What’s missing from your newspaper?

We all have our favorite comic strips. Sure, we can read them online, or in a collection. But there’s nothing like the joy of opening your newspaper and seeing a brand new comic strip with your favorite characters staring up at you. Obviously, it’s not possible to have every comic strip in every paper. There are issues with space, syndicates, contracts with other papers, etc.

But, for a moment, let’s imagine that you were the one who decided which comic strips went in the newspaper that you read every day. What would you add? One caveat… the strip needs to be currently created. (No fair asking to see Calvin in your paper; Bill Watterson retired 15 years ago. And yes, it’s really been that long, the last strip ran in 1995.)

Personally, I’d love to see Stone Soup in my newspaper (which is The Washington Post.) I try to catch up with Val, Joan, Wally, Andy, Holly, Alyx, Evie and Max as much as possible online… but I always end up missing part of the plot. The books just can’t come out fast enough.

How about you? What’s missing from your paper?

Calvin and Hobbes postage stamp

Are you a fan of Calvin and Hobbes? (Who isn’t?)

For the first time ever, Calvin and his stuffed tiger legally appear on something other than a book. In July, the United States Postal Service released a collection of “Sunday Funnies” stamps . Ironically, the Calvin stamp is included with several long running comics that haven’t known when to leave the party.

Archie first appeared in 1946, Beetle Bailey in 1950, Dennis the Menace in 1951 and Garfield in 1978. All are still being published, even if the original creator has passed away or is only marginally involved. In stark contrast, Bill Watterson drew every panel of Calvin and Hobbes and it only ran from 1985 to 1995. As a children’s librarian, I can tell you that Calvin isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, it’s probably the most popular series at our library… not just counting comics.

In 2006, Andrews McMeel released a beautiful three volume set called The Complete Calvin and Hobbes. I’ve never read it. Do you know why? Because it contains every single strip. If I don’t read it, there’s always a possibility that I’ll find one more book or one more strip I haven’t read.

Check out this interview with cartoonist Bill Watterson, his first in over 20 years. I have a lot of respect for him for never allowing his characters to be commercially licensed. Also, I think he makes a valid point in the article about knowing when to walk away.

Have you read every Calvin and Hobbes strip and wish there were more? Take a look at Frazz, currently in the newspapers. It’s got a similar philosophy and sense of humor that Calvin does, with its own quirks thrown in. It’s one of my favorite comic strips.

Originally posted at Wizards Wireless.

Sheldon

For a full helping of awesomeness, head over to Sheldon. It’s about a 10 year old billionaire, his aging grandpa, a talking duck and his lizard son. Plus more!

This is one of those strips that I wish everybody read. Cartoonist Dave Kellett makes me laugh every single day and he’s eased my transition to web comics.

I own tons of collections (including all the Sheldon books of course)… but I only own one original comic strip. It’s this Sheldon strip and I never fail to find it hysterical.

Familiar with Sheldon? Just discovered it? Let me know what you think. Don’t forget to check out Drive, Dave’s new sci fi comic.

Farewell, Cathy

After 34 years, Cathy Guisewite has decided to end her long running comic strip Cathy. The strip has often been criticized for repetitiveness, but the writing and artwork in Cathy has come a long way since 1976.

The first published strips

Say what you will about Cathy, but keeping a comic strip going everyday for three and a half decades is an incredibly impressive feat. In contrast, Calvin and Hobbes only lasted for ten years.

My favorite Cathy book by far is The Wedding of Cathy and Irving. I felt that Cathy Guisewite had so much fun working with new topics and issues… and it really shows in this collection.

Congratulations, Cathy, on a long run. Enjoy your retirement from the dailies… you’ve definitely earned it!

Comic Strips for Kids

There’s a magical series in the world of children’s books. I’ve seen kids who hate to read devour these books. The copies at the library I work at keep falling apart and we can never keep the books on the shelf. When I worked in a bookstore, I was always tripping over kids in the aisles who had sat down to read right in front of where these books were displayed. I’ve watched everyone from 6 to 60 become mesmerized by them. What’s the name of this incredible series that casts such a spell? Calvin and Hobbes.

Look at the picture below. Doesn’t it make you want to read the book? Go ahead. Give it a try.

Essential Calvin.jpg

Bill Watterson’s comic strip about a hyper kid and his stuffed tiger ran in the newspapers for only ten years, from 1985 to 1995. It’s been fourteen years since the last strip appeared and Calvin’s popularity doesn’t seem to have waned for a minute. It’s a timeless creation that can be enjoyed by nearly every age.

What does this have to do with children’s books? Reading is reading, no matter what form it takes. Popular comic strip such as Calvin and Hobbes frequently sell out in bookstores and have incredibly high circulation rates in public and school libraries. Children and teenagers ask all the time for Calvin, Zits, Foxtrot, Garfield and Peanuts. Unfortunately, at least half of the time I get a request for a comic strip book, I hear a parent tell their child that they shouldn’t be wasting their time with comics, and urging the kid to pick out better books.

This pains me every time I hear it. Calvin is somebody kids can relate to. He has temper tantrums, he gets in trouble, he has a huge imagination and he doesn’t always pay attention. In short, he’s a typical kid. And the books are full of are full of complex words and ideas that challenge readers.

Think about a child who is struggling with reading. A chapter book full of words can be completely overwhelming but a comic strip is far less threatening and full of visual cues. Comic strips can help kids learn to read and develop a sense of humor. Reading a small number of panels to get to the punch line can give kids a sense of accomplishment. A collection can be put down and picked up at any time without interrupting the continuity. And most important, comic strips can show kids how fun reading can be.

My husband and I have completely different literary tastes. When we got married and merged our book collections, there was only one series that we both owned and because we had both collected it as children. Garfield.

The next time you see your child gaze longingly at Calvin and his stuffed tiger, let them give it a try, even if you think they’re too young to get the jokes. Or hand a collection to a kid who’s struggling and feeling unsuccessful at school. It might make a bigger difference than you think.

Originally posted at PBS Booklights