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Comic page changes for the week

» The Herald Palladium is introducing Steve Sicula’s Home and Away to their readers.

» The Kansas City Star is polling to see which feature should be dropped. On the chopping block: B.C., Beetle Bailey, Bizarro, For Better or for Worse, Cathy, Mark Trail, Marmaduke, Real Life Adventures, Shoe, and Wizard of Id.

» Derek Donovan, the Kansas City Star’s readers’ representative opines on why some strips end up on the chopping block while other less popular ones remain.

Community Comments

#1 Joe F
@ 1:26 pm

”And while Watterson is an exceptionally gifted artist, I think his strip is probably the most overrated comic of all time. I’ve just been flipping through “The Complete Calvin and Hobbes” at my desk. It’s gorgeously drawn, but man — I simply lost count of how many strips recycle the same gags over and over: Calvin loses control of his wagon/sled; Calvin imagines a mundane object is a monster; Calvin sculpts a gruesome snowman; Calvin pretends he’s Spaceman Spiff or a dinosaur and creates a scene. I think the painfully recycled writing was no match for the stellar drawing.” – Derek Donovan, the Kansas City Star

Wow I don’t think he has a clue what he’s talking about. Calvin and hobbes is one of the (or probably is the) funniest comic of all time. If Watterson makes you laugh, or think, then isn’t that what really matters?

#2 Jason Nocera
@ 1:41 pm

I wonder if he thinks the same thing about Peanuts. (“Not Lucy and that football again!”)

#3 Pat Bagley
@ 2:01 pm

Donovan makes some good points in his articleâ??until he entirely undermines everything with the stuff he says about Watterson.

#4 Mike Peterson
@ 4:39 am

Well, I didn’t bother recording my thoughts to prove it, but when Watterson retired C&H, I thought it was a good choice. He was starting to turn his groove into a rut and I’d rather see the strip end than simply fade into self-parody. It’s no slam to say “Leave ’em asking for more.”

I suspect I would disagree with him to this extent: When the strips were appearing one each day, it was a different experience than seeing them all collected. There are some cartoons — chiefly action strips — that are better read one after another, others that lose something. C&H was definitely fresher when you only saw one strip a day.

But the repetition was there and, even once a day, began to show towards the end. Watterson made the right call, while many cartoonists have not, which is why legacy strips and tired old warhorses just drag the comics page down.

#5 Anne Hambrock
@ 8:13 am

The comments section after Derek’s piece in the Star are also worth a read. Very interesting and informative.

#6 Wiley Miller
@ 9:08 am

” When the strips were appearing one each day, it was a different experience than seeing them all collected.”

Exactly. And that experience was further enhanced by the strip being read while surrounded by the mediocrity of unimaginative formula gag strips, particularly among the “legacy” strips.

Yet another editor who clearly doesn’t understand the art form, yet is making decisions on it.

#7 Ted Dawson
@ 10:42 am

I might disagree about it being a good call that Calvin & Hobbes was getting stale and was ready for retirement. It was at the ten-year point that Snoopy started walking upright, “talking” and stopped acting like a normal dog. The sixties were definitely the high point of Peanuts, and nobody would remember the strip much if Schulz had retired after ten years. Cartoonists have a way of breaking through dry periods.

It can’t be proven, but I have to wonder how much the loss of Calvin & Hobbes, and also The Far Side, contributed to the dwindling popularity of newspapers. The last time I read the paper on a daily basis was in 1995. I didn’t really see the point after the last C&H. It boggles the mind that Watterson got in as many papers as Schulz in only five years.

I remember reading that when Dick Tracy was in its hey-day, one newspaper increased its daily circulation by 50,000 when it started running Tracy. While we won’t see that kind of thing today, it’s interesting to entertain thoughts wondering what newspapers would experience if, say, Calvin & Hobbes was brought back as a print exclusive… or if a comic-book quality full-page Spider-man feature ran on Sundays… or even if they just ran the comics at a readable size. I have no doubt that the current size of the comics has a direct impact on their popularity and newspaper sales.

#8 Joe F
@ 11:11 am

Agree with everything Ted said.

#9 frank white
@ 11:36 am

Does anybody at all have any statistics on how many newspapers increased their circulation whilst they were running Calvin and Hobbes? The Syndicate? The newspapers themselves? This is would be a great final arguement to get the newspapers to see that a really high quality comics page will not only increase the newspaper’s circulation but give a very good chance to save the newspaper industry as a whole. It only takes ONE newspaper (even a small circulation one) to actually increase their circulation by anything more than 25% and the others will follow suit. Everybody loves to copy success. Just look how many newspapers took up Suduko.

#10 Mike Peterson
@ 12:36 pm

“Does anybody at all have any statistics on how many newspapers increased their circulation whilst they were running Calvin and Hobbes?”

It would be pretty hard to demonstrate that adding that strip was the one decisive move that made the difference. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that papers that made that decision did better, but it would be one of a number of intelligent things they did. My experience is that the newspaper with the tired page of old legacies has a number of other tired pages as well.

You might have a paper where a dynamic junior editor has control of the comics page and the rest of the paper is lousy, but that setup wouldn’t last long — in 99 percent of cases, that youngster would be frustrated by the lack of support and would move on. And, honestly, I don’t think any single feature of the paper can save an otherwise unresponsive paper.

#11 Terry LaBan
@ 9:55 am

Sorry, but I completely concur with Derek Donovan regarding “Calvin and Hobbes” and I’ve said so for years. Whether it or The Far Side actually increased newspaper circulation is an open question, but the world had changed so much in the last 10 years, it’s difficult to imagine a newspaper comic today having that kind of juice. In any case, I don’t see why Wiley thinks Donovan doesn’t understand the art form. Isn’t a willingness to keep less-popular-but-quality strips over those that merely poll well exactly what cartoonists should want?

#12 Pat Bagley
@ 10:08 am

It’s not circulation (or lack of it) that is killing papers. It’s craigslist.

#13 Wiley Miller
@ 10:27 am

“I donâ??t see why Wiley thinks Donovan doesnâ??t understand the art form. Isnâ??t a willingness to keep less-popular-but-quality strips over those that merely poll well exactly what cartoonists should want?”

I was talking about his lack of understanding on how to read a comic strip, not on it’s popularity in polls.

#14 Dave Stephens
@ 1:21 pm

I totally agree – Calvin & Hobbes rocked from start to finish and was never “stale”.

Under-rated by Donovan doesn’t translate to over-rated! Watterson’s fantastic creation shines as bright today as it ever did…

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