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B.C. is getting dropped – who’s picking up the spots

Even with B.C. being carried on by family, some papers (not a lot, mind you) are dropping the late Johnny Hart’s classic and replacing it with other features. Here is what I’ve tracked down this weekend.

The Lexington Herald-Leader is going to drop B.C. and Wizard of Id and replace them with a new feature. They have posted an online form to allow readers to vote for their favs. as well as an address for the old-schoolers. Choices include: Agnes, Get Fuzzy, Lio, Mutts, Over the Hedge, Pooch Cafe.

The Des Moines Register has dropped B.C. and picked up Rhymes With Orange.

F-minus is replacing B.C. in the Sacramento Bee.

And lastly a few lingering papers have skillfully and judiciously found a suitable FoxTrot replacement (read: the free samples are running out): MSNBC has selected Dog Eat Doug and Lio and The Herald News (NJ) has picked Pickles.

Community Comments

#1 Charles Brubaker
April/30/2007
@ 8:15 am

It should also be noted that the last Hart-penned “B.C.” daily ran last Saturday (there are still some Sundays left). Starting today, until the end of May, they will rerun older “B.C.” strips selected by the family.

#2 Neal
April/30/2007
@ 12:45 pm

I think this is nothing but a good thing, though I don’t necessarily love the alternatives the newspapers are inserting. I used to like B.C. after a fashion in my youth, but I had largely ignored it for the past dozen years. Now going back through some of the latest stuff, it really does look a lot like a right wing religious version of Garfield. The last part of that sentence bothers me much more than the first. I applaud Hart for sticking to his principles, even if I do not agree with them, but a lot of his later stuff just looks lazy.

The worst part is, his family will easily be able to introduce different wording to 90% of his old art and no one will be able to tell the difference. Hart was a great pioneer in the comics industry, but his strip should be put to rest. Of course this won’t truly happen for quite some time yet.

#3 Rich
April/30/2007
@ 2:04 pm

Much as I’m not a fan of legacy strips, I think the market place will decide whether it will stand up on it’s own.

Charles, thanks for the inside poop. I’ll watch it with more interest now.

Neal, it’s my understanding the family will pen new stuff … is that the case or will they just be adding new words to Johnny’s drawings? I was thinking it goes the way of Blondie rather than Peanuts, but I haven’t heard any of the details. Some have said that the family has been doing it for several years, but I don’t know if that’s true.

#4 JeffM
April/30/2007
@ 2:43 pm

I think it’s a good idea to end a strip when the creator passes. The creator IS the strip and even though someone may be able to take it over, it no longer represents the creating artist and their voice.

We need to make room for new voices, otherwise the comics page will get stagnant (like they’re not already).

As much am as I am a fan of Peanuts, I would like to see it retired, or at least moved to make room for new talent.

I wouldn’t want a strip of mine continuing after I passed, even if it was produced by family.

Let Johnny and his creation rest in peace.

#5 Jeff Stanson
April/30/2007
@ 3:22 pm

What’s a shame as far as this reader’s concerned is that none of the strips mentioned are replacements in type of humor, tone, intended audience, etc. These editors don’t seem to get that they are in effect ostracizing an audience segment with their choices. But then so few of the editors I know really get the relationship between their comics and their readers anyway.

#6 anne
April/30/2007
@ 4:59 pm

I think the legacy thing is a tricky balance. I actually feel Blondie is funnier and more current than it was years ago. I have also felt that all the various permutations of Spiderman, Batman and Superman (with the exception of whatever that stuff in the 60’s was!) have been really interesting. I loved my father’s original Batman comic books but I also love all the dark knight stuff. As someone else here said, the marketplace really decides if it will accept a legacy or not. I imagine that if Matt Groening stopped being involved with the Simpsons, it would continue and the quality would not suffer because it is such an ensemble project already. Maybe if BC has been that kind of team project for years as the family says, then they can continue it with no discernable difference. The problem with BC is that it was already losing papers because of content issues. Its creator’s passing is only hastening a process that was already underway.

