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Posted at 9:30 AM ET, 03/16/2009

'Parker' to 'Pooch': Which Dropped Comic Stirs Your Fanhood?

By Michael Cavna

The Post has announced that come the end of the month, amid several changes, five comics will be dropped from the print funnypages (though the strips will continue on washingtonpost.com).

If you're a regular reader of Comic Riffs, you know I prefer cartoons that have a creative pulse to the more lifeless of the legacy strips. Would I like to see The Post keep at least a couple of these strips over, say, "Frank & Ernest"? Absolutely. But you, the vocal reading
'n' subscribing public, make up the voice that matters to this blog. So Comic Riffs would like to know which of these five strips you enjoy the most, if any.

Call us curious, but a couple of these strips have particularly rabid fan bases, no matter how small. If one of these five is a real fave of yours -- is a print comic you'd like to save
-- I'd like to hear why.



THE PIRANHA CLUB (KFS) Enlarge Comic



JUDGE PARKER (NAS) Enlarge Comic



LITTLE DOG LOST (WPWG) Enlarge Comic



POOCH CAFE (UPS) Enlarge Comic


ZIPPY THE PINHEAD (KFS) Enlarge Comic


By Michael Cavna  | March 16, 2009; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  The E-Mailbag  
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Comments

Is there any explanation of the Post's rationale? Why these five, and not a tired dead strip like Peanuts? I voted for Judge Parker (which is not currently on washingtonpost.com), an artistically-drawn traditional adult serial comic, but with an up-to-date edge and interesting story lines.

Posted by: crystal4 | March 16, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I've been a follower of Judge Parker since I started subscribing to the Post in 1985. Recently, the new artist has added much improvement to the strip and I the story lines are interesting. Mark Trail just completed a story line that was nearly identical to the one from four years ago. Also, Peanuts has been in reruns for years. Why not get rid of the stale, old material and stick with the new stuff? Will Pooch Cafe continue to appear in the Express? If you drop Judge Parker from the Post, can you put it in the Express instead?

Posted by: yekim54 | March 16, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

As has been pointed out, "Judge Parker" is not really online, as the syndicator only makes the first week of each month's strip available. "Zippy" is a unique strip that I find confusing as often as I find funny, but well-expressed unique viewpoints is something, in my opinion, that The Post should seek out instead of cancel. "The Piranha Club" is done by a local cartoonist from northern Virginia -- again, something The Post should seek out instead of cancel. Far more sensible, if the comics hole is shrinking, to delete a strip like "Peanuts", which is only recycling comics from past years. This should be done for the same reason that The Post stopped printing "For Better or for Worse" in the newspaper's hard copy editions when Johnston reset the clock on the story of the Patterson to the beginning.

Posted by: greggwiggins | March 16, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

I am hugely appreciative of the Post's dedication to its comics pages, and I'm sympathetic to the need to cut costs. Still, I think the choice of these five strips is a step in the wrong direction. All of these strips have a creative spark to them that would be sad to lose. Judge Parker, in particular, has been a magnificent experiment in revivifying a soap opera strip.

Moreover, there's a larger flaw in the Post's thinking, in my view: Presumably the Post has chosen these strips for deletion in order to avoid complaints from the readers who are fans of the ossified legacy strips like Beetle, Dennis, and Hagar. However, those readers are also likely to be the ones who are the most dedicated to getting their news from a newspaper. In other words, if you cancel some of those ancient strips, those readers might complain, but they're not going to walk away from the Post.

Fans of the newer strips, by contrast, are likely to be readers who have fewer ties to the Post. Cutting these strips gives them one less reason to pick up the paper, since they're already getting their news elsewhere. It's true that these strips are still available on the Post's website, but they're also available elsewhere on the Internet, and often in a more convenient forum.

Posted by: tomtildrum | March 16, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

I noticed in the comments to the original announcement that those who like Zippy are quick to attribute its limited appeal to the possession of a lesser intellect.

Which was news to me and my apparent lack of intellect.

Anyway, I picked Pooch Cafe, but I don't feel that dropping it is some huge injustice or anything. It just makes me laugh with some frequency, which is pretty much why I read the comics.

Little Dog Lost was growing on me too, but oh well.

I worry more about these cuts abstractly (in terms of further shrinkage of the newspaper) than I do about any of these strips specifically.

Posted by: oceanchild | March 16, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

I don't live in the Washington Post area, but my brother-in-law does. He is a longtime subscriber and he has two favorite sections - sports and comics. Which section he looks at first depends on the time of year. He has been very vocal in the past on the cuts to the comics page as it is one of the main reasons he subscribes. I know that to many of the people who love the comics having the print copy of them is important. It seems sheer folly to keep whittling away at a major draw for many people. Yes, I know all about money, but...

Posted by: elyrest | March 16, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

I wish the Kindle edition of the Post carried the comics. Then I might buy one...

