THE MORNING LINE:
From arachnids to avatars, here are our five fave cartoons for the day, culled from across the mighty mighty Web...
5. THE MIGHTY COMIC HAS CRAPPED OUT: Some syndicated cartoonists tell Comic Riffs they can't use "sucks." Some syndicate comics editors tell 'Riffs they sometimes advise against "sex," lest the word inflame a firestorm. But the Official 'Riffs Query of the Day is: On the family funnypages, O readers, how do you feel about the word "crap"?
If you don't really give a crap, then you can blissfully dive into today's "RHYMES WITH ORANGE" without a worry in the inky world. But if such "somewhat vulgar" slang befouls your sense of verbal decorum, then flee, scurry, avert your virgin eyes while ye still may. Because today, to such language mavens, Hilary Price's single-gag strip surely has crapped out.
My personal take is that even given the seemingly pre-fin de siecle sensibilities of many comics pages, this usage will get a pass from many editors and readers because of the full term "free crap." That magic adjective "free" not only leavens the context, but also takes our minds out of the outhouse. Now, were this a case of Ziggy, in a pique of existential angst shrieking, "Oh, CRAP!"...wellll, that comic -- while instantly rendering the Z-man far, far edgier -- would likely never see the light of your daily fishcrap -- er, fishwrap.
4. PRINCE HARMING: Comic Riffs is a pushover, a sucker, a flat-out sap for cartoons that co-opt kiddie tales and inject buzzphrases that have gained, or regained, their cultural currency. (Blame such tastes on my early exposure to the animated "Fractured Fairy Tales.") Which is why I grin widely at this cartoon in THE NEW YORKER, by contributor Bruce Eric Kaplan (aka "BEK"). Careful out there, you gingerbread kids -- color-coded terror alerts are surely lurking in your near-future.
3. COMMITTING INSECTICIDE: Forget all that verbiage "crap" -- the real threat to the young and the innocent is all these wanton hate crimes against arachnids. Today's "GARFIELD" has Everyone's Favorite Pasta-Cat playing whack-a-mole with insects. Ah, these poor wee 'sects (we can still say " 'sects" in the paper, right?). Meanwhile, SPIDER-MAN is dodging his own would-be arachni-maimers.
All that sparks a sudden puzzler: Who would win a literal smackdown between Spidey and Garfield? Sure, one has tingly spider-sense, but the other seems impervious to all pains except hunger. Plus: Does Garfield ultimately ever lose anything except his dignity? (Such as it is.)
2. The Atlanta Journal Constitution's MIKE LUCKOVICH is in peak form today. My fandom is twofold: (1) The pun is funny -- the height of brevity and levity with a minimum of revealed effort. But more important is (2) the shotgun kick of the satire: That in a more just world, these high-flying bankers would be behind bars instead of bankrolls. Instead, in this climate, they warrant the Shawshank Exemption. Well-spun and well-punned, Mr. Luckovich.
AND topping the charts with a literal bullet...
1. THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE: As the film "The Surrogates" opens today, Comic Riffs honestly has no idea how it will fare. Bruce Willis is an extremely solid if safe casting choice as Detective Harvey Greer, but will such a terrific graphic novel translate? I'm very eager to see.
My interests for today, though, concern the "Surrogates" follow-up prequel book of earlier this year -- "FLESH & BONE" (Vol. 2)." The prequel -- paced with all the narrative precision of a "Law & Order" or "CSI" -- is best read in short order with Volume 1. Robert Vendetti has a true flair for writing terse, dramatic dialogue for a "Blade Runner"-esque future, and artist Brett Weldele is a great match, with his dynamic lines that are somehow both strong and understated. Plus, his sense of visual balance is superb. (The ever-shifting palette of backgrounds is pretty swell, too.)
So whether "Surrogates" The Film works or not, don't let it color your sense of the graphic-novel series, which has an artistic excellence that stands brilliantly on its own. In other words: The novel needs no surrogate.
Here's a look at "Flesh and Bone":
Your comic mileage may -- nay, invariably will -- vary; feel free send along your favorite cartoon links if you've got 'em.
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PETE WENTZ: The pop star praises the vision behind "The Surrogates."