I thought I’d take a few minutes to give a shout out to some of my favorite strips out there.  Most of these you have probably heard of, but there may be a few that are new.  All of them are, I think, well worth reading.  I’ll start with syndicated strips, and then move on to web comics tomorrow.

For the past couple of years, I’ve had two absolute top tier strips that I read everyday no matter how little time I have.  They are Monty by Jim Meddick, and 9 Chickweed Lane by Brooke McEldowney.  I love them for completely different reasons.  Monty is funny 98 percent of the time, the drawings are odd yet completely fitting, the characters are wacko, and you never know where it’s going to go next.  There are aliens and people from the future, a talking bird, a psycho girlfriend… great stuff.  On the other hand, 9 Chickweed Lane is almost never funny, but it’s not like it tries to be.  It has a different agenda and moves to the beat of it’s own drummer.  It’s a character driven strip where everyone is eccentric,  the storylines are complex, ongoing, and subtle, and the art is gorgeous.  I absolutely never miss either strip.

Rounding out my top five are Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau, Cul de Sac by Richard Thompson, and Between Friends by Sandra Bell-Lundy.  I love Doonesbury because it’s consistently great.  It’s simply always interesting, always current, and it always has a perfect punchline that is hilarious in an understated way.  Brilliant.  Cul de Sac I just love because it’s a perfect little strip.  Scratchy drawings, sad yet funny lives, a wonderful and accurate depiction of childhood… this strip gets a lot of press and I think it’s all deserved.  Great strip.  Between Friends is well-written, well drawn, it tackles very complex issues (right now she’s taking on spousal abuse) and the friendships between the women feel authentic and realistic.

Other strips I enjoy:

Jane’s World by Paige Braddock (Mostly about a group of lesbians who are friends and lovers, it took me a while to figure out everyone and everything in this strip, but now that I mostly understand it, I love it!)

Stone Soup by Jan Eliot (solidly funny and well-drawn strip.  I’ve found that I really enjoy her writing.  I am a fan of a lot of women’s strips)

Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis (love the crocs.  Also love the take-no-prisioners approach to humor)

Pooch Cafe (consistently funny, love Poncho!)

Mutts (melt-in-your mouth sweetness)

Clear Blue Water (it’s like she’s living MY life!  Oh, wait a minute…)

One strip that ended this year that I miss is PreTeena by Allison Barrows.   That was definitely my top five before it ended.  I loved her art, especially her pen line.  Oh, how I coveted it!  I have this ham-handed really solid line and hers was so lyrical and fine.  I also enjoyed the family (the dad and mom were drawn so cute!) and I loved Teena’s gangly, nerdy best friend Stick.  I heard Allison was going to continue the strip in some way (I think in book form?), so I will definitely have to buy whatever she puts out.

I also miss Big Top by Rob Harrell (really well written and funny as hell), Spot the Frog by Mark Heath (what a charming, sweet family strip) and Lucky Cow by Mark Pett (about a fast food restaurant, but the characters are what kept me coming back).

So, there you have it.  I’ve probably missed quite a few favorites, and when I think of them tomorrow, I might edit this post.  I hope some of you can find some new favorites among my picks.