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Mail Tribune asking readers which comic ‘clunkers’ to dump

The Mail Tribune (Medford, OR), is asking its readers which comic strip “clunkers” they should dump.

The process of picking, or replacing, comic strips is highly sophisticated: If we get enough complaints about a particular strip, we look around to see if we can find something better. If we decide to replace a strip, everyone in the process goes into a witness-protection program for up to six months to avoid the wrath of the seven people who actually liked the strip that we had the audacity to dump.

Hunter says he still has to look over his shoulder after suggesting that the “Peanuts” strip be replaced. After all, the artist, Charles Schulz, had only been dead for seven years at the time, hardly a suitable mourning period.

As to your description of some of our comic strips as “clunkers,” well, Walter, beauty and clunker is in the eye of the beholder. Nevertheless, if you’re serious about demanding change, you could send your suggestions to Hunter via his e-mail, bhunter@mailtribune.com, or by snail mail to him at the Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501. He said to tell you, however, that threats of violence do not improve your chances of having your favorite comic added to the daily routine.

Community Comments

#1 shane davis
May/18/2010
@ 4:29 pm

Who wants to make the first smart aleck remark about starting a Cash for Comics Clunkers program?

#2 Scott Kurtz
May/18/2010
@ 8:43 pm

How about starting by cutting all comic strips that were created by people who are now dead.

If that’s too bold a move for you, refine that filter to comic strips that were created by people who have now been dead for at least 10 years.

#3 Stephen Beals
May/18/2010
@ 9:29 pm

I know we’re talking about comic strips, but how long has Jack Kirby been dead? His creations are more popular than ever. Of course, he was screwed over monetarily and creatively while he was still alive, but that’s another story.

I think it is possible to take an old property with some real name recognition, put a good creative team on it, and make a successful strip. We’ve seen it a lot in other media, but not in the comic strip world (I have a vague memory of a Pogo revival that failed).

If J.J. Abrams can re-envision Star Trek, can’t a real effort be made to make a success out of a beloved comic strip? If I owned something with world recognition (like Popeye or whatever), you’d better believe I’d do more than stick to formula and repeat old 1930s material.

But I’m really playing devil’s advocate. I read strips by creators who are alive (not counting reprint books).

#4 August J. Pollak
May/19/2010
@ 7:56 am

I agree with Scott 100%. The editor quoted above is a wuss. It’s not an insult or an affront to Schulz’ legacy to point out that he’s effing dead and anything of his they run is a reprint that’s available anywhere else- online, in print collections, etc. Even the greatest cartoons, be it Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, and so on have no need to be running in repeats where there are literally hundreds of new cartoonists desperate to have their work seen.

If a new artist wants to take on a strip, give it new life and a new voice, that’s fine. But at least make it NEW.

#5 Shane Davis
May/19/2010
@ 5:27 pm

@ Stephan,

“If J.J. Abrams can re-envision Star Trek, can?t a real effort be made to make a success out of a beloved comic strip?”

Whoa whoa whoa…hold yer Shatner right there, pardner.
The premise of your statement assumes what Abrams did was good. It was certainly not.

Since big box office revenue is often a poor indicator of how good something is (‘Spiderman 3’, ‘XXX’, ‘Hancock’ ;Pearl Harbor’ and ‘Star Wars: Attack of the Clones’ all come quickly to mind), what determines whether Abrams made a good Trek film?

I do. And all the other 40 million middle age Trekkers who realize that movie was a gold plated turn on toast. It was awful. It was ‘Transformers 2’ meets ‘Dawson’s Creek.’ It hurt so ad it put a bruise on my soul.

It cut the heart out of every character and reduced them to embarassing caricatures with no depth or significance. The Enterprise looked like a refugee from a Play-Skool designer’s sketchbook. Scotty’s Ewok thing needed to be killed. Anton Yelchin’s Chekov needed to be killed. The plot was senseless and had more holes than Al Gore’s vision of the Ozone Layer.
And worst of all…NO SHATNER.

Re-envision all the zombie strips you want, but please refrain from using J.J. Abrams ‘Trek’ as an analogy to anything except maybe pancreatic cancer or airline crashes.

