One reason why web comics are often superior to dead-tree newspaper comics is the uncensored nature of the internet. Web comics can be raunchier, meaner, more specialized, smarter, and bigger. Yet over the century-plus of newspaper comics in America, some rather despicable characters made it onto the funny pages. As Groucho Marx showed us in cinema, mean is often funny.
Here is a list of curmudgeons, pranksters, scrooges, ravers, and lunatics from the newspaper world, who all share in common a warped, and rather dark, view of things.
12. Foxy Grandpa
Foxy Grandpa was the original. He was not the first trouble-maker on the page (that probably goes to Hans and Fritz Katzenjammer) but his slyness makes him standout. He premiered in 1900, and quickly got the best of his family.
11. Uncle Duke
Over 40 years, Duke has changed quite a bit. Initially a Hunter S. Thompson spin-off, he’s become a conniving representative for questionable moral choices. Duke’s embittered nature for dues owed has few rivals.
Not surprisingly for a hermit crab, Hawthorne is crabby by nature. The world sucks, his friends are idiots, and he has anger-management issues, pinching toes of the unsuspecting to vent his frustrations of living in a tropical paradise.
9. Porky Pine
Unlike A.A. Milne’s Eeyore, Porky Pine is in no way cuddly. With a consistently downbeat view of the world, the other residents of the Okefenokee do their best to put up with the perpetual downer. For his part, Porky Pine usually stays out everyone’s way.
8. Ignatz Mouse
Ignatz throws brick at Krazy Kat. Krazy Kat assumes brick is a love-token. Officer Pup arrests Ignatz for hurting his sweetheart. The same story, every time, but Ignatz’s cunning and schemes to wallop Krazy makes it original and amusing, every time.
7. Charlie Brown
Charlie Brown’s utterances, “Good grief!” and “Augh!” have become cultural touchstones. Nothing goes right for Charlie Brown, and as such he faces the world with humbug, periodically building up self-worth, only to have the football swiped from beneath him.
Far away the best mutterer in the history of comics, Popeye is a wonderful curmudgeon and jerk, right from the start. He does not suffer fools, and has no time for yellow-bellies and sissy stuff. Of course, we know better, that he does have a heart (for Olive Oyl).
5. Flip the Clown
Encountered by Little Nemo in Slumberland Flip is such a jerk he has ‘Wake Up’ even written on his hat. He comes up with scrapes, cons, and grifts, to which Nemo succumbs. Indeed, he is even instrumental in making sure Nemo doesn’t meet the princess. He stands as one of the best conmen of the papers.
4. Citizens of the Far Side
The Far Side has no recurring characters, but nearly all of its inhabitants are total weirdos. It’s incredible the strip made it into print at all. Every week the cast was being tortured, killed, humiliated, and maimed by the other residents of the Far Side. As one person wrote in, “Sick, sick, sick.” But funny.
Calvin is annoyed at the world, since he views it as an adult through a child’s body. Cranky, moody, easy to anger, and generally pessimistic, Calvin provides real reasons and issues to be frustrated with. His ‘the world sucks’ is based on a lot of evidence.
2. Bill the Cat
Bill is a certifiable lunatic. With a cockeye stare and his tongue sticking out, it’s a wonder he was allowed in the comics at all. (Especially worrisome since he wasn’t house-trained.) He is the antithesis of the cute and cuddly that infests the comic’s page.
1. Huey Freeman
Premiering on the national stage in 1999, Huey Freeman became the new voice of a generation that was pissed off. We often forget, with the popular television show that followed, that Boondocks was a comic for seven years. Huey feels isolated from his country, his neighborhood, and even his family. From his isolation on the mountaintop of justice, he preaches the curmudgeonly gospel. During those bleak Bush years, it was a welcome relief.