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Denver Post drops 21 comics, picks up 1

The Denver Post has dropped 21 comics today and picked up one. The Post picked up all of the Rocky Mountain News’ comics last year when the paper folded. After 18,000 people responded to their survey, the following comics were dropped:

  1. The Argyle Sweater
  2. Speed Bump
  3. Cornered
  4. The Flying McCoys
  5. Loose Parts
  6. Pot-Shots
  7. Prickly City
  8. Lio
  9. Monty
  10. Rudy Park
  11. Pajama Diaries
  12. Candorville
  13. The Fusco Brothers
  14. Zippy
  15. Little Dog Lost
  16. Deflocked
  17. Rip Haywire
  18. Cul De Sac
  19. The Elderberries
  20. Brewster Rocket: Space Guy
  21. Agnes
  22. Dog Eat Doug

The lone pickup goes to Dustin.

The top 15 most popular comics were:

  1. Zits
  2. Dilbert
  3. Pickles
  4. Crankshaft
  5. For Better or Worse
  6. Luann
  7. Baby Blues
  8. Blondie
  9. Beetle Bailey
  10. Classic Peanuts
  11. Garfield
  12. Sherman’s Lagoon
  13. Adam
  14. The Family Circus
  15. Mother Goose and Grimm

I should also note that Scary Gary, and Pluggers were picked up for Sundays.

Community Comments

#1 Corey Pandolph
March/1/2010
@ 2:25 pm

This should’ve been titled “Denver Post demonstrates why comics surveys are useless.”

UN-FREAKIN-BELIEVABLE.

#2 Alec Fritz
March/1/2010
@ 2:26 pm

Wow, those are the most popular, do they not have Pearls before Swine, or Get Fuzzy, or Tundra?

#3 John Sanford
March/1/2010
@ 2:27 pm

This is exactly what the comic page would look like if my Dad ran it.

It’s closing time!!!

#4 Ted Rall
March/1/2010
@ 2:29 pm

Reader surveys, assuming they’re statistically valid, which is dubious, are prototypes of the Web: pure numerical popularity contests. They reward the bland and safe over the edgy and quirky. I don’t doubt that more people read Garfield than Rip Haywire in the Post, but I bet the intensity of fandom of the Rip readers was far greater. The perfect comics page offers everyone a few strips to adore, the rest to care less about. What we’ve got here is a page where nothing offends, but no one much cares.

#5 Steve Skelton
March/1/2010
@ 2:38 pm

Well, by eliminating popular strips and printing old worn out strips, not only do they reinforce the concept that they are obsolete, they hit us over the head with it. Now they have created another reason to cancel subscriptions. Absolutely brilliant move!!!

#6 Tom Racine
March/1/2010
@ 2:39 pm

Yep…I’m with John. Last call for drinks before closing, people. How utterly depressing. Where are the actual newspaper editors who make decisions…here’s a radical thought….ON THEIR OWN! Sigh.

#7 Corey Pandolph
March/1/2010
@ 2:40 pm

@Ted Rall said:

“What we?ve got here is a page where nothing offends, but no one much cares.”

I once had someone tell me that they wrote in to complain that a legacy strip they never read was replaced with a newer strip. When I asked why they were upset when they never read the strip, the person answered, “Because it’s a familiar daily sight and the paper didn’t feel the same without it.”

#8 Mark_Tatulli
March/1/2010
@ 2:56 pm

I give up. I just…give…up

#9 Mike Cope
March/1/2010
@ 2:57 pm

I liked this part …

Feel free to let us know what you think about the new lineup by e-mail at comics@denverpost.com

#10 Steve Skelton
March/1/2010
@ 3:06 pm

If Mark, with two strips, one of them being an industry leader, is giving up, then I suppose there’s no point in trying anymore.

Just what would really happen if all strip cartoonists just went on strike together?

#11 Anne Hambrock
March/1/2010
@ 3:29 pm

“Reader surveys, assuming they?re statistically valid, which is dubious”

Amen.

Reader surveys are unreliable enough when folks have to cut out a paper ballot. Throw them open on the internet and they become more than useless.

The Post will only realize how flawed this data is if they see a real cancellation extravaganza. And if readers don’t cancel over this, the poll – no matter how accurate it is or isn’t – will become a self fulfilling prophesy.

I have had so many conversations about poll manipulation with newspaper staff – the depressing part is they all know what a crock it is but they really don’t care.

Sigh.

#12 Glenn Fleishman
March/1/2010
@ 3:45 pm

For Better or Worse has become the Mary Worth of its day.

#13 Jeff Pert
March/1/2010
@ 3:51 pm

Steve @ #10: I don’t think we want to find out. Truly.

