45 Comments

  1. I don’t think it’s necessary for them to do so, but I also don’t have a problem with it if they want to.

    I think it’s good to continue to have an escape, but it’s also good to follow along with the real world sometimes.

    It also might vary depending on the nature of each comic. So there’s absolutely no reason for, say, B.C. or Prince Valiant to acknowledge it. But it would actually strike me as unusual if, say, Jump Start or Pearls Before Swine didn’t choose to do so in some form.

    And even if a strip does acknowledge it, I don’t know if we want all the characters to be stuck inside their houses or wearing masks.

  2. re “I don’t know if we want all the characters to be stuck inside their houses or wearing masks.”

    Well, wearing masks would at least make the characters in CLOSE TO HOME and a few other strips more attractive.

    Otherwise, What Powers Said.

  3. On one hand I’d like the comics page to be an escape from the pandemic, the same way CIDU is an escape from politics.

    On the other hand, I was going to send this in as an LOL:

  4. Interesting. I don’t mind if “gag a day” strips slipped in a few pandemic jokes here and there, but I don’t think Funky Winkerbean needs to add any more creeping doom to their universe. Soap strips probably shouldn’t. Or at least not right now. Maybe wait until this clears and see how much of a lasting effect this has on the way our day to day life looks. That way they’ll know whether to adjust their strip’s universe so that it represents our new reality.

  5. Referring back to what Shrug wrote, I don’t think references to a pandemic could make Funky Winkerbean more depressing any more than masks could make Close to Home characters any uglier.

  6. Count me in for another vote for “it depends”. I would expect to see Corona material in strips like Doonesbury, Non-Sequitur, or Barney & Clyde, which are loaded with social commentary anyway, and I would enjoy seeing it in Bloom County, too (if Breathed would ever have the decency to come back out of hibernation). Of the other “gag-a-day” strips, I think “Pearls” is the only one on my list in which Corona would be a viable topic. I really don’t want to see Frazz (or Garfield) making jokes about masks.

  7. Of course, once Frazz references the virus, the strip won’t be able to ignore the fact that schools are closed and Frazz won’t have any contact with the kids.

    Except Caulfield, whom he’s apparently adopted.

  8. Pandemic, no. Social distancing and self-isolation, yes, that’s fine. I don’t want comics full of disease and death, but making fun of daily life is fine.

  9. So interestingly the comic posted in the middle of this thread almost exactly illustrates what I would want least: half-ass acknowledgements of the current situation that are both incomplete, implausible, and just wrong (not morally, but in depicting the situation). So Dean and Heart (?) (wow, I haven’t been following the strip since the characters aged!) are standing much too close to each other in a public space. So we have to suspect that this comic is not taking place in our current reality. Then the punchline is that they are wearing inappropriate masks because they are in our current reality, only they are complete doofuses, wearing “masks” in name only, and behaving inappropriately in all other regards (standing way too close together, apparently waiting for public transportation (better to walk, if you can, or even drive (I know, weird that in this case the usually worse option is better…)!), why are both of them going out if Dean is a teen now, he can go alone, or vice-versa…) as well. This kind of lameness just annoys me.

  10. All that is true, larK, and you’ve made me feel suitably guilty for having been amused, but… seeing Dean’s mom wearing a Darth Vader mask in the final panel made me chuckle.

    What can I say, I’m weak. 🙂

  11. I’m sorry B.A. for being such a curmudgeon… I did not mean to try and make you or anyone feel guilty or otherwise for getting a chuckle out of a cartoon, and yet I did go on in excruciating detail, didn’t I? And for what it’s worth, the drawings are sufficiently silly to fully warrant a chuckle, I just wish the whole had been better executed…

  12. Tom Batiuk works roughly a year ahead of publishing on Funky Winkerbean and Crankshaft… so we’ll have his take on COVID-19 to look forward to next April.

  13. @ billytheskink – What an amazingly efficient way of making sure that the strip stays out of touch with current events. Of course, it also means that even if Batuik ever does retire, it will take at least a year for his cesspool of disease and misery to dry up and vanish.

  14. SingpaoreBill’s comment matches very closely with how I think: As long as it’s funny, it’s okay. And yes, some normally funny strips occasionally go for poignant; that’s okay too as long as they don’t overdo it.

