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Comic Strip Doctor Quits His Practice

David Malki, the self proclaimed comic strip doctor, has tired of his snarky ways and has decided to stop writing his columns.

Continuing commitments with my own ongoing comic, writing, and film projects have precluded my spending further time on faux criticism, and frankly, I don’t even read newspaper comics anymore. So it’s been a bit hard to get into the swing of things; each time I had wanted to write a new column I found myself dredging through online archives looking for the worst examples of Ziggy or whatever, and that’s not how I want to spend another Saturday, ever.

Community Comments

#1 Rick Stromoski
August/24/2007
@ 5:02 pm

Good.

#2 Dawn Douglass
August/24/2007
@ 5:40 pm

Alan, you didn’t spell his name correctly. His blog says he insists on adding a space and then “!”

;)

I looked…people really do write it this way when they talk about him. I even saw:
David Malki !’s
as the possessive!

Perhaps now he’ll start demanding to be called “the artist formerly known as the Comic Strip Doctor.”

#3 Eric Burke
August/24/2007
@ 6:52 pm

Anyone ever see the comics he’s drawn?

How did he get away with using so much copyrighted material? Did the syndies ever try and shut him down?

This is the first that I’ve heard of him…not that I see missed much…

#4 Eric Burke
August/24/2007
@ 7:06 pm

My bad…here they are:
http://www.wondermark.com/index.html

Personally…nice art but fairly boring…

#5 Dawn Douglass
August/24/2007
@ 7:41 pm

He didn’t draw those wondermark comics, Eric. Those are old drawings that are in the public domain.

#6 lefitte
August/24/2007
@ 11:35 pm

I’m with Rick S. It was good. I’ll miss it. The worst thing an art form can fall into is a “if you don’t have anything nice to say” community attitude toward people’s public work. Real art deserves, nay demands, critique.

Thank gosh cartooning isn’t one of those communities. You know what I mean, yes? Where everyone just congratulates each other on how great they are … because that doesn’t move the art form forward does it now?

Sure a bad review may sting and be a short-term setback, but any artist worth his/her salt knows that if you’re committed to your goal and your art that you should hopefully be able to look at the feedback rationally and see if there might be some truth to it. And if there ain’t, dismiss it and the reviewer. But the artist will be stronger for it. A true professional welcomes critique … a true professional also knows when to give creedence to it.

#7 Rick Stromoski
August/25/2007
@ 6:54 am

>>Real art deserves, nay demands, critique.

Agreed. But the critic has an obligation to understand his subject.

Looking at the good Dr’s page, every one of these features are hugely successful because they have a wide appeal to a target audience.

They may not be the critic’s cup of tea, but they’ve demonstrated the ability to keep and maintain their audience and markets.

Strips like Dennis, Garfield and Family Circus are easy targets for comics afficianados to tear down but there is a reason they maintain their turf. They appeal to small kids who are just beginning to read and appreciate the comics. They’re one of the few strips they can understand. As their comics tastes become more sophisticated they move on to other features but still maintain a loyalty to those first strips.

They also appeal to an older demographic becuase parents and grandparents see their experiences through these strips. The Keanes do this brilliantly. You may not like it but you can’t argue with success.

I’m not saying that criticism of these strips may not be valid. But they’re obviously doing something right.

Criticism also has an obligation to offer insight. What I’ve read there is just nastiness usually ending in a vulgar re-editing of a sample strip. Sorry but there’s a difference between criticism and snarkiness.

#8 Dan Bielinski
August/25/2007
@ 8:17 am

See ya.

#9 Norm Feuti
August/25/2007
@ 9:17 am

A real critic also gives attention to good strips as well as bad. Think about how many good features die every year because they can’t gain an audience.

Maybe if Franklin Fibbs and Big Top had gotten half the web chatter and attention that’s wasted on making fun of soap comics, they’d still be around.

Fun is fun, but I don’t think we should pretend these “aficionados” are accomplishing anything other than keeping themselves ammused. Giving constant attention to legacy strips online every day just to make fun of them isn’t doing anything positive for the industry.

“The worst thing an art form can fall into is a â??if you donâ??t have anything nice to sayâ? community attitude toward peopleâ??s public work.”

