While recent Direct Market sales of comic books have many writers, artists (and bloggers!) checking the nerd want-ads, the syndicated comic strip business seems to be chugging along just fine. Really, better than fine, at least according to a post at The Daily Cartoonist. No fewer than seven new comic strip features have or are to be launched in 2010 from the major newspaper strip syndicates, four more than last year, and a record at that.

The similarities and differences between daily strips and periodical comic books are obvious and much documented, but it's interesting to look at what sort of sequential art material earns widespread and presumably lucrative distribution -- is it relevant? Profound? Or is it something our grandparents would find really hilarious? -- while even the best comic books wear the scarlet number of $3.99 and fight for their lives in the perilous Direct Market.

We examine the new strips after the jump.Oh, Brother by Bob Weber Jr. and Jay Stephens (launched June 28)

This strip about a precocious little boy and his buzz-killing older sister counts "PvP" creator Scott Kurtz among its fans. From King Features' promotional materials: "'Oh, Brother!' perfectly captures the wide-eyed innocence and simple moments of childhood, from winter's first snow day to summer's first water balloon fight. Despite their obvious personality differences, Lily and Bud love each other deeply and have a strong sibling bond."

As a formerly young boy with memories of a similarly aggravating sister, I find "Oh, Brother!" relevant to my interests and I like the artwork.

Dustin by Steve Kelley and Jeff Parker (launched January 4)

23-year old college student Dustin moves back in with his parents because the economy sucks so badly and undertakes odd jobs and other dubious money-making schemes to demonstrate his earnestness.

As a former 20-something with no money, I find this relevant to my interests.

Diamond Lil by Brett Koth (launched March 1)

The adventures of a horribly, horribly old woman trying to pass the time before blissful death finally takes her. Sometimes she even has coffee with him (Death).

As someone enamored with black comedy and long convinced of depressingly old people's great worth in the comedic arena, I find this relevant to my interests.

Thata Baby by Paul Trap (launching October 4)

Paul Trap was a finalist in an Amazon-sponsored "Comic Strip Superstar" contest. "Thatababy" revisits the "Garfield" territory of creatures normally without adult-human-like cognitive abilities actually being really bright and their ceaseless and ironic torture of those who are meant to be their controlling authorities. In this case, a cute little baby.

I find this wholly irrelevant to my interests yet inescapably cute.

Dogs of C-Kennel by Mick and Mason Mastroianni (launching October 4)

"Pound Puppies" for the more cynical age, this strip depicts the lives of dogs as they wait to be adopted -- or, more likely, to not be adopted. They demonstrate the ability to purchase iPods and iPads and other props as dictated by the jokes.

It is difficult to argue with the dog's conclusion.

Barney & Clyde by Gene Weingarten, Dan Weingarten and David Clark (launched June 7)

From the strip's promotional materials: "Barney -- J. Barnard Pillsbury -- is the billionaire founder and CEO of Pillsbury Pharmaceuticals. Barney thinks he has it all – power, wealth, a pampered existence with a statuesque trophy wife – until he meets Clyde Finster, an intelligent, entertaining (and possibly crazy) street person. Clyde's satisfaction with his circumstance surprises and confounds Barney, whose success in life has been hard-fought and won. For Clyde, Barney's acceptance is validation of a life lived without compromise."

Man with money is existentially confounded by street hobo. I find this somewhat relevant to my interests, as the present economic climate is such that we may all do well to adopt an enlightened-"Mad Men"-hobo-style philosophy in order to survive our inevitable fall into the gutter.

Freshly Squeezed by Ed Stein (launched September 20)

Another comic about financial issues, this strip sees a happily married couple and their adolescent son challenged when the wife's broke parents move in to their now-cramped home. The official tagline is "Can three generations of one family share their lives, their feelings, their dwindling fortunes, a bathroom?"

Surely, nearly every television sitcom from the 1980s and 1990s depicted the amusing struggles of too many relatives living in too small a space. However, the strip just launched yesterday, so it would be unfair to judge it based mainly on some hype copy. Funny or not, the relevant theme of economics has certainly emerged in these new features of 2010.

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