death is not entertaining


Editor’s Note: In the daily observation of life around him, the author occasionally feels the need to point out ridiculously inane behavior and general thoughtlessness. These are called “Rants” and this is one of those times.

She died from the recurrence of breast cancer on October 4, 2007. Lisa Moore is survived by her husband and 5 year old daughter.

She was a lawyer, a mother, a wife and a character in the comic pages of hundreds of newspapers in America. Her illness and death had been planned and drawn out by Funky Winkerbean creator Tom Batiuk, himself a cancer survivor.

As a result of this strip and Batiuk’s absolute right to tell the stories he wants to tell, much good will be done in the very worthwhile fight against cancer. University Hospitals Ireland Cancer Center in Cleveland has unveiled a fund called Lisa’s Legacy Fund for Cancer Research and Education, named in honor of Batiuk’s character and her cancer storyline. The “Lisa” character will be the subject of a book, a compilation of her strips. The story line has resonated with thousands of readers, many directly or indirectly touched by cancer. This is all quite admirable that something like this can come from a comic strip.

The story line of this character’s death did not resonate, however, with this reader.

Part of my daily routine, as some of you are aware, is to head out for breakfast each day to my regular place, get my bagel and my Pepsi and read the morning paper. I will learn, during my daily reading, about the significantly troubling news of the day. Various wars, crimes against men, women and children around the world and in my back yard. Politicians will make thoughtless decisions and sports teams will often disappoint. There is usually some good news in there too but it’s usually overshadowed by the former.

My one respite in my newspaper reading had been the comic page, the “funnies”. Just a little break in the monotony of the bad news I have read or am bound to face in the day ahead. Tom Batiuk decided that his space on the comic pages must now provoke more than entertain and that a cancer story must be told in a realistic manner. He believes, according to an article in the Akron Beacon Journal newspaper, that newspaper comics don’t always have to make people laugh.

“I think that is a somewhat limited viewpoint,” Batiuk said. “It defines comic strips somewhat narrowly. I owe it to my readers to challenge myself and challenge readers’ expectations. Being on the comic page is a privilege.”

Actually, Tom, no you don’t need to challenge your readers, we’d really prefer to be entertained. Death, even in the comics, is not considered entertainment.

Many of us who have been touched by cancer in our lives have been challenged enough, thank you.

We’d been long engaged by the story lines and characters you’d developed in a setting we’d come to enjoy only to be disengaged by your previously entertaining strip which suddenly decided to kill off a character so that readers will grasp or be reminded of cancer’s severity.

So that we readers can imagine the patient’s and surviving family’s fear, pain and suffering.

So we can wallow even for a brief moment in the image of a 5 year old daughter without her Mother or of a widower.

We simple readers actually understand what is involved in horror wrought by cancer and we didn’t need to be reminded of it in your panels.

We’re each very sorry that you or anyone has to go through it. But pushing it on us in the comic pages of our newspaper is crappy.

Ultimately, it is your comic, these are your characters and you are the deity of their stories. I fully respect your right to go in any direction with them that you choose. For me, sadly, I choose to go elsewhere.

Newspaper comic strips should entertain or otherwise be banished to the editorial page. There cartoonists can publish all the real-life death, mayhem, bad news or depressing situations their minds can muster. Readers expect it, there.

I need less bad news and fewer surprises in my life, not Moore.

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