Ack! Cathy Ending! What Strip to Make Fun of Next?

The comic strip Cathy by Cathy Guisewite will end on Sunday, October 3 after a 34-year run.

Since its debut in 1976, the strip has been a favorite of two different audiences. Women loved it for its realistic portrayal of their everyday concerns, including diet, shopping, and dating, while cartoonists loved to make fun of its simple style and bemoan its existence as a symbol of how expectations for comic art had changed since the Golden Age. From the press release:

The end of the strip comes as Guisewite finds herself longing to spend more time with family and pursue new creative venues.

“After almost 34 years of meeting newspaper deadlines,” said Guisewite, “I’m facing some personal deadlines whose requirements simply exceed my ability to procrastinate any longer: an 18-year-old daughter who needs a full-time mom to help her through her last year of high school and beyond … beloved parents I want to be able to visit more often … and a creative biological clock, which is urging me to try something else while I can.”

At its peak, Cathy had a client list of 1,400 newspapers; it won a National Cartoonists Society’s Reuben Award in 1992 and an Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program in 1987. There are more than 30 collections available.

Additional quotes by Guisewite:

I’ve loved creating something that helps women feel they’re not alone.

I’ve loved creating something that men will never completely understand.

I’ve loved celebrating the giant tangle of mothers and daughters.

I’ve been criticized sometimes for reinforcing negative stereotypes of women by writing so much about weight and shopping, but to me these subjects are a rich microcosm of the extra pressures and expectations that women live with every second of the day. Now, with so many powerful, positive role models, they’re also a microcosm of the feelings of isolation women feel when we try to live up to 10 images at once and can’t. In what universe would men one second of life trying to squash themselves into “sexy workout wear”?

14 Responses to “Ack! Cathy Ending! What Strip to Make Fun of Next?”

  1. Diana Green Says:

    Hm. The strip often depicted women as self-deprecating and at the mercy of their desires and (hetero)sexuality. But but but!
    Buried in the tedium, Guisewite said some rather pithy things about the role of women in the world. Good for her for wanting to try something different.

  2. Lyle Says:

    Honestly, I liked Cathy early when it began and was different from the rest of the comics page. However, it sadly became one of those comic strips that started to feel stale once Guisewhite got married and started repeating jokes because she couldn’t draw from her life anymore (and then there was the phase when the strip started focusing on Cathy’s workplace, highlighting corporate absurdities in the wake of Dilbert’s success).

    For a moment I thought Cathy started seeming stale because Guidewhite opened the door for other female cartoonists who were more innovative, but looking at wikipedia there are still few women working on comic strips.

  3. Johanna Says:

    That’s one of my concerns, too. Cathy reflected a point of view that is still rare on the comic page, especially if you’re looking for a single woman’s experience (instead of the many family strips).

  4. Anthony Says:

    Last I checked, she’s not single anymore—she finally married Irving several years ago.

  5. Johanna Says:

    You’re right, I was thinking more of the historical strip approach. I should have been clearer.

  6. DeBT Says:

    I felt that when Cathy (finally!) married Irving, that was the best time to stop reading the strip. Cathy Guisewise said the reason she did so was because she could no longer identify with the single working woman, since she was married, and had less material to work from. The year-long arc’s been collected into a single book, and is worth reading. Certainly more relateable than the absymal Elizabeth / Anthony (ugh) wedding in FBOFW.

    For what it’s worth, I enjoyed the first 10 or 15 years of the strip when there were plenty of verbal wordplay and multiple jokes before the last panel. (The waiter with the Water list is one of my favorites) But then, I noticed that at a certain point (like Garfield) the cartoonist was just phoning it in.

    I always regretted that so many of the Cathy Sundays (which were oftentimes some of her funniest works) were never as extensively collected as much as her dailies.

    I doubt an omnibus collection of the entire Cathy series would be feastible. For one thing, as minimalist as the strip was, the early versions of the comic were EVEN ROUGHER. Cathy was basically just a series of lines, oftentimes not even touching each other.

    An interesting tidbit about Cathy – although she was always without a nose, there were the occasional rare strip where she would appear in profile, and her nose would become visible.

    I may have to do a post about this later. (Especially of the Water Waiter)

  7. Johanna Says:

    Maintaining a long-running strip all by yourself (and I know that doesn’t apply to Jim Davis) has to be hard. You want to keep giving the readers what they want, being consistent, but that easily becomes predictable.

  8. Cathy hangs up her baggy sweats | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment Says:

    […] (Via Comics Worth Reading.) […]

  9. Sarah Says:

    As far as Cathy (before marrying Irving) representing the voice of the single female, I have to say that I thought Cathy actually reinforced the centrality of the family by characterizing the single woman’s experience as empty, insecure, and unfulfilling. Far from representing an alternative to traditional family structures, the strip always seemed to me to reinforce the necessity of taking part in those structures, lest you be doomed to such a desperate, lonely, anxious existence.

    It is too bad that female voices outside the context of family life are so absent from the comic strip genre. I have read great indie comics about single women’s lives (for example, the hilarious Florride by Amy Martin, which you reviewed 11/11/08), so it clearly isn’t a question of whether the work is out there. It simply doesn’t seem to attract the wide audience it deserves unfortunately.

  10. DeBT Says:

    It took me awhile to find several Sunday strips relevant to the announcement, but I’ve finally finished my post about Cathy:

    Sarah, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to delve deeper into how therapic the strip was for women, since I was more concerned about my first impressions upon first reading it. Maybe somebody else who’s more emotionally involved can do what my post’s lacking.

  11. Johanna Says:

    Wow, what a neat roundup of art samples, DeBT!

    Sarah, yes, you’re right, but a lot of women seemed to share that viewpoint and wanted to see that they weren’t alone. That’s part of reinforcing societal norms, I guess.

  12. Last Minute LinkBlogging: Chris Ryall on Spike, DC Cheer, Candorville Goodbye to Cathy, More » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] and I’ve been enjoying it. This week artist Darrin Bell is paying homage to Cathy upon the strip’s upcoming retirement. This particular strip, from Tuesday (panel shown here), sums up a lot of […]

  13. Torsten Adair Says:

    What strip do we make fun of now? How about Mark Trail or Gil Thorp?

    As for a strip with interesting female characters, 9 Chickweed Lane is quite good.

  14. Johanna Says:

    I like Mark Trail for how aggressively old-school it is, and how the animals are drawn in such weird forced perspective that it sometimes looks like they’re the ones having the conversations. But yes, it’s very entertaining to make fun of it.




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