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Comic line up changes abound

It’s been awhile since I’ve had much to report on the changing landscape of comic page line ups. Here is a sampling of changes happening around the country.

Tony Carrillo’s F Minus will take the guest comic slot for the next two months at the Register Guard (OR). The editor writes that the previous guest, Cul de Sac, received mixed reviews and won’t be add to their line-up.

The Observer-Reporter, (PA) has dropped Lio in favor of a new-comer Ollie and Quentin. Lio was added to the paper last year to replace the retired daily Fox Trot, but many readers felt it was “creepy.” Ollie and Quentin is a just launched feature.

The Mail Tribune (OR) has announced that they will be dropping Peanuts. No replacement has been named. An informal poll will be taken later this month, but readers are encouraged to email the editor with their suggestions.

The Forum (ND) has announced that they have dropped 5 features Cathy, Mallard Fillmore, Shoe, Gasoline Alley and For Better or For Worse and will be running Classic Peanuts, The Pajama Diaries, Pickles, Tundra and Retro Geek (Sundays only).

And lastly, I have an email from a reader that claims that the N.Y. Daily News has replaced For Better or For Worse with the Chuckle Brothers.

UPDATED: The Star-Telegraph is looking for a replacement for Tumbleweeds. They’re considering Momma or Over the Hedge.

Community Comments

#1 Wiley Miller
January/3/2008
@ 7:39 am

“…Lio was added to the paper last year to replace the retired daily Fox Trot, but many readers felt it was â??creepy.â? ”

Ok, first of all Lio is SUPPOSED to be “creepy”. But, “many readers”? I question just how many there were and, more importantly, WHO those readers are. I would bet anything that not one of those readers complaining are under 60.

This is what drives us crazy in this business. Editors listen to the very people regarding comics who they should completely ignore. Comics are not in the paper for the oldest demographic. So what these idiots are doing is alienating the readership they’re trying to attract with new comics (young readers) to placate the few who call to complain.

Then they wonder why readership continues to fall and newspapers continue to fold.

#2 Jeff Darcy
January/3/2008
@ 10:55 am

You wonder when the paper began running these strips if they gave readers an explanation of what they’re about. And what other types of comics they run. I think people would be amazed at who at the paper is picking the comics they see. Sometimes far fewer people are in involved in the process than you would think and it’s the last people you’d want selecting comics. For instance if you have someone in the newsroom known for having the personality of dull wall who’s good side is nasty and another who’s one step removed from a caveman….would you want them picking your comics? At some papers you may have this very situation. Talk about CREEPY

#3 JeffM
January/3/2008
@ 11:20 am

Lio is “Creepy”? That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.

“Ollie and Quentin” reminds me of “What the Duck”

#4 Tad Hartsong
January/3/2008
@ 11:39 am

Also, the Cincinnati Enquirer picked up Peanuts, Dilbert, Get Fuzzy and Pearls Before Swine from the defunct Cincinnati Post.

#5 Scott Metzger
January/3/2008
@ 12:11 pm

My in-laws (both pushing 70), called Lio “weird” and “mean-spirited.” Yes, it’s weird (it’s supposed to be) but mean-spirited? I don’t get that at all. It’s a little dark but it’s not mean-spirited. I wanted to point them to the web to show them what mean-spirited comic strips *really* look like–but that would probably give them heart attacks.

It seems that a lot of older people don’t ‘get’ Lio and that surprises me. It’s an off-beat strip but it’s definitely not “creepy.” What’s with these people? Ah, seniors these days…

#6 Marilla P. Alligator
January/3/2008
@ 1:49 pm

Often it is the “unknown” that people fear. Lio is one of the most unconventional strips to hit the mainstream press in a long time. It’s tone, style and characterization is unfamiliar to many readers and it just doesn’t read like a familiar family or pet strip. So people call it “weird” or “creepy” when it’s not the adjective that matters, it’s just that they don’t get it. These readers are not stepping out of their watered-down, comic-reading comfort zone, which over the decades has been numbed by little innovation in the field.

#7 Garey Mckee
January/3/2008
@ 2:05 pm

Lio is probably the best strip out there today. At least I think it is. As far as “many readres” thinking Lio is creepy, isn’t that the point of the strip? The fact that these people obviously have no imagination and want no part of anything outside of the cookie cutter strips littering the page is baffling to me. What is even MORE baffling is that these people are the ones the editors are listening to. To anyone who is creeped out by Lio, I say sack up, grow a pair, and read the strip. You probably will enjoy it. That goes double for the editors out there.

#8 Norm Feuti
January/3/2008
@ 2:46 pm

If anything, I think the following line in the Observer-Reporter article is more telling than the “weird” criticism.