#14 Lucas Turnbloom
March/1/2010
@ 3:51 pm

HAHA!! John, you so crazy!

#15 John Nacinovich
March/1/2010
@ 3:53 pm

Wow. Getting rid of Lio and Dog Eat Doug. Way to remove a whole lot of funny from the comics page. I know what paper I won’t be buying when I’m travelling now.

Yes. I travel a lot and pick which newspaper I read by their comics pages. I like to laugh a little bit when reading the paper.

#16 dave nelson
March/1/2010
@ 3:55 pm

Right John,
If the average age of the newspaper readers hovers around 60, our Dads no doubt made the choice. Sad indeed, but does our generation even have the attention span and followthrough to write letters or take polls?

#17 A Jonathan Cox
March/1/2010
@ 3:59 pm

Oof.

#18 John Cole
March/1/2010
@ 4:01 pm

Editors who allow an unscientific poll to usurp their own judgement about comics-page quality or craft aren’t “serious” about anything.

#19 David Reddick
March/1/2010
@ 4:06 pm

@Tom Racine: “Where are the actual newspaper editors who make decisions?here?s a radical thought?.ON THEIR OWN! Sigh.”

They don’t exist anymore. They’re replaced with namby-pamby yes-men with uncreative marketing and advertising backgrounds that are assigned from the spineless, cultureless, useless corporate machine (filled with uncreative marketing and advertising yes-men) that drives newspapers today.
The borg queen (big newspaper corporate culture) wants more drones that share her outdated philosophy, more advertising, more nationalized news, NO and I mean N O offensive material that might offend one single person, and useless idiotic comics polls in true (untrue) democratic fashion so as not to have to take the brunt of the blow should someone cry foul.
Look at editorial cartoonists today (the staff members). What’s left of them. Look at Editor & Publisher and what happened to Dave Astor, one of the good ones.
Where are those editors, you ask?
In the words of Don Mclean… “They caught the last train for the coast… the day… the newspapers died.”

#20 Steve Skelton
March/1/2010
@ 4:09 pm

Jeff,

I realize that it would be impossible to expect, orchestrate, and execute a strike by newspaper cartoonists. Especially since those making a decent living at it wouldn’t dare want to. But, those making a decent living at it are few, and that number continues to decline. But at some point, it would make sense to organize a strike. Perhaps just for a week. That might be enought to call attention to the issues we face. Like most people would care. However, I do think that this artform is highly unappreciated by all those getting free comics everyday. Further more, it could spark a return from 1976 prices to 1982 prices.

#21 david essman
March/1/2010
@ 4:10 pm

No paper should be running ‘classic peanuts’! The newspaper is not television, there’s no space for reruns. You like Peanuts so much? Buy the books!

Cut the puzzles…

#22 Scott Metzger
March/1/2010
@ 4:11 pm

“Editors who allow an unscientific poll to usurp their own judgement about comics-page quality or craft aren?t ?serious? about anything.”

So true. Comics surveys are bogus. The only thing they succeed in accomplishing is revealing the fact that the comics editors are apathetic and/or incompetent.

I mean, come on…do your jobs, you lazy bastards.

#23 Lucas Turnbloom
March/1/2010
@ 4:13 pm

You’re asking a lot there, Scott.

#24 Corey Pandolph
March/1/2010
@ 4:14 pm

So email them. They gave the comics@denverpost.com address. Get everyone you know to email them. Threaten to pull your subscription.

Clog their inbox and maybe they’ll listen.

Probably not, but it’s an email. It takes 30 seconds.

DO IT.

I’m sick losing money for no reason.

#25 Samantha Wikan
March/1/2010
@ 4:18 pm

Maybe the poll is accurate for the paper’s readers. (?)

For example, everyone in here probably gets their news from online media. I imagine newspaper readers are the older crowd who buy the newspaper for the local news and local ads These people don’t buy the paper for the comics.

They like the comics, but they’re just “extra”.. not the main reason to get the paper. And even if the comics were the main draw, the older crowd would find much of what we find funny in bad taste and inappropriate for their daily reading.

Maybe this is how the editors see it.

I don’t know. I think I’m old enough to enjoy what you call “bland” comics. Generally speaking, I’d rather not be offended, just entertained and amused. I like a lot of the comics listed above!

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have some edgier comics in my feed reader, that have a bit more “gritty” characters, stories, and jokes.

I read them ALL on the web, though.

How’s that for fence-sitting?

#26 Stacy Curtis
March/1/2010
@ 4:22 pm

This is why newspapers deserve to go under.

They have no effing clue.

#27 Scott Metzger
March/1/2010
@ 4:24 pm

Lucas – you’re right. What was I thinking.

