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Posted at 09:35 AM ET, 10/20/2009

'Riffs Picks: From iPhone art to the 'Addams Family' obit, today's eye-catching images

Taking care of cartooning's breakout hits...

In comics, the '80s are remembered by many with a halycyon glow, thanks especially to a trio of beacons: the brilliant creative lights who launched the masterworks "Calvin and Hobbes," "Bloom County" and "The Far Side." Largely because of them, the '80s are often cited as a golden age of comics. And then in the '90s, such strips as "Dilbert," "Zits," "Mutts" and "The Boondocks" lent plenty of creative heft to that decade.

Now, in these shifting times for comics strips, the industry especially needs its beacons -- its cartoonists whose voices connect with a large audience. And that's the reason I solicited opinions yesterday about "Pearls Before Swine."

Stephan Pastis's popular and hilarious comic is often cited -- frequently in the same company as "Get Fuzzy" and "Cul de Sac," to name two -- as proof that comics are still fresh, revitalized and relevant. On-the-bubble strips of lagging popularity may need their defenders, but hot-property comics entrusted with the promise of cartooning's future sometimes need the most minding of all. Amid the fossils, new creative blood must be tapped and well-treated.

So, who will emerge in the next decade to become beacons of comic-strip cartooning? Heck, I'm not even sure who will emerge next YEAR. (There's always the distinct possibility that the next "Calvin and Hobbes" will be a webcomic that succeeds to absurd levels on multiple platforms.) All I know today is that we need to help cultivate that next generation of bright and brilliant comic artists. Because as with a sports team or a film or a TV show or sometimes even a newspaper, even a few superstars can be enough to keep many fans showing up, paying up and staying excited about the form of entertainment or information at hand.

So today, I ask readers the 'Riffs question of the day: Do you have any favorite budding or lying dormant strips that you hope will break out in 2010?

Now, on to today's 'RIFFS PICKS:
Our fave images this minute, culled from across the mighty mighty Web...

5. THEY REALLY ARE A SCREE-UM: Vic Mizzy, the man who wrote the "Addams Family" and "Green Acres" theme songs, has reportedly died in L.A. at 93. The Associated Press writes: "Mizzy has said that he didn't mind if people only remember him for the finger snaps at the start of the 'The Addams Family' theme song. After all, he said 'two snaps got me a mansion in Bel Air.' "

It was the great and ghoulish cartoons of Charles Addams, of course, that magazine master of the macabre, that birthed the 1964-66 TV series (as well other TV series and feature films, natch). His many project included the syndicated strip "Out of This World." So today, we pay tribute to Mr. Mizzy and hope Mr. Addams's many fans will do the same. To that end, 'Riffs posts this video of Vic Mizzy from two years, followed (right before the 3-minute mark) with the theme song itself:

TODAY'S 'RIFFS PICKS (continued)...

4. A 'BRUSHES' WITH GREATNESS: As artwork created on the iPhone app Brushes grows ever more popular and common, Comic Riffs is eager to see how the cartoon possibilities play out. One renowned painter who might indirectly point the way for cartoonists, too, is DAVID HOCKNEY. Here he is an engaging New York Times slide show of his iPhone creations.

3. GO 'FORTH' AND MULTIPLY: On today's funnypages, there is one strip in particular that I'm immediately repelled by -- yet I'm simultaneously drawn to its dialogue in a way I'm not entirely comfortable with. The bane of my persistence is Sally and Ted's yapping about their would-be steamy sex life in today's SALLY FORTH. I feel so voyeuristic -- perhaps because I suddenly cannot get the song "Mustang Sally" outta my head -- and yet, it's addictive, rather like watching the Gosselins without the same insane degree of supreme narcissism, or the Duggars without the same supreme powers of procreation. "Sally Forth," get thee to a TLC soundstage but fast.

2. WHERE THE WILD O-RINGS ARE: Funniest mash-up of this still-young week: Sendak meets starfleet in Tuesday's very funny "BREWSTER ROCKIT" -- which is even more amusing than Monday's "Brewster Rockit."

Annnd the top images for today:

1. BALLOON BOY STILL GIVETH: The Washington Examiner's NATE BEELER delivers -- ploop! -- his funny take on "Reality TV." ("Falcon cannot hear the falconer / The central cortex cannot hold.")

What's left for the reader to figure out, though: Does the news coverage of real events thus now qualify as "reality TV," since what transfixed a nation (and apparently much of the world) was not "reality TV" but rather, um, REALITY, as perpetrated by former reality-TV actors? (Head. Hurts. I now realize this a koan that perhaps only Mr. Spock, or Regin Philbin, can ever really know.)

The single most powerful cartoon I've seen out of the Alleged Balloon Boy Hoaxathon, however, is by the San Diego Union-Tribune's STEVE BREEN.
Chillingly poignant. Bravo.

By  |  09:35 AM ET, 10/20/2009

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