Cobb Clippings

By | Thursday, March 03, 2022 2 comments
Ron Cobb was an active cartoonist from about 1965 until around 1972, when he moved to Australia. Coincidentally, this overlaps the period when my father was in college and most interested in exploring new ideas. He picked up obscure art magazines and experimental book projects. He was on board with National Lampoon when it launched. And he became a fan of Cobb's cartoons.

I didn't actually know that last bit until maybe 10-15 years ago, when he found a couple of old paperback collections of Cobb's comics in his basement. (There were six ever published; three of them I know to be basically reprints of earlier volumes and a fourth I suspect is as well.) But along with them, he had filed away a manila folder with about two dozen Cobb cartoons clipped from the Los Angeles Free Press to which my father subscribed.

My thought here is this: does that happen any more? Bill Blackbeard famously saved EVERY comic for decades, and I know many people used to collect their favorite strips in scrapbooks, but does that happen any more? In the first place, newspaper subscriptions are down so there's fewer people who might even consider it. In the second place, there are fewer new strips on a daily basis -- both due to a shrinking comics section generally, but also because newspaper editors are electing to re-run past favorites like Peanuts, For Better or Worse, and Boondocks; and creators who are still doing new strips on Sundays are resorting to old material for dailies like Foxtrot. If people did clip those strips once, there's no need to do it again. And in the third place, many of the strips that are popular enough to warrant clipping are collected in nice, official bound collections, something that was uncommon but all but the most popular strips upt until maybe the 21st cetury.

Up until I started working from home more often than not (about ten years ago, I guess?) I would print amusing comics out and tape them around my cubicle walls. Mostly to break up the sea of beige, and give me something to look forward to when I entered my cube. But most of those were webcomics, and the few newspaper strips I had were pulled from the syndicates' websites, not the newspapers. They were whatever struck me as funny or entertaining, originally helping to give me something to smile about during my divorce. But in a building of 2000 or so people over the course of 6-7 years, I never saw anyone else who had more than one comic strip posted. (And that was usually a Dilbert strip photocopied from one of the books.) Clipped newspaper strips simply did not appear.

I don't know that this is a bad thing. At least, not beyond how that might signify a decline of the newspaper industry in general. The Cobb clippings I have are on cheap newsprint, which has yellowed and is noticeably brittle after four decades. The printing is decent for most, but not all, of the strips and the ink from the reverse side has bled through in places. Some of the corners are dog-eared. The edges are generally cut straight, but not always. There are many better reproductions of these comics out there, even in the limited book runs Cobb's cartoons had.

This collection of clippings is interesting to me personally because it tells me something about my father, and who he was a couple before I was born. But mostly in an abstract sense. I could get much the same thing from him just saying, "I used to clip Ron Cobb cartoons out of the LA Free Press when I was in college."

So to add to my "Does anyone clip comics any more?" question, I might add, if answered in the affirmative, "To what end?" When it's readily available in both online and better print formats already, why continue clipping them from newspapers? I don't mean that to be snarky, I'd be genuinely curious.
Newer Post Older Post Home


Matt K said...

Every few years my mom sees a comic in the newspaper, cuts it out and mails it to me.

My folks used to do that too. But it's definitely been with decreasing frequency over the decades. I think it's probably been over 10 years since the last one; I certainly haven't gotten one since I moved to Chicago in 2013.