#28 dave nelson
March/1/2010
@ 4:38 pm

Right Samantha.
Newspaper cartoonists are a dying breed mostly because newspapers are too. The editors have to try to hang on to the readers that pay the bills while figuring out how to attract new ones.

I’d worry that a cartoonist strike would backfire and only hasten the end of the comics page altogether.

#29 Geoff
March/1/2010
@ 4:43 pm

Screw that…half of those comics are either not drawn by the original artist or drawn by a committee (Garfield). If the Creator dies or doesn’t want to do the work then that comic should die…and not passed on to some schmuck!

#30 Mike Rhode
March/1/2010
@ 4:53 pm

http://comicsdc.blogspot.com/2010/03/denver-post-drops-cul-de-sac-local-iq.html since I have my own platform to rant on.

#31 Alex Hallatt
March/1/2010
@ 5:20 pm

Scary. I’m not even sure we should have a democracy anymore if these people cast their vote for politicians too.

#32 Tom Dell'Aringa
March/1/2010
@ 5:40 pm

Ted summed it up quite nicely there. I wonder if they just don’t care anymore because they don’t see the comic section as revenue producing, and that’s all they are focused on right now.

#33 patty leidy
March/1/2010
@ 5:48 pm

I CALLED first thing this morning. I got a PERSON and not a recording..she was prepared,and obviously on the defense,and obviously didn’t really have anything to say but what she was told to say.. when I asked why something like Cul de Sac was dropped, a comic by the way nominated for a Reubens award..and they kept something like…——-(fill in the blank, but let’s assume it’s a safe legacy strip..)
she responded…’Oh noone really voted for that!”
I did a spit take…
I was getting a vibe from her of,,annoyance, and justification of why they dropped so many, she said the paper HAD a lot more comics than most..(pfft) and that they had to PAY for the ones they had…the comics section today had HUGE spots with “wouldn’t you AD look GREAT here on the COMICS PAGE?” She kept repeating that it was all by votes only and it was alot of votes etc..etc…
By the time I hung up I was livid at her bordering on nasty tone…and sad that pretty much I am wondering again why I am doing this…

Agreed they have to pay for them but..shoot man dropping stuff like LIO, Cul De Sac, MOnty, Zippy, just tells me..yes…keep it safe, bland, and boring for the OLD set…

I shudder when I get to see the Sunday edition..saving grace.. SCARY GARY will be in the sunday now too…
but ,man… I am pretty much ready to cancel the ADSpaper…woops excuse me..I meant the NEWS paper…

sigh..i need a hug

#34 Kent Holle
March/1/2010
@ 5:52 pm

Surprising? No. Sad? Absolutely. It was such a blow when the Rocky Mountain News shut down. As I was growing up, it was always a treat for me to find a RMN and be able to pour over the pages and pages of comics. To have this be the remnants of it’s legacy is quite disheartening.

I agree that Peanuts should not be run anymore. Charles Schultz and Bill Watterson were unquestionably two of the greatest talents to ever grace the comics pages, but I’m sure Bill (and Charles if he were still with us) certainly wouldn’t want reruns taking the place of another cartoonist, trying to make a living.

#35 Terry Rowe
March/1/2010
@ 7:08 pm

Gee, how could Rip Haywire survive after such a short run? That isn’t fair….and to add to the insult, they add the “new” Dustin. Sheesh…..

#36 Ted Rall
March/1/2010
@ 7:39 pm

@Samantha: “For example, everyone in here probably gets their news from online media. I imagine newspaper readers are the older crowd who buy the newspaper for the local news and local ads These people don?t buy the paper for the comics.

They like the comics, but they?re just ?extra?.. not the main reason to get the paper.”

Not everyone here gets their news from online media. I, for one, spend so much time working in front of a computer that I can’t stand staring at one for content, even if it’s free. I pay for print. Many other people here do the same–including 20somethings.

I’m afraid you’re wrong about comics in the paper…many, many newspaper readers buy the paper for the comics. Studies prove it.

#37 Terri Libenson
March/1/2010
@ 7:44 pm

There’s so much TO say, there’s nothing to say anymore. This speaks for itself.
I’m officially bummed. The only positive thing I can think of is I’m in good (really good) company.

#38 Stacy Curtis
March/1/2010
@ 8:03 pm

–A Carnegie Corporation study reports that the average age of newspaper readers is 55. Newspaper readership has basically fallen off a cliff since the advent of the Internet. —

So by keeping the comics they did, they served well the people we all assume would read “Blondie” over “Lio.”

Good job, Denver Post!

