Cathy: The Comic for Women

cathy-collageMost comics are targeted toward boys.  Some are written for children.  Others are intended for teenagers and adults.  The only comic I have ever found for women, though, is
Cathy
by Cathy Guisewite.

Cathy is a single, working woman plagued by fashion crises, food cravings, trendy diets, and shopping addiction.  These are not the only plagues of Cathy’s life, though.  At times her circle of family and friends are even more bothersome.  Her parents are kind and sympathetic, but Cathy’s mother has a tendency to worry and stick her nose into Cathy’s love life—and life in general.  cathyCathy’s perpetual boyfriend Irving is an inert character who unwittingly spurs Cathy on in her quest for beauty and a slender figure, for Cathy is always trying to win Irving’s attention away from sports on television.  In the early comics, Cathy has a best friend named Andrea.  Andrea is an outspoken supporter of women’s rights and is fond of criticizing the other sex and encouraging Cathy to stand up for herself and attend feminist conventions.  In later comics, Cathy becomes friend with a coworker named Charlene.  They share many experiences together, from shopping trips to love life experiences, such as video dating.cathy-and-video-datingThe last and littlest character is Cathy’s spoiled dog Electra, to whom Cathy often talks, and who sometimes talks back.  Electra often has attitude problems as a result of her pampering, especially after Cathy’s parents take care of her and spoil her even more than Cathy does.

I have read two collections of Cathy comics.  The first was The Cathy Chronicles, a collection of the early Cathy comics that Cathy Guisewite published in the 1970s.  More recently, I read a 1992 collection called Only Love Can Break a Heart, But a Shoe Sale Can Come Close.  The art in both books is idiosyncratic.  Guisewite’s style has an amateur air to it which continues even as she standardizes her way of caricaturing the world and characters of Cathy.  I doubt the comic could have survived on its artwork alone, but the clever dialogue and the quirky pictures create a winning combination.

Author Cathy Guisewite ingeniously uses everyday life to provide her audience with relatable humor that connects well to shared experiences.  The portrayal of women is particularly perceptive.  While I doubt any woman would match all the characteristics Guisewite presents (and I certainly hope no one does), I can spot many similarities to myself and people I know when I read the Cathy comics.  More than the characters, artwork, and storylines, I think this aspect is what makes Cathy amusing and fun to read.

arrietty pic

-ARRIETTY-

Note: I have not read any recent Cathy comic strips, so I don’t know whether the comic has continued to be as good as it was in the ’70s and ’90s.  However, if you’re interested in reading more recent installments, here’s a link to a website that has individual Cathy comic strips.

The Peanuts Movie

KiteFrom classic kite scenes to new and creative elements, The Peanuts Movie is a fun film.  The animated children’s movie is well-rounded in character development, story, and humor, for the scriptwriters skillfully craft familiar elements of the Peanuts comic strip into an over-arching storyline that unites the fragmentary comics into a seamless whole.

Football, snow days, Red Baron duels, the Little Red-Haired Girl, and Snoopy’s typewriter all make appearances in the film.  Yet, while The Peanuts Movie alludes to the previous short films with Christmas carolers and pumpkin references, there are many new elements.  For example, there are moments when some little event spirals into a distinctive part of the comics, and when viewers think to themselves, “So that’s how the Red Baron storyline started.”  (Note: As I am not an expert on Peanuts, I don’t actually know how each storyline began, but The Peanuts Movie presents plausible scenarios.)

The Peanuts Movie is more than nostalgia and references to the past, however, for it has its own unique elements.  Charlie Brown becomes a developed and sympathetic character.  In spite of failures, he keeps going, and without realizing it, he’s always achieving and succeeding at what matters most.  While the roles and characters of Lucy and Linus are more downplayed than in past stories, Snoopy and the Little Red-Haired Girl join Charlie on center stage.  Snoopy and typewriterMy impression of Snoopy has always been negative; he seems to be 95% mean and annoying, at least in his roles in the two Christmas short films and in many Peanuts comics I have read.  Although vestiges of these characteristics remain, Snoopy turns out to be a good friend to Charlie Brown and a very imaginative daydreamer.  Finally, the Little Red-Haired Girl has an interesting character.  She has no name, and the audience knows almost nothing about her, yet the scriptwriters gradually reveal that she is sweet and nice—if only Charlie Brown could summon the courage to introduce himself!  But such things are easier written than accomplished, as the movie demonstrates.