On topic. Have never read Judge Parker. Never developed a liking for "Little Dog Lost", but I don't dislike it either. Been reading "The Piranha Club" for decades, since it was "Ernie", and, well, it's gotten very stale. "Pooch Cafe" is OK, and I usually read it, but probably won't miss it when it's gone.

"Zippy the Pinhead" is a once-great comic that I probably won't miss. Once his hometown of "Dingsburg" entered the picture it went downhill fast. Although today's strip is pretty good.

Posted by: wiredog | March 16, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I mentioned this before in the other comments section. I have gotten the Post for a little over 20 years. One of the main reason is the wide selection of comics. I have long enjoyed the soap opera comics like Judge Parker, but one by one, the Post has dropped them. As has been noted, Judge Parker has seemingly be revived with a new artist, so my interest has only been strengthened.

If you cut Judge Parker out of the print edition, that really only leaves Mark Trail and Spiderman. I don't really count Sally Forth as a serial, but you could. Of those other three, I would strongly urge you to keep the Judge and would rank Spiderman as the one to go. I truly hope you re-think this decision.

ps- this was brought up, but Judge Parker online at washingtonpost.com, only links to the syndicates website, where you can only read the first week of each monthscomic strips. Save yourself the trouble of fixing that and just leave it in the paper, where it belongs. Thank you.

Posted by: ellehcim224 | March 16, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I voted for "Zippy." I remember the last time the Post pulled it, in 1996, and was forced to put it back after receiving hundreds of complaints (mine was among them). It's clearly not for everybody--even many smart people don't like it--but why can't the Post allow something not quite mass-appeal to balance the tripe (yes, Curtis, I'm looking at you)?

Judge Parker would be a close second; that strip has been vibrantly reborn and it's great. Never thought I'd say that about a soap.

It's interesting that all of the strips to be cut come from the first page of comics in the print edition. Makes it easier for whatever redesign is coming, I suppose, but, my goodness, there is so much more dessicated old stuff on pages two and three (yes, Beetle, Hagar, Garfield, Peanuts, I'm looking at you).

What a mess. Should be fascinating watching this thing play out.

Posted by: stickler | March 16, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

The Post would do us all a favor by getting rid of Beetle Bailey, Blondie and Classic Peanuts.

I like Pooch Cafe, Judge Parker (I still read Mary Worth online) and Piranha Club.

Posted by: mat00 | March 16, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Of the 5, Pooch Cafe is the only one I read and that's in the Express. If it's dropped in Express, I wouldn't go out of my way to read it online. I could name many others I tend to skip.

Posted by: ArlingtonGay | March 16, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

I voted for Pooch Cafe, but of these five I also enjoy The Piranha Club. As an earlier commenter said, these 2 artists/writers seem to have a slightly "wacky/demented" outlook and they usually make me laugh, which is my definition of a "comic" strip. Judge Parker? You gotta be kidding me. I'd also say get rid of the old no-longer funny Peanuts, Beetle, Hagar, etc.

Posted by: capsfan77 | March 16, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

OK, the manaagement at the paper knows that they cannot please everybody, so it kinda comes down to their best guess as to the smallest number of dropped subscriptions, ie. lost revenue. I'm guessing a bunch of people read the titles you are calling out to be dropped, while your faves don't have the numbers to keep them in.

Sorry.

Posted by: MSchafer | March 16, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

I'll miss Pooch Cafe, to be sure, and The Piranha Club to a lesser degree. The Piranha Club has gotten stale, but not nearly as stale as the likes of Beetle Bailey, Blondie, Garfield, Dennis the Menace and Hagar. It's bewildering that the Post continues to hang on to those antiques.

Posted by: bokamba | March 16, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Of the five, I will definitely miss Zippy the most. (Pooch Cafe, however, is clever and deserved retention.) Zippy's unique blend of Americana, surrealism, and non-linear humor clearly doesn't appeal to everyone, and at times is inscrutable to me. But when the strip works it is brilliant -- something that can be said of very few comics.

Posted by: OTBerbur | March 16, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Judge Parker is online daily, in living color here:

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/fun/judgeparker.asp

Really, folks, your Google machines don't work? The 'comment complaint' function still works, tho?

Posted by: JkR- | March 16, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

JkR, would that URL be to the website of the same Seattle Post-Intelligencer that announced it was ceasing publication after tomorrow's editions?

Posted by: greggwiggins | March 16, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

I reluctantly voted Judge Parker, just because I've needed a serial fix in my comics my entire life, starting with Steve Roper when I was a kid! Any one'll do - may as well be Judge Parker.

I don't have strong feelings about the rest, except you can count me as one of those benighted, middlebrow slobs who thinks Zippy is a waste of ink.

Posted by: drewdane | March 16, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Zippy is the only surreal comic the Post carries...or used to carry. That's okay. I know where to access Zippy online, and I've just canceled my Daily + Sunday Post subscription.

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | March 16, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Based on your survey results, I think Judge Parker should not leave the Post's paper edition. To answer your question about why I think it should it should be saved is because...