#39 Mike Cope
March/1/2010
@ 8:05 pm

Sheesh … Even Peter Parker is being canned from the newspaper business …

http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/worklife/03/01/spiderman.gets.fired/index.html?hpt=C2

#40 Isaiah McAllister
March/1/2010
@ 8:33 pm

I personally can’t see how a cartoonists strike would accomplish much of anything. Let alone one that only lasts a week. Most newspapers would probably just run reruns for a week. And the thing is, I doubt many readers would notice.

I mean you could run rerun strips of Rex Morgan M.D. from 10 years ago, and I think it would only go back about 5 minutes in Real Time.

#41 Steve Skelton
March/1/2010
@ 8:37 pm

Isaiah,

Admittedly, it was a pretty childish idea, I suppose. Just me lashing out with frustration. A strike would not work because we as cartoonists have already lost too much leverage, apparently.
I just hate to see, as others do here, our art form being devalued so much. Especially when we have worked diligently to become better and better at what we do. So, strike the idea of a strike from the record. It was a lame idea, and one that could never even be orchestrated.

Perhaps the web is the final frontier. Like Scott once said on this board, “We all just want to do what we love and not have to worry about money”. I just love that, man.

#42 John Read
March/1/2010
@ 8:38 pm

To Geoff With No Last Name (#29): Only TWO of the strips listed above as “the top 15 most popular comics” are not produced by their original creators (which is a LOT less than half): “Blondie” and “The Family Circus,” and neither of their cartoonists are schmucks. To Geoff and everyone: Regardless of your feelings about readers polls and legacy strips and gutless editors, remember that real people (excepting the late Charles Schulz) are writing and drawing the strips you dislike – just like the ones you do – trying to make a living at their craft; the artists creating the comics are NOT to blame for the sad state of many newspapers’ comics pages.

#43 Shane Davis
March/1/2010
@ 8:56 pm

Wow…watching the comics die such slow death like this is awful. I’m an old geezer now, and it really hurts to see a truly American artform die because newpapers are run so (apparently) incompetently.

It’s like if that little blonde kid had given Old Yeller a bowl of antifreeze to drink instead of shooting him.

This is painful to watch.

#44 Ted Dawson
March/1/2010
@ 9:07 pm

Thank Congress-approved Joint Operating Agreements.

The same thing has happened with every JOA for years.

“Gosh, we’ll go out of business unless we can share advertising revenue! Please let us do it even though it violates Antitrust statutes!”

Of course, it doesn’t work, and then one paper decides to shut down its competitor. Surprise! Then they pick up their comics and some of their staff. Then they fire the staff and drop the comics. And then there’s no competition so they pay less for the comics they do have.

This has nothing to do with the value of comics themselves. It’s simply corporate greed. There’s a Reason that Antitrust laws were established.

#45 Stephen Beals
March/1/2010
@ 9:14 pm

So did the Post get some sort of deal on the strips they picked up from the Rocky Mountain News, or were they paying full price for all of those? It sounds like they dropped a bunch when the cheap price expired.

Deciding on your content with this method is no different than inbreeding. Newspapers will have to be smarter than this if they’re going to attract a bigger audience and survive.

I’m with John Read, though. I’m not upset at the creators of the most popular strips so much as frustrated that new, extremely creative material isn’t even given a chance to have the same sort of daily familiarity with readers.

Can you imagine if All In The Family was still on the air with new episodes, all the Beatles were alive and still recording yearly abums and Charles Dickens still pumped out a novel a year? We wouldn’t be enchanted. We’d be bored stiff! (even a Beatles nut like me)

Only American comic strips seem to survive with sheer repetative, mundane sameness. Only comics seem to be punished, decade after decade, for trying new things.

#46 Scott Kurtz
March/1/2010
@ 10:58 pm

I love how Ted and twist any conversation to be about how Webcomics or the Internet are ruining everything.

“Hey, I’m Ted Rall. What are you guys talking about? Subways vs. Quiznoes? Webcomics are stupid.”

#47 David Reddick
March/1/2010
@ 11:09 pm

@John Read

Here, here. That was well said, and true.

#48 Stacy Curtis
March/1/2010
@ 11:09 pm

Arguing dead cartoonist strips is/has killing/killed the comic strip industry is a lot like the argument that syndication of editorial cartoons is/has killing/killed the editorial cartooning industry. As long as there are pennies to be made, it cannot be stopped, no matter how dire the situation may be. That horse has been beaten until there’s nothing left.

