The funny pages are often the source for the very best and worst that cartoons have to offer. You can see a lazy writer write about a lazy fat cat that hasn't been funny in a loooooooooong time (Garfield). You can see a fake-smart strip about politics (Doonesbury....he must have been a Frasier fan). You can see manufactured cheese (For Better or For Worse, The Family Circus) that makes you want to barf. Outside of those annoying strips, you can also find some mildly funny things (Beetle Baile, Blondie, Hagar, etc.) The good news is, if you search long enough, you can find the hilarious gems. This list is about the print syndicated comics, which is excludes funny web gems like Cyanide and Happiness. Here are the 10 best. If you feel like looking at more, just Google image these guys.
10. Get Fuzzy
The best strip about pets. Get Fuzzy is about a conniving, mad genius cat and dumb, gullible, but-still-superior dog. Of course we add in an owner who, in his efforts to manage the household, only gets a headache. This is what Garfield could have been, and should be. Behold Garfield on speed...
9. Baby Blues
The best strip about having kids. Vastly superior to the torturous Family Circus, Baby Blues also gets bonus points for mining the sibling rivalry relationship for comedy gold. Out of all the strips on this list, this one is probably the worst drawn, but the funnies aren't about looks (right, Prince Valiant?)
8. Pardon My Planet
I like the Lockhorns, but this is a younger, trendier version of it. The girlfriend is your standard shopaholic ditz, and the guy is a tool, but still funny. Out of all things the Daily Collegian has gotten wrong, putting this strip in the paper was the right move.
7. Non Sequitur
Out of all the other knockoffs out there (and I will get to them), Non Sequitur is probably the best strip that follows the Calvin and Hobbes formula. Danae is the female Calvin, a cynical child that wears an oversized shirt with a skull inside of a heart. Like Calvin, she has a pet that talks to her (only this time it's a horse) and offers the voice of reason. Unlike Calvin and Hobbes, Non Sequitur frequently does one-panel joke strips about anything and everything.
6. The Far Side
This strip is way before my time, but my mom likes it and bought a bunch of the collections. The writer, Gary Larson, is a science nerd that loves writing about darkly weird situations. Be careful though, he's a stickler for copyright infringement, so don't be surprised to see that these images are unavailable. A lot of the images that I am posting are recent strips that are funny enough, but I searched specifically for this strip because it is by far my favorite Far Side cartoon.
Hard to explain this strip. It's just flat out strange.
I realllllllly tried to hate Dilbert when I first started reading the funnies. His curved tie, his loser haircut, the thought that offices are soooooo funny with their in-jokes. But once I started working, I couldn't help but see the similarities between Dilbert's world and my own. Maybe one day when I finally leave the world of retail and work in a white-collar office (fingers crossed!!!!), this strip may climb further up the list. Of course, Dilbert's life is miserable and I never want to be in a world like that.
The perfect strip about teenagers. In fact, this strip nails the mom/teenage son relationship. Yes, at that age you think your mom is embarrassing, but she's still your mom and she rocks. For the mom, even though your son is a lazy bum who gives you hard time and eats all your food, you still go out of your way to do anything for him. This strip is just like that minus the corniness.
My favorite strip, Foxtrot manages to succeed despite using virtually every family stereotype (clueless white-collar dad, stressed out mom who tries running the house, lazy jock older brother, ditzy clothes-obsessed sister, geeky younger brother). All the characters are great, but the younger brother, Jason, is the star of the strip. The author, Bill Amend, owns a physics degree, so you'll see lots of strips that are science and math oriented. But the biggest draw? He's a total movie nerd. You'll see strips about Star Wars, Indy, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, World of Warcraft, Pokemon, and many other nerdy fads. This is a strip that you'll either love or hate. I love it.
1. Calvin and Hobbes
My childhood favorite, and the inspiration for writing this list. Calvin and Hobbes has spawned many many many ripoffs (Red and Rover, Prickly City, Non Sequitur) but nobody can beat the classic. Despite being motivated by some of the worst human qualities (greed, malice, cynicism), Calvin is always balanced by Hobbes, his pet stuffed tiger that talks only to him. Like many other kids, Calvin flat out doesn't fit in with the world around him, so he pretty much invents his own. This strip has provided so much influence to other strips (Foxtrot sometimes references it). C & H is best viewed by reading the collections, so you get to take in the whole story at once. Although Calvin can be a jerk, he does tend to show his sentimental side. For loners like us, sometimes all you need on a rainy day is your lounging on the couch with you.