Comics

Behold the Hand of Cavanaugh

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When Tim Cavanaugh left Hit & Run for the smoggier shores of the Los Angeles Times, most of you probably thought there would be far fewer posts here about Mary Worth and Tim's favorite blog, The Comics Curmudgeon. And you were right. But I see the Comics Curmudgeon himself has an op-ed in the L.A. Times today, and that it begins with four paragraphs about Mary Worth. Coincidence? Don't bet on it.

It's a pretty good piece, and it includes some valuable advice for newspaper editors:

[M]aybe one reason readers are fleeing print is because the papers don't give them enough reason to believe print is anything special. Few comics fans would dispute that the funnies look best on paper, or that reading the comics in newsprint over breakfast is a pleasing ritual. Going back to the childhood of the modern newspaper business—in the graphically rich Hearst and Pulitzer papers of the early 20th century—one of the main attractions was always the Sunday morning treat of page after vibrant page of full-color comics. But when was the last time an interesting-looking comics page caught your eye, let alone invited you to a full-spectrum visual feast?…

[B]efore the print news medium gives up on new readers, maybe it's time to double down on the comics, to make the funny papers a selling point again: Give the comics an extra page. Move the funnies out of the entertainment-section ghetto and into the A section or Sports. Better yet, run the daily strips in a stand-alone insert —not just on Sundays. Get the advertising staff to start selling against the comics section (why should TV be getting all the ads for sugary cereals and action figures?). Do something, do anything, to make the funny pages interesting.

The easiest way to go broke is to assume that my reading habits constitute a trend, but for whatever it's worth the funnies are essentially the only reason I ever look at an actual newspaper these days, as opposed to just reading the news online. With every revision to the comics page—each decision to toss out a dozen strips and shrink the remainder to half their former size—we come closer to the day I never bother to pick up a paper at all.

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  1. I’ll sign on to that last paragraph.

  2. Jesse, you caught me. The more I think about it, the more I realize I eat the whole meal primarily just to get to the dessert. And the Free Press, like most papers, prints the comics in the last section.
    I must admit, however, that I read the movie and restaurant reviews–concert reviews too. But, since I spend a lot of time online, I rarely read the news, unless it’s something specific to Detroit issues.

  3. I read the paper starting with the comics, then read whatever else until I finish my cereal. Still, if they had this version of Mary Worth, the papers would be selling like hotcakes.

  4. And they keep tossing out things that have potential to keep running old, awful crap like Beatle Bailey, Blondie, Ziggy, Family Circus and Garfield. GAH!

  5. Agreed, Timothy!

    I’d love to see a print version of Achewood, or perhaps something less vulgar but as witty.

    I also want to see those leftover-from-1973 “love is…” “comics” expunged forever.

  6. Love Is has to be the worst comic strip ever. Of course I woundn’t mind seeing the round headed kids in Family Circus banished. Perhaps I am just old but comics seemed to have peaked in the 1980s. At that time, Bloom County and The Far Side were at their best, Chales Shulze, while not at the top of his game, was still quite good, Doonsberry was at least readable (something it hasn’t been for at least 15 years now), hell even Garfield had its moments.

  7. When I was in D.C. a few years ago, I was astonished that the Washington Post had more comics than I’d ever seen in one paper: about 2.5 pages worth. I didn’t find any gems the S.F. Chronicle needed to carry, but it was interesting to see who-knew-they-were-still-around strips like Mark Trail.

  8. As whiskey said: Ditto the last paragraph.

    My local daily (the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) is not all that great a newspaper. But it does run two full pages of comix daily, with one color page. And that’s what keeps our subscription going.

  9. The easiest way to go broke is to assume that my reading habits constitute a trend, but for whatever it’s worth the funnies are essentially the only reason I ever look at an actual newspaper these days, as opposed to just reading the news online.

    I’m not a big fan of comic strips, so I don’t see any reason for me to ever buy a newspaper again.

    …I will go to a newspaper’s site online and read the sports section or film reviews or what Cavanaugh’s writing.

  10. Want to make the funnies funny again? Pay Bill Watterson whatever amount of money he wants to bring his strip back.

    Oh, and MORE BOONDOCKS!

  11. Mark Trail, the funniest comic strip in the business, is why I keep my newspaper subscription.

  12. It’s interesting how there seems to be a small core group of strips that almost every paper carries, consisting of Garfield, Blondie, Doonesbury (even if it’s often on the editorial page), The Family Circus, For Better or for Worse, and a couple others, but otherwise there’s a great deal of variation. I never heard of “Love is” before this thread and, although I know their reputations, I have never seen a newspaper that actually carried such Comics Curmudgeon favorites as Mary Worth, Mark Trail, and They’ll Do It Every Time.
    The only current comics that make me laugh frequently are Get Fuzzy and (although it’s starting to show its age) Dilbert.

  13. I stopped reading the comics page the day Calvin and Hobbes stopped printing. Something about the horoscopes on the other page that kind of freaked me out…

  14. I miss the action-adventure story strips. They have really been hurt by the shrunken size that strips are printed in. I’m not Bill Blackbeard, but I grew up on reading Thimble Theatre, starring Popeye, The Phantom, Mandrake The Magician, Steve Canyon, Steve Roper and Mike Nomad, etc. I see Dick Tracy when I pick up the Chicago Tribune, but our local monopoly paper has switched entirely (?) to gag-a-day strips.

    Does anyone remember the Archie Goodwin/Gil Kane Star Hawks that dealt with the shrunken comics page by running a two-tiered daily? Alas, that didn’t last, and adventure has retreated to the comic book ghetto.

    Treat yourself sometime to the greats of comic strips long gone. Foster on Tarzan and Prince Valiant, Caniff on Terry & The Pirates, Roy Crane on Wash Tubbs & Captain Easy, Noel Sickle’s Scorchy Smith, Hogarth’s Tarzan, Tufts’s Casey Ruggles, Raymond’s Flash Gordon…. I’ll stop before I can’t stop. To see the mockery of once-greatness that is today’s Valiant, published in a 1/4-page format with muddy colors on dreary paper in my local Sunday rag is like seeing a hall-of-fame ballplayer in a hospital ICU. sniff!

    Kevin

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