Some people learn to paint by numbers. I learned to read by colors. Or at least, I got the knack of this reading thing in color.
A Sunday newspaper was spread on the floor of the screened-in front porch of our small two-bedroom frame house.
It was the spot where Dad liked to occasionally drink a beer (and where I pestered him until he let me have a sip). The sections were scattered as Dad made his way through them. The colored Sunday comic section quickly caught my young eyes.
I rapidly wanted to learn more. Dad put down the sports section and patiently helped me pronounce and learn the words. He also helped me learn the names of the different strips. Many of the comics exist now only in memories and antique stores.
“Mutt and Jeff” survives today as a cliché for an altitudinally mismatched couple. I’ll always remember that swamp critter, “Pogo,” for his t-shirt – “We Have Met The Enemy And He Is Us.” “Nancy” and “Katzenjammer Kids” have disappeared, but “Blondie,” “Dick Tracy,” “Prince Valliant” and “Beetle Bailey” still survive and thrive.
I eventually made my way from Dad’s lap to my own spot on the floor, able to read and laugh on my own with only a little help from the supervising parental figure. Dessie Bullington’s Reader’s Shop was strategically located next to the Post Office in our town.
Dad would often stop there on his way back to the office for a new paperback or maybe an out-of-town newspaper. A cunning merchant, Dessie had the best comic book selection in town. I would wheedle and beg. Dad would relent and I would come home with a new comic book once a week or so.
The comic books seemed a natural progression from the comic pages. Dad explained in later years that he figured it mattered little if I read the Sunday comics or the latest Bugs Bunny comic book, as long as I developed a love for reading. I have no doubt that he was right.
Although newspapers continue to reduce the number of comics and the gray area between comic humor and political commentary becomes murkier, I hope the two prolong the relationship as long as both shall exist.
Comics sometimes make you smile, but they almost always make you think. A simple pen and ink sketch can sometimes say more than the mandatory 1,000 words. The famous “Gerrymander” cartoon first appeared in print in 1812, making a pointed political comment and giving the English language a new word.
Pulitzer’s “Yellow Kid” brought humor and sensationalism to America’s front pages, coining the phrase yellow journalism. New comics have stepped forward to entertain and preach. Gary Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” turned 50 this year.
Fortunately, we still have “Peanuts,” “Blondie,” “Wizard of Id” and “B.C.” At the Jimplecute, we are proud to bring you political cartoons by Lisa Benson. Her art and her commentary can elevate and illuminate any issue.
Jimplecute readers are encourage to submit their own cartoons if they wish. Just mail or email your sketch to us. We just might use it.
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