    As others mentioned, slice-of-life strips that usually take place in approximately current time *should* have references to the situation. Gag-a-day strips with no continuity can reference it on and off, but shouldn’t harp on it.

  15. And isn’t one of those Funky-verse strips doing a timeline some 5 or 10 years behind the other? So that one will not reflect contemporary reality for quite a while. …. EXCEPT that with this arrangement he has been allowing himself shortcuts to prediction and foreshadowing, so that we might see people in the 10-years-ago having thoughts on disaster prep.

  16. There’s no comic that I feel has to acknowledge it, but it’s generally fine with me if they do.

    Personally, I was fine with B.A.’s Heart of the City strip. But larK’s complaints about it point to some practical difficulties that some strips will have if they want to be realistic. Unless the main characters are all related, how are they going to have realistic, plausible interactions? Are they just going to coincidentally run into each other at the grocery store, strip after strip? (Implausible after a while, even for a comic strip.) Are the panels just going to show them talking over Zoom? (Plausible, but boring artwork.) If the panels are going to show them social distancing, as larK wants, depicting them 6 feet away, with the characters in scale, is going to require the characters to be tiny in the format of a printed newspaper. A strip like Sally Forth, or Curtis, where most of the interactions are within a single family, won’t have as many problems. But for other strips, it perhaps makes more sense to ignore the pandemic, then to try to get around these problems.

  17. There is nothing wrong with humor is unfunny situations. There is plenty of screwy stuff to fill the comic strips.

    So my take is “dying in nursing home” jokes are No NO. Hoarding toilet paper is fair game.

  18. The three-week lag is also an issue: If you draw a strip today, you have to guess where this unprecedented event will be at the end of April: Will it have become a non-issue? Will things have suddenly gone south and we’ve got a million dead?

    If I were writing a strip, I’d think about everything taking place in 2019.

  19. “I would enjoy seeing it in Bloom County, too (if Breathed would ever have the decency to come back out of hibernation).”

    Breathed has done multiple pandemic strips and artwork — including a Nighthawks parody. It is available on his Facebook page. (I don’t do Facebook, but his work is available without an account.)

    https://www.facebook.com/berkeleybreathed/

    Click on the “Photos” section and use the arrows to page back through recent postings.

  20. I would prefer none or next to none go down that direction. Lio already is, but it’s a dark comic so that’s not too bad. Do I some of the suggestions like Gasoline Alley switch to Chipper caring for C-19 patients? No. I’d just as soon most went on with an unreal world where this isn’t happening.

  21. My sister-in-law is an RN supervisor leading a C-19 team. The reports from what that really means doesn’t leave much room for comedy. The front lines are rough.

  22. Brian in STL, that’s why Hogan’s Heroes was in the kindest POW camp you could imagine and not Dachau. And even then, many people thought it was in very poor taste, 20 years after the end of the War. I agree that there is nothing funny about actual C-19. All the self-isolating stuff from North American that I’ve been seeing so far talks about being at home as kind of a big party and so much time to play. I expect the tone to change as the bodies pile up. A colleague’s uncle died from it on the weekend, so now I know someone who knows someone. Uncomfortable. So, the comics about social distancing and such will start to seem trite too, eventually.

  23. Werner Klemperer, a Jew, accepted the part of Col. Klink only on the condition that he would be portrayed as a fool who never succeeded. (Part from memory, part from Wiki.)

  24. “Hogan’s Heroes was in the kindest POW camp you could imagine and not Dachau”

    That’s what that sentence means, B.A. I assumed Dachau was sufficiently infamous.

    Robert Clary, who played LeBeau on Hogan’s Heroes was is a concentration camp survivor and he certainly sees a difference between the two. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Clary

  25. Hogan’s Heroes also took place 20 years after the events, not while it was happening.

  26. Sincere thanks to jajizi for encouraging me to take a look at Breathed’s Facebook page. It was more than worth enduring Zuckerberg’s incessant, moronic requests to login and/or register (I did neither), just to see not only a very silly “Nighthawks” parody, but also two gorgeous paintings of Frank the Janitor taking care of kids in the hospital. Wonderful!
    So, I admit that Breathed hasn’t been in complete hibernation, but all the material he’s released since early January has been either too large or too sophisticated to appear at GoComics.

