Friday, October 12, 2012

Newspaper Comics #10

Shuffling through the newspaper strips in order to setup for my eventual switch over to full time internet reading has made me really look at the comics I follow in the paper.  Some comics it's obvious why I read them, they're very good, others, well I wonder sometimes.  Like Beetle Baily, do I really want to keep reading it?  Probably not.  Another comic, however, is giving me issues.  This comic is Luann.

I didn't really start reading Luann until I got this paper (so maybe 6 years ago), but Luann has been in papers since 1985, so it's been around a while.  At it's most basic, it's a high school humor comic.  Luann and her friends deal with high school and it's drama/comedy.  It's nothing really that special, especially in the world of webcomics where every other one is based on school of some sort.

There is one thing about the comic that bugs me:  The main cast.  I don't like any of them.  Not Luann, her brother Brad, her two best friends, her parents.  All of them are dull and uninteresting as all hell.  They do nothing for me.  Maybe if I had started reading it much earlier they would be more interesting and fun, I'd have something invested.  As it stands, I really can't stand them.  If I note the comic features them as the driving force of the day's strip, I usually end up skipping it.

So why the debate about reading it?  Well, because I really like the secondary cast.  They have much more interesting conflicts, character arcs, personalities and generally stand out more than the main cast.  Whether it's TJ's ongoing battle with Ann Eiffel in the local fast food joint, or Tiffany trying to be a famous actress without knowing how to act, or the weird relationship between Knute and Crystal, all of them are more interesting than whatever Luann happens to be doing at the moment.  Hell, I know the names of the secondary cast more than I know the names of her two best friends!

I think the reason that happens is the nature of newspaper comics, the status quo.  It must be maintained so that people who slip in and out of the strip aren't completely lost every time.  Even the soap opera comics or story comics have a base line they come back to at the end of every arc.  Luann and the rest of the main cast act as a baseline for the strip, a touch point that never changes.  Meanwhile, the secondary cast can do whatever the hell they want because they aren't as tied down.

Growth happens amongst the secondary cast.  Gunther, originally a shy love interest of Luann, found another girlfriend.  There's some hints that Tiffany, a snobby girl with whose dreams of stardom have been smashed over and over again, might be at least a little smitten with the big, anti-bully Ox.  Knute and Crystal, as I said before, likely will end up with each other despite one being a slacker and the other being goth.  They're breaking out of their old forms and becoming something new.  Luann?  She's probably the same girls she always was, and always will be.

That said, I don't think the secondary cast, as of now, could support a comic entirely on their own, which brings me back to the status quo.  Luann acts as the glue that holds everything together.  Which continues to be a problem as MOST of the comic will focus on Luann, despite her being the least interesting part of her own comic.

I think I probably will follow Luann in the end.  I like the secondary cast enough to tolerate the fact that someone as milktoast as Luann exists in it.  Perhaps I should take solace in the fact her dullness will elevate the others.  There are better comics, sure, but it's not completely terrible.

Until next time kiddies, hopefully I'll think of something to write by then.  Later.

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