Meta Comic Strip

By | Monday, November 23, 2020 Leave a Comment
In case you missed it, here is yesterday's installment of Hi and Lois...
Hi and Lois
The meta-commentary on the comics pages is fairly obvious. It's a criticism that's been lobbed at the funny pages for decades now. Interestingly, though, you could interpret the punchline in two ways. On one hand, you could say it's an acknowledgement by the creative team that Hi and Lois can be repetitive after over half a century of day-in-day-out gags, and the comedy is in the fact that Hi is unintentionally making the statement ironically. It's an acknowledgement -- of sorts -- that people who read the newspaper regularly aren't looking to the Sunday funnies for humor, but predictability. Alternatively, you can take it less as a punchline and more as a creative statement; "You didn't expect to see all these characters in today's Hi and Lois strip, did you? Those other strips might have some level of predictablity, but we do not. It would be easy to rely on the same gags over and over, but you can't say that about us!" (Whether you agree with that or not is another issue!) Honestly, I can't say which was their intention here; I lean towards the former, but I half-suspect that they didn't put that much thought into it beyond the superficial nature of "comic strip character comments on comic strips."

You can argue back and forth on that on your own, but there are some other things I'd like to point out...

In the newspaper Hi is reading, you can see Beetle Bailey and Hagar the Horrible strips pretty clearly. Beetle Bailey was, of course, created by Hi and Lois originator Mort Walker, and continues to be written by Brian and Greg Walker. Hagar is currently written and drawn by Chris Browne, who is the son of Dik Browne, the other originator of Hi and Lois. I saw someone note that the strips shown are "vintage" ones, and they do indeed look detailed enough that artist Eric Reaves likely copied them, but I can't seem to find precisely when those strips originally ran.

Also visible, though somewhat obscured, in the paper are Calvin & Hobbes and The Far Side.

Historically, in Family Circus, it's Billy who wanders around the neighborhood leaving a dotted line trail, not Jeffy. Reaves did indeed draw Jeffy here, so it's not exactly wrong, but it is atypical. It makes me wonder, though, if that's a deliberate undermining of the the commentary? While it is indeed the same basic gag from the strip as you expect, the humor lies in the unexpected variations. Charles Schulz himself once said, "A cartoonist is someone who has to draw the same thing day after day without repeating himself." And while I don't follow all the comics referenced here regularly any more, I believe it has been quite some time since Blondie featured a Dagwood-running-into-the-mailman gag or Jim Davis did a lasagna-related bit in Garfield.

Speaking of Garfield, of all the guest characters shown, Garfield seems to be the closest to on-model. Reaves did do an excellent job copying other creators' styles (Peanuts in particular is notoriously hard to get "just right") but Garfield is spot-on. On Facebook, Reaves reminded folks that he drew most of that strip from 1994 until 2011, so he's had a bit more practice there.
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