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Saturday, June 23, 2018 

Garfield's Jim Davis is wise to avoid politics in the strips

The UK Guardian spoke with Garfield's cartoonist on the 40th year since its debut about how he got it developed, and he made an interesting note about what he usually refrains from:
The cartoonist has always been careful to steer clear of social and political commentary in his strips. “I consciously stay away from the political because it’s in the rest of the newspaper. They handle it better than I ever would,” he says. “I’m dealing with very basic things, eating and sleeping, and I predict everyone’s still going to be eating and sleeping 40 years from now. Will there be a denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula 40 years from now? I doubt it. And that’s the point – I want him to be the cat next door and I feel a real responsibility to balance the scales. With what’s going on in the economy, in politics, it’s awful and very depressing, so the purpose of the comics is to lighten things up, to go, ‘Hey, let’s not take ourselves so seriously, folks.’
And he's doing the right thing to keep partisan politics out of the strips. Although, there was one time nearly a decade ago where a strip he'd drawn caused a controversy on Veterans Day. Thankfully, he seems to have learned his lesson and no such mistakes seem to have turned up since. His beliefs in leaving political stuff at the door should serve as an example for Marvel and DC, who're still not making serious efforts to keep even bad metaphorical politics out of their books. That they clog all those ultra-leftist leanings in is but an example how they're turning everything far too serious, to the point any would-be humor doesn't work. If they'd follow Davis' example, the medium would be in a lot better shape artistically. This is why a newspaper strip like Garfield delivers far better than a superhero comic in today's medium. The leftist politics they put in, over or under the table, are like the equivalent of a bad Monday for Garfield, and it's got to stop.

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A strip has more substance, is more meaningful, when it connects with the real world. The best fantasy has a core of reality to it along with the fairy dust. Social and political issues have a place in comics; otherwise it's no better than watching WWF or a boxing match.

Doonesbury has made a mint off of his blatantly political strip because half the country's political prejudges are validated by his work on a daily basis. It's only when you're doing a strip about kitty cats that the entire reading public can appreciate that you find out that you cut your audience in twain when you pick sides.

The reason I like Garfield is because it isn't political at all. I wish more people would follow Jim Davis' example. I don't want partisan politics in my entertainment.

"A strip has more substance, is more meaningful, when it connects with the real world. The best fantasy has a core of reality to it along with the fairy dust. Social and political issues have a place in comics; otherwise it's no better than watching WWF or a boxing match."

Something has to be political in order for you to relate it ?

There is no way you're a normal, well-adjusted person.

In 1970, Stan Lee was asked by an interviewer if he felt he had a duty
to take a stand on issues. He answered: “I think its your duty to
yourself really, more than to the public…. For years my hands were
tied. We thought we were just writing for kids, and we weren’t
supposed to do anything to disturb them or upset their parents…. But
over the years as I realized more and more adults were reading our
books and people of college age… I felt that now I can finally start
saying some of the things I would like to say…. What I try to do is
say the things I’m interested in. I mean, I don’t want to write
comics. I would love to be writing about drugs and about crime and
about Vietnam and about colleges and about things that mean something.
At least I can put a little of that in the stories…. everybody wants
to say what he thinks, And if you’re in the arts, you want to show
what you believe. I think that’s pretty natural.”

So you can't enjoy anything unless it's political? Sorry, that's not normal. And the Stan Lee quote isn't valid in this situation at all.

Maybe I am missing something, but I don't see any comment that says 'I can't enjoy anything unless it's political'. There is a more subtle point being made; that fantasy has substance when it also is rooted in real experience. The Lord of The Rings seems real because it is rooted in Tolkien's lived experience of being a soldier in the First World War and seeing his son going off to fight in the Second, in his experience of warfare and death, and in England becoming an industrial society. Without that grounding, the fantasy is just fluff. Like comics written by people who know nothing except other comics.

Lord of the Rings may have been indirectly inspired by Tolkien's experiences, but he admitted in interviews that it was not an allegory at all. Sauron isn't Hitler, Gandalf isn't Churchill, etc. So you're wrong about that, too.

"Without that grounding, the fantasy is just fluff."

I'm sure Jim Butcher used to be a wizard detective in Chicago. That could be the only reason why "The Dresden Files" became such a best-selling series. It can't be because it's a fun series and provides readers with a sense of escapism.

J.K. Rowling used to attend a school for wizards in Scotland. How else could she have written one of the best-selling series of all-time?

Again, nice try, but your arguments that fantasy needs socio-political issues falls flat.

I wouldn't dismiss J K Rowling so easily. Her series deals in a meaningful way with death and loss, a coming to terms with the death of her own parent. Without that emotional punch, people wouldn't care about the characters in the same way. She addresses issues around race and far right nationalism; it is easy to see the politics behind her Death Eaters.

Tolkien didn't just admit the Lord of the Rings was not allegory; he emphatically disagreed with the people who thought it was an allegory. But he also insisted that stories have complex roots, and when people talked about LOTR as if it was an allegory for Hitler, he reminded them that his experiences were shaped by the First World War, not the Second.

Gandalf as Churchill? Now that is a weird comparison! Maybe if Gandalf was a bit plumper...

An oyster needs a bit of grit to make a pearl.

...you actually read the funny pages in newspapers? I thought you only watch Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons (and even then, I have my doubts that you can stand them for long periods of time).

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