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Chicago Tribune increases size of some comics

The Chicago Tribune is responding to reader complaints about the illegibility of some if its comics by increasing the size it runs several of those comics. Two features, The Argyle Sweater and Bliss will be enlarged by 15% and Baby Blues, Blondie, Cathy, Classic Peanuts, Dilbert, Doonesbury, For Better or for Worse, Frazz, Hagar the Horrible, Mr. Boffo, Prickly City, Shoe and Zits will be increased by 25%.

They’ve also picked up on two features, Dustin and Pickles and dropped six: Get Fuzzy, Lio, Raising Hector, Scary Gary, Sylvia and Watch Your Head.

The changes are set to go into effect on Monday, February 8th.

Community Comments

#1 John McCarthy
February/3/2010
@ 12:03 pm

Wow. I can’t feel my legs. Gonna have to sit down. . .

Lord? Is that you?

#2 Lucius Wisniewski
February/3/2010
@ 12:17 pm

Makes sense. Old people tend to have bad vision.

#3 Larry Levine
February/3/2010
@ 12:20 pm

That’s a semi-step in the right direction!!

#4 Kayl Miller
February/3/2010
@ 12:30 pm

#2 commenter Lucius, U A so cynical – and funny! LOL!

#5 mike witmer
February/3/2010
@ 1:05 pm

Wait…did you say INCREASE?

#6 Mike Cope
February/3/2010
@ 1:12 pm

Well, when you drop 25% of your features, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out.

Still, I suppose it’s better than adding another crossword puzzle.

#7 Mike Cope
February/3/2010
@ 1:16 pm

That is, “when you drop 25% of your comic strip features …”

#8 Stacy Curtis
February/3/2010
@ 2:13 pm

We dropped our Chicago Tribune subscription because their comics sections were the worst I’ve ever seen. And now that they’ve dropped Lio and Get Fuzzy, and kept some dead cartoonist strips on board, they’ve only proven that.

#9 Mark Buford
February/3/2010
@ 2:16 pm

Oh, well. Looks like it’s back to ramen noodles for dinner.

#10 Stephen Beals
February/3/2010
@ 4:35 pm

They got it backwards. The Tribune needs to make its comics legible and the rest of the newspaper too small to read.

Not a big Tribune fan. Sorry they dropped so many, though.

#11 Jason Chatfield
February/3/2010
@ 5:25 pm

Whoa, whoa! Hang on.
Let’s not get crazy… 15%?

Ooh thank you, oh layout gods.. so just

#12 Ted Dawson
February/3/2010
@ 5:36 pm

This is nothing short of revolutionary in the era of the 21st century newspaper.

#13 Chris Parsell
February/3/2010
@ 7:47 pm

Too true Ted, this is incredibly good and rather strange news to hear in this day and age.

It will be interesting to see if this effects their overall circulation in a positive manner. If so, I hope some other paperâ??s follow the Tribâ??s lead, but keep the good strips.

#14 Cory Thomas
February/3/2010
@ 8:54 pm

Well, I guess now is as good a time as any to start drinking.

#15 Mike Cope
February/3/2010
@ 9:54 pm

@ Chris re: “this is incredibly good and rather strange news to hear in this day and age … I hope some other paperâ??s follow the Tribâ??s lead.”

I think you missed the part where they axed 25% of their current lineup and replaced them with nothing.

#16 Stephen Beals
February/4/2010
@ 2:23 am

Is this good news?

They increased the size to make it so you can actually read the comics, but then got rid of some good strips. If sales increase due to a (finally) attractive layout, that will be good in the long run. That’s kind of iffie.

I do like how the Indianapolis Star rearranged their comic pages, but they still publish Non-Sequitur so small that I defy anybody who isn’t Superman to read it.

I would need to see a before and after example, but getting old issues of the paper isn’t as easy as it used to be (they don’t even send you freebies when you advertise in them anymore).

Maybe somebody near the Chicago library can make a scan.

#17 Tom Heintjes
February/4/2010
@ 7:37 am

Great news about the dimensions, not so great about the casualties. Papers should be ACQUIRING strips like Scary Gary and Lio, not dropping them!

#18 Dan
February/4/2010
@ 8:31 am

I would be all for this move except for the fact that they dropped Lio.

#19 August J. Pollak
February/4/2010
@ 8:55 am

So the story is that they just dropped six strips. They canceled Get Fuzzy to make Blondie more readable.

