If you’re a fan of the Know Thy History feature I publish around here, the AV Club did a pretty fantastic primer on newspaper comics today. It’s mainly an overview, as comic history is too deep to cover in only a span of two pages, but it’s a highly informative piece about some of the most important strips to see print in newspapers. I was also happy to see The Yellow Kid, Buster Brown, Polly And Her Pals, Little Nemo, Krazy Kat, and Li’l Abner all get mentions, which means I ain’t too far off the rocker when it comes to picking entries for my own feature.
Here are what AV Club considers to be the essentials:
1. Peanuts. At once accessible enough to be widely popular and personal enough to be poignant, Charles Schulz’s long-running, still-funny strip is what just about any newspaper cartoonist would love to have as a legacy.
2. Calvin & Hobbes. Too short-lived by half, Bill Watterson’s beautifully drawn journey into a oft-bratty child’s imagination made comic-strip fans out of people who rarely pick up a newspaper.
3. Gasoline Alley. Tip a cap to Canadian publisher Drawn & Quarterly and to notable Frank King fans Joe Matt and Chris Ware for reintroducing the lovely, novelistic Gasoline Alley to a generation that had never seen the strip in its heyday. Exciting, funny, and moving, the King run of Gasoline Alley is top-tier entertainment, regardless of the medium.
4. Krazy Kat. Like the best art, Krazy Kat defies easy analysis or explanation; it just emerges from its own peculiar space and proceeds to be.
5. Doonesbury. The longevity of Garry Trudeau’s sprawling, politically astute strip may have worked against its reputation some, as even comic-strip fans have come to take it for granted. But the longevity is also Doonesbury’s strength. Its characters have grown and changed with the world they live in, and there’s scarcely any major event of the past 40 years that hasn’t been dealt with by Trudeau in his strip. It remains as fresh—and important—as today’s news.