RonO (rono_60103) wrote,

Cartoons (or Comics if you prefer)

It seems that we are heading into a decline in the variety and quality of the daily comic strip. Yesterday, I learned that The Humble Stumble will end in early March. I've followed this strip since it advertised as a new strip on its syndicate's website, throughout its brief appearance in The Chicago Tribune, and since back on line. The creator hasn't been able to keep it in enough newspapers to pay.

At the same time, several of the web comics I've been following for years are, at least reportedly, ending. These include Funny Farm, Bruno the Bandit, Suburban Jungle and Melonpool. My understanding is that for at least some of these strips the author/artist is unable to spend the time to produce the strip while still working a full time paying job and having any outside life.

The common thread seems to be that it is getting very hard to establish yourself as a full time comic strip artist unless you are selected to pick up the pen, metaphorically, of a retiring or dead artist and continue their old strip. And I think this is very sad. The artists, both web comic artists who haven't successfully sold anything into newspaper syndication, and the artist for The Humble Stumble, have complained that the problem is that newspapers are cutting costs for features, and won't risk removing established strips from their comics page for fear of upsetting a vocal group of mostly older fans. So instead of getting new strips, we see reruns of Peanuts, or new panels of Denis the Menace by the second, third or maybe fourth artists and years after the creator's death -- both of which I still read, the later online, more out of momentum and nostalgia then anything else.

Recently the strip, Candorville -- which the Chicago Tribune also dropped after a fairly short run, replacing it was either Raising Hector or Watch Your Head (neither of which I enjoy) -- hit on this topic very specifically when the main character, a blogger hired as a newspaper columnist to drum up new readership, was asked how to get new readers for the paper, while the editor was reducing the number of comics and meeting with the long-dead zombie creator of a famous strip.

Unfortunately, I cannot offer any ideas short of writing to the papers and encouraging them to try new comics for a year or two, get rid of comics that are fully, or mostly, in reruns -- or at least move them to a different page and to understand that many of us subscribe to the paper as much for the comic section as for any other part. I should probably write such a letter to the Tribune myself.


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