Two comics in the Daily News on Saturday featured shout-outs to two of the great all time strips. And this had me wondering. Stephan Pastis, the creator of Pearls Before Swine, often appears alongside his creations. In Saturday’s, he tells the pig (I don’t know the pig’s name) that he’s reading Pogo by Walt Kelly and goes on to riff on Pogo’s famous line from the McCarthy era, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Pogo was doing political satire 20 years before Doonesbury was blot in his creator’s ink jar.
On that same Daily News page two strips below, Mutts featured a squirrel chucking a nut into a panel of Little Nemo in Slumberland, in fact, onto the iconic image of Nemo falling out of bed after one of his classic, brilliant and beautiful adventures in the dream world. The punchline from the squirrel, “Sweet dreams.”
I first wondered how many people reading the two strips would get those references. Then I wondered how many would, like me, notice the oddity of two comic-strip-history shout outs in the same day. And I finally wondered if all this riffing is a sign their creators are marking time to the end of the history their art form, to sweet dreams for three panels and a joke or cliff hanger. Yes, you can get the strips online now as papers have cut back (the Daily News, the ultimate funnies paper, down from three-plus pages to two). But will millennials and post-millennials, tablet in hand, follow their favorite daily comics? How will they even discover their favorites? The strips were the ultimate print art form and I take it as the beginning of a goodbye when Nemo—a 106-year old character—shows up in a strip on Saturday. Sweet dreams.
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