Comic Non-Sans: Do-It-Yourself

The website I work for has begun handling user comments via DISQUS (much as, as you can see, GOA does — it’s very nice).  I’m responsible at work for, among other things, moderating reader comments.  This was a bit of a bugger back when we had an open-ended system where no one had to register, put contact information, or any other such thing that might mean consequences for F-bombing a “Family Circus” comic.

Now, I won’t lie.  I’m not big on “Family Circus.”  I don’t personally know anyone who is, and that includes older members of my family.  So I was in a bit of a bind.  The good responsible editor in me knew that I had to edit (or, preferably, delete) these offensive comments.  The writer in me honestly thought they were better than the comic themselves.  In the end I like my job, so I went for the former.  But I recall it being a beautiful example of the do-it-yourself mentality that both open forums and Photoshop skills have encouraged.

Now, recaptioning “Family Circus” is not a new idea, likely because it’s just so damn easy to do. Most recently, the writers behind The Onion have gotten in on the act, having collected up and auctioned off books of the cartoons recaptioned by their own writers and other comedians.  Jersey Circus beat them to the punch by at least a year, with Cracked.com not far behind — though I am proud (or possibly ashamed) to say that one anon on my work site’s old forum predated them by a year minimum.  Sadly, his commentary has been lost to the ages via multiple site redesigns and me trying to keep my job.

Things like “Family Circus,” “Ziggy,” and “Garfield” have always bit a bit on the marshmallowy, greeting-card-y side, even before the rise of webcomics.  We’ve all seen the magnets on our great-aunts’ fridges.  But it was with the rise of the webcomic as a legitimate genre, coupled with some of what ten years ago have been truly edgy humor sites, that we saw people actually standing up publicly and going, “Good God, these suck.  Let’s fix that.”

Okay, you can all see what I’m edging toward from a mile away: Garfield Minus Garfield, possibly the biggest name of online syndicated comic alteration.  And there was no writing involved — just taking out the title character was enough to warp the beloved(?) strip and make it more accessible to the Internet’s more demanding readership.  And hell, you can’t argue with a gimmick that even Jim Davis digs.

(I’d be terribly remiss here in not mentioning Chris Impink’s Minus Jon Plus Jon, a Watchmen-y spin on Dan Walsh’s original concept.  And not just because my publisher does it.  Nope.)

I can see this getting harder and harder to do as mainstream comics get the hint and start upping the quality of the writing — well, some of them do.  This sort of humor relies on the “golden oldies” of the newspaper funny page to really work.  The stuff we love to roll our eyes at to begin with.  For better or for worse, though — ohoho — I don’t think we’re going to run out of that sort of thing anytime soon.  It still sells, after all.

What newspaper comic needs an Internet facelift?  Discuss in the comments!