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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 07/16/2008

The E-Mailbag: When to Hold a Feature's Funeral?

By Michael Cavna

When I was a newspaper cartoonist a few years back, a salesman from a competing syndicate used to come by the newsroom, comic samples and tales-from-the-road in tow. "How are they selling?" I would ask. His telling reply, with a hint of exasperation: "Editors won't buy the new strips for anything. But 'Beetle Bailey' just keeps riiiight on going."

That, as much as anything, sums up how some in the comics industry feel, including many young-and-hungry cartoonists: Good new work has a tough time cracking newspaper comics pages and Web sites, while the last comic strip ever to be personally approved by publisher William Randolph "Citizen Kane" Hearst -- yes, creator Mort Walker's tour of duty has been that long -- keeps marching right along.

"Why?" comes the question, from those who want to shake some cobwebs off the comics pages. "Nostalgic attachment," often comes the reply, sometimes from features editors.

Judging from the delivery of the first "Comic Riffs" e-mailbag this week, however, few commenters are feeling nostalgic. Many of you cite your favorite comics -- including "Pearls Before Swine," "Get Fuzzy," "Dilbert," "Zits" and "Baby Blues" -- and most of your syndicated picks share one thing: a post-Reagan administration birthdate. ("For Better or For Worse" and "Doonesbury" especially excepted. And before we continue: Thanks to those who responded to our query to cite your favorites, including such commenters as f2, NC2, erin, DC Comics Fan, mike rhode, tom t., pholman and others who noted the thinking behind their picks.)

Sure, online viewers might skew toward strips of more recent origin. But the results
still prompt the question: How much of the reading public is feeling so nostalgic, anyway -- and how much of this is because it's "easier" to keep a buck private on the comics page than to buck a trend and employ a new recruit?

So for today, our Big Question to you amounts to: If a comic feature's creator is long-dead or the strip has been around for a good half-century, should newspaper editors feel any obligation to keep it for nostalgia's sake?

And yes indeed, we're stating the issue in rather black-and-white terms, but then again: Six days a week, we cartoonists are rather comfortable working in black and white. It's an occupational hazard.

By Michael Cavna  | July 16, 2008; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  The E-Mailbag  
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Next: Batman: The Joke That Just "Kills"


yes, please, please, please kill many of the older strips. Beetle bailey, Momma, Family Circus, etc. Their jokes are old and stale. I would love to see all the old strips go. I would love to see some new strips.

Posted by: tom Ryan | July 16, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

I think it's legitimate to revisit whether to keep a strip going after the creator's death.

Blondie, Dick Tracy, Hagar the Horrible and Beetle Bailey are all good examples of strips that have done well (if not riotously funny, at least they aren't truly insipid) beyond their creator's passing-- but I'm betting the readers can cite at least as many strips that have plowed into the ground and just aren't worth the space.

But that only reflects my taste.

I'm a big fan of Pearls, Dilbert, Doonesbury and Pooch Cafe, and rarely if ever read the Peanuts retreads. But I'm not the only reader out there. The old strips probably appeal to an aging demographic that's happy with the familiar-but-not-funny... so if it makes them happy, why not keep these tired strips going?

Posted by: DB | July 16, 2008 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Sure keeping a strip or two is fine for "nostalgic attachment" after all the Comics page should provide something for everybody, not just hipsters who find delight in things like Zippy. But if you're going to run old Peanuts strips why can't you run the older ones from the '50s and '60s? They were much better than the ones from the 70s. And I noticed on a recent trip to Asia that the Bangkok Post is rerunning Calvin and Hobbes. Old C&H strips would be much better than new Prickly City strips.

Posted by: Linus Van Pelt | July 16, 2008 11:20 AM | Report abuse

The problem is that there's little relation between the age of a strip and its freshness. The Korean War era "Beetle Bailey" may be lame, but nothing---NOTHING---is lamer than the far more recent "Speed Bump."

