May 5 is National Cartoonist’s Day, So Let’s Talk Comics!
My favorite section of the newspaper has always been the comics. Ever since I was old enough to read, the first section I would go to was the comics, then move on to the rest of the paper.
While most Americans know May 5th as Cinco de Mayo (or Revenge of the Fifth if you're a Star Wars fan), it's also National Cartoonist's Day. So I thought I'd do a quick list of five comic strips I wish were in the Tribune. Every time there is a change in the comics page roster, I hope the replacement would be one of these.
I should clarify. I made this list using five comics that, to my knowledge, have never been in the Tribune. If I were to go by strips that had been in at one point, but were removed or replaced, it would be a very different list.
5. Mark Trail (Daily and Sunday)
Like many Montanans, land and animal conservation is pretty important to me, and Mark Trail has been all about those issues since the strip started in 1946. The strip follows Mark, a journalist for an outdoor magazine, as he goes about his job and gets into situations the likes of which you'd (hopefully) only find in the funny pages.
I will admit that the tone of the strip can get more than a bit too preachy for my taste at times. That said, one thing I like is that that while the daily strips follow a storyline, the Sunday strips are educational/informative, with a different subject every week.
4. The Amazing Spider-Man (Daily and Sunday)
Yes, there is a Spider-Man newspaper comic strip, started by none other than Stan Lee back in 1977, with storylines separate from any of the other versions of the franchise, past or present.
As a little kid, reading this strip in the Billings Gazette was my introduction to superhero comics. Sadly, the strip ended in March 2019, and reruns of previous storylines are what is being published now, with no word on when or if it will be revived.
3. FoxTrot (Sundays only)
I'm a fan of geek humor, and this strip regularly provides it. Somehow, this strip manages to blend family humor, pop and geek culture, math, science and technology into a comic strip that has lasted for 35 years.
Originally running strips every day of the week, it shifted to Sundays only in 2007.
2. Dick Tracy (Daily and Sundays)
Of the five comics here, this is the one I've most recently started reading. It's also the oldest on this list, first published in October 1931. The saga of the iconic detective with the yellow trenchcoat and fedora, going up against criminals with distinctive appearances and character traits (plus some very on-the-nose names), has lasted almost 100 years now.
I just want to take a moment to point out the influence of this comic, even on people who've never read it. When smartwatches first came out, was there anyone whose mind didn't immediately jump to Dick Tracy's Two-Way Wrist Radio and its subsequent incarnations? I know in my family, we still jokingly refer to someone making or taking a phone call on a smartwatch as 'playing Dick Tracy'.
1. The Phantom (Daily and Sundays)
Another one of the longest running newspaper comics around. First appearing in 1936, The Phantom is quite possibly the first superhero comic (Superman debuted in 1938, Batman in 1939), with some of the first depictions of now-standard superhero conventions, such as a secret identity, skintight costume and a mask that doesn't show visible pupils.
I was first introduced to The Phantom with the 1996 movie starring Billy Zane and Kirsty Swanson. Years later, once I had Internet access better than dial-up, I would learn that the movie was based off a comic that had been in newspapers since 1936. Later still, once I actually started reading the strip, I found out that the plot of the movie contained elements pulled from some of the earliest storylines from the comics, which is why the movie was set in the 1930's.
So there's my list. So now it's my turn to ask: What is your favorite newspaper comic strip, past or present? What comic strip or strips do you wish were in the Tribune? Provided, of course, any of you still read the Tribune.