In his January 5th Chatalogical Humor chat, Gene Weingarten polled his readers on the Arnold comic strip by Kevin McCormick.
The responses to the Arnold strip were:
Richmond, Va.: When I was looking at the first Arnold strip, my eyes accidentally leaped to the last panel where I saw the balloon "I consumed white death!" It made me smile, and I went back to read the whole thing. Er...mayonnaise is the white death? Er...okay. The only way I could think there's a joke in there is if it is a running gag - he hates mayo and the lunch ladies tricked him into eating it with the tuna salad. Anyway, it was kind of deflating that such a cool punchline had such a bad setup. I may use that line, though.
Gene Weingarten: Yes, his hatred of mayo was a running gag -- as was his war with the cafeteria ladies. But I contend this was all implicit in the strip you read.
And lastly, I put Arnold in there because it was a near-great strip. Arnold never succeeded because Arnold was, at its wicked little heart, really mean-spirited. It scared newspaper editors who (incorrectly) believed that the comics pages were the province of children. Arnold was really daring, and different -- it featured a child who had no innocence whatsoever.
When Arnold failed the cartoonist gave it all up and became (I kid you not) a minister. That's what he's doing now.
Lansing, Mich.: Hey, Gene! I was talking about "Arnold" with someone at Jef's book-release party last month (I wish I could remember who -- he specifically cited the "white death" strip you ran as one of his favorites.)
I had a (possibly unreasonably) strong devotion to "Arnold" when I was in college and find in reading it now that I'm still rather fond of it, although I have a little tougher time with the quality of the art these days.
I gave it a "pretty good".
Gene Weingarten: I asked a comics editor about this recently, and she, too, had some problems with the art; I don't see it, but you and Jef and she are pros, so I bow.
I love his nasty spirit.