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Posted at 8:30 AM ET, 04/10/2009

When the Comics Are Cut Down to Size

By Michael Cavna

Morning, Cartoon Nation...

Scott Adams and the "Dilbert"-inspired Stephan Pastis may have outwitted even the most Draconian of comic-shrinking editors across the land. Seems that nearly no matter how much you reduce "Dilbert" and "Pearls Before Swine," the clean, relatively spare drawings still "read" at most any size north of the postage stamp.

[Ed. Note: The comic strips you see in this and other Comic Riffs posts are different sizes from the versions that appear in the print edition of The Washington Post.]

Comics reduction is no small issue -- in recent decades, "Doonesbury" and "Calvin and Hobbes" cut their own deals over shrinkage limits. Now, a good number of readers have offered their feedback on the matter. Too much eye strain, some say. Include a plastic magnifying glass with every copy of the paper, a couple suggest. And too bad there's no clickable "Enlarge Comic" function in the print funnies, commenter "buckeye96" quipped yesterday.

Thing is, the biggest losers obviously in the Ever-Shrinking Comics are: (1) strips that have tightly packed blocks of text; and (2) strips that have finely detailed art. Which is why such strips as "Zippy the Pinhead" suffer so greatly in this trend. "Zippy" polled near the bottom in The Post's outside survey, but one wonders how it would look in this new environment even had it survived. Spatially, Zippy might have been quite the sad clown, indeed.

The strip that most bedevils my eyes, though, is "Close to Home." The condensed type, the scrawled text -- cut down to size, as it were, "Close to Home' quickly becomes close to illegible.

Which strips do you find the hardest to read at small sizes, 'Riffs readers? And are any so reduced that you've given up reading them?

By Michael Cavna  | April 10, 2009; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  The Morning Line  
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Comments

Hi, Michael:

I, too find the comics difficult to read in the newspaper, which is why I read most of them online.

Simply go the "zoom" function at the bottom right of your screen. You have the choice of 100%, 125% or 150%. At 150, you have to move the page back and forth to read the entire comic, but 125 is just right.

Judi

Posted by: jhershelredpuppy1 | April 10, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

As you have noted previously, Zippy and Tank McNamara are essentially unreadable in their printed (reduced) form. Sadly, strips with detailed art, such as Get Fuzzy, Zippy (once again), and especially Judge Parker, also suffer greatly from shrinkage. Perhaps Lio is the strip most immune from damage, for obvious reasons, but the detestable Mark Trail also has a high degree of immunity, which is perhaps why the Post hangs onto it. When the characters are so hideously drawn, and the word balloons come from anyplace where they will fit, and most panels are filled with irrelevant giant animals rather than with anything related to the story, that's a pretty good recipe for being scale-invariant. Well, that plus having dialog that no one on their right mind would actually want to read, of course.

Posted by: seismic-2 | April 10, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Absolutely right about Tank. I actually stopped reading because it was so much effort and too little payback.

This issue annoys while trying read Get Fuzzy, also pointed out earlier, Big Nate, and the visual mess that is Agnes.

Bring back the Judge and the Pooch!

Posted by: JkR- | April 10, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

The shrinkage of the comics I can somewhat tolerate. But, no more. And, yes, some comics can get by with little problem.

The older folks may not agree, however.

And, yes, bring back Judge Parker.

I think the Post's management has a brain freeze. Everything is in the "to hard" pile, I guess.

And/or the cannot accept they made a bad decision, in several regards.

Posted by: RobM1013 | April 10, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Classic Peanuts is now hard to read ... very, very small text.

Posted by: swanie_post | April 10, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

"no matter how much you reduce 'Dilbert' and 'Pearls Before Swine,' the clean, relatively spare drawings still 'read' at most any size north of the postage stamp."

It's too bad neither one's funny.

Posted by: tomtildrum | April 10, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

With Peanuts, why does the Post even bother to continue to have that in the paper? There are lots and lots of books with those same comics in them. Now that it is even smaller, let it go.

Bring back Judge Parker, at least it was new.

Posted by: ellehcim224 | April 10, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Why not shrink some pages of the sports section and put the comics back to three pages. After all, you hacked and cut the business section - is sports sacrosanct?

Posted by: Davidb4799 | April 10, 2009 6:17 PM | Report abuse

No kidding. The comics should've been expanded, not shrunk.

It seems like Editors of newspapers put up with the comics. Not realizing that the comics are a gateway to many readers to their product. And, as they continue to cut them, they are cutting themselves to oblivion.

How about the classifieds? They aren't too many of them anymore, maybe they can give up a page or so?

Now, can you please return Judge Parker to the comics.

Posted by: robbinsondave | April 10, 2009 7:20 PM | Report abuse

Newspapers are complaining about losing readers. We know that America is aging. With aging comes more difficulty reading small print. so what has happened over my lifetime? First they literally shrunk the actual size of the paper used (twice I believe). Then they shrunk the size of the strips (and with that, did they add more strips? No, in fact there are fewer). I have heard that a great reduction of classified ads has cost newspapers money. And where do we find the small type? Classified. I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to put these things together. Yes, I can get things on line and even with a small screen, can blow them up.

I like having a real paper. Since all of these papers trying all of these counterproductive measures are going bankrupt, why not try something different -- going back and see if more people will buy an old-fashioned size readable paper? What's to lose except a few bucks for newsprint -- and that grows on trees!

Posted by: TomfromNJ1 | April 11, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

First time I've written about the paper, really don't like the new size of the comic strips. The 3 page layout was much more reader friendly.

Posted by: sherrygard | April 12, 2009 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Monday's Dilbert is treading a thin line between comedy and tasteless.

Posted by: MSchafer | April 13, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

The Post gives a new perspective to reading the fine print. What was once enjoyable is now a chore - AND you took away the Judge and Pooch! Talk about insult to injury. Seriously, I subscribe to the Post as I enjoy reading newspapers and have always started with the comics. Given the change, I have to consider the benefits, and possibly cancel my subscription. If print is dead, The Post brought out the coffin. If you bring back Pooch Cafe & Judge Parker, I'd have to reconsider...

Posted by: CynthiaM1 | April 13, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

"Dilbert" and "Pearls Before Swine" aren't funny? If they aren't funny, what is? "Family Circus," maybe? Or "Cathy?" What about it, tomtildrum?

Posted by: carletonkent | April 13, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Strike that second "is?" Sorry.

Posted by: carletonkent | April 13, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Another Monday.

Another day of no "change" to the comics in the Post.

I guess all the polls (at Comic Riffs), comments, cryin' and complainin' is falling on deaf ears at the Post.

No Judge Parker. No renewal of the subscription to the dead tree edition.

You want me to go online only. Great, you got it.

Doughheads.

Posted by: Jam893 | April 13, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Davidb4799: You asked if sports coverage was sacrosanct.

I recently wrote to the Ombudsman about the changes at the Post (not just the comics) and noted that sports remains untouched. In his reply, he made it clear that yes, sports is sacrosanct.

Posted by: drewdane | April 13, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I hate having to search the web for some comics and having to get stronger reading glasses to read others in the paper. With Judge Parker introducing a character named "Godiva Danube", I think it's essential that it be put back in the paper asap. Pooch Cafe also needs to be returned to the print edition.

Posted by: mat00 | April 13, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

No Parker + no Pooch = no paper. Period.

Posted by: seismic-2 | April 13, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

"Close To Home" is the worst comic strip of all time. The artwork looks like something you would see on diplay in a second grade classroom and it is never funny or witty.

Posted by: smithstar4 | April 16, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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