Instead we have a growing “If you don’t have anything snarky to say, don’t say anything at all” community attitude.

Personally, I think that’s far worse.

#10 Charles Brubaker
August/25/2007
@ 9:19 am

I agree regarding kids and “Garfield,” Rick.

I was one of those kids, even having a huge collection of “Garfield” books at one point. Like those kids you mentioned, I’ve grown up and gotten into different strips.

While I don’t think highly of “Garfield” now as I did as a kid, it made me take comics seriously, and I guess I’ll have to give Jim Davis credit for that.

#11 r stevens
August/25/2007
@ 9:37 am

Norm- You’re spot on. Critics tend to fixate on what they hate, rather than what people should seek out. That’s why ya kind of need to ignore ’em and just do your best.

That said, Dave’s not a bad guy- glad to see he’s giving this up to do more fulfilling creative stuff.

#12 Anne
August/25/2007
@ 11:15 am

This is a good opportunity to clarify a point I have been trying to make on some other threads here – this snarky commentary and lack of positive feedback IS really hurting the business. With newspapers being such a tough market to crack into these days and the internet providing an opportunity for continuous anonymous sniping, new features have an even harder time finding an audience than they used to.

When a movie gets a bad review, the audience still sees plenty of ads and trailers that can entice them to go see the film anyway. When a new strip becomes the target of these sorts of jibes without a lot of equal positive advertising, I am afraid their chances on getting picked up by more papers really suffer.

My hope is that newspaper comics editors don’t spend a lot of time reading the snark and base their decisions more on what they think their own readers want. But – with all the online polls going on out there, it feels as though editors are abandoning that line of reasoning and possibly giving in to the internet market AND the snark. That really worries me because I still don’t think web audiences and print audiences are interested in the same type of material.

#13 Mike Lester
August/25/2007
@ 11:59 am

The hieroglyphics that pass for art along w/ accompanying verbal pablum is and has been selling for years. Get a loop and check original pub. dates on legacy strips. Today’s Peanust is 1994 but I’ve seen them from the 70’s. Syndicates employ business people -not cartoonists, to sell the public what they want not what cartoonists think they ought to sell thereby making Dr. Snark’s observations an exercise in irrelavence… other than to twist noses.

As for his own work, it’s a victorian “Red Meat” w/ a side of “Diesel Sweeties”. Personally, I like it but then, I like scotch and milk.

#14 Greg S.
August/25/2007
@ 5:17 pm

So now comic creators, syndicates and editors are apparently content at having cornered the coveted “little kid who has barely learned to read” and “fixed-income senior citizen” demographics… The advertisers must be literally stampeding at the chance to sell to these lucrative audiences!

And yet, every time Alan posts another item regarding yet another shrinking comics page, people loudly wonder why…

#15 D.D.Degg
August/25/2007
@ 6:25 pm

“So now comic creators, syndicates and editors are apparently content at…”

But Doonesbury, Non Sequitur, Get Fuzzy, Pearls Before Swine, and the Recent LIO seem to have a firm grip on a comfortable market share.
These all tend toward the “edgier” side of the funny pages; and there are others.
I would think a healthy mix serving all the readers
(including bringing in the youngsters) would be best for all.
Though I personally think the comics pages should be at least two pages in every paper.

#16 Rick Stromoski
August/26/2007
@ 12:12 pm

â?¥â?¥â?¥So now comic creators, syndicates and editors are apparently content at having cornered the coveted â??little kid who has barely learned to readâ? and â??fixed-income senior citizenâ? demographicsâ?¦

I think your comment here is a bit disingenuous Greg.I wasn’t speaking for all comics, I was speaking for a certian type of comic, like Dennis and family Circus and why their formula works for them specifically.

#17 Greg S.
August/26/2007
@ 7:33 pm

Of course their formula works for them, but does it work for the average newspaper’s bottom line?
Certainly these audiences deserve recognition, but when a significant percentage of the comics has resigned itself to pleasing audiences that lack disposable income, no one should be surprised when “the funnies” are the first to find themselves on the chopping block in these declining days of the daily newspaper.

