It came to my attention that this is Thanksgiving weekend for our American friends. A time for gathering the family and stuffing oneself on stuffed turkey and giving thanks for all of God’s blessings. As a tradition which strengthens family ties and reminds us of God amidst our often busy lives, it is to be highly commended. I wish all Americans a happy thanksgiving.
However, the cynic in me cannot help but note that the number one thing Americans should be thankful for was that the Native Americans did not massacre the Mayflower pilgrims when they had a chance. Instead, they even taught the early settlers how to survive winter and introduced them to new foods. In hindsight, a bad decision by the native peoples.
However, it’s not my intention to become all political on this joyful occasion. Instead, I was thinking of thanksgiving which led me to think about turkeys (which by the way was proposed by Benjamin Franklin at one time to be the symbol of the USA . It’s true. Can you imagine instead of the 101st “Screaming Eagles”, we would have the 101st “Clucking Turkeys”? I think in this alternate universe, America would be more peace-loving. It’s harder for turkeys to go to war!!!). From turkeys, my mind wandered to hunting for turkeys for dinner which led me to the great turkey hunt which led me to the comic strip, B.C., which has a great turkey hunt as a recurring theme which led me to think that I am very thankful for the influence of various comic strips in my life which led me to this blog entry. I like to call it lateral thinking but friends call it the wanderings of a nutcase.
Comic strips have been a major source of education in my life. Seriously. The first and most influential was “Peanuts” by Charles Schultz. This was full of wonderful ideas and lessons on philosophy and human psychology. I remember that Charles Schultz once said that there is no humor in happiness which therefore meant Charlie Brown was to suffer a lot in the name of humor from unrequited love, insecurity, a rebellious dog, a losing baseball team, etc. But Charlie Brown was also a lesson in perseverance and hope and a belief that trials make you stronger. Hence the famous quote, ”Good Grief”. There was even a book entitled; “The Gospel according to Peanuts.” Which did a good job of illustrating the good news about Jesus through the thoughts and actions of the Peanuts gang.
Next, I learnt about political systems and beliefs through the work of Johnny Hart in “B.C.” and with his collaboration with Brant Parker in “Wizard of Id”. B.C.’s adorable but clueless cavemen introduced me to the war of the sexes and to sarcastic humor. For a while I went around trying to be the king of sarcasm, then learnt that you made few friends that way. Valuable life lesson. Wizard of Id made me think about despotism, feudalism and other forms of government and how it impacts the people. I remember an episode where the king promises firewood in every home and a chicken in every pot and was surprised that the people were angry until an aide explained that the people would rather have a home and a pot first! Some people have even less than we could imagine.
My favourite quote from Wizard of Id – “If people from Cyprus are called Cypriots, what do they call us citizens of Id?”
The Adventures of Asterix the Gaul, by Goscinny and Uderzo, was the next influential comic. The diminutive Asterix showed that size does not matter but most of all I learnt a lot about Roman and European history as I followed his adventures throughout Europe, Egypt and even the new world. From this, I also learnt to appreciate different cultures and picked up my interest in traveling. Quote from Asterix has to be – Romans: “These Gauls are crazy.” Gauls: “These Romans are crazy.”
Bloom County’s weird assortment or should I say menagerie of animals and humans, by Berke Breathed, was more accessible to me than Doonesbury and allowed me to understand a bit more about U.S. politics and also about big business. I also liked how the strip drew inspiration from a wide variety of forms and topics. Most memorable moment:- Opus to animals being experimented on/tortured in a cosmetics laboratory, “You’re not volunteers, are you?”
Next comes, Groo the Wanderer, by Sergio Aragones. The perfect antidote to the macho barbarian archetype like Conan and the Beastmaster. The series focuses on the misadventures of an idiot with only one skill – that is to slay anything. Yet along the way many important social and environmental issues are examined. In one series, Groo lands on an island paradise but due to his ignorance, he begins to upset the balance of nature turning abundance into shortages and leading to distrust between villages, the introduction of fences and finally war. The lesson was that people depend on the intricate balance of nature or biodiversity. Famous Groo saying, “Did I err……again?”
My latest discovery was Bone by Jeff Smith. This has revived my love for good story telling. There is little in this gem that is not good but one highlight is the episode entitled, “The Great Cow Race”. I am proud to be a Bone Collector.
Finally, the Lone Grey Squirrel would like to end with a valuable lesson about squirrels which surprisingly comes from the comic strip, Blondie, where the husband, Dagwood, learns the following from a pet shop owner,” He is nobody’s squirrel. He is his own squirrel.” He could have been speaking about Spikey.