People are calling this good news?

#20 Mark_Tatulli
February/4/2010
@ 9:37 am

Why do I feel like somebody just made me move my Toyota so they could park their Hummer?

#21 Ted Dawson
February/4/2010
@ 10:07 am

Most newspapers NEED to drop some strips. We have to look at what’s been happening over the past several years.

With computers, page layout people learned how to squash and shrink all their strips so that they could fit more on a page. I think we’ve all seen the “Oval Circus” and that little “oval-headed kid.” They could fit more comics on a page by setting up the page as a uniform grid.

Then newspapers went to a smaller format. This further reduced the size. In my paper, several of the strips are 4.5″ wide. The comics are unreadable and don’t appear as the cartoonists designed them. Comics are cheap, and they’re treated as such. Pile as many onto the page as possible.

Many newspaper have gone to an even smaller format, so the only possible way to make the comics bigger is to get rid of some. And it would be a little easier to raise rates for comics if a paper has fifteen on a page instead of twenty.

Comics are a visual medium. They also depend heavily on dialogue, and there’s not enough room. If the strength of a comic strip is removed, it’s not effective, aesthetic or interesting. People won’t read it and it won’t help sell newspapers.

#22 Ted Dawson
February/4/2010
@ 10:08 am

The story isn’t over yet, either. Readers let editors know if they’re upset about strips that have been dropped.

#23 Mark_Tatulli
February/4/2010
@ 10:47 am

Older readers complain. Younger readers, my base, just go online.

#24 Ted Dawson
February/4/2010
@ 11:47 am

Do you think print comics should be available online?

#25 Mark_Tatulli
February/4/2010
@ 11:50 am

Well, I think they should be available online, but delayed by two weeks. This adds value to the printed version. You wouldn’t go see a newly released film if it was available for free on TV the same day, would you?

#26 Anne Hambrock
February/4/2010
@ 12:05 pm

“Why do I feel like somebody just made me move my Toyota so they could park their Hummer?”

Perfect.

“Comics are cheap, and theyâ??re treated as such.”

Really? I thought we were bankrupting the newspaper industry with our outrageous monetary demands and our caviar lifestyles :-)

#27 Mike Cope
February/4/2010
@ 12:31 pm

I couldn’t help but notice that the current Amazon.com ad being displayed in the top right side of this posting is for Kindle subscription to the Chicago Tribune.

If things like the Kindle and iPad are the way of the future, then layout space and legibility will become a non-factor.

Newspapers will either start deciding which comics they’ll subscribe to based on cost.

or …

Readers will be given the option to customize their comics package … Sort of like what cable and satellite TV providers do with their Theme Packs.

If I was a newspaper editor, I’d be seriously thinking about Option 2 right now.

#28 Ted Dawson
February/4/2010
@ 12:46 pm

“You wouldnâ??t go see a newly released film if it was available for free on TV the same day, would you?”

It’s not the same with comics, because they’re daily. Nobody cares if it’s delayed two weeks, or four weeks, or six months. It’s there every day. What if comics weren’t online at all?

Mike, I think one of the things that is paramount for comics is that they appear as a group selection. If a new comic debuts, it will be on the same page as the others, and readers will almost have to give it a chance. That doesn’t happen online.

With newspapers and comic books, it’s always been important to “force” new characters on readers, and then gauge the reader response. Option number 2, which will probably be what they do, could result in further stagnation of comic strips.

I think if webcomics were using the newspaper funnies page model, we’d see the webcomics market behaving differently. It’s like every TV program having its own channel. It’s not workable. I’d like to see somebody publishing a daily webcomics page.

My thoughts, anyway.

#29 Mark_Tatulli
February/4/2010
@ 1:11 pm

I disagree, Ted. New is new. “Never seen before today” has value.

#30 Mike Cope
February/4/2010
@ 1:52 pm

@Ted: I completely agree with your one TV program per channel analogy.

By giving e-Readers the option to customize their lineup, I’m sure there would still be opportunities to offer them new comic strip features as “free trials” … Sort of like the way that cable companies offer specialty channels to customers for a limited time.

The added benefit of this model is that readers can enjoy features from multiple syndicates. I’m thinking of something like Comics Kingdom here … No Calvin and Hobbes in that lineup.

However, there is a potential downside (or big question mark) that I see to the customization option …

Pricing.