#49 Chris Fournier
March/1/2010
@ 11:16 pm

It surprises me that a relatively new medium such as the Internet, that has only been popular for the past 15 years, can crush an entire industry that was rock solid for the past 120 years or so (very rough guess).
In our desire for free content, free music, free comics, free news, free movies we’ve paid a drastic price when it comes to the number of jobs, the lower wages, and loss of revenue.
While this newspaper poll isn’t pretty and they seem to keep the dry, the bland, and the mundane maybe this is their only chance of keeping a readership they desperately need to stay afloat.
Yes, they can attract younger viewers with edgier comics but really, how many younger viewers are reading the paper? This younger generation is our future and if newspapers can’t attract future readers they have absolutely no chance of staying alive.
Related to the decline of newspapers and comics in general I’m curious to know how many submissions syndicates are still getting. If people have done their research and paid attention to what’s happening out there are they still submitting their strips?

#50 Jeff Stanson
March/2/2010
@ 12:05 am

Obviously, voters in the Denver Post comics poll aren’t a bunch of Web-trolling fanboys.

#51 Stephen Beals
March/2/2010
@ 12:38 am

Young and edgy aren’t two words that have to go together.

Let’s see, my mom died four years ago this month when she was 70. She read the comics every day. Was she reading Blondie? No. Beetle? Sometimes. Hi & Lois? No. She liked Bizarro, I remember that. Liked Pickles. She would like some webcomics I showed her because she would get online to read mine.

I think we have more good comics being produced now than in the last 20 years. Good stuff is good stuff whether it’s a legacy strip or not, but the “old” people I know aren’t reading a lot of these that are supposedly irreplaceable.

How about (hits hand to forehead) an actual, scientific poll?

#52 Rick Schmitz
March/2/2010
@ 12:45 am

Tom: “Last call for drinks before closing, people. How utterly depressing. Where are the actual newspaper editors who make decisions?here?s a radical thought?.ON THEIR OWN! Sigh.”

Dead on with both points, Tom. Last call indeed. I find it amusing that the editors have been called the “gatekeepers of quality”, yet fall back on polling the unclean masses when they want to cut comics/costs.

If papers need to cut comics to stay in the black, then they really are in their death throws.

#53 Dave Stephens
March/2/2010
@ 4:17 am

A poll. A. POLL.
Polling a readership, trolling for opinions, rolling off a cliff of mediocrity, recoiling from responsibility and spoiling the notion that editors choose what is “fit” to print and printing what fits in their very own paper, a paper given away to popular opinion…

They should poll their readers on what STORIES they want – no more silly government articles, no more scary headlines, just nice recipes and sport scores and weather – Hurray! A “perfect” paper printed on a single inexpensive sheet!

Sheesh.

#54 John Sanford
March/2/2010
@ 6:29 am

Polls? Who did they poll? The local graveyard?
The Old folks home?
If this truly represents the taste of my hometown then I am deeply ashamed. Can I change my hometown?
Can I say I’m from Seattle or someplace like that?

#55 Ted Rall
March/2/2010
@ 7:15 am

@Stephen: “Only American comic strips seem to survive with sheer repetative, mundane sameness. Only comics seem to be punished, decade after decade, for trying new things.”

No doubt, comic pages (not comics) are moribund.

In fairness, however, many other media exhibit signs of endless tedium and repetition.

Music: I pray for the demise of the Rolling Stones, who died in 1980. And “classic rock” stations.

Film: How many remakes and sequels must we suffer through? Among the remakes scheduled for 2011 are Arthur, Romancing the Stone, Meatballs (!), the Dirty Dozen, Conan, The Karate Kid, Footloose, Death Wish, and Short Circuit (no word on whether they’ll remake the sequel to the original). And, blasphemy: Michael Bay is working a remake of “Rosemary’s Baby.”

Politics: Whether it’s old losers making a comeback (Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin) or political dynasties (the Kennedys and Bushes) or the ideological sameness (no one to the Left of a European-style Christian Democrat need apply), American politics is ossified.

And don’t get me started on literary fiction or television.

What’s going on with comics is part and parcel of a nation in slow-motion economic, political, social and cultural collapse.

#56 Larry Levine
March/2/2010
@ 8:24 am

The newspaper comic strip is going the way of the dinosaur, save your time (and stamps) submitting to the syndicates.

#57 Phil Wohlrab
March/2/2010
@ 8:36 am

“What?s going on with comics is part and parcel of a nation in slow-motion economic, political, social and cultural collapse.”

oh geez.. maybe… I blame the overuse of the internet.

#58 Bill Kellogg
March/2/2010
@ 9:12 am

@ Dave Stephens. With sports scores, half the people wanted the other team to win so you can’t include them either.