Now if you wanted to really blow your readers' minds with a strip that's infinitely more imaginative than anything you've got now, you should resurrect Winsor McCay's "Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend," which would instantly become the most popular strip in the history of your paper. Not all comic strips have to feature lame puns, cute children, or talking animals, which is apparently the working philosophy behind 80% of your current lineup. It might help if the Post's comics editor paid less attention to reader surveys and more attention to whether or not a strip is actually funny.

Posted by: Andy Moursund | July 16, 2008 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Since I'm old enough to remember "Pogo," The Strange World of Mr. Mum," and "Mickey Finn" among other long-gone comic strips, I have no problem with pulling the plug on some of these strips that have outlived their usefulness (and the lives of their creators, in many cases). And I think some of the longest-running ones that do have some life left in 'em are nonetheless showing signs of getting ready to jump the shark. Cathy Johnston of "For Better Or For Worse" has all but said that she's packing it in within the next few months, and that strip sure has been telegraphing that intention with a vengeance. And "Doonesbury?" Who the heck knows with Trudeau anymore? Sometimes quitting while you're not to far behind isn't such a bad thing, and it's likely to leave more pleasant memories then staying past the due date and getting moldy.

BTW, Is there anyone out there who still reads "Prince Valiant".....or ever did? Be honest now.

Posted by: dewdrop 2 | July 16, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Surely not for nostalgia's sake alone. If it still has something funny or valid to say (vide Doonesbury), by all means keep it around. But...B.C.? Beetle Bailey (how is that even relevant to today's military??)? Columnists turnover--why not cartoonists?

Posted by: karen | July 16, 2008 11:33 AM | Report abuse

For the love of all that is holy, please, please kill Family Circus. There are lots of others that would make good candidates for replacement, too: Snoopy, Garfield (how old is that cat, anyway?), Rex Morgan, and so on. Maybe then you could run them in colour or at a larger size.

Posted by: Amanda B. Reckondwythe | July 16, 2008 11:33 AM | Report abuse

"The Family Circus" jumped the shark decades ago. Please pull the plug on them and, while you are at it, kill off "Mary Worth", "Judge Parker", and "Rex Morgan". The story lines are not fresh and the characters are boring.

Today comic strips are like television shows. They are hot for a while and then they become boring. For example, who watches "ER" anymore? 10 years ago, I watched it every Thursday. 35 years ago, I read "Family Circus". Today I can't even relate to it.

Posted by: Dan | July 16, 2008 11:54 AM | Report abuse

and why in the name of God, did Bill Keane decide to name the family dog "Barfy"?

Posted by: Dan | July 16, 2008 11:55 AM | Report abuse

I love Rex Morgan!

But I agree that there are a lot of lame, tired strips out there. "Cathy," "Garfield," "Family Circus," "Spiderman." Dennis the Menace, anyone? It's still on the page of the Providence Journal, for god's sake.

Posted by: mothie | July 16, 2008 12:03 PM | Report abuse

So much to say.
1) I read Prince Valiant _every_ week. The story is involved and unrolls like a novel. The artwork is superbly detailed; it's one of my favorites.
2) I agree that an old cartoon can still be fresh. I was surprised to see that B.C. has held up past Mr. Hart's death, I think I like more now than a few years ago, and Blondie remains an easy, but pleasurable read. Giving Blondie a business added years of life to the content.
3) I agree that Peanuts-reruns could be much better handled; why not start back in the 50's and move forward? As it's currently running, go ahead and put it out of our misery.
4) The one-joke cartoons can go anytime: e.g. Garfield, Family Circus.

Posted by: Ollabelle | July 16, 2008 12:13 PM | Report abuse

A strip can change hands and still be full of life. Prince Valiant puts more energy and creativity into one Sunday than Spider-Man does in a whole month. Sally Forth has evolved into a weird little head trip. Rex Morgan has been pushing the boundaries of the soap opera format for some time now.

I would shed no tears for Hagar or Beetle Bailey or FC. Blondie is a guilty pleasure, though, and I think it's made some effort to keep up with the times.

