My View: Comics and cartoons can be both nostalgic and timely | Opinion

In my random conversations with people, I’ve been wont to refer to cartoons and comic strips. Often, I find that the other person has no idea to what I am referring to. On further conversation, I learn that he or she hasn’t the slightest interest in cartoons or comic strips and has little experience with them. I walk away somewhat puzzled that someone in this day and age is ignoring very effective news comments.

Let me be clear, I absolutely adore comic strips and cartoons even when I don’t agree with their politics. They’re the first things I read in the paper every day. They help me face the rest of the news.

The comics and I go back many years. As a child, I looked forward to the evening paper to see what my favorite people were doing. Since my earliest days, I’ve loved stories and storytellers. They opened whole new worlds to me. Fantasy fascinated me. This was coupled with the radio stories that were all the rage in the 30s and 40s. Radio was king in those days, especially the serial stories for young people and adults. It was not unusual to walk down the street on a summer day and – from the open windows – hear homemakers listening to their favorite sagas. You could hear the voices of the characters in “Backstage Wife,” “The Guiding Light,” “The Story of Mary Marlin,” “Ma Perkins,” “Our Gal Sunday” and many others. The list could go on and on. I rushed home from school each day to catch the next episode of “Tom Mix,” “Don Winslow of the Navy,” “Little Orphan Annie” and “The Old Wrangler” before supper. In the evenings there were programs for families, including “Mr. Keene, Tracer of Lost Persons,” “Fibber McGee and Molly,” “I Love a Mystery” and, later in the evening, scary stories from “Inner Sanctum.” And of course, the evening would not be complete without the cultural programs. There was no end to the number and kinds of entertainment available. It certainly kept us going through the Depression and into good times.

But I digress. Back then, the local newspapers also boasted full pages of the popular comics strips: “The Katzenjammer Kids,” “The Toonerville Trolley,” “Mutt and Jeff,” “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” and so many more. Cartoon artists are taken pretty much for granted, but they are such a creative group who, daily on deadline, produce new worlds we can enter. I believe it is just short of miraculous.

My first experience with hands-on comic material was when someone in the neighborhood introduced me to “Big Little” books. They were compact books with text on one side and illustrations on the other side. I vividly remember the first one I read with great delight. It was the “Adventures of Dick Tracy.” Through the kindness of neighborhood kids, I got to read a number of fascinating books. As it turned out, they played a big part in my ability to read and enjoy reading.

Jump to the present day, especially the cartoons, but also many of the comic strips are not just entertainment, but are making insightful and searching statements about our society. I even remember a very clever priest using the comic character “Pogo” in his homilies to make important points and oh, how I miss “Calvin and Hobbes” to this day. If you haven’t heard the call to comics, give it a try. A picture is still worth a thousand words.

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