#59 Terry LaBan
March/2/2010
@ 9:19 am

It’s true, as Ted says, that old acts continue to do well in a variety of media–just look at the way the Beatles continue to generate billions 40 years after they broke up. But Vampire Weekend and Radiohead seem to be able to make a pretty good living as well. Newspaper comics, on the other hand, represent some sort of extreme. “Dustin” is a case in point. It started running in our local paper this week, and it’s kind of unbelievable–an entire strip premised on the notion that young people are too lazy to work. That’s not only misguided and insulting, but, given the economy, it’s cruel. And, to judge by the publicity, the editors seem to have added it in the hope that it will actually ATTRACT younger readers. The mind just boggles.

#60 Dan Olson
March/2/2010
@ 9:48 am

Dropping “Lio” and “Cul De Sac”? Those are two of the best strips to appear in a long time.

I’m 56 and had read The Washington Post for almost fifty years. It was moves like this that caused me to quit last year.

#61 Ted Rall
March/2/2010
@ 10:19 am

Don’t some of you webcartoonists see the irony here? We’re criticizing the Post for dropping good comics in favor of lame old ones because they relied on a reader poll (granted, an inaccurate one, but still, a poll) rather than their own taste as gatekeepers.

One of the criticisms of the online paradigm is that, like reader polls, it rewards whatever gets the most traffic. Online, however, there are no gatekeepers, no editors, no arbiters of taste who can fight for keeping a good smaller strip around long enough to gain traction and, not coincidentally, put a few bucks into the artist’s pocket.

In the print paradigm, it is (theoretically) possible for an editor to call Dorothy Gambrell and offer her $2000 a month to publish Cat and Girl in a magazine. Online, she has to attract a buttload of traffic…which is going to be damned hard, what with Penny Arcade, etc. sucking up all the air in the room.

Ironically, the Post editors are acting like the Internet, blindly rewarding raw numbers instead of the intangible value of good taste.

#62 Ted Rall
March/2/2010
@ 10:35 am

@Dave: “They should poll their readers on what STORIES they want ? no more silly government articles, no more scary headlines, just nice recipes and sport scores and weather ? Hurray! A ?perfect? paper printed on a single inexpensive sheet!”

This perfectly describes the way millions of people pick and choose which “news” to read on their Smartphones, etc.

#63 Zach
March/2/2010
@ 11:06 am

Honestly, we have this discussion every time a paper dies or drops more comics. Is it surprising at this point?

Does anyone now doubt that small press and online content are the future of the business, like it or not?

I’m making twice what I made last year. Next year I plan to make twice that again. I also plan to hire people to do more of my clerical work so I can continue writing graphic novels and books as my business grows. I use my audience and knowledge to help new webcartoonists get what they need to have lives like mine.

Every day, I spend 4-6 hours reading, and the rest writing or drawing. I’m doing what I want. I’m creating content that people like (despite not having an editor). And the peers I work with aren’t some sort of “cultural ossification.” They’re among the best cartoonists since the medium was born.

From where I stand, the outlook for comics looks awesome.

#64 Layne Myhre
March/2/2010
@ 11:15 am

You’d be right, Ted, IF readership numbers equal success in the online comics world. Except they don’t. There’s no direct correlation between readership numbers and earnings, except in the most general of terms. A strip like Cyanide and Happiness earns far FAR less income per reader than a strip like Sheldon, or Girl Genius. It’s not a case of rewards for the most traffic, as you say, but rewards for the most compelling content. Readers who like what you do spend money on you. Readers who don’t, don’t. It’s not just a numbers game.

You’re comparing apples and oranges here. It sucks that the Denver Post is taking random public opinion polls to make their comics decisions. That has nothing to do with the web.

By the way, studies that indicate that readers buy the newspaper FOR the comics page are equally unscientific… they’re all based on the exact same sort of opinion polls. Polling someone with the question “what is your favourite part of the newspaper” and getting a response of “the comics page” does NOT mean that their main reason for buying the paper is the comics. It’s not the same thing as asking them “would you still buy the newspaper if there was no comics page”. Nor is asking them either question as scientifically valid as DOING the experiment… taking out the comics page for a while and seeing if the sales decrease significantly.

#65 Anne Hambrock
March/2/2010
@ 11:16 am

It should be simple marketing. If this poll is truly reflective of the paper’s readership, the hue and cry will die down and life will go on. If the readers are upset enough, the paper will realize their error and do something about it in an effort to satisfy readers.

The two problems with this scenario come if A) readers don’t really and truly make a big enough fuss to be noticed, or B) no matter what the readers say, the editors don’t care.

Unfortunately B seems to be happening all too often.

#66 Jeff Pert
March/2/2010
@ 11:20 am

Steve @#20 and Dave @ #28: What Dave said. Anything even close to a strike would cause editors to see readers don’t miss the comics enough to stop reading the papers, thus hastening the downfall of an already withering field.

