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Comics past

"Aack! As Cathy would say. It's the end of an era: The comic strip 'Cathy' is kaput. Its final frame ran in Sunday's newspapers after 34 years of daily strips in as many as 1,400 newspapers. …

"Of course, I'd already known her cartoon namesake a long time. When 'Cathy' first appeared in the late '70s, it was groundbreaking. Sure, there'd been other comic strip chicks — Blondie and Brenda Starr, Betty and Veronica — but I certainly wasn't drawn to those dames. We had nothing in common.

"The Women's Lib movement was in full swing when 'Cathy' burst on the scene, and up until then, nothing on the funny pages had reflected the struggles of me and my college-age gal pals. But Cathy's daily dose of neurosis, insecurity and angst pretty much reflected what we were dealing with: shoving our butts into teeny bikinis, or waiting for boyfriends to call, or — as a result of no phone call — trying to resist the temptation of comfort food. (Cathy's choice is chocolate; mine is a tub of home-style rice pudding.)"

Stephanie Becker, writing on "Aack! End of 'Cathy' also marks the end of an era," on Oct. 4 at the "Today" Producer's Notebook at MSNBC

No future comics

"Is there any recent-vintage daily comic strip being published regularly in North America that's as widely recognized, never mind beloved, as 'Peanuts'? And second, is such a scenario even possible?

"I'm pretty sure the answer to both questions is 'no.' … I love the comic strip form, but I feel fairly certain it's either dead or doomed — because even if there were somebody out there doing early Schulz-quality work, who would know about it? I mean, besides die-hards who consciously go spelunking for good new strips online and spread the word when they find something? …

"It all comes back to the daily newspaper and the strips they carried. The daily strip was a gateway into appreciating all sorts of comics simply because it was right there on your doorstep or in your local news box. And the comics were one of the reasons you read the paper. … The daily strip is (or was) inextricably associated with daily newspapers. And as the daily newspaper ebbs in prominence, the daily strip must ebb, too. Or maybe I should say 'has.' Past tense."

Matt Zoller Seitz, writing on "Good grief! 'Peanuts' and the death of comics," on Oct. 2 at Salon

Fairy tales always

"Year after year, we print and re-print fairy tales. What is it that makes them valuable? Should we keep telling them, and if so, why? What about their detractors, the self-appointed child protectors who complain about their violence and cruelty, not to mention a different set of worriers who protest their 'false' happy endings? And surely the tales do not teach morality. Remember the egregious brutality of that spoiled princess in 'The Frog King' who, after hurling the little animal who helped her against the wall, gets rewarded. …

"Nor do the tales psychologize or philosophize. What they do, instead, is what all great children's literature does: they literalize metaphor. They lower their glittering buckets deep into the psyche's well. Loyalty lifts spells. Jealousy becomes murder. Love trumps death. Fortune reverses. Wishes come true. …

"Fairy tales are stories spun into gold at the wooden wheel of a miller's daughter: stories made to summon wonder, horror, enchantment — and not necessarily anything more. Uncanny in the purest sense of the word, which is to say, both bizarre and familiar at once, they are meant to be told, not read, and they truly possess an inexhaustible power. Children hold on tight, turn pale, close their eyes, and beg for more."

Ellen Handler Spitz, writing on "The Storytellers," on Sept. 30 at the New Republic

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