#7 Rich
April/30/2007
@ 7:38 pm

Jeff – good point! I stand by that the market place ultimately decides but only in as much as the editors are aware of the market. I gather many are not unless/until the readers get unusually rowdy. I suppose that’s the syndicates job to keep them sold on their product.

Anne, cool that you dad did the original Batman work. Comic books go through cycles of relative goodness and badness. Overall, it’s been a very good one. I agree that comic strips can transcend their original cartoonists at times, although not very often. Seems like there are more attempts lately. I also understand those that want to let others have a crack at it (a common cartoonist’s point of view). Blondie I can see that one continuing (for the remaining classical or low-tech office environments and sandwich lovers), Beetle Bailey perhaps, but not likes of say Bloom County or Calin and Hobbes (which they didn’t or couldn’t try). One like Peanuts, which they rightly felt they could not continue in art or writing, should not continue in the comics section either IMHO. A clearer cut case than legacy strips. I thought Peanuts was best in the 60s and early 70s anyway … but it’s such a favorite. I guess the market (or the editors) feel it should stay even though it’s all re-runs. That kind of approach really does keep new strips out for no good reason.

I’m sure those that have wanted to drop BC and Id can use the occasion of Johnny Hart’s passing as a way to do it. I will be interesting to see how it plays out. I generally liked his cartoons, but have mixed emotions on whether it’s a good idea to continue the strip.

#8 Jeff Stanson
April/30/2007
@ 8:34 pm

Rich, as someone with editorial experience, I can tell you first hand that very few newspaper editors concern themselves with who their audience is. Their general thinking is that circulation and marketing and the publishing staff deal with audiences, and that their job as editors is to produce the best journalistic product they know how to produce. I consider that to be editing in a vacuum, and did not practice that way. The fact is, most editors concern themselves with the audience only to think, “will our readers call for my job if I leave these obscenities in this article I’m working on?” In reality, we’d all be better off if marketing made the decisions on what comics to feature as opposed to editorial.

#9 Eric Burke
April/30/2007
@ 8:59 pm

When I read of both Johhny Hart’s and Brant Parker’s passing, I fired off an email to The Boston Herald editor(I posted this at ToonTalk) asking the editor NOT to continue carrying either “legacy” strip. Turns out, B.C. had been recently dropped for LIo(hello my lack off noticing this.The Herald had carried both toons for so long, I was used to skipping them on the funny pages) and Wizard of Id is under consideration for being dropped(hasn’t yet). The editor at the Herald has made their comics section the best in Boston, so I hold out hope for a quality replacement…although I must agree that Blondie is a rare exception among “legacy” strips: it’s still good!

#10 anne
April/30/2007
@ 10:10 pm

Rich,
Sorry for the confusion – My dad did not help create the Batman comics, he bought the comic books when he was a kid (he’s old now) and I got to go into his stash and read them when I was growing up. Lucky me!

#11 Garey Mckee
April/30/2007
@ 10:18 pm

The fact that there’s even jargon to describe strips like BC and Id as “legacy” strips speaks volumes on their impact on the art form. I was never a fan of the content in BC and usually Wizard of Id was hit or miss with me, but I love the loose stylistic drawings of both strips, especially Id. It is sad to think of a comics page without them, but even sadder when you see strips whose work suffers to remain current while their original audience has long since faded. Berkely Breathed once wrote, the really scary dinasaurs aren’t in Calvin and Hobbes, they’re scattered around the rest of the comics page, ancient, unmovable and dodging extinction.

#12 Rich
May/1/2007
@ 1:25 am

Thanks all for details. I love learning more of the inside scoop. I’m not sure about the term legacy … I think I saw it used in this context. I thought it fit since with universities and fraternities children of alumni are often referred to as “legacies.”

Jeff, it does sound like a good idea for marketing to decide comic content … as long as they didn’t have sole authority – otherwise it would change every 2 weeks ;) [however, they might just chuck the rest of the paper and add more comic pages, since we all know that’s what really sells papers … that’d work for me – community events and comics!]