1. It is the last soap comic in the paper. Rex Morgan, Apartment 3-G, Kerry Drake and Steve Roper have been dismissed over the years.

2. It is better than Mark Trail and Spiderman. Mr. Trail seems like they have reverted to old stories and re-hashed artwork. Spiderman has now gone back to the beginning, when Peter Parker wasn't married. So, they can do what? Change the storyline? Enough.

3. The comic should appear in black and white, not in color. It was meant to be in black and white and on paper.

4. I, like many others, have loyally subscribed to the Post all these years, you are only giving me another reason to stop paying for the paper. Judge Parker is at the top of the reasons why I still get the print/paper copy of the Post.

5. No reason was given why this comic was picked over others that are either newer (Agnes, Big Nate) or older (Peanuts, Hagar, Garfield, Beetle Bailey, Dennis the Menace). The newer comics seem like a "let's keep them because we think they are good and they need more time to catch on." The older comics that are "joke/funny" comics and are re-cycling or actually re-running old comics/jokes, don't you think one or two them could go first?

Posted by: alevine76 | March 16, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Pooch Cafe has, in recent months, become one of my five or so favorites. For the first time in years, you find something clever, and now you're going to cut it?

Little Lost Dog has been growing on me, as well. Ernie/Piranha Club has been a long-time favorite, but I'm a Jersey guy who spent a lot of time in Bayonne, so that's to be expected. With all the useless crap on pages 2 and 3, this trend is most unsettling.

And to top it off, now the sports section is saddled with the extra weight of the classifieds to carry around. We're newspaper junkies -- my wife is a public affairs person, and we get the Post, Times, and WSJ daily. But I'm starting to think that supporting print newspapers is a waste of effort, since I read most of the news stories online the night before anyway, and your sports writers are more concerned with self-promotion than journalism.

Posted by: pltrgyst | March 16, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

JkR, would that URL be to the website of the same Seattle Post-Intelligencer that announced it was ceasing publication after tomorrow's editions?

Posted by: greggwiggins | March 16, 2009 3:55 PM

Re-calibrate your Google machine. Print edition stops, not online edition.

Posted by: JkR- | March 16, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

I bet more people read Judge Parker then read the third editorial. I know I do, and have been reading the Post for 30 years.

Maybe not much longer... I will look else where for my daily dose of news, views and entertainment in the morning.

Posted by: owl-hoo | March 16, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

By the looks of your (unscientific) poll, the votes are in.

Keep the Judge (Parker) in print.

'nuff said.

Posted by: RobM1013 | March 16, 2009 10:30 PM | Report abuse

If I could save just one, it would be Zippy. Although it doesn't hit the target as often as it did 10 years ago, it remains unique and occasionally brilliant. My runner-up vote would go to Judge Parker on the basis of its being the last of the serial-type comics. But I can't agree with those who praise its artwork; to me, all the women look like Barbie on steroids, and all the men have that lantern-jawed, action-hero look.

Posted by: loriel | March 17, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

"...and all the men have that lantern-jawed, action-hero look."

And, your problem with that is???? I have none. I'm sure the guys don't with the way the women look. I'm just saying.

Posted by: erinaustindj | March 17, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Why not drop "Doonesbury," which long ago "jumped the shark"?
How many times does Garry Trudeau have to fall back on "Flashbacks" (reruns of cartoons that weren't funny the first time) before he realizes it's long past time for him to retire the strip and before the Post quits devoting valuable real estate on the front of the Sunday comics section to a strip long past its prime?
Bill Watterson of "Calvin & Hobbes" and Gary Larson of "The Far Side" retired their strips at the top of their game, and they were funnier than "Doonesbury" ever was.
Retiring "Doonesbury" to cyberspace would enable the Post to rescue "Dilbert," which has much broader appeal and is actually funny, from its Sunday magazine ghetto.

Posted by: coffee2 | March 18, 2009 9:07 PM | Report abuse

Pooch Cafe got my vote. Sweet biscuits I love it! It is a clever and witty comic strip and far outshines any comic strip in print today. It is one of the few comics that I read on a daily basis. It shouldn't be in the list of comics to drop from the paper. It is a refreshing change from the comics that are no longer comical.

Posted by: kimmclay | March 21, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

The story in Judge Parker recently has made me look forward to it. Like the new artist though Abbie seems to have de-aged considerably. Drop Peanuts re-runs!

Posted by: michaelt1 | March 22, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Judge Parker? Really? Does the demographic for the Post comics really consist of that many 80-year-olds who read the funnies while yelling at kids to get off their lawn?

Why on earth would anyone willingly read a soap-opera strip? Is it some kind of masochistic streak? "Oh, look, the plot actually advanced a bit this week!"

Pooch Cafe rocks. It's funny, has great characters, and pretty good, unique artwork. Please reconsider!!!

Posted by: TommyUdo | March 23, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

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