Posted by: Tom T. | July 16, 2008 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I suppose it comes down to a newspaper's goals. The old strips likely appeal to core print newspaper readers -- an older demographic; whereas, the newer strips are necessary (but, of course, by no means sufficient) if the goal is to try to keep or entice younger readers.

Most strips are available online at this point, though this, too, is the domain of the younger generation.

Maybe all comic strips need a "sunshine rule," where their popularity and freshness is reviewed with the reading public every few years.

Posted by: Kidvidkid | July 16, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

One-joke strips like Beetle Bailey, Family Circus, Blondie, and Garfield (among others) DO occupy a big portion of the Post's comic pages, but given the older demographic of newspaper readers, is that too suprising?
I enjoy newer comics more, but wonder from a business point of view if hip sharp-edged strips are enough to encourage younger audiences to actually migrate to reading the paper (as opposed to this web site) every day? -- something they don't do now.
I'm not sure if the creators' burial is enough to bury a strip as well...though there are a few obvious candidates.
FWIW, I DO read Prince Valiant -- I'm disappointed it occupies a smaller space on the comic page, because the the artwork's excellent and deserves more room to showcase it.

Posted by: jonathan | July 16, 2008 12:26 PM | Report abuse

The newspaper is at the mercy of its customers, so you can't do away with the stale old comic strips wholesale--to do so would invite the wrath of old people who somehow still think Hagar the Horrible is amusing. But there is no moral obligation to keep the strip if you really don't want to. And as noted by another commenter, failure to bring in new strips that are actually funny will keep driving young people away from the print edition. I'm a young reader who reads comics both in print and online; print is more fun but I don't have real control over the selection.

Posted by: William | July 16, 2008 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Once a strip has reused the same joke 1 dozen times (ah, heck, I work for the Bakers' Association - let's make it 13 times) it should be dropped. Beetle Bailey, Garfield, Hagar, BC and teh despicable Family Circus all need to go. If someone wants to read 'em they can buy a book version - it's all the same week after week anyway, and I stopped reading eons ago. Never, ever got into the serial comics. What I hate to miss is Pearls Before Swine and Rhymes with Orange. They at least surprise me. I also keep up with The Fusco Brothers and Six Chicks on the web.

Posted by: Karen | July 16, 2008 12:40 PM | Report abuse

The Houston Chronicle carries a large number of comic strips (which I appreciate). Due to cost and space constraints, they recently had to go from three pages to two and 1/3 pages daily and cut back on the use of color but they still added some new strips.

I was extremely happy that they finally dropped "Gasoline Alley" from the mix. They tried to kill the strip around five years ago, but everybody who originally read it in the 1930s raised hell so the Chronicle kept it. I know that I could have ignored it, but it was like a car wreck - you couldn't help but look at it and shudder.

Posted by: Houston | July 16, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

This is probably not a popular position, but I'll be honest. I'm not getting anything out of Beetle Baily, Family Circus, Marmaduke, Heathcliff (sic), Garfield or Peanuts anymore. Just skip them.

Also? Who reads the strips like Rex Morgan, Judge Parker, Mark Trail, Apt 3-G and Mary Worth? Mark Trail is the ONLY one of those that I've ever paid ANY attention to. I honestly don't know anyone who reads those strips (yes, I've taken a survey).

The only "realistically" drawn strips that I like are "The Phantom," "Prince Valiant" and, on occasion, "Dick Tracy." Oh, and "Blondie," if that's going under realistic it right to make that a designation?

Posted by: BobT | July 16, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Replace Garfield with "Garfield Minus Garfield":

Posted by: Tim | July 16, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse

These comments have a theme, and I'll stick with it. A strip shouldn't go just because the creator dies - a strip should go because it's bad. Obviously a difficult distinction, as your introductory vignette noted.

I personally would love to kill off Hagar and Beetle, but apparently someone is still reading those darn things. Sally Forth has become interesting of late, and I still adore Frank and Earnest.

So I think it really depends. Helpful, right?

