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© 2003 Brian F. Schreurs
Even we have a disclaimer.

Jim Davis is the poster boy for ultra-bland comics.
We still read the local newspaper for several reasons:

  • There's no other source for local news.
  • It's good to have a daily reminder of why we stopped working for newspapers.
  • It's fun to spot the errors, and then read the pedantic letters to the editor written by people who decry the decline of modern copyediting out of one side of their mouth while complaining that the 35-cent home-delivered newspaper is just too darn expensive out of the other.
  • We like the comics page.

Unfortunately, as time goes by it has become clear that you could take almost any comic on today's page and swap it with the same strip from five years ago, and you'd probably never notice. The art is the same, the content is the same, the jokes are the same, they're all stuck in a rut! There is very little cutting-edge stuff going on in the comics section.

On the other hand, we're not the type to sit here and weep into our milk that there's nothing good out there ever since Breathed, Watterson, and Larson retired. No, there's still plenty of good talent, it's just sometimes harder to find than it was. To that end, The O Pine presents its Comics Page:

Dilbert by Scott Adams.
"Dilbert" is starting to show its age and is in grave danger of Garfieldization ("oh look, another I-hate-Mondays joke"), but since we're in the IT biz we still can't resist our daily dose. It's just too close to home.

For Better or For Worse by Lynn Johnston.
What, too dorky for you? Tough! We've never seen a strip before or since that does such a marvelous job of finding the humor in everyday lives. And since we're only about two years older than Michael, it was almost like growing up with the comic (Man, it really burned us up when Michael got his first kiss before we did! How pathetic is comic envy?). Believe it or not, this clever and seemingly innocent strip has had to contend with censorship issues. Enjoy it while it lasts, because interviews we've seen have indicated that Johnston may be looking at retirement. In the meantime, the website offers all kinds of interesting features. Click on "Strip Fix" for the latest edition.

Get Fuzzy by Darby Conley.
The talking-housepet genre doesn't get much better than this. Conley's Bucky, Satchel, and Rob loosely follow the "Garfield" mold -- smartass cat, stupid dog, clueless owner -- except it's actually funny. Though Conley steers clear of any real controversy, he does a great job with what he's got.

Liberty Meadows by Frank Cho.
Bloody brilliant, this strip is reminiscent of "Bloom County" except with the insanity notched up and the politics notched down. Cho famously battles his syndicate over censorship issues, and in fact when we wrote this we thought he'd abandoned newspapers entirely for comic-book style. But if you click on "toons" on his webpage, it takes you straight to today's edition of the strip. Could be they're reruns -- the FAQ doesn't seem to address this. Also don't miss the gallery of uncensored strips.

Mutts by Patrick McDonnell.
Mutts often gets a bit on the sentimental side, so as far as humor goes it can be pretty uneven. But the drawing is clever and McDonnell's ability to capture the animal perspective is uncanny (as far as we know -- after all, the animals can't tell us how good a job he's doing). From what we've seen, animal lovers think Mutts is great and everyone else is pretty indifferent. That probably betrays our own loyalties. Scroll to the bottom of the linked page to see the most recent strip (on a two-week delay because King Features is stupid and won't allow online readers to see the latest stuff).

Penny Arcade by Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins.
This is an online-only comic, and that's where it's destined to remain forver due to its crude humor and coarse language. It aims for the entire netgeek/gamer culture and is usually right on target. It's one of those topical humor strips where an outsider probably won't get it, but man if you know one of these guys it'll have you ROFL. (Ha ha, see, that's a little joke of our own right there... oh never mind.)

Piranha Club by Bud Grace.
The comic strip formerly known as "Ernie". Bud's bizarre sense of humor seems to get him censored quite often (judging from the archives on his website), but that might be expected in a strip where most of the characters are criminals. Sometimes the strip is just weird, but you can count on it going places other strips won't tread. Monkey slaves, anyone?

Sherman's Lagoon by Jim Toomey.
The idea of a comic strip based on sea creatures doesn't seem like it should work, but somehow it does, even when the characters are in ridiculously human environments. Part of the appeal, no doubt, is the highly expressive art and the topical humor, but the fact that Sherman and Megan cook and eat other characters from time to time certainly helps. You'll never get that in "Garfield". Click on "toons" in the menu bar to see the latest strip.