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Posted at 9:05 AM ET, 01/ 5/2010

The Post's new Sunday funnies lineup: What hath change wrought?

By Michael Cavna

The official 'Riffs question of the day, my fellow Sunday funnies fans: "Why-oh-why was the beautifully and substantively artistic 'Mutts' comic moved inside today and squeezed within an inch of its life?"

Braving such treacherous elements as slick ice, tall snowbanks and dicey re-pagination, that query comes to Comic Riffs from an impassioned reader. To which my first instinct is to reply: What do you think, folks?

Nothing says "Happy New Year!" in journalism quite like a sudden slicing-and-dicing of your visual reading habit (speaking here, of course, largely to those of you who actually see The Post's print funnies).

With the new year, The Post changed paginators -- a.k.a. those folks from an outside company who handle the layout and production of the physical Sunday funnies -- a move that provided the ready opportunity to shuffle the cartoon deck visually.

Part of the change involved the new Sudoku puzzle, "Sudoku Monster," but for comics readers, some of the most glaring switcheroos were:

(1) "Sherman's Lagoon" moved to the section's front page, assuming the slot of "Mutts" -- which was transplanted to Page-7 and shrunk considerably.

(2) To create a five-strip front page instead of a four-comic page, "Baby Blues" moved to the front; which...

(3) Meant "Doonesbury" was converted to a vertical strip, running down much of the front page's right-hand side.

(4) Also particularly notable: "Pearls Before Swine" now runs at a larger size (still inside).

(5) And "Beetle Bailey" moves several pages farther back in the section.

As I read the shuffled section, some of my initial reactions are:

(1) Call me a creature of habit, but I'm still not a big fan of reading multiple-panel strips vertically (a la the new "Doonesbury" configuration) -- especially strips with a relative degree of wordiness. Not that I'm not willing to work a little bit for a good strip, but simply put: The flow interrupts the funny. (If that makes sense to you: Great. If not, you're not likely bothered by the vertical vicissitude and can just skip to the next reaction, which is...

(2) Huzzahs for Jerry Scott! Having two -- count 'em, two -- strips ( "Zits" and "Baby Blues") on a Sunday section's front page, both "above the fold," is no mean feat. Congrats, Jerry.

(3) As for the Big Question Du Jour, I'll need a coupla more weeks to see whether the "Sherman"-for-"Mutts" swap does anything for me. The explanation for the switch, as provided by Post editors, was: "Mutts," with its Zenlike simplicity, cedes its front-page space to the wordier "Sherman's Lagoon."

But that's of no consolation to the said impassioned reader, who writes of her plight in, well, impassioned fashion: "Mutts," with "its usual mixed message of humor, peace and respect for nature is surely more worthy than its replacement, 'Sherman's Lagoon.' "

IS it? Comic Riffs is curious to hear what you think, Sunday funnies fans...

By Michael Cavna  | January 5, 2010; 9:05 AM ET
Categories:  The Comic Strip, The Morning Line  | Tags:  Baby Blues, Doonesbury, Mutts, Sherman's Lagoon  
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Comments

Doonesbury should go back to the old layout. Otherwise, no complaints othe rthan I wish they were all larger.

Posted by: EricS2 | January 5, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

I don't like vertical strip lay-outs either, and while some strips may work better than others that way, Doonesbury is not one of them. As for Mutts, it is one of my favorites and so I always liked seeing it right up front, but the reduction in size is a bigger offense.

Posted by: crystal4 | January 5, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

I don't care where they move stuff...JUST STOP SHRINKING MY COMICS!!!!!! Please please please, get rid of dead weight instead of shrinking!

Actually, as to the Mutts thing: One of the things I loved about it being on the front page was the inclusion of McDonnell's always creative title panels. It was gone this week. I guess that is a result of the shrinking. But I will do without the title panel, I suppose, if I can have a decently-sized strip again.

Thanks for always taking our gripes, Michael.

Posted by: dstu | January 5, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Sherman's Lagoon speaks to me directly, although I get more "fun" out of Mutts. So on balance I now get a pithy message on page one-and I like that. I have never had a problem delving for my funnies.

Posted by: mgaal | January 5, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

My reaction was almost entirely favorable, with the exception being the vertical Doonesbury, which I got over rather quickly.

I never felt Mutts deserved front page status, and with it's lack of (meaningful) dialog, it can shrink better than some others.

Judge Parker looked great in it's new size, but it was still 6 panels instead of 8.

Otherwise, well done.

Posted by: JkR- | January 5, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

I HATE that Mutts has been moved and made smaller. Patrick McDonnell's artwork is surely worthy of better treatment, even if his "comic" isn't (and it is). And Doonesbury shouldn't be vertical. Vertical treatment is for old-hat comics, those that are no longer relevant or funny, but have to be kept in the paper for posterity's sake (I'm looking at you, Garfield/Peanuts). This is exactly why I've stopped even bothering with the Post's paper comics. I used to love the feel of newsprint, and the poring over the paper with my morning breakfast. But it's just not worth it now - at least online I always get to see my comics as they were intended to be seen.

Posted by: Carrie1102 | January 5, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Not a big fan of the vertical strips, but I can deal. I always read Sherman's Lagoon last because I can count on a laugh, so it's weird to have my reading order changed.

Posted by: Hemisphire | January 5, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

I read all my comics online now. This isn't because I hate newspapers as I love them, but because of unavailability. Because of this I have read Doonesbury in a vertical format on Sundays for years. I was unaware that it wasn't this way in the actual paper.

I, too, lament the shrinkage of the comics in the papers when I see them. I stopped reading most of the WaPo's comics from this site because I could view them larger elsewhere. When will the editors realize what a resource they are wasting?

Posted by: elyrest | January 5, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Which will happen first:
(1) Cul De Sac appears in color in print WaPo
(2) Frazz is back from Kid's Post exile
(3) online WaPo runs weekday Cul De Sac
(4) online WaPo updates the Sunday Cul De Sac
(5) Beetle Bailey is funny

Posted by: seismic-2 | January 5, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

For me, Mutts went stale -- and lost all its humor -- a couple of years ago. And Mutts's periodic shelter series, along with Curtis's Kwaanza series, are the only strips I skip over entirely in the entire year. I cannot stand the vertical Doonesbury. And I'd sooner have my favorites (Agnes, Pearls, Sherman, Lio, Fuzzy) on the last inside page than on the first page. This revision may be the final nail in the coffin. I already get all my favorites by email every day, so why should I continue to subscribe to the Post? In company with all the new, hideous serif fonts, it's as though they're trying to drive their older print subscribers away.

Posted by: pltrgyst | January 5, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Sherman's Lagoon deserves to stay on the front page of the comics, but Mutts should stay there too (bury Baby Blues in the middle of the section).

Personally, I think Mutts is (by far) the best comic in print, but it's easy to understand why some people find its "single issue" character preachy or pedantic (especially during "Shelter Story" weeks). I mourn the loss of the title panel more than the space reduction, but since I read Mutts on line, the Post's reorganization doesn't directly affect me.

Posted by: kilby | January 6, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

I actually like Mutts' opening Sunday panel better than the strip a lot of times so I'm sorry to see that go.

And Doonesbury should be horizontal.

Posted by: Mrhode | January 6, 2010 6:13 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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