Recently, a review copy of the Best of Hagar the Horrible landed in my inbox. Reading through it, I had that nostalgic feeling of devouring the comic strips as a kid. Like countless others, I caught up on the daily adventures and laughs. It didn’t matter what it was – Garfield, Fred Bassett, Peanuts, or one of the many others the newspaper had to offer – I couldn’t get enough.
Sadly, due to the evolution of how people are getting their news, the funny pages are a dying breed. More and more people are heading online for their news and, as a result, the circulation of newspapers has dwindled. As a cost-cutting measure, the comic strips are usually one of the first things to go – either shrinking the section or doing away with it altogether.
Luckily, you can still enjoy all of your favourites. Below are four ways how.
There are two primary websites where you will be able to get you newspaper strip fix online – Go Comics and Comics Kingdom. Both are updated every day and allow readers to read thousands of strips from a wide range of comic series. They also offer a community element, where readers can discuss strips with like-minded fans.
The big difference between the two is the catalogue of available strips.
Go Comics is the online home of Andrews McMeel Universal syndication (and their various divisions) of strips. This includes many classic comic strips such as Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, The Farside, Mutt & Jeff, Cul de Sac, For Better or For Worse, Nancy, Marmaduke, Jump Start, Pooch Cafe, Bloom County, and many more. Go Comics also hosts many webcomics and political cartoons.
Comics Kingdom hosts the strips that make up the Kings Features Syndicate. This includes many current and classic strips such as Mutts, Zits, Hagar the Horrible, Popeye, Flash Gordon, The Phantom, Dennis The Menace, Blondie, Family Circus, Sherman’s Lagoon, Krazy Kat, Beetle Baily, Mark Trail, and heaps more. You can find political cartoons and puzzles on the site too.
Both of these websites offer a plethora of free comics on their site and apps but if you a subscription will unlock additional features and a rich archive of older strips.
If you prefer the physical experience of reading, you will be happy to know that many newspaper strips are also collected in print. Depending on the strip, these collections will package approximately a year’s worth of strips. Most of the popular and note-worthy strips have been collected, with many available in their entirety.
Below are some of the notable publishers that collect newspaper strips in a book format. It’s not a full list, which would increase significantly when foreign language translation is put into consideration. It’s also worth noting that many of these publishers publish other comics and graphic novels too.
Andrews McMeel Publishing: This publisher has collected strips such as Calvin and Hobbes, Doonesbury, Mutts, Zits, Foxtrot, Nancy, Pearls Before Swine, and many others.
Fantagraphics: While they don’t primarily publish comic strip collections, Fantagraphics is known for their high-quality collections of Peanuts, Prince Valiant, Pogo, Mickey Mouse, and Barnaby.
Ballantine Books: In terms of newspaper strips, they’re primarily known for publishing the Garfield collections in a variety of formats.
IDW Publishing: Working in collaboration with The Library of American Comics, IDW have restored and collection many classic newspaper strips. These include Dick Tracy, Blondie, Flash Gordon, Bloom County, Popeye, and many others.
Sunday Press: Similar to The Library of American Comics, Sunday Press finds, restores, and collects many classic comic strips. Their catalogue specialises in notable and esoteric strips from before World War II. This includes Krazy Kat, Little Nemo, Crazy Quilt, Sammy Sneeze, and more.
If you crave the experience of reading comic strips in the context of the newspaper and you want to find hidden gems of years gone by, then digging through newspaper archives is the way to go.
While it can be a bit fiddly, this option allows you to discover popular, obscure, and forgotten strips in their original layout and context.
The final way to read newspaper strips is in the public domain. These are comic strips that are no longer in copyright and as a result, can be shared anywhere. Due to the US copyright laws, this mostly includes comics that were drawn in the early part twentieth century.
Digital Comics Museum, which specialises in hosting comics that are in the public domain, has a whole bunch of them up on their website. These are a mix of scans of newspaper pages and strip collections. Another great website is Barnacle Press, which has plenty of lesser-known strips too.
Don’t let their age fool you. There are plenty of great strips from the 1900s-1920s. (Some also reflect attitudes of their time that are not tolerated today.) Some strips from that period, such as the work of Windsor McCay, have beautiful illustrations that are akin to the Golden Age of Illustration. Others, such as Gasoline Alley, are full of wild creativity and experimentation. It’s worth taking a dive and seeing what you can find.