Posted by: Julia | July 16, 2008 1:00 PM | Report abuse

As a general rule, I'd cut any strip whose creator has died or grown stale. You can't go wrong--consider how much crappier your comics section would be if you were still running Andy Capp, B.C., Cathy, Broom Hilda, Curtis, Momma, etc.?

For me, though, there is one exception: Blondie. I still find it fresh and funny. So I guess what I'd really like to see is a comics editor who has sense of humor identical to mine.

Also, try to keep the kids in mind. When I was growing up, there were many strips just for younger kids--Nancy, Henry, Dennis, etc. Now not so many (of the new ones, only Lio comes to mind).

And if I had one request: Kill Piranah Club. Please.

Posted by: ARK | July 16, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

about ARK's list...i think the Post, um, still runs Curtis. !

Posted by: not dead yet | July 16, 2008 1:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm a 61-year-old male WASP who began reading the funny pages as a child in the '50s and has never completely lost interest. By high school I was lingering over breakfast each morning to read every strip the Memphis Commercial Appeal had to offer - everything from the old Dick Tracy, Pogo and Little Orphan Annie to the fresh, new Apartment 3-G and B.C. Heck, I even read Nancy. Then college broke my (now somewhat clandestine) habit to a degree, as did later pursuing my career from town to town and newspaper subscription to newspaper subscription. But even now I have a few favorites that I follow in the Post as regularly as I can. (There are a couple I could follow but don't; not even LuAnn or Funky Winkerbean can tempt me to buy copies of the Washington Times.)

Regarding the current discussion question about whether old strips should be allowed to die dignified deaths - I guess I don't really care. Dick Tracy jumped the shark when Diet Smith led the crew into outer space, Junior married Moon Maid, and they had a baby with horns. I haven't wanted to read Dick Tracy since then, but I don't care whether he appears in any newspaper I'm reading. I have no problem with skipping strips in which I've lost interest, and if other readers like having the old tired strips around, it's no skin off my nose.

I have read Doonesbury regularly and with pleasure ever since it appeared in mainstream newspapers. (A show of hands, please, from all who like me are still disappointed in Joanie Caucus for deserting her husband and multiple little ones.) I also appreciate Mallard Fillmore even though he is eminently unfunny. I just find it instructive to be reminded regularly that there are people out there whose views of the world are twisted that way.

These days when I scan the funny pages I stop on only a few strips on a regular basis.

Zits: Well-drawn, amusing, insightful, fresh. It makes me wonder sometimes, though, why I seem drawn to these strips about adolescence. Is it something peculiar about me, or is it that the subject matter is well suited to humorous examination in small chunks? I don't know; maybe I don't want to know. But I do often see myself in Zits - sometimes in one of the kids, more often in the parents. Zits is a great strip.

Zippy the Pinhead: I love it. I can't explain it, but I love it.

For Better or Worse: What a great soap opera. I still haven't recovered from the death of the family dog. I truly regret that its days are numbered.

Candorville: This is a relatively new one for me, and I think it is just outstanding. It takes a sharp, witty, unsparing knife to politics, politicians, hypocrites, and um, the rest of us. Good stuff.

Frazz: Another strip that examines life through the lens of childhood. Boy do I miss Calvin and Hobbes.

Get Fuzzy: Not great, but entertaining day after day. I've grown to like it more and more as it's appeared in the Post over the past what, two or three years? The interplay between the dimwitted dog and the inept cat is often hilarious.

Baldo: Here we go with adolescence again - this time with an Hispanic slant. Very good stuff with a backstory that's richer than most.

Lio: I don't care if it's the same joke day after day after day, I love Lio! I laugh aloud at Lio!

Frank and Earnest: If I pause long enough to actually read it, I often like it because I enjoy wordplay.

Blondie: Here's one that's been around forever. It lost its luster for a while, but these days it seems amusingly back on track. Anybody who doesn't know the history of wealthy young scion Dagwood Bumstead who gave up his inheritance to marry flapper Blondie Boopadoop really might enjoy doing a little comics historical research. It's a great story which goes a long way toward explaining why Dagwood wears that tuxedo to this day. Blondie is a classic and I'm glad we still have it around.

