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Posted at 9:05 AM ET, 10/ 1/2009

The E-Mailbag: Will 'Cul de Sac' Move Again -- & Are Comic Rates Being Cut?

By Michael Cavna

Time for a coupla recent inquiries from the Riffs Reader e-mailbag...

1. Commenter "Jam893" asks:

QUESTION: "I am hearing of a disturbing trend for cartoonists, their creators and the syndicates. Rate/fee concessions to keep a strip in a paper. Several papers (major papers) who are in financial peril/issue have asked (demanded) reduction in fees for the strips. Some heritage, longtime strips, which may command several hundred dollars a week, are being asked for 30-50% cuts, or the threat of cancellation and replacement with a cheaper option. True/False? Don't lie, because I know of it happening elsewhere."

ALAN SHEARER, general manager of The Washington Post Writers Group syndicate, responds thusly:

ANSWER: "It's only natural that in a time of extreme financial pressure, newspaper editors would look at every cost. If you've run a strip for 50 or 75 years, you may be paying five times the price of a new strip. And remember, lots of rates have been based on print circulation, which has fallen almost everywhere."

2. Commenter "Lauzertine," speaking for a fair number of readers, writes:

COMMENT: "Love Cul de Sac. Hate that it's moved and that I no longer seem to be able to get it online. Forget the animation, but bring the strip back in color, either in the Sunday comics or in the Magazine. The Post continues to self-destruct."

Comic Riffs asked SHIRLEY CARSWELL, the Post executive who oversees comics, whether there are any plans afoot to move "Cul de Sac" to the Sunday comics. ("Cul de Sac" recently moved from the Magazine, where no feature has replaced it.) Her response:

ANSWER: There are "no current plans" to move "Cul de Sac" from Style&Arts.

In addition, to repeat a point from yesterday: Editors who oversee the Style&Arts section tell Comic Riffs that whether "Cul de Sac" runs in color or black-and-white each week depends on color-page availability on any given Sunday.

By Michael Cavna  | October 1, 2009; 9:05 AM ET
Categories:  The E-Mailbag  
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Well, Cul de Sac this past Sunday ran on a page with a huge color ad for "Cavalia" so we know it was a color-available page.

It needs to be in color every week. Why should that be the only Sunday strip that doesn't get to be in color every week? What bunk.

Posted by: dstu | October 1, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

>> dstu:

Couldn't agree more about color every week. I don't understand the decision, and can only speculate that "Cul de Sac" has become the homegrown kid that doesn't get treated as well as the "adopted" members of the dysfunctional family. Shuttled about among guardians, "CdS" gets a raw deal graphically, IMHO.

Perhaps others feel differently about its "perch" in Style&Arts.


Posted by: comicriffscavna | October 1, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Cul de Sac is on the WaPo comics section online, but the most recent one is 9/13. What's up with that?
Anyway you can also read it at; it's updated daily there.

Posted by: moonwatcher13 | October 1, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I join dstu in calling 'bull!' on the color availability cop-out. Cul-de-sac was the only thing NOT in color on that page. That comment is just insulting our intelligence. And our colorblindness.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 1, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Please run Cul de Sac in color! It's outrageous for a Sunday comic to NOT be in color.

Posted by: subwayguy | October 1, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Silly ... one of the best-looking comics on the page and you choose the less-attractive version.

Do newspaper editors, other than you MC, actually read the comics?

Posted by: greasypores | October 1, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

If anyone else feels strongly about seeing Sunday's "Cul de Sac" run in color in The Post, please free free to make your sentiments known here. I'll be compiling emails & comments to show to Post editors.


Posted by: cavnam | October 1, 2009 6:13 PM | Report abuse

>> greasypores:

The short answer: Runs the gamut. At various times, I've known comics editors at newspapers in Los Angeles, Atlanta, San Diego and Seattle, for instance -- as well as at The Post -- who were deeply passionate about comics. Others at times, well: Notsomuch.


Posted by: cavnam | October 1, 2009 6:18 PM | Report abuse

I continue to be astounded by the Washington Post's clueless approach to comics. Cul de Sac is a brilliant strip; why Post editors would exile it to S&A is beyond comprehension. But then again, so is the puzzling exile of Frazz to the KidsPost. Please, does anyone there actually care about the comics?

Posted by: steinmonroe | October 1, 2009 8:57 PM | Report abuse

MC...thanks for having someone answer my question.

However, where was the response from someone at the Post? Are they doing this, too?

Posted by: Jam893 | October 1, 2009 11:14 PM | Report abuse

If a Sunday comic is not in color, it isn't a Sunday comic. Be it ever thus, you can run it on the pages used for the bird or the puppy, still won't make it a Sunday comic unless it's in color!

Posted by: 2old2readcomics | October 2, 2009 1:56 AM | Report abuse

>> Jam893:

Sure thing. And as I get more answers -- on this and other matters -- I'll post them on the blog.


Posted by: cavnam | October 2, 2009 2:16 AM | Report abuse

Cul de Sac is the Post's own localized offspring, and like the shoemaker's children who go barefoot, it gets worse treatment from its parent than the syndicated zombie strips that haven't been clever in decades. Can't one of **them** be taken out of the comics page and buried somewhere within the b/W pages of the Post, if it's a space issue? And can't some of them be dropped from the online Post to allow daily publication of Cul de Sac, if it's a budget issue? I suppose Cul de Sac didn't rate very high on the Post's outsourced survey of random people people who really don't even know what's in the comics, so that was that. They never heard of it, whereas everyone has heard of Beetle Bailey, so guess which one the Post deems as "important"? Surely the Otterloop family ought to be the **lead** comic in the Washington Post!!! Well, this is something we shall have to ask the comics editors in one of their one-line chats which are conducted, well, never.

Posted by: seismic-2 | October 2, 2009 5:33 AM | Report abuse

>> M.C.:
As long as you are taking layout suggestions, placing the cartoons on the LEFT side of the Comic Riffs blog would help. Pictures placed to the right of text tend to conflict with the advertising or with the "fave sites" links, and the comic almost always loses (gets truncated or underlaid by the browser). This is very frequent in Safari, but I've see it in Firefox, too.

If you need a screenshot to prove the existence of a problem to the webmasters, I'd be happy to send one in.

Posted by: kilby | October 2, 2009 7:17 AM | Report abuse

Having recently discovered Cul de Sac and been baffled by its rare appearances, I'm pleased to see that so many better-informed readers are on the job of trying to penetrate the dull wits of the awful hacks who haven't the sense to drop the many hapless strips that are either zombies, as someone said, or drawn by the puerile members of the David Letterman audience who laugh their heads off when he drags out the 1001st "joke" about "the Times Square hookers." I refer here to the repellent "Opus," "Bloom Country" and their self-congratulatory, mean-spirited brother strips. Back to Cul de Sac and the brilliant Richard Thompson (whose image of the scrappy little Impatiens poking its head into the window to demand more water is unforgettable), whether in color or black and white, it's a fine funny comic and fresh ones should be viewable every day.

Posted by: Amanita1 | October 4, 2009 12:33 AM | Report abuse

I just wanted to add myself to the chorus of fans who want Sunday "Cul de Sac" back in color! The Otterloops deserve better and so do we! Was the idea to make it a coloring page?? Are we supposed to "stay within the lines"?

Posted by: The_Hermans | October 4, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

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