By Jug Varner

We called them “funny papers” when I was a kid, and I got hooked on these comic strips before I could actually read them. My older siblings read them to me, until I could figure it out for myself. I never lost interest in my old favorites and developed a liking for others that eventually came on the scene. To this day I turn to the comic pages as the last thing I read in the morning newspaper… sort of like a mental dessert.

To me, one of the best things about the Houston Chronicle is its comic section — four pages daily of these wonderful strips and eight on Sunday. Some don't appeal to me, but most do, and if I am gone somewhere and miss them, I can log onto their website and catch up. My only complaints are that they have recently reduced their size to save newsprint, which is hard on older sets of eyes, and that one or two should be on the editorial page because of the political satire.

It is amazing how many of today's comic strips are still going after so many years of activity. Most of the original artists are deceased or retired, but their kin or associate artists have stepped in to keep them going. New ones crop up from time to time…some funny and immediately likeable, some not, but like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder. Like other things in our culture, they change with the times. A few belong on the editorial pages.

One of the favorites of most military people (who still read comics) is Beetle Bailey. One would think that nowhere in the military could things be as ludicrous as the characters and situations at Camp Swampy, but obviously it is a good reminder of the oddball idiosyncrasies we all have seen or experienced at one time or another. Artist Mort Walker also does something special from time to time that adds a certain touch to the emotions, such as you will see by clicking on this link.

When I ask someone if they saw such and such in today's comic pages, and they look at me skeptically and say, “I never read the comics,” I tell them they ought to loosen up a little and start smelling the roses. As life gets more complicated, a sense of humor is requisite to good mental health, and nothing sharpens it like a daily dose of the comic pages. It helps keep you thinking young…well, at least, thinking! The same goes for crossword puzzles and other mind games.