It isn’t news that newspaper comics pages have been overrun by squeaky-clean family comics and geriatrics keeping classic characters in life support (“Comics Tragedy,” 7/10). But there are several gems in the Post Tapper has missed. For some reason, he doesn’t talk about Zippy, Bill Griffith’s cutting-edge strip that’s been canceled and resurrected in the Post. Zippy’s an iconic weird strip like Krazy Kat or Pogo, with great art, strong characters, strong social critique, and gags that consistently break the mold. I’m also a big follower of On the Fastrack, by Bill Holbrook, and Curtis, by Ray Billingsley; these strips tackle “mainstream” worlds (offices and school kids) with gentle surrealism and invention. They amaze me by not turning to clichéd or easy gags, and by consistently turning out the most bizarre characters and situations this side of Bud Grace’s Ernie.

You can even stomach old standbys, but you have to read creatively. Did anyone notice that Chip, the teen son of Hi and Lois, was naked one recent week? That was almost as funny as when Beetle Bailey was naked a few years ago. How come all the Mark Trail characters look like Mark Trail? Did you miss Dagwood’s very public sex act with Blondie a few months ago? Blondie is often filled with debauched scenes, usually subliminal. You really gotta read it to catch it, though.

A more serious irony lies in CP’s badmouthing of the mainstream comics industry when the paper’s done so little for the alternative comix world. Running Lynda Barry’s strip isn’t cutting edge. Ernie Pook oughtta be done like Broom Hilda. Stinkfish was a coup: Seeing that sloppy sucker each week always makes me proud to live in D.C. But there’s a bunch of other local cartoonists doing great work who could also use a break: Tony Weier, Bebe Williams, Larry Rodman, Baltimore’s Mary Knott and Beppi. Williams started a successful artcomics Web site (search for it) just to publish dailies by people like that who aren’t getting exposure in print. CP could give a little column inch where its mouth is instead of pointing the finger, as it always seems to prefer to do.

Falls Church, Va.

via the Internet