Andy Capp, anti-coagulant, B.C., Batson D. Belfry, Bill Watterson, blood clot, Calvin & Hobbes, Canada, cartoons, Charles Schulz, Charlie Brown, Chris Hazelton, classic comic, comic strips, David Willis, Dilbert, Dumbing of Age, estrogen, fallen angel, father, For Better or Worse, FoxTrot, Garfield, Greg Evans, GRS, heart attack, heaven, Hell High, Indiana University, Johnny Hart, JumpStart, Luann, Lynn Johnston, Misfile, MTF, Murder, One Big Happy, Peanuts, risk, Robb Armstrong, Rose is Rose, Scott Adams, Shoe, Snoopy, TDOR, Transgender, Transition, transphobia, Transsexual, Wizard of Id
Sometimes people ask me what I do for fun. One of the things I do is read comic strips. My selection of comic strips provides me with everything from a good belly laugh to insight about life, to a look at today’s world with a healthy degree of separation from the news media and today’s divisive rhetoric, to enable me to find a way to laugh at myself when needed. And in today’s world, laughter is needed more than ever.
There are a handful of strips that I read daily. Some are the same as will be found in the daily newspaper (as long as newspapers will continue to exist). One is a comic that used to appear in newspapers daily but now only on Sunday. A few of them are classic comic reprints.
I also read two web-based comic strips. Since they require going to separate websites and they are based on ongoing arcs, I prefer to read those once a week.
One of those web comics, Misfile, ended its run recently. The author of the strip is Chris Hazelton. The basic story line is that an angel in heaven’s filing room screws up (as is his tendency), but really big time this time. His error causes one teen girl at a high school in NW Massachusetts to lose two years of her life and go from a senior on the brink of graduation to sophomore. The error also causes another sophomore to suddenly be physically transformed overnight from male to female. They are the only ones aware of the changes. Everyone else in their life has had their memories transformed so they only know this new reality. Somehow these two teens find each other and are joined by the screw up angel and a cast of other heavenly host characters and unwitting earthbound characters in the attempt to restore the original history and all the conflicts that brings.
Chris has started a new web comic called “Hell High” that seems to be based on the same universe, perhaps the result of what appeared to be the solution to the dilemma faced by the key characters in Misfile. I have just started reading it and will give it a month or two to see if it holds my interest.
Misfile premiered online on February 23, 2004 (I had a lot of catching up to do when I found it). On November 20, 2014, Chris revealed part of the inspiration for the main character who is transformed from male to female and frequently struggles with being in the wrong body. Chris’s father, one of his earliest fans of the comic, was a male to female transsexual who transitioned prior to the inception of Misfile. (I am identifying her the way that Chris does.)
In 2007, Chris’s father died. She developed a blood clot that led to a fatal heart attack. It is believed that the cause was the estrogen that she was taking as part of her transition. It was the worth the risk to her.
It is also worth the risk to me. I suffered from a blood clot around the time that I had my GRS. I believe that it was a result of the combination of a trauma to my ankle and the changes in medication that were necessitated by surgery (removing anti-coagulants from my normal dosage, although also removing estrogen, except for a shot of Heparin while in post-op). I was taken off of estrogen and put on a strong anti-coagulant (Xarelto) for about 4 months. I began to suffer from curling fingers and loss of shoulder mobility and the symptoms were getting worse. To restore quality of life, I stopped the Xarelto and resumed estrogen. To minimize the risks I switched from sublingual to topical estrogen, take only half the dose that was originally prescribed (blood tests are showing high enough estrogen levels to justify the change) and faithfully take a baby aspirin a day (or more if I have a headache or body aches that day).
The date in which Chris made the reveal is significant. He did so on the official day to observe the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). It is the day when we remember those who died in the past year because of their transgender identity (real or perceived) or alliance, whether through murder or lack of medical care. When my health allows, I participate in TDOR ceremonies locally and spoke at one a few years ago.
The TDOR ceremonies are quite moving. Even one person who dies this way is too many. In the United States, some twenty to thirty people die in this way. Around the world the number is approaching four hundred that are reported. The number is likely higher than that. Some are not reported because the family of the victim hides the facts. In other cases, the police or the government hides the information. Russia and the People’s Republic of China are two of the larger countries that do not report this information.
Some deaths are caused by hatred towards gender variance even when the victim does not identify as transgender. In some especially heart-wrenching cases, the person doesn’t get a chance to identify. The saddest (and they are all sad) murder I have read about happened nine years ago. A sixteen month old toddler was playing with his mother’s clothes. The mother’s boyfriend (not the baby’s father) told police that he struck the child several times with his closed fist, “trying to make him act like a boy instead of a little girl.”
To end on a lighter note, here are the other comics I read regularly:
Andy Capp – The title character is a lovable layabout who is a perpetual beneficiary of the British social welfare system, his long-suffering wife and any friend he can sponge off of. I get my dose of British humor and slang. Andy is either cadging beer or ale at a local pub (and getting drunk), cheating at cards, darts or snooker (presumably to get some money as well as massaging his pride).
