pitch for the Toledo Mudhens. It is well drawn with an understandable plot. I suppose that way down deep I kind of wish I had played for the Mudhens. Or driven a school bus. No way!


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