It sure is an interesting and scary time to be a cartoonist.

#67 Anne Hambrock
March/2/2010
@ 11:23 am

Let me be clear that, marketing or no, I think this is a stupid and horrendous move on the part of the Post.

.

#68 Tony Piro
March/2/2010
@ 11:29 am

Ted, Cat and Girl is not competing for the same eyeballs as Penny Arcade. Nobody is looking at their last $20 and trying to decide whether they should buy a Cat and Girl collection vs. a Penny Arcade collection.

Layne, you make some great points. Everyone read post #64.

Zach, we know SMBC is awesome. Stop bragging! ;)

#69 Scott Kurtz
March/2/2010
@ 11:53 am

Yeah, I’m not sure how the paper and web compare here because space isn’t an issue and our revenue stream isn’t dependent on competing with other cartoonists for that space.

I think we have it much easier that way. We don’t get reader polls. We just have I guess sales trends right? Who sold more books last year? List the top 10 book sellers. That’s the closest thing we might have to a “readers poll”

#70 May Kadoody
March/2/2010
@ 12:27 pm

So what I’m supposed to take away from this is that the Denver Post readership consists almost entirely of retards?

#71 Derf Backderf
March/2/2010
@ 12:32 pm

Having worked with quite a few editors in my career (my first newspaper job was hand coloring the daily comics page, long before the syndicates considered doing so), the prime motivation of an editor in charge of a comics page is to avoid angry phonecalls from the grannies and grampies that are the only readership newspapers have left. And so Zippy gets the ax, while Born Loser inexplicably goes on and on.

Don’t get me started about weeklies. I don’t know what the hell THOSE guys are thinking.

#72 Ted Rall
March/2/2010
@ 12:36 pm

The comparison is that webcartoons compete for advertisers, whose payments to cartoonists are tied to traffic.

#73 Zach Weiner
March/2/2010
@ 12:44 pm

@Ted

I think you have a misconception. Let me give you an example:

Near as I can tell, Dave Kellett makes more revenue than I do. Also, near as I can tell, I have 5-10 times his raw audience per month.

How is that?

He has an extremely strong dedicated core fan base, and his model works around cultivating that type of following. I have a much broader group of more casual followers. His main revenue comes from sales of books, art, and other merchandise. My main revenue comes from advertising.

The idea that we are all “competing” for advertisers is silly. Every one of us has a different model.

To give another example:

The stats-revenue disparity is, again near as I can tell, comparable between myself and Bill and Gene from Unshelved.

Here’s why:

They work with a niche audience, and Bill is a f—ing genius at getting premium ad support. So, even though we both draw a lot of revenue from ads, we are in no way whatsoever competing. Many of the people who work with him wouldn’t consider working with me.

It doesn’t make sense for you to argue both that the Internet = niche-ification AND that we’re all competing for the same ads. It’s both illogical and factually incorrect.

#74 Denise Garner
March/2/2010
@ 1:01 pm

LIO rules! Nothing to add that hasn’t been said before, except this: I am 58, husband 64, and we are appalled that you think we aren’t outraged at the Post’s poll and subsequent “editing”.

#75 Layne Myhre
March/2/2010
@ 1:10 pm

It’s also worth pointing out that advertising revenue is of variable importance to different web-based artists. A high-traffic website with fairly random gags and no strong characters, like xkcd or Cyanide and Happiness, will be more dependent on advertising revenue. By contrast, a strong story strip with compelling characters and storytelling, such as Schlock Mercenary, makes much less from advertising and much MUCH more from merchandising. Merchandise creates more revenue than advertising rates. A strip like Sheldon makes VERY little from advertising, but a ton from original art sales, which have a huge return on investment compared to other merchandise. There’s a whole lot more factors in play than simply “who has more traffic”, and understanding that side of the business is key to making the model work for you.

#76 Layne Myhre
March/2/2010
@ 1:14 pm

I think I just said the same thing Zach said. Sorry, I should have refreshed the page before posting. D’oh!

#77 Joe Groshek
March/2/2010
@ 1:46 pm

This just makes me sick! I understand kids aren’t waiting by the door for the newspapers when they get home from school like they used to, they immediately get online to Facebook, or sit and text each other furiously for hours on end. Newspaper comics are not a child’s priority anymore, (sign of the times I guess). Too many other alternatives. However…almost Everyone gets a Sunday paper, if not just for the store ads and coupons…So….create a 10 page comics section…have 100 comics in there, kids still read the Sunday comics, So do most adults…Syndicates need to raise the their Sunday rates to compensate for the loss of dailies. …Sunday comics are still a necessity! I don’t get the dailies, but Sundays, Hell yeah!