In addition to a fun storyline and excellent character development, The Peanuts Movie also has good messages.  Charlie Brown discovers popularity isn’t as important as it seems and doesn’t change who a person is underneath.  As Charlie Brown struggles with what he calls “a serious case of inadequacy,” I appreciate his honesty with himself (“Quotes”).  Too often people promote “self-esteem” and self-confidence over humility, and the movie reminds us that we aren’t always going to be successful or feel “adequate.”  Everyone has Charlie Brown moments, but few people can swallow their pride and face their problems as he does.

Lucy and Charlie“If you really want to impress people, you need to show them you’re a winner,” Lucy advises Charlie at one point in the film (“Quotes”).  In an unexpected twist, Lucy is right, though not in the way she intended.  While Charlie Brown never really loses his chronic inadequacy and tendency to failure, he does show people that he’s a winner: someone who doesn’t give up and who is humble, honest, sympathetic, and kind even when it means sacrifice on his part.  In the end, Charlie Brown does impress people, but not with the kind of success he, or Lucy, would have imagined.

Works Cited

The Peanuts Movie (2015) Quotes.”  IMDb.com.  2016.  Internet Movie Database.  14 Jun. 2016 <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2452042/trivia?tab=qt&ref_=tt_trv_qu&gt;.

arrietty pic

-ARRIETTY-

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Charlie Brown ChristmasWhy do I like A Charlie Brown Christmas?  I’m sure nostalgia plays a part, but the main reason this short film is one of my favorite Christmas movies is because of the music, characters, and themes.

To begin with, I really like the music.  The tunes are catchy and are among the few jazz pieces I enjoy listening to.  Above all, I like when the children sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” at the end of the film.  Interestingly, CBS almost didn’t air this Christmas special in 1965 because CBS executives thought people wouldn’t like or understand the jazz music (Slife).  In spite of these predictions, audiences loved the movie, and it won a Primetime Emmy award and was nominated for a Grammy award (“A Charlie Brown Christmas”).

Another part of the appeal of A Charlie Brown Christmas is the characters.  Although CBS executives didn’t like that the characters were voiced over by children, this actually makes the characters real and endearing (Slife).  Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Schroeder, and Sally act and sound like children and make the story fun, entertaining, and yet somehow thoughtful.  When Charlie Brown desponds about how Christmas is being commercialized, I can relate, for what was true when the show aired in 1965 is still true today.  Lucy is her usual bossy, worldly-minded self, giving out psychiatric help and chasing dreams of real-estate.  Solemn Linus drags his blanket about and doles out wisdom that deserves to be heard by more than just his peers in the film.  Schroeder pounds away with dedication at his piano, and Sally tags around after Charlie Brown and Linus, exasperating and embarrassing them as she busily composes a letter to Santa Claus.

Charlie Brown and LinusWhat I love most about this film, however, are the themes.  Although Charles Schulz may not have been a Christian, his work often rings with truth, and this story contains some of the best examples (Schulz 305).  Through the characters’ actions and words, Schulz highlights the problems plaguing modern Christmases, particularly commercialism, and he explains “what Christmas is all about.”

As the story opens, Charlie Brown tells Linus, “I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus.  Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy.  I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.”  Of all the characters, Charlie Brown seems to be the only one who understands that something is wrong about how everyone is celebrating Christmas.  Are Christmas lists, cards, plays, and presents what make Christmas wonderful?  Or are they reminders of a greater wonder, the Son of God born in Bethlehem, the greatest Gift the world has ever known?

Works Cited

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965 TV Special): Awards.”  Imdb.com.  24 Dec. 2015 <www.imdb.com/title/tt0059026/awards?ref_=tt_awd>.

Schulz, Charles M.  The Complete Peanuts: 1950 to 1952.  Ed. Gary Groth.  Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics Books, 2004.

Slife, Joseph.  “Charlie Brown Almost Didn’t Get to Celebrate Christmas in Prime Time.” Worldmag.com.  2 Dec. 2014.  24 Dec. 2015 <www.worldmag.com/2014/12/charlie_brown_almost_didn_t_get_to_celebrate_christmas_in_prime_time>.

arrietty pic

-ARRIETTY-

Three Newspaper Comics and Avengers: Age of Ultron

Flint has been busy penning articles about comic books and movies at our other writing blog this year.  Here are two reviews he has written, one of something old and one of something new.

