The planet's favourite comic strips, now on a Web site near you!

When the first caveman scratched a picture in the dirt, little did he know what he was to spawn centuries later. Those early scratchings have, over time, evolved into an art form that is almost as beloved as the movies.

Charlie Brown and the gang; Spiderman, Superman and the Human Torch; Popeye, Olive and Wimpy; Calvin and Hobbes - these and other comic strips continue to entertain, enlighten and educate us, provide us with some much-needed respite from our humdrum lives, and sometimes also offer relevant commentary on them. If it weren't for them, entertainment would only be about stupid sit-coms and crazy movies.

http://www.peanuts.com

There are some people who can't understand what's so lovable about a cartoon strip which features a pathetic loser, a bunch of neurotic females and a dreamy beagle. Sucks to them, I say - the official Peanuts site is well worth a visit, any time of day.

The site is extremely simple in its layout, much like the strip itself. The few links are very well-designed and strictly on an "as-needed" basis. First up, to get into the mood, go to the "Strip Library" which has a whole host of strips for each day over the last month; that's thirty pieces of sheer genius to light up your day. Then, in case you never got to know all the people (and animals) in the strip, go to "Profiles". Sketches of all the major characters are given, along with a few sample strips featuring them. Then, go to "History", which should satisfy those of you who bother about things like origins and starting dates and stuff.

Other stuff includes "The Clubhouse", which features gallery sketches of different characters by artists; it also tells you what's happening to the Peanuts gang now that the strip is over. And finally, round off the whole experience by reading about the life of its creator, Charles Schulz.

All this should be enough to make you a fan, too.

http://www.marvel.com

The biggest deal in the comic world, of course it deserves mention in this column. Though it's really famous right now for the X-Men, it actually has a lot of other strips that are brilliant in their own right. So, here we go!

The first obvious thing to do is to go to the comics page. There is a lot of stuff about the latest comics, critical reviews of different series (don't these critics have anything better to do?), comics for sale, character analyses of super-heroes, and the like. Then, for those who have lost touch with their inner child, there is the character profile section; here, you can learn all about the different characters that inhabit the Marvel dimension. This should interest you enough to look at the various comic strip covers, which are beautiful in their own right.

After this, there are previews of future issues, with relevant information about their probable appearances in movies and TV. You could also view a few sample strips in the "Bullpen Bits" section. Apart from this, they have a whole load of opportunities to buy comics online, and even play a few games. The site is extensive, but doesn't have the great design you're used to from the comic strips. But apart from that technical flaw, it should satisfy any supernatural cravings you may experience.

http://www.reemst.com/calvin_and_hobbes/

Calvin and tiger Hobbes are probably the greatest invention of the last two decades. But surprisingly, the official site loses out to this other, unofficial fan site.

Set up by a guy named Martyn, this site is really well-designed, with a lot of material worth reading, and numerous areas to visit. You could go see the Strip Of The Day, or try to see how much you love the strip by taking the quiz. There's also an Art page, which features rare stuff by Bill Waterson, the creator.

The site also features the poems which Calvin recites in the strip, as also the outrageous theories that Calvin's Dad puts forward. And for all of us who have wished and wished for a Transmogrifier of our own, go to the Transmogrifier segment, which gives you a random Calvin picture every time you click on the Transmogrifier. And be nice to the guy who set up this site - "ring the doorbell" and make him happy. After all, this is one heck of a site!

http://www.windesheim.nl/hselles/asterix.html

The year's 50 B.C., and you've been magically transported back to the days of Julius Caesar, magic potions, inept pirates and a bunch of indomitable Gauls. Yep, I'm talking about the small warrior who can do wonders...with a little help from his friends, of course.

This again is not the official site, because that was only in French. So, for the benefit of all those who speak in Anglais, this site should do for you. The site itself has all the items you might be looking for, and a few surprises as well. First up, go to the "Album Descriptions", which have a brief synopsis of all the different Asterix books in print along with a little artwork. Then, if you're curious or ignorant, you need to take a look at the list of "Main Characters". Then comes the interesting part.

There is a listing of the introductory text (which appears at the beginning of every book) in all the different versions. All those Latin quotes which so entranced and interested us, are finally translated here. And, just in case you want to see how widely-spread Asterix's adventures were, there's a map which lets you go to all the places in the series, and see what he did there. Finally, there are samples of scenes from Asterix where Goscinny and Uderzo painted themselves into the scene. Cool, huh?

The history section is very informative, and is not only for those who are interested in the series. With a site like this, the brave little Gaul will be fighting on for a long, long time.

http://www.garfield.com

The feline with a black hole for a stomach - that's Garfield for you. Along with the inane Odie and the weird Jon, this smart-aleck cat has become an icon all over the world.

The site has a simple design (a little too simple) but its cheery yellow links are quite nice. The first link I'd advise would be the comics segment - his has a whole horde of links to the different Garfield comics. It also has clips from the TV cartoon, "Fat Cat Facts", Odie's profile and features on the whole Garfield gang. For fans of the cat, there's a segment which tells you what's happening in the cat's life nowadays.

The "Fun'n'Games" segment is overloaded with games that you can play online and are linked to stuff Garfield does best, like eat lasagna. You can also buy the books featured and GTV helps you pick out when Garfield's on TV. Besides this, there's an online club and an e-gazette - all designed to fill your minds with enough stuff about the stomach-stuffing cat.

http://www.dilbert.com

Though Dilbert is today a byword in management circles, it remains essentially a comic strip. Thus, I journeyed to the wacky world of Dilbert to find out why he is the way he is.

The site is crammed to the outer limit with stuff, so it may take you time to go through everything. First, check out the "Funny Stuff", where you get to meet the evil Catbert, or cast a vote in the "List of the Day". You could also watch some of Dilbert's animated clips, or submit a cartoon of your own. You could also visit all the main characters, read a few strips, or participate in the poll, which can be quite funny.

And that's about it for this week. See you soon!

This article was first published on 21 Dec 2000.