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Comic strips continue to reflect society.

From the very beginning, comic strips were more than something to tickle the funny bone, according to Lucy S. Caswell, associate professor of journalism, Ohio State University, and curator of the Cartoon, Graphic, and Photographic Arts Research Library. The library is the word's largest academic repository of cartoon art, with more than 200,000 original works by over 1,000 artists. Their continued sucsess is evident as the nation gets ready to celebrate the centennial of the newspaper comic strip in 1995.

Comic strips consist of a sequence of published drawings that contain speech within the drawing, often in a balloon, and continuing characters. Traditionally, they were distinguished from editorial cartoons by usually having a series of panels and going for the laugh, whereas editorial cartoons tended to have only one panel with political commentary in the illustration. Editorial cartoons rarely were funny or intended to be funny, but those distinctions were blurred.

"In recent years, the use of humor in editorial cartoons is much more prevalent than it used to be," Caswell points out. "More people are using a series of little pictures in their editorial cartoons and going for laughs, which are not necessarily related. Jules Feiffer does a series of drawings quite often, but the doesn't do gag cartoons. Usually, his works is very biting.

"I'm also amused that people think having political comment in comic strips is inappropriate. Political comment is in the eye of the beholder." She pints to "Steve Canyon," which depicted life in the Air Force. "Milton Caniff was political, but it depended on whether you agreed with him. If you had questions about the military's presence or role, you did."

Cathy Guisewhite drew a series of "Cathy" strips that described her views on day care issues when Michael Dukakis rann against George Bush for president. "People were outraged and some editors yanked her strip off the comics page. That's silly. There's political comment in other strips." There always has been, she emphasizes. "`Doonesbury' is very political. Wlath Kelly [creator of `Pogo'] was political. Al Capp's `Li'l Abner' had plenty of political and social satire."

The comic strip is a reflection of American life, Caswell maintains. Although full of political and social satire, most of them reflect mainstream values. Comic strips also reflect social change. Examples are the increase in the number of female characters in the workfoce and the nature of problems in public schools.

Blondie and Lois [from `Hi and Lois'] got jobs. `Sally Forth' is about a career woman. These comic strips show changes in family relationships. `Blondie,' which started in the 1930's shows a different family relationship than `Sally Forth' or `For Better or For Worse.'" Moreover, Tom Batiuk has discussed social issues such as teen pregnancy, teacher strikes and other problems in public education in "Funky Winkerbean."
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Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Aug 1, 1995
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