Over thirty years ago, as an art director at the New York Times, I ran a two part comic strip by Art Spiegelman on the OpEd page. The only way to get comics – ostensibly taboo at that time – onto the page was not to have any words. So Spiegelman’s strip was a wordless paean to the invention of the better mouse trap. Since then comics have been part of the Times‘ graphic diet. What’s more, the 1985 review by Ken Tucker of Spiegelman’s Maus helped launch the mainstream acceptance of graphic novels. (Scores of essays about and reviews of Spiegelman’s comics have followed.)
In June the Times replaced its venerable Week in Review with the Sunday Review section, art directed by Aviva Michaelov. Eliminated was the weekly round-up of other newspapers’ editorial cartoons (much to the consternation of editorial cartoonists) in favor of a new comic strip by Brian McFadden, creator of the weekly comic strip “Big Fat Whale.”
Brian McFadden was born and raised in Brockton, Massachusetts. After following the advice of the world’s worst guidance counselor, he went on to study mechanical engineering at Johns Hopkins University, where he began the comic strip to escape the drudgery of computer-aided design and materials selection charts.
I was skeptical when I first saw the drawing style (a tad too much like Tom Tomorrow, who also appeared in the Times),. But not only is McFadden’s approach different, his primitive style has grown on me. Now, “The Strip” by Brian McFadden, which was moved from the back page to the more prominent page 3, is the first thing I jump into on Sundays. And it is well worth it. His wit is dry, smart and on topic for the times.