B.C. – One of two Johnny Hart originated comics I read, it delightfully morphs modern times and the stone age, but without the Honeymooners parallel that The Flintstones had. Some strips feature early homo sapiens, some feature critters (both extant and extinct), some strips combine the two.
Calvin & Hobbes (classic) – One of the most brilliant of all comic strips, Calvin’s adventures and insights stem from him being super-intelligent and very bored. At the same time we often see his vulnerability. His best friend relationship with his toy stuffed tiger, Hobbes, reveals a lot about Calvin. Hobbes only becomes animated when alone with Calvin. Calvin has a vivid imagination, but sometimes it seems like something more must be going on.
Dilbert – The inanity of the modern world as seen through the everyday life of a dysfunctional, fictional tech company. The title character exhibits the highest degree of job skill competence while dealing with the frustrations of being inept at climbing the corporate ladder and being socially clueless (sometimes because of his own intelligence combined with lack of tact).
Dumbing of Age (web comic) – Indiana University is the locale for this look at modern college life using characters brought forward from earlier strips in the same universe in shuffled roles. Many, but not all, characters are LGBT, including at least one T in the closet. One of the main characters, Joyce, finds her rigidly fundamentalist and legalistic Christian beliefs challenged on a regular basis. Her challenge is to continue to love her new friends (and one close friend from high school) even though some worship differently, some are atheist, some are in same sex relationships, some have vastly different scientific beliefs and some simply aren’t very lovable. Joyce’s world often gets turned upside down but she manages to bounce back up and hold onto her belief that through faith and her good works, she can help the people she cares about live happily ever after.
For Better or Worse (classic) – Family life north of the border, it is loosely autobiographical. Over time the characters age and the family grows. Although these strips are reruns, here and there the author updates them. On gocomics.com, the comments section will include the author’s remarks about how something similar happened to her in real life. Canada isn’t that different from the U.S., especially since hockey is becoming more common here, and it can be just as funny.
FoxTrot (Sunday only) – Family trials and tribulations with mom, dad, two painfully average teens and a preteen brother who is a genius. Of course, this means the youngest is also a nerd. The strip ran seven days a week from its inception in April 1988 until the end of 2006 and classic versions of those strips are available online, but I am only reading current strips.
Garfield – With apologies to Heathcliff fans, Garfield is the only comic strip cat for me (with occasional cameos by Arlene and Nermal). Supporting characters including a lovable pet dog (Odie) who barks but otherwise has only spoken once in a thought bubble (other animals in the strip speak regularly that way), a nerdy owner (Jon) of Garfield and Odie, and a veterinarian (Liz) who eventually became romantically involved with Jon despite his clumsiness (physically and socially) and lack of fashion sense.
JumpStart – The life of Joe the Philadelphia police officer, his wife Marcy, a nurse with a rising career, and their four adorable children: daughter Sunny an ecology maven, son Jo-Jo a budding politician and martial artist wannabe, and adorable infant twins Tammi and Tommy whose thought bubbles alone are worth the read. While the characters are diverse, the cartoonist and the family are one of the few successful ones in the industry that are black.
Luann – The life of an awkward young girl who is slowly growing into a young woman (aging, but in cartoon time). Many story arcs focus on her family (but rarely her parents) and friends rather than Luann. Some of her public school friends have departed and were replaced by new friends now that she is in college. This is the most popular current strip that I read. It is as close as I have come to having insight into the life of a teenage girl.
One Big Happy (new comics but on time delay in gocomics.com) – An extended family who live next door to each other (grandparents, parents and children), they are Italian except for the mother. While all are featured, as well as some friends and neighbors of all ages, the central character of the strip is Ruthie, the youngest child, six going on fifty, who is super-smart, super-confident, and doesn’t let her lack of experience knowledge gaps get in the way of her mouth. In short, she is a pip! (I identify with the confidence Ruthie has, which I had before gender issues kicked in.)
Peanuts (classic) – Perhaps the best known comic strip of all time, all kids all the time, and a few anthropomorphic animals with starring or supporting roles. Charles Schulz stipulated that no one else would ever do the strip after his death (unlike other strips that have had successors). In Snoopy, he may have created the most lovable cartoon character of all time.
Rose is Rose – The strips about the nuclear family of romantic couple Rose and Jimbo and their adorable son Pasquale are great. The ones about the other characters and the anthropomorphic animals, not so much. I think the difference with the animals is that most of them are drawn realistically (unlike Schulz whose animals were caricatures) but are doing things that are not what an animal would do and not believable. This is the comic strip that I debate dropping from time to time, but the nuclear family brings me back.
Shoe – All anthropomorphic birds all the time, the title character is a sarcastic, given to anger, newspaper editor. Similar to Pogo, the strip often brings up the current state of politics (especially with Sen. Batson D. Belfry) with humor making it more palatable. The strip started in 1977 and after Watergate and the onset of economic malaise, it helped me think of politics and still be able to smile again. It is needed more than ever now.
Wizard of Id – The other Johnny Hart originated strip I read, this one conflates modern society with medieval times. In addition to the Wizard, the strip features a little king who is not at all benevolent. a troop of incompetent knights and a host of rabble citizenry (plus constantly attacking Huns who should have overrun Id by now).
And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. – Luke 10:17-21