“If anyone liked the little speechless character with the strange hairdo and stranger imagination, that person did not tell us.”

Why didn’t any of the people who liked Lio bother to write in and tell them?

#9 Dawn Douglass
January/3/2008
@ 3:44 pm

Elderly people are often frightened of young people, and not without cause, really. I think that’s probably the reason some seniors think it’s creapy.

Not that I agree with it, but I do understand how a dark imagination could make already vulnerable feeling people uncomfortable.

#10 Tom Racine
January/3/2008
@ 4:17 pm

Sadly, I think people generally only write when they get mad or have a bone to pick, and more sadly, I fit that mold, too. I read a ton of webcomics and such in my day, and often think “I should send that guy/girl a support message about their strip today,” but rarely do. At Comics Coast to Coast, we love getting feed back and forum visits, but the same rules apply…I hear from people all the time how they want to write or leave a message, but it just sort of slips through the cracks. I also think that older people take the time to write to editors and television stations, but younger people just don’t. Ironically, I’ll bet that people will write in about “Lio” now that it’s gone!

And “Lio” is darkly brilliant, which doesn’t appeal to some people. Personally, I’m a huge Poe, Edward Gorey, Charles Addams, Gahan Wilson fan, so I have a deep appreciation for the dark side of humor. But Mark is going to run into problems with some the more conservative papers out there with older audiences, which are usually edited by individuals who’ve had their spines removed along with whatever cajones they might have had. ;)

#11 Wiley Miller
January/3/2008
@ 4:19 pm

“Why didnâ??t any of the people who liked Lio bother to write in and tell them?”

Because that goes against human nature. People generally only write to editors to complain about something. They don’t write to say they like something… until it’s gone. As long as it’s in the paper, people logically assume the editors like it too.

You can’t expect people with a life in this day and age to write to editors. The only people with time and inclination to write to newspapers are retired people. For some reason, editors simply don’t think this through, about which demographic is the most important, and least important, when making decisions about comics. This is precisely why these comics polls are so ludicrously stupid. They don’t take into account the most basic marketing considerations in conducting a poll.

It’s not like they didn’t know what kind of feature Lio is when they bought it, and which readership it would appeal to. Why so many editors think every comic is supposed to appeal to every reader is quite beyond me. They don’t hold anything else in the paper to such standards, so why is this so difficult?

The older reader calling in to complain about comics should be dealt with politely, then summarily dismissed. The newspaper isn’t going to lose their readership. What they need to be concerned about is attracting NEW readership, which is precisely what the comics were created for in the first place.

#12 Richard Thompson
January/3/2008
@ 4:46 pm

I’m going to start writing to newspaper editors demanding more creepiness on the comic pages.

#13 Norm Feuti
January/3/2008
@ 5:28 pm

” The only people with time and inclination to write to newspapers are retired people.”

I disagree. Young people seem to have all the time in the world when it comes to writing daily snark about legacy strips on the internet, or complaining when their favorite strip gets dropped, or kvetching about the state of comics in general. Yet they can’t find the time to send an email to an editor?

Young people seem plenty inclined to voice their opinion about comic strips … just not to the people who actually make the decisions.

#14 John Read
January/3/2008
@ 7:17 pm

“Young people seem plenty inclined to voice their opinion about comic strips â?¦ just not to the people who actually make the decisions.” The truth is, Norm, those young people who have all that time on their hands don’t spend any of that time reading comic strips in newspapers. I recently asked a random selection of 22 people aged 17 to 24 if they read a newspaper more than once a week, and not a single one of them had read a newspaper in the past month!

#15 Quint Nelson
January/3/2008
@ 8:09 pm

It’s interesting that the two strips that have really led the new comics’ revolution for the next generation of strips haven’t been mentioned here. They are Get Fuzzy and Pearls Before Swine. As these insane “most popular/least liked” surveys are conducted by the morons at the newspapers, both of these strips have been landing at the top of both lists as of late.

Fuzzy and Pearls have connected to a core audience and “have taken root”. Even when they are dropped, newspapers are having to bring them back because they now have enough vocal fans that will raise hell with the Editors, and other Editors are taking notice.

Get Fuzzy was recently reinstated in the Fresno Bee after an 18 month absence. The fans wouldn’t stay quiet until Bucky and Satchel returned. A similar situation happened in the Ft Worth Star-Telegram with Pearls Before Swine. Pearls was introduced in that paper, but was yanked after only two months due to “reader complaints”….well, the sh*t hit the fan and the Pearls fans went rabid on the Star-Telegram’s Editors. The rat & pig & crocs quickly returned to the paper’s comics’ page.