By giving readers the option to customize their comics lineup, you’re forcing them to choose A vs. B vs. C … If, for example, you limit them to 20 features (as part of their newspaper subscription fee).

But does syndicate A charge the newspaper the same amount as syndicate B?

What if readers select the more expensive strips? After all, I don’t think anyone would try to argue that they all have the same value.

However …

The customization option might be enough to entice me to subscribe to more than one e-newspaper. For, as a reader, I’ll customize the first with “Favs A” and the second newspaper with “Favs B.”

Or, newspapers could make more money by allowing readers to add more comic strips to their lineup at an added fee.

If I could do all that, instead of surfing dozens of different websites everyday to read individual features, I would gladly pay for an iPad newspaper subscription because it’ll be saving me time.

#31 Tom Wood
February/4/2010
@ 1:58 pm

Readers will be given the option to customize their comics package â?¦ Sort of like what cable and satellite TV providers do with their Theme Packs.

Webcomics then need to start acting like a WEBcomic instead of a come-on ad for the print version book, buttons, and related doodads. They also need to take advantage of the web layout using hyperlinks and other interaction, and recognize the limitations. A big graphic novel style page that I have to scroll in both directions to read is not web friendly.

#32 Tony Piro
February/4/2010
@ 3:10 pm

I have my own customized comics page that I read every morning. It’s my RSS feed aggregator.

#33 Mike Cope
February/4/2010
@ 4:33 pm

@Tony: Does your feed aggregator display graphics? I’ve only fiddled with a few and most only show individual links to each day’s comic … very tedious.

Is it possibly to actually view the day’s comics (all titles) all at once on the same screen?

#34 Tony Piro
February/4/2010
@ 5:02 pm

@Mike

I just use Google Reader. Whether or not graphics are displayed is the prerogative of the website you’re getting the feed from. Most webcomics include the full comic strips in their feeds.

Some adhere to the mistaken idea that it’s better to just provide a link so that people are forced to go to your site (to help page views/ad revenue). Unfortunately, this apparently includes gocomics.com

#35 Dave Krainacker
February/4/2010
@ 5:08 pm

“If I could do all that, instead of surfing dozens of different websites everyday to read individual features, I would gladly pay for an iPad newspaper subscription because itâ??ll be saving me time.”

I subscribe to both King Features and uComics. Between the two sites I get about 160 comics daily. King Features costs me $15 per year and uComics $10. This seems grossly underpriced to me, and I have no idea what percent of this amount ultimately makes it back to the artist. This is convenient for me, but is it a viable way to keep comic strips alive? What pricing structure would have to exist to keep everyone happy?

#36 Charles Brubaker
February/4/2010
@ 6:37 pm

Nicole Hollander (whose strip was one of those that got cut) is fighting back…

http://www.chicagoreader.com/TheBlog/archives/2010/02/04/the-perils-of-sylvia

#37 Anne Hambrock
February/4/2010
@ 7:13 pm

When I read this story yesterday, I have to confess my first thought was “Sylvia will be back in under 2 weeks”.

As a former Chicagoan I can’t even imagine the Trib without that strip.

#38 Ted Dawson
February/4/2010
@ 7:27 pm

Let’s see… “What pricing structure would have to exist to keep everyone happy? Are digital comics a viable way to keep comic strips alive?”

Fifteen dollars per year divided by 64 cartoonists. That comes out to about two bits. The syndicate gets half, so we’ll say 12 cents a year per cartoonist.

Let’s say there are 10,000 subscribers (totally random but reasonable-sounding number). That gives each cartoonist $11 a week, or $1,200 a year (gross).

In order for comics on the web to generate a decent supplemental income for cartoonists, there would have to be at least 250,000 subscribers. If digital comics ultimately are to replace print comics, KF would need at least half a million subscribers. And in that scenario, Bil Keane would bring home $60,000 a year just like Rina Piccolo.

Sometimes I think trying to make print comics work online is like trying to make toast in the microwave. There are ways to do it, but I haven’t seen them tried yet.

#39 Charles Brubaker
February/4/2010
@ 7:39 pm

Just wondering, what does Chicago Sun-Times run? You know, the OTHER Chicago newspaper.

I remember seeing one couple years back and it actually had a handful of “good” comics. Among those I remember being “Lucky Cow”, “Edge City”, “The Flying McCoys”, “Pearls Before Swine” (which is now in every other newspapers in America), and also “Rudy Park” and “La Cucaracha”.

