For the vast majority of my life, I have paid very little attention to current events.
If I read a newspaper, it was only for the comics. Even when I became an internet junkie, checking out the latest news was the last thing on my list – my awareness was entirely on the world around me, on that which had specific relevance to me, and not on the world at large.
Sometime in the last year, that has changed. In part due to the US election, obviously an important upcoming event. In part due to the various problems the world seemed to be going through – things of which I had always been tangentially aware, but largely oblivious to. Whatever the reasons, I have found myself reading news stories and trying to stay informed.
Of all the reasons to be glad to have done so, I did not expect one of them to be a keener appreciation for Sinfest.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned my renewed appreciation for Sinfest several times over the last two years, ever since it underwent a pretty thorough evolution – adding incredibly gorgeous and elaborate Sunday strips, having a more subtle change to the core art style… and in general, renewing the humor and imagination of the strips. For the years prior it had gotten into a rut, returning often to the same jokes, same punchlines, same concepts. Now, it started to… expand. To return to the habit of looking at things in a new light, and exploring philosophy and parody in equal measure.
And these last few months, it has done a fantastic job of both.
Politics and the economy have been, unsurprisingly, on the agenda. And Sinfest is hardly alone in this – many strips, these days, are quick to take a shot at such topics. But with most comics… the attempts to do so aren’t funny, aren’t clever, and can even be actively frustrating to read – regardless of which side the webcomic is on or what opinion it has to share. Far too many are simply mean-spirited, or bitter, or angry… and without any insight that might really justify such emotions. Without any reason to make those comics worth my while.
Sinfest, though, has poked its fun with elegance and grace.
And the reason why, as far as I can tell, is that despite having a very clear bias in what the strip is saying, it manages to say it all in fun. Portraying the presidential race as a rock show performance, showing a glimpse of emo Uncle Sam, and showing tough times for various cartoon icons… it all works, and works well.
It is solid, effective commentary on the election, the nation, the economy – but manages to still have a sense of laughter, of lighter thoughts. The strips are focused on some very dark, very depressing topics – but it manages to keep an upbeat spirit despite it all. Now, I’m sure this comes as no surprise – the attitude of the strip has always shown that Ishida, the strip’s creator, has long understood that one of the best ways to deal with a tough topic is to laugh at it.
But his real accomplishment is not just in doing so himself, but sharing that same sentiment with all his readers, and providing a small shining moment of awareness each day… a small little bit of humor to provide a short smile or brief laugh or simply a grin at the absurdity of it all.