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Destinations: See you in the funny home pages

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When a reader forwarded us a link to his favorite comic strips, we were inspired to see what other funny pages had home pages. After years of lurking through Web sites, we were amazed at the vast collections available. and the healthy portions of panels open to casual visitors Because of the ever-expanding universe of online comics, we threw in three syndicates, two index link pages, an interactive strip and a taste of foreign funnies as an introductory tour of the medium.

Comics.com
www.unitedmedia.com
This page is but a small fiefdom within the United Features Syndicate kingdom of columnists and commentaries, which are but a part of the even larger Scripps Howard empire. What’s truly important, though, is that comics.com is home to about 100 comic strips such as Dilbert, Garfield, Doonesbury and Luann. For the older crowd, it features Alley Oop, BC, Wizard of Id and Born Loser. If the local paper doesn’t run a particular favorite, this is a great place to get about a month’s worth of each strip at a sitting. It’s also the place to spend a month’s salary on officially licensed T-shirts, lunch boxes and coffee.

King Features
www.kingfeatures.com
Enter United Features arch-rival. King Features answers with Spider-Man, Popeye, Beetle Bailey and Blondie. King may not have as many of the new hotshots of the comic world, but who can go wrong with Barney Google and Snuffy Smith? And its romance section has long-running heavyweights such as Mary Worth, Rex Morgan, M.D., and one of the soapiest strips of all time, Apartment 3-G. Visitors can pick out about a month’s worth of strips by type or with an alphabetized pull-down menu.

Uexpress
www.uexpress.com
Another megadistributor of glee, Universal Press Syndicate, has about 30 comic strips online that include Calvin and Hobbes, The Fusco Brothers, Bizarro and the Non Sequitur. Some of these are kept at the Uexpress site, while others link on to their creator’s home page. When you’ve had enough single-panel sight gags like in Ziggy, test-drive the interactive cartoon fun in The New and the Weird section off the Uexpress main page. Weirdness seems to be a popular theme at Universal Press.

Stu’s Comic Strip Connection
www.stus.com
Stu Rees’ site makes quick work of linking to comic strip syndicates such as those mentioned above, and it also has a large index of links to sites of individual strips - something to which most syndicates don’t pay a lot of service. We really liked this site’s references to and features of new or lesser-known strips that may see limited action in small or obscure publications. Most won’t ever get exposure in the Sunday funny pages - many deservedly so. Nonetheless, Mr. Rees keeps track of where they are and what they’re doing for laughs or groans. Good for him.

Big Head’s
www.monkeyfun.com
The full title to this page is Big Head’s Amazing Comic Strip Adventure Game! This is an interactive comic strip that lets readers wander through panels with the hero, Big Head, and choose his direction - and attitude - in contacting aliens, eating fast-food and toy shopping in what could be loosely called a scavenger hunt. It’s not for everyone - and we’re not talking about an overabundance of profanity or other non-family-type things on which some cartoonists rely. No. While Big Head goes out of his way to put the old #$%*!@#@&+! in place of potty language, he can get on your nerves faster than you can say, "Love is …"

Big Panda
www.bigpanda.net
These folks boast a link collection of almost 800 online comics, most of which are updated daily. Visitors can plug what they seek into a search engine powered by Google. There’s also a list of spanking new strips, a pull-down list by category and an alphabetized index of titles. Impressive, eh? Heck, it’s still just a link page. However, hard-core comics collectors excluded, visitors to Big Panda are going to find comic strips they’ve never seen anywhere before. Be sure to take a few minutes or hours exploring the monkeypunch category from the pull-down menu for a strange mix of the offbeat and downright weird. Yikes!

Comics from Russia
www.comics.ru
Pick the English version from the opening page or be content to admire some elaborately drawn Russian funnies that remind visitors of the old Merrie Melodies cartoons. Only six translated serials are available at the moment, and there are no guaranteed laughs here. Still, we found most of the offerings charming. Hedgehog showed real promise and How The Very First Zoo Was Devised was worthy of any Sunday strip collection. The rest of the site features Russian-only versions of editorial cartoons, caricatures and fairytales in Russian only for which visitors will have to fill in their own dialogue. Visitors can subscribe for updates of the featured panels.
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