Conley and Pastis have always alienated the old folks, but their appeal to both younger readers and a growing middle-aged fan base shows that there can be a future for fresh new strips with unique viewpoints like F Minus and Lio, to name two.

If you look at the best sellers list for comic compilations on Amazon, you’ll find Fuzzy and Pearls along side Dilbert and Foxtrot. There is a chance for change to take hold, it just will take awhile for the newspapers to implement it. Hopefully, newspapers will last, which is another discussion.

#16 Chris Hardiman
January/3/2008
@ 8:18 pm

I think “Lio” is a fantastic strip and I don’t really understand why its weirdness puts off the older audiences so much. However, I myself found thatthe maximum dose of its extreme weirdness is about 6 months’ worth of strips (or half of the collection “Happiness is a Squishy Cephalopod”). Halfway through the book I had to put it down and take a break, overwhelmed by the weirdness. But on a day to day basis I don’t understand why it’s as overwhelming. I’ve never heard of “Ollie and Quentin.”

“F Minus” is possibly my favorite comic panel currently being published in newspapers, although I didn’t like it when it debuted. Its humor grew on me fast. I encourage everyone to at least give it a try. Sorry about the mixed reviews of “Cul de Sac,” Richard. Personally I’m a big fan, but what can you do when the readers have spoken?

Dropping “Peanuts Classics”? Wasn’t the whole reason why “Peanuts” is in Classics mode in the first place because papers couldn’t bear to drop it? Maybe the world will end.

As for that North Dakota newspaper, I can’t say that I’m surprised about any of their choices to drop. It’s been a bad couple of weeks for “Mallard Fillmore,” huh?

#17 Chris Hardiman
January/3/2008
@ 8:22 pm

Oh, and since Quint brought up “Pearls,” I have an anecdote:
I was at a Christmas party with lots of relatives and friends present, with ages ranging from 11 to 85. Somehow someone brought up “Pearls Before Swine,” and suddenly the party came alive in laughter. Almost everyone had read it and loved it. People started imitating Larry the Crocodile (“Huullloo, zeeba neighba. Leesten…”). Ladies and gentlemen, we may have a genuine phenomenon on our hands.

#18 r stevens
January/3/2008
@ 8:39 pm

You know why younger readers don’t complain as much when their favorite strip is removed? They take half that time, Google the damn thing and add it to their daily websites. Trust me on this one.

#19 Dave Krainacker
January/3/2008
@ 10:18 pm

I have to agree with Mr. Stevens. But there has to be a pay back to the cartoonist, as well. My local Montana newspaper has only about a dozen strips (many are legacy strips), and if I only relied on the paper I would lose about 80% of the strips I get through my subscriptions. Getting my comics through my web subscriptions is way more convenient than reading it in a newspaper. It is only a matter of time before the syndicates figure out that paid subscriptions services are the way to go.

#20 JeffM
January/3/2008
@ 11:29 pm

I wonder what these “older” folk who are calling LIO weird thought about Charles Addams….

Again, it’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.

#21 Mark
January/4/2008
@ 9:23 am

Lio will have the last laugh when the film is a smash hit, shutting out (and shutting up) the geriatric demographic who deem it “too creepy.”

#22 Mark Tatulli
January/4/2008
@ 12:57 pm

It is incredibly difficult for a new comic stip to get a foothold in today’s market. Newspaper readers, traditionally, are always hesitant to change. The most vociferous, it seems, are the ones who can’t stand any change at all. Comic strips seem to be the only form of American comedy that fights itself as it tries to naturally evolve. All comedy must evolve to reflect changing tastes and to stay relevant. The comic strip has always gone through these changes and it has always been a painful process. The trick is, a support base for your strip must outweigh the inevitable complaints, whether your support comes from editors or readers. Never has this been more difficult, because younger readers who are more accepting of change in comics aren’t getting their comics from newspapers and so are unlikely to come to the defense of a newer comic being dropped, at least in printed form. They show their support online in blogs and chat boards, and by buying books and other ancillaries. Secondly, editors are more fearful than ever of alienating their older readership…mainly because they’re the vast majority of people still reading the dead tree versions of news. And, in most cases, editors are more fearful of losing older readers than they are concerned with trying to attract younger ones, something I believe they think will never materialize.

So we have the paradox: comics must evolve to stay relevent to social changes…and yet to change invites scorn, anger, and ultimately rejection. The only hope is that before that rejection happens, you can build a fan-base that will come to your support. And this is becoming more and more difficult, almost impossible actually, especially for strips launched in the last five years.

