The Ten Best Comic Strips
10. For Better of For Worse (1979-2008)
We start off our top ten comic strip list with a comic which was perhaps not the funniest or most innovative, but had heart and wholesomeness and a touch of bravery. For better or for worse followed the lives of the Patterson, and throughout the strip’s run we have been able to grow along with the characters as the children grow up as kids into teenagers, then through to college, until they are grown and have kids of their own. Not many other mediums can allow for this sort of longevity through the lives of such characters, and Johnston took full advantage of that.
For Better or For Worse also had some defining moments which put it into the higher echelon of comic strips through dealing with some very serious and hot button topics for a comic. One of these moments was the death of their dog Farley, touching on a chord most other comics would never think of approaching. The comic also made headlines by having the son’s best friend come out as gay, a bold step for a family comic in 1993.
9. Dick Tracy (1931-present)
Flash Gordon may have paved the way for comic strip serials, but Dick Tracy was the comic which truely turned that concept into something special. As one of the most famous fictional crime busters, Dick Tracy introduced many to a world of detective procedural and mystery-solving forensics, as well as creating a distinct noir world with all sorts of crime villains. Gould’s strip would also introduce violence into the funny pages as well as send out a strong message concerning justice, despite how conservative it may be for some.
8. The Boondocks (1999-2006)
The best comic strips are usually political. Likewise, the best comic strips keep in perspective of the characters. The Boondocks in both. The Boondocks deals with the racial isolation of black Americans with comments on politics and black culture. McGruder managed to keep things fresh with many controversial strips due to his far-reaching liberal views. The Boondocks managed to catch a moment in culture with bravery and boldness, laying it out on the pages for all to see.
7. Pogo (1948-1975)
One of the most influential comic strips, Pogo delved heavily into satire and was one of the best at its trade. Satirizing both politics as well as basic human nature, Pogo was always interesting and often controversial. And oh yeah, it was also funny. Along with the clever humour that left its indelible mark on the funny pages, Pogo was also a masterpiece of slapstick and offered a massive variety of characters. It influenced a wide range of strips since its run and its impact will remain for a long time.
6. Krazy Kat (1913-1944)
Perhaps no comic strip has had quite the creative impact on its medium as Krazy Kat did. Krazy Kat was an allegorical fantasy filled with slapstick humour, poetry and surrealism. Critics have been praising this comic since it first appeared and have even considered it a true work of art. It has a huge fan following even today and many comic enthusiast hold it as their favourite.
5. Doonesbury (1970-present)
When one thinks of political cartons, one thinks of Doonesbury. A daily strip since 1970 (with a break or two in between), Doonesbury has been tasking the political temperature of America and the world in general for many years now. Trudeau is notorious for giving a liberal viewpoint through his strip, yet tend to criticize anyone who happens to be in power at the time. The comic is not afraid to delve into the current events of the time, covering everything from Watergate to Iran-Contra to the recent war in Iraq. Doonesbury is hot-button and controversial and always has something to say.
4. Peanuts (1950-2000)
There is probably no comic strip more well-known throughout the world than Peanuts. The trials and tribulations of Charlie Brown and his friends are perhaps the most popular to ever appear on the funny pages. Peanuts’ charm comes not in hard-biting satire or edgy humour, but rather it exists in simple, good-natured characters and simple yet effective comedy. Peanuts built a foundation on traditions such as the kite and football gags, and created some wonderful characters whose personalities actually run deeper than one may think, especially with the never-win Charlie Brown and the insatiable Lucy. Above all, Peanuts has heart and it has made its stamp on comics unlike any other.
3. Bloom County (1980-1989)
Showcasing a slice of American life and culture in the 80’s, Bloom County has become one of the most beloved comics of its time. Opus the penguin is one of the most memorable characters in comic strips. Once again, this is a political cartoon, delving into the fabric of America at that time and satirizing almost everything, from Apple computers to its fellow comic strip Garfield. Bloom County survives today in the minds of all who read this wonderfully funny and provocative strip and will continue to for many years.
2. The Far Side (1980-1995)
Chances are if you ever see anything drawn by Gary Larson you will know instantly that it was drawn by Gary Larson. The world of Far Side is distinct in its style, to be sure. But why is it really number 2 on this list? Because it is downright hilarious. Larson’s one-panel jokes don’t involve long-running characters or a serial storyline. They are simply one-shot jokes which work extremely well. The Far Side is side-splitting humour at its best. Some punchlines are really easy to grasp the moment you see it, while others take some time to sink in. It is this layered humour which makes Far Side accessible to all. The Far Side is perhaps simply the funniest creation to ever hit the newspaper pages.
1. Calvin and Hobbes (1985-1995)
Picking the number one spot for this was actually pretty easy. Calvin and Hobbes; the greatest comic strip ever. Calvin and Hobbes makes us laugh, makes us think, and makes us cry and it does so better than any other strip out there. At times it is a cute, funny cartoon and at others it is a strong statement about the world. I wouldn’t call C&H a political cartoon so much as I would call it a philosophical cartoon. Watterson’s themes deal with culture and society and usually have very strong underlying messages. Watterson’s strongest theme, however, is the creativity of children and just how wonderful their imagination can be (especially if you are into building snowmen). His message throughout the strip is to never underestimate kids; they are smarter than we give them credit for. And their creative urges should be nurtured rather than marginalized. Calvin and Hobbes is a pleasure to read every time and has earned its place at the top.