Those who know me are aware that I collect literature, in which comics are included. But my love for comics is not limited to comicbooks or graphic novels. It also extends to comic strips. Yes, I even collect newspaper comic strips!
When I was a little kid, before I got interested with current events, sports, entertainment, and others, the only part of the newspaper that I read was the “funnies”, or the comic strips. Of course, as a small kid, same as reading comicbooks, I only find cartoon or comic strips fun because it is illustrated. Back then, I haven’t appreciated yet the genius of being able to deliver humor and punchlines in less than four panels. Sometimes, in just one! As I grew up, I realize and appreciate more how talented and dedicated the creators of these strips really are. Being able to think of gags for each day, being able to create a drawing style that would give a strip its identity, to create storylines in serialized form, to simultaneously be a writer and an illustrator… cartoonists are really admirable artists.
I actually find it hard selecting a ten since I enjoyed reading a lot of cartoon strips, but, nonetheless, I narrowed it to ten…
10.) "THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN" by STAN LEE
This is only the non-funny comic strip in this list. Though, we can count on Spider-Man to give us his usual arsenal of witty quotes and comebacks.
The Spider-Man syndicated cartoon strip was initially written by Spidey’s creator, Stan Lee (and penciled by John Romita). Now, the name “Stan Lee” is still the one credited in each strip, but I think it has been more of a pseudonym for different writers assigned on it throughout the years.
It made the list because Spidey is my most favorite comicbook character and the strip’s comicbook namesake is one of my most favorite comicbooks. The serialized storylines in these series has the vintage feel in it, which makes it special. Yes, it lacks in action and quality storylines compared to the Spider-Man comicbooks, but when I was a kid, this was the strip that I was most excited to read when I get my hands on the newspaper.
Moreover, one thing that made this strip – or at least its continuity – better than its comicbook namesake and its continuity is that Pete and MJ are still married in this one.
9.) "THE FAR SIDE" by GARY LARSON
The Far Side is usually a one-panel comic that details outrageous or bizarre scenarios regarding a variety of topics. It is usually a combination of visual gag with a caption (though word balloons are sometimes used) that amplifies and explains the gag. I really find these improbable situations that Hart visualized pretty amusing and clever… and all this by the use of only one-panel.
8.) "DILBERT" by SCOTT ADAMS
Dilbert’s setting is found in a corporation, thus most of the gags are the centered on the office and corporate environment. The strip pokes fun on the usual stereotype conditions and people we find in a business culture. Themes like mismanagement, incompetency, business ethics, social lives of business persons, bureaucracy, budgeting, and other business themes are cleverly satirized in its context.
7.) "CALVIN AND HOBBES" by BILL WATTERSON
Calvin gets the better on “Dennis the Menace”, because of Calvin’s brilliant imagination. The concept of how Calvin imagines his stuffed toy tiger to life and made him his best friend and how he can imagine vivid adventure situations for his tiger and himself is pure genius. Calvin and Hobbes’ adventures and misadventures are fun and entertaining, as well as the scenes that look at Calvin’s relationship with family and classmates. Though it is the type of comic strip that would not explicitly lampoon or make fun of pop culture and political or socioeconomic issues, since it’s centered on kids, it subtly does so from time to time.
6.) "BULLPEN BITS" by CHRIS GIARRUSSO
Bullpen Bits is a strip that depicts characters of the Marvel Universe as kids. Though it has evolved to a comic book named “Mini Marvels”, it started as a cartoon strip in Marvel Comics’ Bullpen Bulletins pages.
I find the concept very creative, the mini-Marvel characters adorable, and the gags very good. Those who are not familiar with Marvel Comics mythos might not be able to appreciate how good the gags are, though. It also has several Peanuts allusions. It even had a tribute when Charles Schulz passed away.
5.) "B.C." by JOHNNY HART
I was weighing which cartoon strip set in a past era but has modern pop culture references I should put in this list and it came down to “Hagar the Horrible” and “B.C.” B.C. won out because allusions on modern concepts are more hilarious when set on prehistoric times (though some theorized that the setting is in a post-apocalyptic time, that’s why it has references on modern day things). And Hart successfully created a variety of characters, scenarios and running-jokes to apply this advantage.
4.) "PEANUTS" by CHARLES SCHULZ
It’s a no-brainer, really. Any list of top comic strips will have Peanuts in it. It’s probably the most successful cartoon strip ever.
