Cul de Sac ends its official run next week, though it's actually been in rerun mode for some time now as friend-of-the-blog Richard Thompson works on the health problems that brought about the strip's end.
Perhaps feeling reflective, or maybe just in one of his frequent Puckish moods, Richard posted some pre-launch Cul de Sac strips at his blog, together with some background on the creative process. (For those of us in the hinterlands, these are "pre-pre-launch," since the strip ran in the Washington Post before it was picked up for syndication.) He has, in the past, often dug up various illustrations from the past and the combination of his art and his commentary makes the blog a good place to visit.
And I'm glad some more work went into the strip before it launched, because the loveable little sprite above would not have created as palpable a storm of creative chaos as she did in her later form.
But, having already saluted the strip, I'm more interested at the moment in the concept of cartoon reruns, because I'm assuming that, while the strip will disappear from print, it will continue online. And I will be delighted to read it again from the start.
There is a critical difference between online and in-print reruns, the main one being that "Peanuts" is about the only strip that features print reruns.
Charles Schulz had indicated that he did not want anyone else doing his strip, but he didn't specify that he didn't want to block the chances of other aspiring cartoonists to earn a living, and so, when he died, the Powers That Be decreed that reruns of his strip would be offered to newspapers, and the vast majority either did nothing, in which case the strips just went into rerun mode, or actively chose to publish old material in their newspapers.
With all due respect to the people involved, I find it impossible to believe that a man who was so generous in mentoring and encouraging new talent wanted to take up valuable and limited space at their expense.
However, on the practically limitless Internet, the chance to see strips from the past as their creators intended, one day at a time, is a delight. While I encourage people to buy collections (especially using the widget at the right), reading 20 or 30 strips at a time is simply not the same thing as taking them singly at 24 hour intervals. For some strips, it mutes their impact to the level of pointlessness, but, in any case, it's not how the medium works.
At GoComics you can, if you like, read classic strips for free. Personally, I don't begrudge supporting the art form by tossing a little money (very little, yes) at current artists by subscribing, but, hey, do as you like.
There are several vintage strips there, and you can sort through this list to find them, but here are some examples, starting with their newest addition, the classic Skippy (which, because Percy Crosby had a lot more room to work with, you'll probably have to click on to get in a readable size):
Calvin and Hobbes
Elderberries (which just reset to the very beginning)
Shirley and Son
Over at Daily Ink, only subscribers can access their vintage collection, but it's worth it anyway for the contemporary comics and the classics here are genuine vintage, which only makes the small annual cost that much better a purchase.
Here's a selection (and King Features has fairly large images, so I don't have to blow their vintage strips up to read them comfortably):
Barney Google and Snuffy Smith
The Heart of Juliet Jones
Mandrake the Magician