Thanks.

#6 Stephen Beals
May/20/2010
@ 1:19 am

Shane, I’m starting to sense I touched a nerve.

I should’ve known better. The movie caused deep divisions and I’ve gone through this with several friends (some pro New Trek, some con). One dear friend in particular will love your description.

I meant to say Iron Man. We all liked Iron Man, right?

This is what I get for looking at things from a business perspective. I just know that if I owned Little Orphan Annie I might try to get somebody like Scott Kurtz to re-envision it. Call me wacky (most do), but I think it would be hilarious and there would be a small stampede to read such a thing.

#7 Josh McDonald
May/20/2010
@ 5:56 am

Stephen: a better illustration might be the reimagined (and much improved) Batman franchise. Or Battlestar Galactica. Or maybe Doctor Who, as an example of a re-envisioning that engages a new audience while retaining much of the previous continuity…?

#8 darrylayo
May/20/2010
@ 7:19 am

(E) All of them.

#9 Stephen Beals
May/20/2010
@ 7:58 am

@Josh, there you go. I would throw Sherlock Holmes into that group, but it’s divisional among the fans, too.

A lot of reboots have been flops, but if you own a property that’s known around the world I think it’s worth a try to snaz things up a little and see if it sells. Comics have the unfortunate disadvantage of being able to visually replicate exactly what’s been done before, and it’s probably not the smartest route to take.

#10 Shane Davis
May/20/2010
@ 5:18 pm

Stephen, I’m laughing right now because I’m afraid you thought I was being angry-serious! LOL!

Nah, you didn’t touch any nerves, I just like to throw some bombs at J.J. Abrams. I never had a problem with the reboot concept, but the execution left some of us old, dusty types like me behind.

Frankly, aside from the new Batman and James Bond movies, it seems most ‘reboots’ fall flat. Not sure if it’s just people’s expectations being so high that no remake can live up to the memories of the original work or not. It’s probably a lot like going back to your favorite fast food dive from high school when you’re in your 40’s. The reality can’t live up to how great it was in your mind.

TV works like that, too…I thought Starsky & Hutch was the best that television could ever get…when I was 12.

I agree with you it’d be much harder with comics, but it probably can be done. The issue is, as it always is with the suits that make these decisions, will they bother finding someone who cares enough about the heart of the work to update it with authenticity and grace?

Or do they want something crapped out fast to make a buck.

Uh, let’s think about which is most likely……

OK, I’m depressed now.

#11 Stephen Beals
May/20/2010
@ 10:51 pm

@Shane, No I thought your description was funny. I really enjoyed the new Star Trek and unwittingly walked into a number of friendly/intense debates about it with friends. You pretty much summed up the feelings of the opposition.

And I run into people who think of anything after the original series as a reboot, so just being a guy who watches the shows (and doesn’t dress up and go to conventions and all of that), I tend to keep my mouth shut if I’m thinking about it (which has been a lifelong challenge).

Really, I was just trying to put myself in the shoes of a person, or more likely a company, who owned a famous property. They are shoes that don’t fit, but I do think I would look at how other popular characters have stayed alive and viable.

I’m surprised these strips have stayed alive at all, but I also can’t believe that nobody can figure out how to make more money off of characters that are engrained in a substantial part of the population. My guess is that the owners haven’t taken the necessary creative risk of putting somebody talented in charge with somewhat of a free reign (like, uh, they did with J.J. Abrams and Star Trek …. hey, it worked as far as making money goes, you’ve gotta at least admit that).

#12 Shane Davis
May/21/2010
@ 4:38 pm

Stephen,
Yeah, the heart and profit margins rarely get along. My fave rave sci-fi film of all time is Bladerunner, but it stunk it up at the box office.

I’d like to see some updated zombie strips, but I have no idea how it could be done with
Annie or Popeye in a way that would create new readers.

Maybe the key isn’t to update the strips, but the format. Strips like Annie and Terry and the Pirates would need huge Sunday pages with great art and modern stories to catch new eyes…imagine what could be done with those if they had the same real estate Bill Watterson had when C&H was at it’s zenith!

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