Growing up, we had one major use for the comics section of the newspaper: When a friend had a birthday, my mom would take the last couple newspaper issues out of the recycling bin and wrap the gift in the colorful ink of the funnies. Who needs wrapping paper, right?
As a kid, starting around the time of third grade, I religiously read the paper every morning before school. However, the one section that usually appeals to children under the age of 12, the comics, never captured my interest. When I got to sixth grade and we had our newspaper unit, many of my classmates skipped right to the funnies. I am pretty sure I scoffed at them.
I found the comics section not meeting my sophisticated standards. I was all about the hard stuff. With only so much time in the morning, I digested the national, local, sports, and entertainment sections of the paper before I had to catch the bus. I told myself I didn’t have time to flip the sports section over and read the brightly colored comic strips on the back.
Besides, the times I did read the comics I never found them funny anyway. Years later, I would figure out that this was my problem.
As time rolled on, I continued to shun the funnies section. By this time I was an adult and had no excuse to read them. Although I let my guard down a little and would start reading “Dennis the Menace” and “Family Circus” simply because they were each just a single captioned panel, I never took the time to read the other offerings. I mean seriously, Garfield and Charlie Brown are for kids.
It didn’t matter where I was living and which newspaper I was reading, I would always become astonished at how passionate adults would get over their comics. A controversy from the funnies page would always spill over from the back of the paper where they belonged to the legitimate and highly serious editorial section. In the letters to the editor, I would read entry after entry from readers upset about either the comics going to black and white, a beloved comic strip being removed from the daily lineup, or a selection that caused a minor uproar by offending a few people. After years of reading these types of letters, I became vaguely aware that the comics section wasn’t just for kids.
A few months ago I had some time on my hands. With my electronic version of the paper still pulled up and without anything pressing that I needed to look up on Wikipedia, I decided to glance at the comics. My “quick glance” turned into a detailed reading of every single comic strip on that page. I wanted to see if I was in fact missing anything.
Right off of the bat I noticed a few things. Some themes hit me and I thought maybe I could have been wrong all these years. Not wanting to make any quick judgments, I just kept my mouth shut and continued to read the comics on a daily basis. I feel I can now say this…
Despite the belief I held for most of my life, I can now say that the comic section of a newspaper is probably more for ADULTS than for KIDS. For much of my childhood I neglected the funnies because they didn’t make me laugh. As I reached my adult years I held onto this reason for not giving the comics the time of day. But after reading them now on a daily basis I have to admit a sobering truth: The 11-year-old Brent just didn’t understand the jokes, ironies, and sarcasms embedded in those colorful strips.
The comics section of a newspaper sheds light on the issues, occurrences, and problems faced by individuals. It touches on relationships, office life, health realities, the daily news, financial issues, political battles, pop culture, and so much more. If an average adult read the comics from top to bottom on any given day, he would most likely have a comprehensive outlook on what it is like to be a typical American.
This commentary on everyday life is disguised in colorful ink with talking animals, cavemen, and characters with outlandish facial features. It is not Saturday morning cartoons like I once thought. Rather, it is a funny outlook on what it means to be a member of society. I didn’t understand this as a kid and I didn’t understand it for 10 years of my adult life. However, I am glad I utilized the free time I had a few months ago to give the comics page another look. The joke was on me. Don’t Blink.