Keep in mind that “Lucky Cow” is no longer in syndication, and I have no idea what it was replaced with.

#40 Ted Dawson
February/4/2010
@ 7:44 pm

Nicole should fight back. Having the Trib as a client can make or break a lot of cartoonists.

I didn’t realize the Trib was going to a smaller format, one inch narrower. So they’re not really making the decision to increase the size of comics just because of reader complaints. They simply have reached terminal shrinkage zone and have to make sure at least the most popular comics are legible.

Oh, well.

#41 Charles Brubaker
February/4/2010
@ 7:45 pm

“Nicole should fight back.”

See post 36

#42 Ted Rall
February/5/2010
@ 11:57 am

I’m amazed that everyone missed the story here.

The Trib canceled strips to save money. Then it made the remaining strips bigger to fill space.

This is happening a lot nowadays. Cartoons are getting bigger and bigger. So are typefaces.

#43 Chris Johnston
February/5/2010
@ 1:02 pm

I picked up a Chicago Sun-Times in order to answer Charles Brubaker’s question of what they’re running. I was curious, myself.

It’s an impressive lineup:
Arlo and Janis
Beetle Bailey
Bizarro
Chuckle Bros.
Cul de Sac
Curtis
Daddy’s Home
Deflocked
Dennis the Menace
Drabble
Duplex
Edge City
Family Circus
Garfield
Grand Avenue
Jump Start
La Cucaracha
Love Is
Luann
Marmaduke
Monty
One Big Happy
Pardon My Planet
Pearls Before Swine
Pooch Cafe
Real Life Adventures
Red and Rover
Sally Forth
The Wizard of Id

Could you imagine if the Sun-Times were to add Lio and Get Fuzzy to their already stellar collection?

#44 patty leidy
February/5/2010
@ 6:06 pm

SOMEBODY tell me why I’m doing this again?

#45 Jimmy Delach
February/5/2010
@ 8:09 pm

Doesn’t the Sun-Times also have Frank and Ernest and Ziggy buried elsewhere in the paper?

#46 Mike Heck
February/11/2010
@ 8:58 am

The Trib is only losing 4 strips total, and quite frankly the 6 leaving strips weren’t that good to begin with. I for one will not miss the ‘chicken scratch’ that was Sylvia. It was always an odd fit. The Trib also trimmed its paper another full 2 inches so it’s only 11″ folded across now.

#47 Mark McComas
February/11/2010
@ 3:37 pm

Wonderful news about the increase in the size, but you knew the space had to come from somewhere–so they axed several coimics to make room instead of expanding the comics section. Backward thinking. I don’t buy a newspaper for the news most of the time–it is 12+hours old by the time you get it. I buy it for the editorial page and the funnies. Getting rid of “Get Fuzy” shows that they think most people who read the funnies aren’t smart enough to get that strip. Sad. I’m not dumb enough to think that some of the other strips are funny. I talked to a production manager for our local rag and he said that you can expect all newspapers to eventually go to tab size. He said it! I asked him twice. He said it wasn’t just his opinion, but that the powers that be in the newspaper biz are looking that direction. I have thought for years that a newspaper was too big to spead out on the dining room table and read, anyway. I just want to know why the Charleston WV Gazette bothers to publish Prince Valiant. Any smaller and it would be like a postage stamp. that does an injustice tyo that great strip and it’s ground-breaking artwork. Little Nemo’s dreams would be awfully small in the Charleston Gazette.

#48 Dave Artman
February/15/2010
@ 1:02 pm

Unfortunately, the Trib has a history of axing strips without much warning. It did so with Gasoline Alley, which had run there for what, 80 years? Of the six that were silenced without warning, Lio was the most heartbreaking, and I lost no time in emailing the editors with a heated protest (so expect Lio to be back there very soon. Yeah, right. . .). Mark, I admit I read your comic online every day. What, if anything, do YOU personally receive from that? I, like many others, would be willing to pay to see these, but maybe the cartoonists could throw in some attraction besides the ‘first-run’ factor. Maybe some stand-alone drawings (think of the Watterson drawings in the Complete Calvin and Hobbes)people couldn’t get anywhere else. Right now, I picture Mark screaming, “Right! ‘Cause we’re not busy ENOUGH!!!” lol

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