Speed Bump and Brevity: Not great - they'll certainly never achieve the heights of The Far Side, but in its absence they'll have to do.

Brewster Rockit: I read it but I don't like it. Somebody explain my behavior to me - I certainly can't.

Watch Your Head: I don't get it. I wish I could get it, but I don't get it. Does anybody get it? Does anybody care? It's no Boondocks, that's for sure. When something went over my head in The Boondocks, it mattered to me. But this thing ... bleh.

As for the rest of the stuff on the Post's funny pages - you can have 'em if you like 'em; I don't care.

Posted by: Bill | July 16, 2008 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Not that I haven't enjoyed reading all the opinions, but has anyone answered your question, Mike? "Should newspaper editors feel any obligation to keep it for nostalgia's sake?" My answer to that is "no," but I don't think editors choose what strips they run out of nostalgia - most of them seem to go with the strips that keep their papers from getting any complaints from their dwindling readership.

Posted by: John R | July 16, 2008 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Some comics age well, and some do not. I loved Pogo as a kid, but when I look at the Pogo book I have it seems so incredibly stale. Peanuts, on the other hand, is ageless.

Posted by: brucesmall | July 16, 2008 1:24 PM | Report abuse

I think there are two different issues here: dead creators and dead creations. Prince Valiant is still a lively and amusing comic, though Hal Foster's been gone a looong time. Mort Walker's still alive, but the strip's been dead for a generation.

Posted by: Theophylact | July 16, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

I see a pattern....

"The old strips are horrible. Get rid of them, the sooner the better. Except for which I love. But the rest you can toss."


Posted by: f2 | July 16, 2008 1:28 PM | Report abuse

I think the reason why we don't see "Peanuts" strips from the 50s and 60s is that they wouldn't fit in the space. Comics were much more elongated back then. Too bad, because the "classic" ones they're running now are anything but. If the Post could drop one strip, I'd go for that one.

Glad to see there's another "Zippy the Pinhead" fan out there. I love it too, and I agree with the same poster about "Watch Your Head," which started strong but has been really lackluster lately. I disagree about "Brewster Rockit," which I really enjoy.

"Prickly City" is horrific.

The guy who wrote "Out of the Gene Pool/Single and Looking" gave up his strip out of frustration with trying to get space in papers. Too bad, as I really enjoyed that one.

Posted by: Stickler | July 16, 2008 1:28 PM | Report abuse

I guess like everybody else, newspapers follow the money.

I don't pay a dime to read online comics. How the authors get paid is no concern of mine. I do pay for the Sunday paper (printed). My expectation is that the Sunday funnies will not be offensive to ANYBODY. The level of satire in some new strips is approaching offensiveness.

Drawing a line in the sand:
One "F" word in the Sunday funnies and I cancel my subscription.

Posted by: MSchafer | July 16, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Love 'em:
Dilbert, Toles, Zits, Frazz, Get Fuzzy, Lio, Brewster Rockit, Non Sequitur, Cul de Sac, Opus, Sherman's Lagoon, Foxtrot: I'll read these whether they're in the paper or not.

Like 'em:
Prince Valiant: Read it a long time ago, but gave it another chance when comic book creators Gary Gianni and Mark Schultz came aboard - decent.
Garfield: Giving Jon a girlfriend helped
Watch Your Head, Blondie, Speed Bump, Brevity, Baldo, Doonesbury, Baby Blues, Curtis, On the Fastrack, Pearls Before Swine, Red and Rover, Mother Goose & Grimm, Close to Home, Candorville: sometimes really funny, often just ok.

Leave 'em:
For Better or Worse: I don't care anymore, the reprint/new cycle lost me.
Zippy the Pinhead: Not into it.
Sally Forth: Used to like it, but not now
Big Nate: same couple stories, over and over. Please drop the unrequited love.
Mutts, Pickles, Prickly City, Agnes: Not funny
Apartment 3-G, Mark Trail, Mary Worth, Rex Morgan, M.D.: Not into them.
Family Circus, Tank McNamara, Beetle Bailey, Dennis the Menace, Hagar the Horrible: Worn out.
Peanuts Classics: Already read them.

