Comics catastrophe – was it in the stars?

Recently, Queenslanders woke to devastating news.

It was worse than the Lions beating the Tigers in the elimination final,1 worse even than the cancellation of NeighboursThe Courier-Mail stopped printing the comics.

In fact, the only upside I can see to this development is imagining how outraged the professional virtue-signallers will be, who are already writing letters of complaint to my editor because I have raised a problem which is not on the level of an asteroid striking the Earth or the possibility of Joe Biden forgetting which side he is on and nuking Antarctica.

My first newspaper-reading experiences were the comics, in The Courier-Mail and the old Telegraph, back when the line-up included Blondie – ironically,2 a strip about her husband Dagwood – and Juliet Jones, which nobody knew what was about because when it was cancelled after about 35 years, it was still on the third day of the story.

Some of you may be unfamiliar with the comics – indeed, since they have been cancelled I presume most of you are – so here is a quick summary of the final line-up:

  • Calvin and Hobbes – Regarded by top comic scientists based at CERN3 to be the greatest comic strip of all time, despite having been in re-runs since Frodo dumped the Ring into the fires of Mount Doom.4 It is the story of a young boy and his stuffed tiger, which may or may not come to life depending on how many chardonnays you have had prior to reading it.
  • Fred Bassett – A charming little story about two typical English people who owned a Bassett hound, and to whom nothing funny ever happened. Not once.
  • Ginger Meggs Based in an alternate Australia in which reality TV makes the law, and laughs are sourced from bullying and stupidity;5 also occasionally falls back on old jokes, by which I mean jokes Moses told about the Pharisees to cheer up the Jews while they were wandering in the desert.
  • Insanity Streak – A decent strip which is bit like the Far Side would have been if Gary Larson had been able to get access to more of whatever it was that made him write the Far Side in the first place.
  • Snake – Relied on non-traditional sources of humour, such as cruelty to animals and domestic violence; no discernible plot.
  • Garfield – Exploited a repertoire that went all the way from ‘isn’t John stupid/isn’t Garfield fat’ to ‘isn’t Garfield fat/isn’t John stupid’. Occasionally Odie was also stupid.
  • Hagar the Horrible – Unusual in that it sought humour in the antics of the Vikings, a people who would – just for laughs – sail up a river and kill everything in a village, including the pets. Ha-ha!
  • The Phantom – Perfect, of course, and should still be published, preferably on the front page to save time.

So, OK, there was room for improvement, but the comics should not have been the first thing kicked out for space reasons; the Star Sign column should have been kicked out for space reasons.6


The comics may have been a combination of old jokes, violence and various forms of shaming, but that is preferable to an attempt at predicting the future by observing the position of planets hundreds of millions of kilometres away, as they appear in front of stars which are many trillions of kilometres away.

This means that the light these stars emit takes a long time to get here – longer, even, than the Blu-ray extended edition of The Hobbit trilogy – and by the time we see them, they have blown up, moved or found something more interesting to do than mess about with your life. So basing your behaviour on them is like basing your behaviour on Donald Trump’s tweets.7

In addition, most people don’t know their actual star sign, because a thing called precession8 makes the Earth wobble on its axis, which is probably why it is so hard to stand up after the work Christmas party.9 That means the Earth has moved against the constellations, and shifts the star signs; so if your daily horoscope has ever actually been accurate, there is a good chance you are somebody else.

In any event, the predictions of astrologers are rarely of any value. If, for example, they said something like, “your wallet is behind the fridge; you dropped it there after last night’s party because you were wobbling so much, probably due to precession” or, “put the house on Furious Sandwich in the 5th at Doomben; it’s definitely going to win” that would be helpful.10

They don’t say that though; they say things like, “Mars is rising on the triennial equinox of Zod in the constellation of Alf; your lucky number is Pi to 17 places, and you should avoid the letter z and all streets that run north-south. Substantial progress is possible without the colour chartreuse”.11

Let’s face it, even agent Cooper (NB: young people, insert Harry Potter here to get this) couldn’t make sense of that. So it would be much better if we ditched the astrology column and kept the comics – and we wouldn’t have to stop there; the paper is full of stuff that it is impossible to imagine anyone wants to read.


For a start, politicians get a lot of column space these days, usually banging on about how dreadful the economy is and who is to blame (the previous government) and who is best placed to fix it all (the current government, but not right now). This formula is used by all governments of all stripes at all levels and at all times.

In fact, I think that they are all the same couple of columns, originally written by Gough Whitlam and Robert Menzies, reprinted under different titles with the names changed.12 The reason nobody notices is nobody has ever read them, then or now.

Another example: As I write this the paper has a column by former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett, detailing the time the Queen took him into her confidence. Jeff is too classy to tell us what she said, although I am betting it was along the lines of a very polite version of ‘who the hell are you?’ while giving herself enough room to get a decent swing with her handbag in case he turned out to be a nutter.13 Nice story for Jeff, but hardly up there in importance with the antics of Calvin and Hobbes now, is it?

I also don’t need to read anything about Paul Gallen. Ever again.

Speaking of the Queen, we recently had the genuinely devastating news that Queen Elizabeth 2 has passed away; a measure of the regard in which she was held is that the outpouring of condolences was widespread and respectful. (Excluding, of course, the usual suspects who shall remain nameless, and who got on their bandana – er, I mean, bandwagon – and displayed all the decorum and class of group of schoolboys who had stumbled upon a nudist colony while on a nature hike).

Regardless of a person’s views on various political issues, I suspect most would agree that the Queen was a very decent human being and total legend, the likes of which we will not see again. She was often a rock in troubled times, and she will be missed.


Vale, Queen Elizabeth, many thanks for your service.

© Shane Budden 2022

Shane Budden is a Special Counsel, Ethics, with the Queensland Law Society Ethics and Practice Centre.

1 On a dodgy review.
2 Yes, this is the correct usage of the term.
3 Although certainly not working there.
4 Not in the movie, I mean when he actually did it.
5 Or it could just be set in Federal Parliament.
6 See what I did there?
7 I realise it is actually nothing like that, but I couldn’t think of anything else as silly.
8 Which is not a weasel word politicians use to say we are about to have a recession without actually saying it, but it should be so if people start using it – remember I thought of it first.
9 At least that’s the story I’m going with.
10 Disclaimer: as far as I am aware, there is no such horse; if you find one with that name, and lose money on it, I am not responsible (should you win my cut is 20%).
11 Assuming chartreuse is a colour.
12 This is known as the ‘Budden method’.
13 Your call, I just report this stuff.

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