The simple fact is, the family newspaper is no longer the family newspaper. It is the “older-reader newspaper,” reflecting their tastes and concerns. And younger readers are apathetic because they get almost all of their entertainment online. Even television is feeling the pinch. Ever notice that all television advertising these days seems to be for Viagra, or reverse mortgages, or sleep aids, or retirement plans, or restless leg syndrome, or…well, you get the idea.

Keep in mind that I write here in generalities. Of course, there are exceptions. Believe it of not, LIO gets a lot of fan mail from older readers who love the strip and are sick of BLONDIE. And I know they are older readers because they always proudly announce their age and they tend to send via snail-mail. But, for the most part, I think what I wrote here is true and a continuing trend. I also think the internet is the future for innovative comics, mostly because the internet is fluid and accepting of changes in comic tastes. And as soon as cartoonists can find a way to make it pay as big as newspapers, this entire discussion will become academic.

#23 Wiley Miller
January/4/2008
@ 3:27 pm

“And, in most cases, editors are more fearful of losing older readers than they are concerned with trying to attract younger ones, something I believe they think will never materialize.”

This is both correct and astoundingly stupid. I defy any editor, anywhere, to show they’ve ever lost any older reader over the dropping of any comic strip. It’s a fear that is based on NOTHING. Never happened, never will.

I’m reminded of a story Lynn Johnston told many years ago when she did her famous serious of Lawrence coming out as gay. She was cc’d on a letter to the editor, where the reader said, “This is the last straw for me with For Better or for Worse! I have no choice but to cancel my subscription AGAIN!”

And one other thing… Lio isn’t creepy, but Mark Tatulli is.

#24 Pab Sungenis
January/4/2008
@ 3:40 pm

Lio is creepy. That’s what’s endearing about him.

#25 Tom Racine
January/4/2008
@ 10:28 pm

I’m with Wiley…someone show me a stat of the number of people who actually cancel their subscriptions if a strip is taken out. Let’s do a test…take out Beetle Bailey, and then keep track of the angry letters they get AND the ACTUAL number of people who cancel a subscription.

Let’s face the paradox here…sure, older people make up the majority of the dead tree readership, but are they actually going to cancel their paper, sign up for cable internet through Cox, get a computer, figure out how to get on line, and then subscribe to all the comics they want to read via the various syndicate outlets? I somehow doubt it. So, it seems that the decision being made here is that we’d rather not risk losing a couple of cranky old people’s subscriptions rather than reaching out to a new and younger audience with more interesting comics and features. Hmmmm.

I wonder if it’s too late to become a features editor and try to start the revolution from within. Might be smarter just to get certified as a plumber and get a real %#@$! job.

And at least “Lio” keeps Mark off the streets selling drugs to kids dressed as a nun. :)

#26 Pab Sungenis
January/5/2008
@ 5:38 am

Tom: I wouldn’t be so sure about that nun thing.

#27 Alex Hallatt
January/5/2008
@ 3:42 pm

Hooray for Ollie and Quentin! It’s a well-drawn, funny strip with really likable characters and I am looking forward to reading it on my Daily Ink subscription.

#28 Mark Tatulli
January/6/2008
@ 10:28 am

Yes, I will second that, Alex! OLLIE AND QUENTIN is a very funny strip with unique characters that leave you wanting more after reading a few samples. I wish Piers Barker all the success he can get!

#29 Khalil Ayoub
January/6/2008
@ 10:48 pm

The Dallas Morning News appears to have dropped Tank McNamara.

#30 Piers Baker
January/7/2008
@ 2:05 am

Wow! Thanks Alex and Mark.

Mark, I can only hope your fans in Washington (PA) are as generous to my strip as you’ve been.

#31 Lefitte
January/7/2008
@ 7:40 am

Hey, Piers where can we see it? I can’t find it at Daily Ink or the King Features site. Isn’t today the launch?

#32 Piers Baker
January/7/2008
@ 8:23 am

Thanks for that Lefitte, I’ll chase King’s. You can see samples on my website http://www.ollieandquentin.com

#33 Lefitte
January/7/2008
@ 10:09 am

Thanks, Piers. Love the art!

#34 Larry Levine
January/7/2008
@ 10:43 am

Hopefully the NY Daily News dropping “For Better or For Worse” is a signal that readers want fresh material & not ‘classic revisits’. FBOFW is now like watching “Doctor Who”, you never know what time frame Lynn is taking us from day to day and now just randomly jumps without the ‘new’ introductions setting up the flashback. Last week the dailies were new Mon-Fri, suddenly on Sat it jumped back in time, then forward to the present on Sunday, and back in time again today.

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