Anyway, we know that these comics, such as Dennis and Garfield, got their break by appealing to much more than just the extreme ends of the aging spectrum. They wouldn’t enjoy the rediculous market share they have today if they started out by shilling the same milktoast jokes and gags day after day.

What I mean is, Slylock Fox is for the kids. Crankshaft is for the fogeys. Garfield, Dennis, Hi & Lois, B.C., Marmaduke, even Family Circus… these comics used to try for something more, but don’t feel the need to anymore. It’s time to recognize stale mediocrity for what it is and give a few of ’em the boot.

Until that happens, snark is inevitable, and seems to be about the only thing left to encourage a career cartoonist to avoid becoming stale. The syndicates and editors of these legacy features stopped caring about quality control a long time ago.

#18 Rich
August/26/2007
@ 8:52 pm

I wonder what the typical demographic profile of the average daily newspaper in the US? Anyone know?

My personal opinion is that even the “stale” strips are better than 90% of the rest of the newspaper. I’d love to see a paper add about 3 more pages of comics for 3 months and see if it changes their circulation any. Might not, but it would be a fun and measurable experiment.

#19 Anne
August/27/2007
@ 7:42 am

Folks, maybe we’re over analyzing here. Maybe the failure of papers to compete with the internet has little of nothing to do with content. Maybe it’s all about “free” and “instant” and “interactive”.

We have a whole generation that has gotten used to the free information and entertainment that is available on the internet, why should they pay upwards of $25 a month for a newspaper?

We have lots of people who have gotten used to being able to get an instant update on almost any news or entertainment story they wish to find, why read yesterday’s news?

And who wants to take the time to snail mail a letter to the editor when you can share your opinion instantly in the online comments section.

Personally, I prefer to read my paper every morning with my breakfast and catch up on my local news, upcoming events, and – yes – my comics. But I’m one of those “old fogies” in my forties – not part of that exciting young web demographic.

#20 Dave K.
August/27/2007
@ 2:40 pm

I’ve been following this discussion with some interest. I am not a cartoonist, or an artist in any sense of the word. I simply enjoy reading comics. I think the newspaper comic strip industry is doing a poor job of adapting to the new reality of the internet. I currently subscribe to King Features and UComic.com. Every day I am e-mailed dozens of strips. I have been a subscriber for years, and yet during that time I have never received any information about new strips. Over the past several years, I have purchased books for the following comics: Pearls Before Swine, Dilbert, Get Fuzzy, Sherman’s Lagoon, Boondocks, Alice, Baby Blues, Brewster Rockit, Baldo, Red and Rover, Fox Trot, and For Better or For Worse. Of these, only Dilbert and FBOFW appear in my local newspaper. I found all the rest on the internet, and have become a huge fan of all of these cartoons. I am in my forties, and have some disposable income. Clearly, the industry needs to do a better job of marketing itself. Had I relied on my newspaper, I would not have known about most of these comics. (I actually started reading about Pearls after I saw it in a Get Fuzzy comic!)
The industry does not do itself a favor by sniping at itself. Soap comics and old timers are easy targets, and undoubtedly stifle some new artists. However, like the music industry has found, to survive the comic industry must adapt itself to a digital reality.
I’m not sure how can be done, but it seems obvious that artists deserve a share of the subscription income the syndicates generate online.
I enjoy this site, and the contributors.

#21 Anne
August/27/2007
@ 3:38 pm

Dave, my daily ink subscription through King Features alerted me to both My Cage and Arctic Circle as their launches were announced. I don’t know about other subscription services and how well they publicize their new strips.

#22 JoshM
August/29/2007
@ 10:13 am

I’ve also been following this discussion with interest for a while — in part because for the past year or so I’d been toying with the idea of starting a blog something like what some folks here are talking about. I love comics (who here doesn’t, right?) and would rather write constructively about the art form, what’s new and exciting, what just makes me happy as I’m reading the day’s comic pages.

So, after reading all these comments here I’ve decided to go for it. I’m starting small — just kinda stumbling along for a while, hopefully finding a good consistent format and voice after a while.

I’d love any feedback from real comics affectionados!

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