I should be prudent and say that Brooke McEldowneyâs 9 Chickweed Lane is one of the best comic strips now appearing in the nationâs newspaper funnies. But I have ever been foolhardy in such matters rather than prudent, so I say: 9 Chickweed Lane is THE best comic strip now appearing in the nationâs newspapers.
A little background (very little): in its earliest manifestations, Chickweed Lane was about three generations of women all living in the same houseâmother, daughter (Edda), and Eddaâs grandmother. Then a couple years ago, Edda got a scholarship to intern with a New York ballet company, and when she moved to the Big Apple, she needed some place to stay until she could find her own apartment. Her dancing partner, Seth, volunteered his place, and Edda moved in. Scandalous: unmarried couple living together in sin.
Thatâs the sort of dare McEldowney takes and surmounts with ease and grace. Ohâthen the scandal evaporates. Seth is gay, so Edda is safe. Gay comic strip character in a family newspaper! More trouble. But theyâre still together. (So to speak.)
Then Eddaâs highschool chum, Amos, comes to NY to play the cello. Edda and Amos discover, almost at once, that they are passionately in love. They spend a week on the couch in the apartment, neckingâpetting? grabbing each other by the lip? More salaciousness. But Amos does the decent thing and, after an overheated week or so, buttons up Eddaâs blouse and goes home. Then one of Eddaâs Catholic girlsâ school teachers shows up and discards her habit; followed, shortly thereafter, by a priest, who, in love with the former nun, defrocks himself and they marry. Whoops. Ohâand the strange fellow who looks like farmer? Heâs an alien. And one of his best friends is God, whose name, actually, is Monty. Then Edda and Amos go to Brussels for some sort of international musical competition, and while rehearsing in the rehearsal hall on the upper floor of a downtown building, their passions get the better of them, and they consummate their love affair right there on the piano. Unbeknownst to them, a hot-air balloon carrying a few score tourists is drifting by the window and the tourists all witness this consummation devoutly to be wished. One of the tourists has a video-recorder, and before long, the entire world witnesses Edda and Amosâ moment of indiscretion. Later, Amos wins the competition because the whole world loves a lover.
I assume this is enough to demonstrate the storytelling daring of cartoonist McEldowney. That his strip is also funny in the most humane and compassionate way possible you must see to agree. The current plot line: Eddaâs grandmother is retelling the story of her experiences during World War II, when, as a singer and entertainer of the troops, she was recruited to sing for German POWs in the expectation that she would pry important information from themâsomehow. I leave you to imagine, for the nonce, how. Or find out for yourself by visiting GoComics.com.
Alas, the number of the nationâs newspapers whose editors are canny enough to realize the excellence of 9 Chickweed Lane is not large. More the losers they. (And in the day of the losing newspaper business, thatâs probably appropriate but sad beyond words.)