Death in Comics

Death has gotten to be an outright common occurence in comic books, but it’s been a lot more rare in newspaper comic strips. Comic strip characters who have died include Farley the sheepdog in “For Better or For Worse,” Dick and Lacey Davenport in “Doonesbury,” most of the crooks in “Dick Tracy,” Bill the Cat in “Bloom County,” and not too many others. The newest comic-strip death happens today, as Lisa Moore, one of the main characters in “Funky Winkerbean,” dies of breast cancer.


The storyline has been getting a lot of positive reviews. Folks say Lisa’s death has been handled very realistically, dramatically, and sensitively — this storyline has been running, off and on, from the time Lisa was first diagnosed with cancer back in 1999. A lot of the recent strips I’ve seen in archives are about the support she gets from her friends. And part of the reason for the storyline, and the way it’s ending, is to draw attention to the fight against breast cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, ya know.

Other people aren’t happy with the strip, or creator Tom Batiuk. Some say they don’t want their funnypages to deal with serious issues, as they’d rather they be a break from the bad news filling up the rest of the paper. Of course, lots of comic strips nowadays are transitioning to something midway between a gag strip and a soap opera serial. “For Better or For Worse” leads the pack, of course, but other gag strips are slowly trending toward more dramatic storylines, like “Luann” and “9 Chickweed Lane.” And it’s hard to find a webcomic that doesn’t mix the pathos in with the comedy. And with so many strips that have characters who age in real time, it’s inevitable that some would die.

If you’d like to check out today’s “Funky Winkerbean” strip, just click here. And they’ve got a few weeks of archives, so you can read some of the previous strips.

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