As regular readers of this blog — both of you — know, I love comic strips. (Yes, I still read “Judge Parker,” but lately the wacky plotlines have turned to … politics?) I still read them in the daily and Sunday Atlanta Journal-Constitution, even the 1973 reruns of “Peanuts” (a great era for “Peanuts,” if you ask me, as long as Rerun wasn’t involved).
On July 26, the last entry of Jan Eliot’s “Stone Soup” was published. This was no surprise to anyone who’d followed the strip; Eliot herself had said the last strip would be published that day, and the Sunday strips for the last month or so have featured a new character — one Jan Eliot, who was kind enough to tell her characters that she was wrapping up the strip.
I almost always enjoyed “Stone Soup.” It had a gentle but winning humor, much like another underrated family strip, Robb Armstrong’s “JumpStart.” Eliot had a few surreal touches — the wading pool that 10-year-old Alix would dive into and find the great creatures of the sea was always welcome — but in general, “Stone Soup” was about an extended family getting by as best they could. Val had a paper-pushing job she obviously didn’t love; Wally was an upbeat nerd before he married Joan, and remained an upbeat nerd afterwards; Holly, the tween daughter, could go from black storm clouds to sunny innocence to pouty childishness in no time flat. There was even a Peace Corps grandma.
“Families are many things, and I enjoy representing the less idealized – but more realistic – circumstances,” she said in a 2003 Washington Post chat.
It was a sweet strip.
Eliot began “Stone Soup” in 1990 as a weekly in the Eugene, Oregon, newspaper, and it was syndicated as a daily strip in 1995. So she’s been at it for 25 years. Every year she’d do at least one strip in which her characters quietly enjoyed a late-summer day, grilling, jumping into a lake, or simply talking on the lawn.
“You gotta love August,” Eliot would inevitably caption it.
August is coming up on Saturday, and the next day there will be no new “Stone Soup” for the first time in a quarter-century. I’m not going to love that version of August, but Jan Eliot deserves her retirement.
Jan, thank you. May you love this August — and many more to come.
UPDATE, 10:50 a.m.: I would be remiss if I didn’t include a link to this interview Eliot did (with three other cartoonists) for my friend Tom Heintjes’ fine magazine, Hogan’s Alley.