The main character, Charlie Brown, is a meek, unlucky, but charming kid that finds it hard to be successful in simple things like making people like him, fly a kite, or win a baseball game. Sure, it’s not that unusual, but the incidents of the failures are hilarious. He is surrounded by a diverse and charming bunch of characters, including Linus, a kid who has an obsession with his security blanket, Lucy, the tomboyish bossy sister of Linus, Schroeder, a die-hard Beethoven fan, and Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s dog which became a pop culture icon. All about “Peanuts” is loveable and wholesome.
I love “Peanuts” so much that the cartoon strip’s compilations were the first cartoon strip volumes I had started collecting.
3.) "BEERKADA" by LYNDON GREGORIO
Beerkada is a combination of the words “Beer” and “Barkada”, the Filipino word for a clique of friends. Based on the title, we can presume what the strip is about. It’s about a “barkada” who loves “beer”, not necessarily drinking beer all the time, but the symbolism of beer sessions, which is hanging out with friends. The Beerkada adventures are all related to pop culture of this generation, sometimes even doing spoofs of popular movies or comicbook storylines.
The characters of Beerkada are all interesting, but my favorite is Jimmy, the epitome of naivety and cluelessness. I like him because despite of his extreme naivety, any attempts of taking advantage of him backfires to those who do so. He also managed to not only survive in life but be successful in things without having no idea on how he was able to get it, like being able to get a girlfriend, which became his wife, and graduating magna cum laude! Heck, when his wife announced that she was pregnant, Jimmy was clueless, asking the question, “How did it happen?” Jimmy is a better and funnier version of Forrest Gump. The other characters, as I’ve said, are interesting as well – representing stereotypes like the babe, the geek/nerd, the creep, the average, etc. Each member of the gang brings a unique charm.
What I like most about this strip is that it is set in “real time”, meaning there is growth and development in the characters, progressing from different stages of life, from college to graduation to graduate school or work life. And the scenarios and gags are really appropriate to my generation as we grow up ourselves.
2.) "BLOOM COUNTY" by BERKELEY BREATHED
This is an old cartoon strip that ran during the 80’s. I was only able to become aware of it because Nephi, a friend, lent me some volumes of it. And, oh boy, I found this comic legendary. Saying that the gags were witty, clever and timely (at least, when it first came out. I know my history so I appreciated the gags about the current events of that time) is an understatement. The characters are definitely diverse – a mix of human characters and anthropomorphic animals with different backgrounds and personalities, that brings their own individual contribution on making each gag or storyline hilarious. The gags varied from situational, to spoofs, to satirizing, ridiculing, and criticisms on popular people, significant issues, current events and socioeconomic topics relevant to the 80’s. The style of humor that Bloom County delivered is like a prototype on what the web comics use these days.
1.) "PUGAD BABOY" by POL MEDINA, JR.
I might have a hard time ranking numbers 2 to 9, but there was no doubt that this would be my number one. It is because it is the cartoon strip that was able to make me laugh hysterically… many times. Being a Filipino, I love it because the gags and spoofs have more impact since most references are relevant to Filipino culture, sentiments and concepts. This strip has even been said to be the Philippine version of “Doonesbury.”
The cartoon strip is about a “baranggay” or “pugad” (“nest” in English) or community of fat people (this is where the “baboy”, Filipino for pig, in the title fits in). The storylines and gags are varied, ranging from adventures to drama to mysteries to spoofs or criticisms of popular people, politics, events, movies, or ideas. Though, being fat is their similarity, the characters are heterogeneously assorted. The characters in it includes a soldier, a chef (that is also a stereotype of a Filipino head of the family), a feminist, a corrupt politician, “piglets” or the children characters, an ex-convict, a Communist rebel, a Chinese immigrant, a gay, a mechanic, an Overseas Foreign Worker, an anthropomorphic dog, non-fat characters, etc. and other recurring characters. Thus, Medina has the luxury of being able to select characters from this rich collection that would be appropriate for certain scenarios or storylines. The running gags are also great, which includes the ex-con tough guy’s (“Igno) phobia to ghosts and the supernatural, the househelp’s (“Brosia”) constant insults of her employer’s baldness (“Dagul”), the dog (“Polgas”) being a secret agent, and the soldier (“Tomas”) being an “under-de-saya” (a Filipino term for a husband that is afraid and subordinated to his wife) to his wife (“Barbie”).
I love Pugad Baboy so much that I own all its compilation volumes so far, minus volumes two, ten, and twenty.