Posted by: Hemisphire | July 16, 2008 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Prince Valiant is the Class of comics; I never miss it.
I'd laugh my ___ off if Garfield got hit by a car.

Posted by: pcf | July 16, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Zippy is still pretty good, but since I read only the print edition it would sure help if they didn't shrink it to the size of a gnat's nut. This doesn't matter in most of the strips, but Zippy is the most text-cluttered of any of them.

And count me as a fan of Watch Your Head. It took a few months to get used to, but now it's one of my favorites. Not up to The Boondocks, but then The Boondocks ruled the world.

But of the new strips, the best BY FAR is Lio. It's the one that comes closest to capturing the whimsical and imaginative qualities of the best of the strips that haven't been around since before any of us were born. The operative word here is "personality." The juxtapositon of Lio and his perpetually Just Got Out Of Bed clueless father is one of the best pairings I've seen in any strip since Zippy and Griffy---or taking it way back, to Krazy Kat, Ignatz the brick throwing mouse, and Offisa Pupp, a trio which is still the Gold Standard of the comics pages.

One last parting shot: Why in the hell did they drop Tom the Dancing Bug from the Weekend Section? I know I can still get it online, but what sort of moron makes decisions like that? That strip was the perfect complement to The Boondocks.

Posted by: Andy Moursund | July 16, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

I dig Judge Parker. Who doesn't like stories about hot women eating hash brownies?

Great Stuff.

I really am enjoying Brewster Rockit. Nice addition.

I'm not sure why anyone thinks Doonesbury has lost it. He's had some great stuff in the past few years.

Posted by: JkR | July 16, 2008 2:28 PM | Report abuse

A little off-topic, but what a pleasure to read comments from the WaPo that doen't include racist or age-ist vitriolic rants or childish name-calling. I've spent WAY too much time at the election sites.

I imagine editors choose strips to drop based on their perceptions of the readers' prefernce, though I don't understand how any editor could choose "Closer to Home," yet drop "Sylvia" at the height of Hollander's powers. Yet that's just what happened at the Providence Journal, based on readers' votes. So I suspect, at least at the ProJo, editors veer to the middle and the safe, which explains classic "Peanuts."

Posted by: mothie | July 16, 2008 2:42 PM | Report abuse

I think each individual newspaper would have to poll its own readers because all of us have our own preferences. I enjoy mostly new comics, but still find myself chuckling at Blondie as well. And even though I am a liberal I absolutly hate Doonesbury and always have.
But obviously the majority of comic readers love Doonesbury and probably think Blondie needs to go. Each paper needs to find out what the majority of its readers want.

Posted by: dw | July 16, 2008 3:03 PM | Report abuse

I would like to see you address the trend to shrinking comic panels. I can name several artists, Frank Cho's Liberty Meadows (my personal favorite) springs to mind, that quit the daily grind due to the downsizing of their art (not to mention political censorship). Look at what has happen to Prince Valiant.

Posted by: zokrahs | July 16, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I agree about the problem of the shrinking panels. Check out today's Candorville (July 16, 2008). The main character appears to be dreaming he's encountered a mysterious subway train that might be taking him to meet his long-lost Daddy. I shouldn't have needed to squint to learn the subway operator's name tag reads, "C. Haron." It may not be a hilarious joke, but it's clever and we shouldn't need a magnifying glass to appreciate it.

Posted by: Bill | July 16, 2008 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Nostalgia has its place in offering the right mix of comics to your readership. If a significant number of readers look forward to their daily fix of an old favorite, it seems harsh to completely deny the sentiment. But if every comic that has drawn any bit of nostalgia is retained, then we wind up with complete inertia. I'm willing to bet that Beetle Bailey fans have a handful of old favorites that they like to read. Keep some and boot the others. There can still be a place for nostalgic readers but that doesn't mean that they should have a chokehold on the entire comics page.