Prince Valiant

Prince Valiant

3 Titles from the Golden Age” – Flint discusses Terry and the PiratesSecret Agent X-9, and Prince Valiant, three newspaper comic series which began in the 1930s and later became standalone comic books.  Several years ago, Flint and Bone briefly reviewed Prince Valiant in their “Ten Great Newspaper Comics” article.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron – Flint analyzes the story and entertainment value of the Avengers film which came out in May of this year.

arrietty pic

-ARRIETTY-

 

Who Watches the Watchmen?

This is a post Bone wrote a few weeks ago at our sister site, Thousand Mile Walk

Thousand Mile Walk

rorschach

First published in 12 issues from 1986 to 1987, Watchmen has long been recognized as one of the greater (if not greatest) graphic novels of all time. So I finally decided to see what all the fuss was about. Written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, Watchmen is a dark and twisted tale of competing moralities.

Set in the Cold War era, Watchmen reimagines what the 20th century might have been like in the presence of superhuman protectors. Emerging in the 1940’s-1960’s, these protectors maintained order and even helped America win the Vietnam War.

Now, those heroes not working for the U.S. government are in hiding, and a government-employed hero named “The Comedian” has been murdered in New York City.

Watchmen traces the story of masked vigilante Rorschach and others as they try to determine who killed the Comedian, and why. Not a conventional murder mystery, this tale intersperses flashbacks…

View original post 292 more words

Calvin and Hobbes for Christmas

Sled rides, slush balls, Susie Derkins, Santa Claus, deranged snow goons, a sneak attack tiger, and a wildly imaginative boy are all part of what make Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson perfect for the winter season.

Several of Bill Watterson’s collections of Calvin and Hobbes contain delightful and entertaining wintertime stories.  Comic strips set during winter can be found in Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons (pp. 68-108), in It’s a Magical World (pp. 137-end), in The Calvin and Hobbes Lazy Sunday Book (pp. 44-54 [this repeats part of the winter section in The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes] and pp. 91-103), in The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes (pp. 104-138), and in several other collections.  Each story is packed with humor as Calvin combats his desire to be on Santa’s “good” list with his desire to slug Susie with a snowball.

c&h2Calvin’s letter-writing marathon to Santa takes different approaches at pulling the wool over the old man’s eyes – from legalistic arguments to “presume innocent until proven guilty” to fine print qualifications of the statement “I have been extremely good* this year.”  Then, there are the hilarious snowball fights, death-defying sled rides, encounters with snow goons, and monopoly games which end in scuffles and name-calling.

These stories are not merely fun, though.  The characters ask many good questions that readers ought to consider.  For example:

Bottom Comic

 

c&h1

Even though the comic’s conclusions are usually shallow, that does not mean one’s own conclusions have to be.

For a short wintertime adventure full of comedy, philosophy, hyperactive imagination, a tiger named Hobbes, and a boy named Calvin, sit down by a fire with a cup of hot cocoa and read Bill Watterson’s timeless comic.

arrietty pic

-arrietty-

 

Asterix and Obelix

In the vein of older European comics, which was introduced with Tintin, I now present AsterixAsterix is an entertaining comic series written by R. Goscinny and A. Uderzo. Both men were born in France and published the Asterix stories in French publications. The comics follow (big surprise!) Asterix and his friend Obelix, two Gauls who live in a small village surrounded by Roman legions. They spend their days eating boar, hurling menhirs, smashing Romans, and having many adventures.

Even though the stories were originally published in French, the dialogue is still very clear and witty in translation. The stories make plentiful use of wordplays in the dialogue, and all the names carry some humorous reference to the character of their owners.  Asterix is largely character driven, and the interplay of personalities in the different situations is always humorous to read. The stories provide a good mix of wit, both historical and mythological settings, and an ancient Roman cast of characters to continually keep the adventures  interesting.

Not only are the dialogue and stories well done, but the comics are also splendidly made from a visual standpoint.  The panels are laid out in a grid pattern and are easy to follow. The artwork is very clear and well rendered, and Uderzo does an excellent job of exaggeration in his art, adding a humor outside of the dialogue.  These factors make the comic very easy to read.  Finally, regarding color, either the comics were originally printed at a very high quality, or the illustrations have been masterfully re-colored. Needless to say, these comic books do not look like they were printed nearly fifty years ago, but are sharp and vibrant.

If you want some humorous, light reading, give Asterix a look. With witty dialogue and stories –accompanied by a superb cartoon style –you can’t go wrong.

Happy Reading!

-flint-