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Wit on the Net: A user's guide to cyber comics

December 13, 1996
Web posted at: 2:30 a.m. EST

From Interactive Staff Writer Liza Kaufman Hogan

If you're serious about your comics, get on the Web. Insatiable fans of "Dilbert," "Fox Trot" and "Calvin and Hobbes" (R.I.P.) will have no trouble finding their favorite characters on the Web.

Before the Web, cartoonists needed to be syndicated to reach a broad audience. Now, virtually anyone can publish their cartoons for a world-wide audience. Given that, a lot the humor you'll find may not strike you as all that funny. But whether your taste in humor leans to the obvious or the oblique, there's something for you. The hardest part is wading through the hundreds of offerings.

Mainstream humor

Most syndicated comic strips from the United States can be found on one of two sites: United Media or Universal Press Syndicate. From United Media, choose from 19 daily features including "Peanuts," "Marmaduke," and "Reality Check" in the Comic Strip section. Most strips are one week old. From Uexpress, The United Press Syndicate page, select from about two dozen comics including "Fox Trot," "The Fusco Brothers" and "Cathy." UExpress comics run about two weeks behind. You'll also find a number of comics on newspaper sites. The Houston Chronicle features more than 40 well-known daily strips including "Cathy," "Dick Tracy," "Garfield" and "Kudzu." The comics appear on the newspaper's site the day before they are published in print. To conserve time, you can download the strips individually in two different file sizes, a high quality version and a medium-quality version. The section does not include the Sunday strips. The Kansas City Star, Fort Worth Star Telegram and Newsday have similar offerings. Newsday and the Kansas City Star include Sunday comics.

Personalized humor

Daily Comics

Tired of seeing "Hi and Lois" at the top of your local newspaper's comics section? Frustrated that your paper doesn't carry "Mr. Boffo"? Daily Comics lets you create your own funny pages. Enter an ID and a password and choose from almost 80 comic strips, including well known strips like "Dilbert," "Peanuts," "Shoe" and "Sally Forth." Press enter, wait a few seconds for the download, and you get your personalized page.

The San Jose Mercury News offers the same service with full color comics but it's only available to its paid Web-site subscribers. The Comics Hotlist site from Tampere University in Finland offers a personal comic section with a selection of more than 60 strips, but the strips are not as well-known and the selections frequently fail to download.

Alternative humor

Art Comics

For more off-beat fare, point to ArtComics, repository of a dozen or so Web-based independent comics. ArtComics is updated daily and includes archives from most of the strips, but the fast-paced animation and graphic interface make the site hard to navigate.

If you have Shockwave, check out "Shocktoons" an interactive ArtComics feature which, among other things allows you to Smear Madonna's makeup, watch "Moby Gates," a fish with a striking resemblance to Bill Gates who eats everything in site, or view Bill Clinton and Jack Kemp in a hair war.

For devoted fans

There are numerous sites, some might say shrines, to particular comic strips. Judging from the number of Calvin and Hobbes sites one might not know the strip is no longer published. Many of the unauthorized sites have been shut down by copyright lawyers, but the official sites offer archives of comic strips, background on the cartoonists and chat forums for fans.

Here are a few of the more popular sites:

Dilbert Zone

The Dilbert Zone - dedicated to the ubiquitous embattled engineer and his maniacal dog. Includes archive of comic strips, information on creator Scott Adams and other Dilbert-related goodies.

Doonesbury Electronic Town Hal with briefing provided by Politics Now and Hotline. Updated daily.

Calvin and Hobbes - One of several sites devoted to the precocious boy and his mischievous sidekick.

Mother Goose and Grim - Mike Peters' wry strip and archive of political cartoons.

Stay tooned ..

If you've visited the sites listed above, you've only scratched the surface of what's available. One of the most comprehensive list of online comics on the web can be found at Cyber Comics List with links to more than 200 daily comics, syndicated comics, weekly comics, editorial comics, and miscellaneous sites. Warning: some links are outdated. Yahoo's list of comics is also very good.

And if you're still not laughing try, "The Comics I Don't Understand Page," a clever hobby site devoted to the notion that one man's humor is another man's 'Huh?' Users are invited to explain the meaning of a half dozen inscrutable comic strips. Responses are summarized and posted periodically.


Related story:

New on the 'Net: Find your favorite comic on the Web - January 13, 1996

Related site:

Red Meat

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