Posted by: rockville | July 16, 2008 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Re the "soap opera" strips: I think both Judge Parker and Rex Morgan have benefited tremendously from new writers/artists. Rex Morgan, in particular, sometimes has a use of light and shadow that calls film noir to mind. On the other hand, Apartment 3-G, still carried in the Baltimore Sun, is now apparently drawn by a not very talented 10-year old and the story lines, which are absurd, go on forever.

Posted by: Jack | July 16, 2008 4:14 PM | Report abuse

No paper should EVER print reruns of comics! It doesn't matter how good they are, they take up space that a new cartoonist could fill.Will someone PLEASE think of the new artists people!

The newspaper is NOT television, there is no room for reruns. For 50's and 60's peanuts buy those new hardcover collections! and they have a complete Calvin and Hobbes Collection! Books have been around for a long time comics could follow the peanuts example and release collections for every two years of a particular comic.

The syndicate has an obligation to publish collection so that they need not run new ones.

I would argue that every paper should have a "comics section" not the last one and a half-2 pages of the entertainment section(or what ever they call where you live) a dedicated 4+ pages of comics. That would sell more newspapers!

o and I don't think giving Jon a girlfriend did not help... at all!

does anyone know anything about the what newspapers pay for old reruns vs new strips?

Posted by: david | July 16, 2008 4:50 PM | Report abuse

When I read the Peanuts from the 60's, they are still great and can be rerun because Schultz was smart enough to determine that the strip would not outlive him. For those who have not, i.e., BC, one should go back and read the collections, the strips from the 60's & 70's are so much funnier and hip than most of what is in the papers today. BC and The Wizard of Id have devolved into vaudeville. What I mean is that rather than a funny story incorporated into the few panels, we have two characters one setting the other up for the punchline. Masters will out; Bach, Clapton, Monet, Hart, they will always be with us and for that I am thankful.

Posted by: RoyB | July 16, 2008 5:00 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand why a paper would buy a strip where the creator dies or run reruns. For a newspaper to be vital, it has to be current.

Inevitably, when a strip becomes big there's a large financial stake in milking the strip regardless of its creativity.

And the syndicates and cartoonists have been known to organize call-in campaigns and e-mail barrages.

Use your judgment. If you think something is past its prime, it probably is. You paid all that money for journalism school ... be the professional who knows what's best for the paper ... do not let a syndicate or an 80-year-old woman in Bethesda edit the paper.

Posted by: Kiki | July 16, 2008 5:07 PM | Report abuse

There are too many good comics out there that can't get print space because of re-runs.

A number of comics mentioned in previous posts have been passed on to the second or third generation: Prince Valiant, Blondie, Mark Trail, to name three.

I think that one constraint for printing a comic in the paper should be that the cartoonist-author be alive. It's okay if the cartoonist-author is not the original, if the quality of the strip is good. But taking up Sunday comic space for recycled Peanuts while denying Sunday space to an original Zippy is indefensible.

Posted by: Sasquatch | July 16, 2008 5:50 PM | Report abuse

I don't think a creator's death or retirement should automatically condemn a strip. Some have been improved by a new generation. The aforementioned Dick Tracy in space is an excellent example. ;^) I think Schultz and Gianni have greatly resurrected Prince Valiant and wish the Post would give it more space now so they could really stretch out. The comment about Judge Parker's hash brownies was right on and the artist whose name is escaping me draws nice looking people - the same had just become true of Rex Morgan when the Post dropped it.

However I feel strongly that the Post should not use reruns and should drop Peanuts. I hear this was the ex-publisher's decision, but since he's replaced himself with his daughter, Cavna should give her a call, right?

So, no I don't think a creator's death should be an automatic death warrant for a strip.

Posted by: Mike Rhode | July 16, 2008 10:14 PM | Report abuse

does anyone know the percent vs the total cost of the paper it costs to buy and print syndicated comics?