#13 markt
May/1/2007
@ 9:20 am

BC has been dropped by the Philadelphia Inquirer and has been replaced with SHERMAN’S LAGOON.

#14 Mooncity
May/1/2007
@ 11:25 am

I’m glad I’m not the only one on the Blondie bandwagon. When the topic of legacy strips comes up, people usually single that one out, but I really think Blondie is still one of the better drawn strips going, and the jokes aren’t that bad either. I would also point out the work being done on Lockhorns and perhaps even Dennis the Menace as “legacy done right.” Other than that, and barring the old fashioned continuity strips like Mary Worth or The Phantom, I’d like to see the funny pages get a serious housecleaning. Although these days teams usually make the comics rather than individual creators, the signature at the bottom is what counts for most readers. Hart and Parker are dead. For BC or WOI to continue without them is a big mistake. And I’m not happy about the new plans to recycle “For Better or For Worse” either. How on earth can the syndicates or the papers find the next big thing in comics when they won’t make room for them?

#15 Neal
May/1/2007
@ 1:26 pm

Rich – You know I have not looked into it enough to know either way since I frankly didn’t much care. I thought I had read thta they would be literally adding new text to old illustrations, but that could be wrong. Even if they don’t, the effect will likely be more or less the same. Like I said, it’s doubtful we’d be able to tell one way or the other.

I will grant that under the right circumstances a legacy strip can do fairly well (as in, it can continue to be decent), but I don’t think this is one of them.

#16 Jeff Stanson
May/1/2007
@ 5:08 pm

So Breathed once wrote that the really scary dinasaurs arenâ??t in Calvin and Hobbes, theyâ??re scattered around the rest of the comics page, ancient, unmovable and dodging extinction? What about his Opus strip, which is a poor rehashing of Outland, which is a poor rehashing of Bloom County? To me, he’s the poster child for a cartoonist still trying to make money off of strips that should have ended long ago! Stick to books!

BC has been dropped by the Philadelphia Inquirer and has been replaced with SHERMANâ??S LAGOON — this one makes more sense than any replacement I’ve heard about to date. To bad, though, that Spurgeon and Wright don’t still have Wildwood out there — that would have been a great replacement for papers dropping BC.

Mooncity, The Phantom is one of the few strips actually designed by its creator to continue, telling the legacy of future Phantoms. Unfortunately, it’s still about the same Phantom. But it is like so more other strips begun decades ago, in that the creators began the strips as work-for-hire for syndicates, and the syndicates own the strips. Their model in which creators actually own their strips is still a relatively new phenomonon, and all of a sudden we have a generation that doesn’t even think syndicates have the right to own strips and characters. It’s the same business model on which DC and Marvel STILL operate exclusively, yet no one is protesting that Superman and Batman and Spider-Man are “legacy comic books.”

How on earth can the syndicates or the papers find the next big thing in comics when they wonâ??t make room for them? The next big thing in any industry will, like cream, rise to the top. Unfortunately far too many editors today believe that if it’s new, it’s better. But it rarely is, for very long. There are so many good strips that died a gradual death because they were replaced by fads, and those didn’t last, only to be replaced by something even weaker.

#17 Garey Mckee
May/1/2007
@ 6:09 pm

Jeff I couldn’t agree more with you. When I was posting that comment I was thinking how ironic it is. Breathed seems to have contradicted his own words with his actions. His Opus strip is just depressing to me.

#18 Rich
May/1/2007
@ 7:43 pm

For Breathed, I think he pulled the plug on himself too early and then tried to come back. I didn’t follow it too much after Bloom County and only read Outland with moderate interest. Milking your own characters that are still viable â?¦ I see nothing wrong with trying that or inconsistent with what he was saying about things like keeping Peanuts going. I don’t consider his work in quite the same category legacy stips (strip continuing after the creators die or retire or are semi-retiring) … but the market place didn’t really seem to welcome him back. I think it would for a Calvin and Hobbes, but they are vastly different characters for sure.

