Monday, May 30, 2011

Ziggy at 40

Set for release next week, on June 7, the hardbound 40th anniversary collection of Ziggy cartoons is a good-looking book. Block-like and solid, with each page displaying a single-panel cartoon; the few strips cover two-page spreads.

The book even comes with an outside band, similar to those on books by cerebral cartoonists such as Seth and Chris Ware.

A copy arrived unsolicited at the newspaper where I work. And as I looked through the cartoons — organized by decade — I recalled how I never really thought Ziggy was particularly funny.

Just a few examples, chosen at random: Ziggy, bald in the longtime tradition of comic strip characters dating back to the Yellow Kid and Henry, sits before his computer. A large calendar tell us it’s Jan. 1, 2001. The monitor intones: “Good morning, Dave …”

The joke, see, is the scary HAL computer that said “Good morning, Dave” was in the movie, 2001. Get it?

In another, Ziggy says to a doctor that “I hate to tell you this, but I’ve found three typos in your diploma!!”

Is the point that the doctor might be a quack? There’s nothing sinister in the physician’s appearance, beyond that he looks pretty bored. And who can blame him for that.

Ziggy started life, if I recall correctly, as a greeting-card character. He continues to this day to be drawn by the son of his creator, Tom Wilson.

And therein lies his charm, I guess … and he must hold an attraction, as the cartoon is carried by 500 daily and Sunday newspapers, according to the book’s accompanying publicity.

Ziggy’s jokes are simple and require little to no energy on the reader’s part. Sort of a round Bazooka Joe, without the gum.

For some cartoon readers, there’s a warm spot for that in their day.

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