With newspaper readers comprised of older folks, it's near impossible to get an old strip pulled for a new one. Letters pour in "bring back Funky Winkerbean!" and yet in the paper I read St Louis Post Dispatch, bridge tips take up the space of two comics! So they get their comics and their game tips. No wonder young people aren't reading the newspaper...

so the only solution is to add more comics... I'm sure you could poll people and find it's the most popular section of the paper.

Why won't newspapers publish a section with at least 4 pages solely for comics! That'd be at least 100 comics a day...

Posted by: david | July 16, 2008 10:38 PM | Report abuse

In the previous post, I meant to say that Dick Tracy in space was a bad idea by Gould, and the strip improved when Max Allan Collins and Locher took it over.

Posted by: Mike Rhode | July 17, 2008 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Finally, a wapo blog that matters!

That's a good question, when to retire a strip. Do they ever come back after having done so? I grew up with NYC newspapers. Even in the early 70's The Daily News' "Dondi" and "Smokey Stover" seemed incredibly outdated. Dondi was an Italian orphan from World War II and "Smokey" was like a depression era Tom Waits routine.

Say, maybe you guys should bring back "Smokey" and his "notary sojack" and still-relevant "foo"?

I agree with the other folks here who feel "Peanuts" could be done better in re-syndication. Lately, it's been okay, some real classic panels have appeared--ones that I feel compelled to show my kids. But sometimes, the syndicate editor doesn't seem to realize the wealth of material he/she has to work with?

A new strip is like a romance for me. I'll never forget the first time I read "Get Fuzzy" or "Pearls Before Swine" -- it was like thinking "finally...someone gets ME for a change!"

Posted by: tony the pitiful copywriter | July 17, 2008 9:37 AM | Report abuse

The strip should die with the creator if not sooner (I'm talkin' about you, Garfield). Recycling old strips shows that editors and newspapers see the comics as unimportant: Do they use a quarter of the space in the "A" section every day to re-run 20-year-old columns by deceased reporters?

Posted by: CJMiva | July 17, 2008 10:11 AM | Report abuse

This depends. Some strips can continue at the same mediocre level indefinitely (i.e. Blondie, Beetle Bailey). They're not great, but they're not awful and there's no particular need to drop them unless space becomes tight.

Some older strips are just plain bad, however -- Garfield and Dennis the Menace come immediately to mind. I'm not sure why the Post keeps running these.

Then there are the old "serial" strips that fall into the category "so bad they are good." These are not amusing, not entertaining, and not intentionally outre, but are nonetheless compellingly weird. Mark Trail -- with its endless series of hirsute villains, ditzy women, and conflicts that must be resolved by punches to the jaw -- clearly falls within this category. And so does Mary Worth, which the Post cruelly dropped last year from the print edition.

Posted by: otberbur | July 17, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Think of the children. Kids have to learn humor somewhere, and simple (even corny) strips serve that purpose. I loved Garfield and Family Circus as a child. Now they seem insipid (and I'm sure they were then, too), but I learned from them before moving on to better strips. A general-readership newspaper has to keep some stupid stuff around in order to appeal to broad tastes and humor-comprehension abilities.

p.s. I find it ironic that anyone can decry "one-joke" comics but say they like Lio. I like Lio sometimes too, but c'mon--it's every bit the one-trick pony as Beetle Bailey.

Posted by: Rusty Shackleford | July 17, 2008 11:08 AM | Report abuse

if the creator's dead, that's one strike against the strip. the other two strikes should be: is the strip being done by untalented kin of the creator (whiff!) and if it still uses dated references (double-whiff!)

Posted by: 3strike rule | July 17, 2008 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Long Live Prince Valiant! That said, Peanuts can be deleted, along with Pearls/Swine(i feel he is calling the readers Swine AND the strip has no funny).
I read upwards of 75 comics almost daily, Raising Duncan and C&H are my two favorites. So, being 66 is not the main factor in what I read, Retail and Stone Soup are great, don't read Dilbert, but do read Spiderman...and The Piranha Club. So, some Classic and some new, THAT is what makes a great comic section online or paper.

Posted by: PearlandPeach | July 17, 2008 3:31 PM | Report abuse

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