Somehow I have dropped the habit of reading the comics in our daily paper, and I really should try to re-acquire it. (Now there’s a suggestion for summer reading to add to Collin Garbarino’s list: read the comics! But do it all year ‘round.) I do usually catch the color funnies on Sunday, and this week I was struck by the strip “Frank and Ernest,” by Tom Thaves. If you are not an afficionado of “Frank and Ernest,” allow me to recommend it. The last panel (almost always) accomplishes a pun, the sort of joke often unjustly derided as a low form of comedy, but quite difficult to pull off day in and day out with something both funny and fresh, much less with a true “groaner” as “Frank and Ernest” often does.
Anyway, yesterday’s Sunday edition of the strip did not actually end with a pun, just a rather lame play on a familiar phrase. But that’s not what’s interesting. This is: the subject of the strip was the deadly sins, “some” of which played golf one day, with amusing results. Just six of the seven deadlies made it into the strip, and which was missing? Go have a look and you should notice.
You’re back now? Good. Of course it was Lust that was missing. Is this just because the funny pages are a “family” venue? Maybe. But perhaps it’s because Lust is the only one of the seven deadly sins that, in our postmodern age, isn’t even a sin to most people any more. It’s the one of which everyone is guilty and no one is ashamed. It has lobbyists, publicists, lawyers, and teachers on its payroll. The other six deadlies—Envy, Pride, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, and Gluttony—are drawn as hideously (and hilariously) ugly in the comic strip. Could we even put a humorously ugly face on Lust these days? We may all be guilty, at various times, of all six of the “Frank and Ernest” deadlies, but only Lust has achieved the position of employing all the others as its minions.
There’s just no room for it in the light mockery of the Sunday funnies.