Friday, September 04, 2009
Obscurity of the Day: The Big Picture
Excuse the lack of posts this week please. Had a busy week. Wife had a health scare (turned out to be a false alarm thank goodness), and I was favored with over 200 pages of notes from Alberto Becattini that I've been working at melding into the Guide listings.
So where did we leave off. Oh, yeah. Some readers were arguing that the little game I came up with (see last post) was philosophically off-balance, that the classic strips are there because they've earned their places, and that the new strips coming out by and large blow. Hmmph. I don't have many kind words for those 'classics' that hang onto their spots like grim death. Most of them are about as funny as a visit from the reaper. But yeah, I'll agree that I too shake my head when I see many of the new syndicate offerings.
I am certainly sick to death of new features that are chosen not based on quality but in their presumed appeal to market sectors. And just how many family sitcoms do we really need? And new features by creators who already have a place on the comics page really get me steamed. Oh good, now creator X is twice as overworked and both features will suffer (often the first one wasn't exactly a classic to begin with). But there are some great new features that come on the scene, too, and by and large they never get a chance because of those entrenched so-called classics.
Today I spotlight one of my favorite recent strips, an undeserved obscurity. Lennie Peterson's The Big Picture was syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate to a paltry list of papers from November 29 1999 to August 8 2004. Peterson brought the autobiographical comics form that has become so popular in indy comic books to newspapers and did a great job of it. The strip was not just amazingly funny but also palpably authentic, a rare quality for newspaper strips. Lennie, as you can see in the samples above, wrote about his experiences, including his cartooning, with plenty of self-effacing humor. How he got some of his strips past a syndicate editor, especially the ones lambasting other newspaper comics, I can't imagine, by I'm sure glad he did.
Unfortunately there are no reprint books of Peterson's syndicated The Big Picture strip, but there is one that collects his pre-syndication magazine strips. You can find it used on ABE or Amazon though copies tend to be a bit pricey (proof that Peterson made an impression on the few people who got to read it!). Lennie also has a Big Picture website, but it harbors a rather nasty virus. I ignored Google's warnings and went to the site and it did indeed infect my computer. Ad-Aware fixed the problem, but my advice is to steer clear until Peterson fixes it.
He ended "Big Picture" around the time Lennie's cat (who appeared in the strip) passed away, which was written into the final few weeks of the strip.