I got the Sunday paper and scanned to see what was in the news and what the issues of the season were.
The paper was full of warmed-over news and spotlight issues of the fall of 2018: Hurricane Michael smashes the Florida Panhandle, Justice Kavanaugh seated on Supreme Court, global warming, nasty Senate race in North Dakota, trade war hurting farmers, Republicans blindly following President Trump, Democrats are "unhinged extremists," the Mueller investigation moves forward, two priests in Chili defrocked because of sex abuse, women rallying in Chicago in protest of the "anti-woman agenda," and Washington Post columnist disappears from Saudi consulate in Turkey. And, on TV, the progressives at MSNBC and the conservatives on Fox News are lobbying political insult bombs at one another.
Is it any wonder that I rushed through the front page, the editorial opinions and letters to the editor and ran full speed for the sports section and the comics?
We all understand the sports section because competition is either mildly interesting or very exciting for all of us. But the comic section? Do serious adults actually read the comics? Well, I consider myself a serious adult, and I read the comics daily and weekly. Some of them, at least.
Sometime at about the end of the Kavanaugh hearings, I had gone over my limit of politics and the charges and countercharges of dishonestly, abuse of power, lack of judicial temperament, he says, she says and yadda, yadda, yadda.
Let me talk about the comics. When I was a kid, we called them "the funnies." But some of them aren't funny. Rex Morgan, MD and Mary Worth aren't funny. They're just ongoing soap operas that have continued for generations. Whether they settle their dramatic problems or not, I don't know, because I don't read them.
There are dog comics and cat comics. Marmaduke the dog is always cute and clever. It's mostly for dog lovers. Garfield the cat is mostly ugly, selfish, mean and rarely funny. I can't imagine that cat lovers are fans.
Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau and Mallard Fillmore by Blake Tinsley, both present strongly held political positions. But I read the comics to get away from political positions, so, while I don't skip them, I set them aside as adding to my irritation.
The oldest character in the comics is probably Dagwood Bumstead. Dagwood first appeared in 1933 as a young, married (to Blondie) husband and parent, so he has been in the comics for 85 years and would probably be about 110 years old today. Chic Young originated Dagwood and created his gorgeous wife, Blondie, his always-teen children, Alexander and Cookie, his grumpy demanding boss, J.C. Dithers, his snoopy mailman, Daisy the dog, long naps on the couch and his many-layered Dagwood sandwiches. Always interesting, always fun.
Dennis the Menace, created by Hank Ketchum, is the energetic, trouble-prone, mischievous but well-meaning 5-year-old who challenges his parents and frustrates his older, retired neighbor, George Wilson. Dennis first appeared in the comics in 1951, so he's about 72 years old. There is no limit to the situations he gets into. It takes a genius to create characters who can entertain us for 67 years.
Charles Schultz from St. Paul brought us the Peanuts comic strip in 1950. Schultz retired in 2000 and we have been watching reruns ever since. But the reruns never get old. The star of Peanuts is Charlie Brown, the meek, insecure, nervous kid who lacks self-confidence and can't win at baseball, can't fly a kite and who always has the football moved when he tries to kick it.
He is joined by his friend Lucy, who always moves the football and who has a stand where she provides counseling for 5 cents. His dog is Snoopy, who thinks he's a fighter pilot in World War I. Peanuts is funny and subtle on several levels.
Beetle Bailey is a goof-off army private, always frustrating his sargent, who always frustrates his lieutenant, who always frustrates the camp commander, General Halftrack, who has a beautiful secretary, Beetle's girlfriend. This combination spins new, amusing situations every week.
The Lockhorns, are a married couple who find creative means and colorful sarcasm for their constant bickering. But the theme is not a downer on marriage, it's a farce. The best comics are about kids, big and little. Baby Blues features three sibling preschoolers who take delight in cleverly teasing one another, frustrating one another and tattling on one another.
If you appreciate grandma and grandpa humor, you will enjoy Pickles to explore the fun of forgetfulness, losing hair, gaining weight and getting stumped by grandchildren.
Add Archie the teenager, Hagar the Horrible, the Viking plunderer and the middle aged Born Loser and you have my full comic lineup.
What's the point of this comic nonsense, this fiction? The point is, as it always has been, that life is more than the daily serious grind and business of making a living, disagreeing about politics, road rage, dog eat dog scrambling for survival.
We need diversions: music, art, humor and a place to get together on a playground where everybody can have fun. The comics section of the paper is that playground.