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Nostalgia on the Comics Page: When Something You Don’t Care About Is Very Important to You

So it seems that St. Louis Today is conducting a poll to determine which of a few select comic strips are going to be ripped from its comics pages and discarded. Lifestyles columnist Joe Holleman announces this, and on the same page breaks the news that no amount of votes will save certain other strips from getting the boot. “Blondie,” “For Better or for Worse,” and “Garfield,” are some of the strips that might be going. “The Family Circus,” “Marmaduke,” and “Ziggy,” are out the door already.

He starts off his column about this with a song and dance about how he once was shot at during an assignment, but now he’s more scared because there’s nowhere to take cover. He’s kidding, of course, but he’s also trying to pre-emptively divert the river of malice that’s going to come rushing at him from readers. There’s nothing like the threat of loss to make people very, very angry about things they haven’t cared about in years.I have a feeling that “Blondie” is going to get a stay of execution, but that could be my own sense of nostalgia talking. I remember reading “Blondie” as a kid, because she was pretty and she had a business that she worked at with her friend. At no point in years of reading it did I laugh, even when I was old enough to understand that the strip was supposed to be funny. All I knew was that “Blondie” was in pretty much every paper my parents ever bought. It’s always there. It’s always going to be there. Always being there is what “Blondie” does.

And that’s the point of nostalgia. It’s why we can’t bear to throw out things that we’ll never use and don’t really want taking up space in our lives. Not everyone feels that way about “Blondie,” but many people will feel that way about one of the endangered or doomed comic strips on the list.

On the other hand, many people will also feel the way I do about “Family Circus.” Just thinking about that strip makes me feel like something’s crawling under my skin. It could be because it was so relentlessly cutesie, but I think mainly it was because it was so cutesie about the kids. When you’re a kid, you know that other kids don’t say the things those children did. Sometimes the strip bothered me so much I had to cover it up with my hand while I ate my morning cereal.

The fact that both my irritation and my affection come from memories of childhood is the key understanding why these strips provoke such passionate responses. Most people know they can read these strips on the internet, or just buy a different paper, but it’s not the same. The comics page is what you read when you were a child, and unable to read the longer, heavier articles. Often it’s something your parents gave you to do, so they could a few moments of quiet to read the paper for themselves. These strips are direct lines to childhood memories — not birthday parties or big events, but the everyday stuff that life is actually made of. You don’t think of it every time that you read the strip, but when the strip is about to go away, you know that you’ll lose that daily opportunity to remember. No wonder people fight so hard to keep things they use so little.

Perhaps you, too, have comic strips you couldn’t bear to lose?

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