Monday, December 11, 2006

He Always Gives Me His Funny Papers

My pal Cliff always saves the Sunday funny pages for me. This was originally because the venerable adventure comic strip Prince Valiant had been taken over by two comic book creators, Mark Schultz and Gary Gianni. The Atlanta paper doesn't carry Prince Valiant, but the Rome Georgia paper does. Cliff, who grew up in the Rome area, gets that paper and knowing I would like to read the strip, started keeping the Sunday pages for me. Since he also knows that I don't subscribe to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution or the Marietta Daily Journal, he started saving those Sunday comics sections for me as well. He usually lets them gather for a few weeks and then brings me a big pile of them. This is cool because it allows me to read several weeks of Prince Valiant at a sitting, almost like a comic book.
I get a kick out of all the other comic strips as well. The Rome paper has The Phantom and Dick Tracy, which are two of my favorites from way back. Between the other papers I also get to read Mutts, Snuffy Smith, B.C., The Wizard of Id, and the classic reprints of Peanuts. I am constantly amazed at how funny and insightful the old Peanuts strips are.
I have long been fascinated by the American comic strip. My parents gave me a book called the History of the Comic Strip by Maurice Horn when I was eight or nine. That led to me checking out big hardbound collections of old comic strips from the local library. This was before I started seriously reading comic books, so I actually learned to recognize the works of Milton Caniff, Alex Raymond, Burne Hogarth, and Hal Foster before I ever heard of Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, Alex Toth, Jack Cole, and all the other pioneers of comic books. In some ways this is fitting since it was the work of Foster and company that originally inspired the early writers and artists of comic books. The first Superman and Batman stories contain art swipes from Foster and Raymond respectively, in fact.
Anyway, in case I haven't said thanks lately, Thanks Cliff, for saving the Sunday funnies for me, and helping me keep in touch with my favorite American artform.

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