Special anniversary post

by Alex Hern

In case it passed you by, this Sunday is the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the day the classics department in my old school was opened. (I wonder if they still have the slightly awkward plaque up announcing that fact? I remember even then recognising that that was a pretty inopportune day to have a dedication ceremony).

Anyway, to… well, celebrate is the wrong word… acknowledge? the anniversary, a bunch of things are happening, but one of the stranger ones is that the five big syndicators of American newspaper strips have announced that nearly one hundred of their strips will publish material reflecting the anniversary. Now… OK, I fucking love Doonesbury, but I don’t think anyone is really surprised that Trudeau would be publishing something to do with 9/11. It’s basically a political strip. The same goes for a couple of the other ones on that list, as well. I know Mallard Filmore likes to view itself as a right-wing equivalent to Doonesbury (rather than just being a festering pile of crap), so that makes sense.

But… Newspaper Spider-Man? A comic strip famous for being not only the worst portrayal of its character in any medium, ever, but just as famous for being completely hilarious completely by accident? The damn thing is still written by Stan Lee.

Stan Lee: Inspiration or Insane?I can’t wait to see how he deals with writing an anniversary strip for one of the most traumatic events in our collective consciousness. I sincerely hope he doesn’t wuss out and just do some standalone art. I want to see him trying to top the (in)famous Amazing Spider-Man #36, source of the crying Doom…

Doom, you’re one of the greatest mass-murderers in the history of your world. You wouldn’t cry at 9/11, you’d mock its failure to knock down the Baxter building instead!

And some of the others? Tom Batuik’s doing two? Given how upsetting his stuff is normally, I feel it ought to come with a public health warning.

I suppose, being cynical, this is a good move on the part of the syndicates. While American political cartooning has always been atrocious compared to ours over here (compare: anything in any American paper ever, to Steve Bell or Martin Rowlands), they used to have the upper ground on the actual strips. From Little Nemo through Peanuts to Calvin and Hobbes, some of the greatest examples of that art, ever, used to reside in the funnypages of US papers. Nowadays, I’m not so sure. I still love Doonesbury, just like I still love if…, but it’s pretty clear where the new talent is now, huh? So anything that encourages me to take a look back at old newspaper comics could be good. Maybe one of them is a diamond in the rough? (Of course, I’ll pass over the fact, for now, that half of the strips won’t even be available to me in the UK…)

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