LESLIE CRISS: Comics offer laughter and often some illumination

By Leslie Criss/NEMS Daily Journal

“True, comics are a popular art, and yes, I believe their primary obligation is to entertain, but comics can go beyond that, and when they do, they move from silliness to significance.” – Bill Watterson (cartoonist and author of “Calvin and Hobbes”)

My first connection to the comics came on a long-ago Easter Sunday.
I’ve no crystal-clear memory of what year it was or if I was, at the time, even old enough to read. I do know I’d not yet developed my passion for papers of the newspaper kind.
But I do remember the Easter Bunny had left in my basket, along with an assortment of Eastery confections, an egg-shaped package of something called Silly Putty.
It was later in the day when my grandparents visited and my grandfather showed me a trick.
“If you stretch it out, flatten it and then press it down on the funny papers, you’ll see the comic strip on the Silly Putty,” he said. Or something similar.
So, I tried it, leery of the outcome. But he was right.
When I peeled back the putty from the paper, I could see, in full, Dagwood, Blondie and Daisy the dog.
Though the bright primary colors of the comics were muted by the putty’s pink background, the process still seemed somehow magical.
And that was before I’d read a single word.
Later, after I’d put the putty aside, I became intrigued by the antics of Beetle Bailey and Sarge, the bumbling of the Bumsteads, the philosophies of Charlie Brown and friends, and the amazing social and religious commentary often found in “B.C.”
“Mary Worth” and “Apartment 3G” gave me my first taste of dramatic comic strips – a soap opera on paper. And who has ever worked in an office setting and not appreciated “Dilbert?” And how could anyone deny Berk Breathed is a genius?

Memorable message
I fell in love quickly with a 6-year-old boy named Calvin, and Hobbes, his stuffed tiger. I still keep a yellowed strip from years ago that’s contains one of the most powerful messages about war I’ve ever seen. The strip starts with Hobbes, toy gun in hand, asking Calvin, “How come we play war and not peace?” Their game of war commences as Calvin explains that whichever one gets hit with a plastic dart dies and the other side wins.
As the strip ends, both shoot each other, pause, realize no one wins, and Calvin speaks for both, “Kind of a stupid game, isn’t it?”
Powerful stuff.
My friend and colleague M. Scott Morris has spent most of the past week or so tirelessly tallying results from the comic surveys received by readers. He didn’t even grumble. Much. And he’s gotten by with a little help from his friends.
Check out the results below. It’s good to know there’s still some interest in the comics.
See you in the funny papers.

Contact Leslie Criss at leslie.criss@journalinc.com or (662) 678-1584.