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An editor’s guide to comics

With the latest discussion of the News and Observer comic poll and the features editor jumping into our discussion, I found this column by the Cincinnati Post editor Keith Herrell interesting. Herrell was the Living editor at the Post back in the day when the comics were delivered by mail.

I was The Post’s Living editor, with comics as part of my empire, when Schulz died. I remember then-Editor Paul Knue telling me that “Classic Peanuts” would probably run for a year or so, then fade away. As it turns out, “Classic Peanuts” will still be going strong when The Post prints its last edition Dec. 31.

Is that such a bad thing? That depends on the strip, and the situation. I find “Classic Peanuts” to be very much a product of the times in which it was written – few things say “1960s” like Snoopy in full World War I Flying Ace mode, with his doghouse standing in for a Sopwith Camel – so continuing it strikes me as out of synch. “For Better or For Worse,” meanwhile, deals with universals such as child-rearing and aging parents, and I’ve enjoyed revisiting the old strips.

My favorite part of being Living editor came at the end of the week, when a clerk would deliver page proofs for all six days of the next week’s comics. I would grab a cup of coffee, retreat to my office and settle in to get a sneak peek at what was new with Sally Forth, Dilbert and the rest of the gang. I also played a role in comic strip selection, butting heads with Knue and invariably coming out on the short end of any disagreement. I remain convinced that, while he faithfully asked me for my opinion whenever it was time to replace a strip, the first thing he did when I recommended one was eliminate it from consideration.

Community Comments

#1 Mike Rhode
@ 12:59 pm

WELL, if editors added MORE comics and ran them LARGER, then people might have a reason to buy newspapers instead of surfing the web, no? Personally I read all three pages the Washington Post runs and pick up some of the free papers in DC to read their comics.

#2 Rich Diesslin
@ 1:57 pm

Much better than being the Dead editor. ;0 Interesting reflections.

#3 JBoy
@ 2:56 pm

MORE and LARGER comics would necessitate MORE and LARGER newspages not filled with ADVERTISING, which is as LIKELY as BILL WATTERSON launching a MYSPACE page.

The biggest challenge to newspaper comic art (other than incurious and timid editors) is ever-shrinking newspage width. Compared to the broadpages on which masters like Kelly and Capp had their work printed, today’s newspapers are downright anorexic. Some strips are so small I have trouble reading them; Get Fuzzy is particularly tough on my AARP-eligible eyebones.

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