  27. SingaporeBill – Hogan’s Heros was the only TV show I remember mom not letting us watch. She thought it was in terrible taste.

  28. At Gocomics some cartoonists have posted about the strips being done ahead of time and other related comments.

    I know that in the newspaper one of the advice columnists has added to the top of her columns that they were written before the crisis started. I guess she was able to add it, but not change the columns themselves.

  29. I remember that When Hogan’s Heroes was on the air, a lot of people who criticized it didn’t seem to grasp that a POW camp wasn’t the same as a concentration camp.

    Although nobody — as far as I know — had a similar problem with Stalag 17, which Hogan’s Heroes was essentially a copy of.

  30. Brian in STL. Are you saying that there were no comics making jokes about WWII while it was ongoing? Let’s put that to the test. Search term “comic strips form 1942”. First three results are as follows:

    https://dyn1.heritagestatic.com/lf?set=path%5B1%2F8%2F8%2F3%2F1883655%5D&call=url%5Bfile%3Aproduct.chain%5D

    So, within the first three results, with no reference to war in the search terms, there was a comic strip making jokes about the circumstances of the war.

  31. Of course, WW2 didn’t directly affect the lives of every American the way the virus is doing today (except in the states where people are in denial). Even in wartime Britain, during the blitz, people could go outside during the day.

  32. To be honest, I hadn’t made the connection with Monday’s Heart of the City being related to the virus.

  33. SBill’s post makes me realize how much I would love reprints of old comics pages, so you get to see each comic in context of of when and where it was published, instead of reprints of individual comics in their own separate collections. I think the few times I’ve seen something like that attempted, it was for really old comics, like before 1920, and the context was just too far off for me to be able to get into it (and as I’ve mentioned before, try as I might I just don’t get Krazy Kat, and it seems comics from that time were all like that). This little sampling SBill did makes me think that 1940s comics would be just about right — the juxtaposition of the clean crispness of Barnaby balances the big popular strip of the day in L’il Abner with its on-going stories and intricate character relations, and all that even balances out a purely soap strip like Brenda Starr. I would love to have a collection of a year or two of a typical comics page from then, and then maybe another from the mid 50s for contrast…

  34. @larK, every now and then Mike Peterson of “Comic Strip of the Day” publishes a reconstructed big page of comics from some retro date. (Now hosted on The Daily Cartoonist.)

  35. The more this discussion goes on, the less I feel like it makes sense for the comics to reflect the reality of the pandemic.

    Anything can be material for humor, if it’s done right. The Onion issue on 9-11 was done two weeks after 9-11, and was very well received. But even now, 18 years later, making a 9-11 joke requires special care. If it’s done wrong ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltBc87oKhmQ ), it can go very, very badly.

    Right now, the situtation is upsetting to many people, but also just primarily odd and unreal to many others. As SBill says, as time goes on, more and more people will know others who have died from the pandemic, and the jokes will need to be handled with increasing care, which will be difficult for a gag-a-day strip, especially since they won’t know what requires special care three weeks in the future.

    I wonder how well strips like this Barney and Clyde will hold up if a number of people die from quack Covid-19 cures: https://www.gocomics.com/barneyandclyde/2020/04/04

  36. Wayno made some relevant comments in his weekly blog.

    Speaking of being ahead of deadlines, please be kind to syndicated cartoonists when a gag comes up that seems insensitive in light of the current situation. We're all currently working on comics that will be published at least six weeks from now, and we have no idea what will be going on in the world.
    


    His URL is http://waynocartoons.blogspot.com/
    He also mentions a comment about this from Rina Piccolo, which I haven’t read yet, at https://www.comicskingdom.com/trending/blog/2020/03/28/now-more-than-ever-we-need-humor

  37. Like with a lot of things, it depends on how it’s done. I like what XKCD is doing, because it’s very on-brand, and they’ve found a way to make it amusing without being too glib. But very few other comics have the format that would let them do such a thing, and I’d rather it not be done than done badly.

  38. Are you saying that there were no comics making jokes about WWII while it was ongoing?

    No, but I wasn’t talking about jokes. I was talking about a sitcom set in a POW camp.

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