When the final obituary of the printed newspaper is written, I’d like to see the analysis go beyond the usual suspects of greedy stockholders, Internet competition and shrinking ad revenue. I want some enterprising pundit to blame the rotting dinosaur carcass that is the newspaper comics page.
Some papers do a better job than others, but even those that print good strips like Zits or Get Fuzzy continue to prop up dreck like Garfield and Hagar the Horrible. Does anyone find these even mildly entertaining? At least The Family Circus is so unfunny that it has taken on a kind of screw-you punk rock aura, but the daily comics page — at least in my hometown paper — is essentially a wasteland.
Friends have turned me on to a number of worthwhile web-only comics, but I found Bernie Hou’s frequently hilarious Alien Loves Predator the old-fashioned way — by mindlessly surfing the Internets. The premise: Alien (Abe) and Predator (Preston) are roommates in New York, where they try speed dating, argue on the subway, apartment hunt among crack dealers, and occasionally hang out with Jesus. The weekly strip, which Hou posts on Wednesdays, is truly inspired, and you don’t have to be a NYC dweller to appreciate it.
It bugs me that a genuinely funny, clever strip like Alien Loves Predator would never make it in a mainstream newspaper. For starters, cranky 89-year-olds — the ones who call managing editors to complain — wouldn’t get it. The use of a Jesus action figure alone would light up switchboards like the Fourth of July. (Personally, I think a recurring Jesus cameo in Shoe would rule.) And since no one under 35 reads dead-tree newspapers anymore (so we are told), it wouldn’t connect with the readers most likely to appreciate it.
That’s unfortunate, but Hou appears to have built a loyal, appreciative readership since launching the comic in 2004. Any strip that name-checks Abe Vigoda and crosses Starbucks with M.C. Escher deserves some love, so do yourself a favor and check it out.