I think it’s invalid to compare comic books and comic strip. Vastly different genres and business models. I donâ??t think comic book cross-overs into comic strips really work either, but Iâ??m also not a comic strip soap opera fan either ;(

Many excellent points above about legacy strips that are surviving. I can already see subtle differences in Hi and Lois artwork, but the strip gags seems to be about the same. I remember when Jerry Scott did a nice job with Nancy, but of course has some great work going now on Zits and Baby Blues. From a business model perspective, I can see no problem with a syndicate trying to hold on to a comic strip and trying to keep it viable, but hope for more, new and creative chances for others to have a shot. I know there is always tension between those two points, especially with newspapers not really seeming to get it about their bread and butter. However, per Scott, the opportunity to work on a legacy strip is one way to get new cartoonists experience.

I will quit spewing on now, but I’ve found this to be a fun and informative topic. Thanks!

#19 Jeff Stanson
May/1/2007
@ 10:21 pm

Not at all invalid to compare comic books and comic strips, as it was early comic strip reprints that birthed comic books in the first place. Actually, it’s all sequential comic panel art, and it works the same way when it comes to telling a story. It works the same way in creating it, in that it’s pencilled, then inked, then colored by a person or team of people. Also, the business model is actually similar, in that comic books are sold to a distributor and then to newstands, and then to the end user, and comic strips are sold to a distributor (the newspaper) and then to newstands and then sold to the end user (via the newspaper price).

Now if you lined up three forms, comic strips, comic books, and editorial cartoons, it would be the editorial cartoons that are the odd man out. It is in the editorial cartoon world where creators have been more closely identified with their work, and where ideas die out with the creators. However, with the coming of strips such as Doonesbury to the traditional page of comic strips, the line between editorial content and entertainment has been blurred. Because of this, it is harder for some to understand that newspaper publishers were once actively involved in working with comic writers and artists to create entertainment for their newspapers. They also created syndicates for distributing these strips to other newspapers, as well as to own rights to the characters for licensing to radio, movies, and toy manufacturers. The artists and writers of these strips were employees of the syndicates and creating work for hire, so the syndicates owned the strips. These writers and artists did not own the characters any more than an employee of Ford Motor Company that created a new car design would own the design of the car. So when syndicates keep “legacy” strips alive, they are not “trying to hold on to a comic strip,” they OWN the comic strip. It’s not like the BIg Bad Syndicate has taken a lowly creator’s work and continued to cash in on the creator’s work by having another artist produce it, that original creator created the intellectual property for the syndicate to own in the first place! It belongs to King, or United, or Tribune, etc., and those comapnies can do whatever they want to with it!

Of course in more recent years, there’s been a movement for creators to retain ownership of their own strips and contract with a syndicate to act merely as a distributor of their work. Often, they also enter into licensing and marketing contracts with the syndicates as well. One syndicate, Creators’ Syndicate, works strictly that way. But even they will sell you a run of the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles strip to include in your newspaper if that is what you want, and that would still be keeping out “new artists.”

#20 Rich
May/2/2007
@ 12:51 am

Jeff, that’s for the tutorial on the industry. I didn’t know most of that. I’ve always associated comic books with the companies (Marvel, DC, etc) and comic strips with the creator (with exceptions). I’m guessing today’s reader does as well, but they may well be more savvy than me. How that affects the market, I don’t know. It may be that many reader’s don’t even know the creators so their retirement or passing may not be as big a deal to the average reader as to cartoonists (in otherwords way less savvy than TDC bloggers).

To me, perhaps the one reason why I feel there’s a rather big difference in the two (books vs. strips) isn’t a genre thing afterall (per your insights), but rather the implementation of the business model. In the case of comic books, the end buyer decides on the title … so it’s much more sensitive to the market than I would imagine comic strips to be (buffered from the end reader by the editors). The comic book company (which varies writers and artists frequently) and the reader (who can jump ship at any time) then have a much greater influnce on the product than with comic strips.

Anyway, thanks for ‘splainin’! ;)

#21 mike3031@peoplepc.com
August/8/2007
@ 9:38 pm

some comics like cathy took a long time to catch on maybe some of these new srips creators need to have a little patience

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