Thursday, May 14, 2009

Requiem for the News--Part Three

My uncle Pete sends me comic strips. On the surface that's not so unusual; lots of people share comic strips with me; they usually have something to do with superheroes or narcissism or other topics that I'm known to be amused by. But Pete's the only one who doesn't hand me mildly crumpled, carefully cut slivers of paper when he wants me to laugh at something he's read; Pete is the only one who sends me a link to the strip online--another marker of the obsolescence chasing the newspaper industry.

I don't see Pete everyday; I'm lucky if I see him once or twice a year. And yet Pete's comic strips are always more current when they come to me than anyone else's, because I don't see hardly anyone everyday. And while my other friends and family are carefully archiving strips to hand-deliver to me whenever we might encounter one another once again, Pete's are there waiting for me in my in-box whenever the mood strikes; one click and I'm in on the joke.

That means that the strips Pete sends me (and I'm not dogging on anyone else who brings me strips) aren't based on a caricature of who I am--"Dave will like this; he's a comic book geek"--but rather on what Pete's observed me thinking about recently. Pete occasionally reads this blog and the other one; he hears what I've posted to Facebook secondhand. Sometimes what I'm thinking proves resonant with what he's thinking, and what some comic strip writer is thinking. So Pete participates in my ruminations by sending me something in the moment. Like this one, related to the decline of the newspaper industry, or this one, related to the same. Both are related to where my head's been this week in this series of requiem. As Pete observed, "There is apparently a theme."

Without comic strips, we never would have had the comic book superheroes I love so well, so while I don't make a habit of reading them, I have a great respect and fondness for the medium. The comic strip has always been associated with the newspaper, such that the big break for many a cartoonist was to get dedicated space in their local paper, and the big aspiration was for broader syndication. When my parents lived in Dallas, Texas, their daily paper had three pages of strips. Now, however, the comic strip has escaped the confines of print, to great effect; they're self-syndicating in the way that Pete employs them, and they allow for more dynamic reading, as, for example, with Christianity Today's occasional "Next Caption Contest" at their Out of Ur blog, which allows readers not only to help shape the comic but also to enjoy all the possibilities that attend to writing it.

So in the obituary you write for the newspaper industry, list the comic strip among the survivors--along with news reporting, weather forecasts, sports updates, celebrity happenings and advertising for auto dealerships.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You wrote about me, so now I am famous!

But don't worry--I won't forget the little people.

Pete (aka "anonymous")