#78 Dave Blazek
March/2/2010
@ 1:47 pm

I always wondered what would come first: them getting my name right over my comic, or their comics going away. I think maybe the wrong one came first.

#79 Mark P.
March/2/2010
@ 1:55 pm

Well, it is great that at least one of Mark Tatulli’s strips, Heart of the City, is still offered in the Post. I miss Lio, Prickly City, Cul De Sac and Argyle Sweater already. I enjoyed those strips very much. Wish they brought back Hagar and Hi & Lois (both ran in the Rocky Mountain News years ago).

I’m also glad that a lot of my favorites are still offered: Pearls Before Swine, Get Fuzzy, Tundra, Bizarro, Mother Goose & Grimm, Beetle Bailey, Blondie, and Garfield.

#80 Stephen Beals
March/2/2010
@ 2:02 pm

@Ted,

I think we’re going through a cultural shift, not collapse. Once the Baby Boomers are out of the picture it should be interesting to see how things go (my wife rolls her eyes at this subject of mine).

My fourteen year old (geez, 15 in two weeks) goes to a large high school in the Midwest with a very diverse crowd. There are openly gay students, jocks, the same ol’ nerds like me …. wait, openly gay? In a Midwest high school? Can you imagine an openly gay student in high school back in the ’70s?

It’s great. It’s refreshing. My kid isn’t interested in Michael Bay movies (so SHE’S the one). She liked Friends when she was six, Will & Grace and is watching House now, but she goes long stretches without watching and then plays catch up … something we could never do as kids.

When she outgrew Garfield, she switched to Japanese comics (Bleach, Naruto, etc.)

She was playing me music from her ipod and I asked her how she discovered these people. Thre’s some very cool stuff (that I don’t take the time to find) that’s not played on the radio. She and her friends comb over youtube and other places and find it.

Her friends are black, white, Martian (I’m talking to you, Janelle) and I’m pretty excited about this crowd. I think they’ll still have quite a bit of the “Me Generation” in them, but I don’t think they’ll be like what we’re used to. Stuff we now make a big deal about (like being gay) is going bye-bye.

They’ll still be interested in money, door counts and questionable stats. They’ll probably willingly sacrifice content in favor of whatever current traffic is being generated. But their values will definitely be a bit different than the current values held dear by the Baby Boomer crowd.

Maybe, just maybe, some of them will get involved in newspapers, or whatever we download onto our electronic reading tablecloth of the future, and cancel Blondie in favor of Lio (or the equivalent thereof) and get me some damn health insurance before I die of a splinter infection. Or cancer of the eyes.

The Post looks like a decent enough paper, but they’re doing what everyone else is doing and it’s sad.

#81 Scott Kurtz
March/2/2010
@ 2:03 pm

Yeah, we don’t really compete for advertiser dollars that way either. It’s just not comparable.

To the point of this article, and something I don’t understand. Why would an editor NEED a readers poll. Isn’t it HIS job as editor to pick features that improve his paper? Why aren’t editors picking the comics themselves? That’s their job.

How can any editor look at Cul De Sac and say “nah. don’t need it.”

#82 Ted Rall
March/2/2010
@ 2:13 pm

@Scott: I agree. An editor’s job is to pick the cartoons. What’s happening is that editors are terrified of being laid off by management, which offers them no support whatsoever. So, to cover their asses, they stage these phony readers polls. If there are complaints, they can always say hey, we asked the readers what they wanted. Also, in their minds, many of them think they’re being more responsive to their readers by asking them what comics they want to see in the paper. What editors don’t understand is that (a) readers don’t know about strips that AREN’T in the paper so they don’t know what they’re missing and (b) having the comics picked for them is part of why people buy newspapers in the first place.

@Stephen: Two things:

I agree, the exit of the Boomers will have an impact, but it won’t be as big as I as an Xer would like. That’s because they’re passing the torch of lameness and sameness on to their children, also known as Gen Y. It’s a phenomenon well documented in Strauss and Howe’s work, including the essential book “Generations.” Gen X is doomed to remain squished between the Boomers and their spawn.

Also, I hope I didn’t imply that the collapse of the US was due to the Internet and other new technologies. I think the causes are political: overexpansion, a debt crisis, out of control militarism, environmental catastrophe, etc. The cultural atrophy is merely a symptom of a nation that, like the USSR in 1989, is pretty much finished.

#83 Tom Wood
March/2/2010
@ 2:33 pm

@Ted

This interview between Brad Feld and Paul Kedrosky might give you a little more hope about the US.

http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/24843

In it, Paul mentions how easy it is to create a business in the US and walk away from it if it fails. A friend of mine is a recent immigrant from Romania and he strongly concurred. He said that people won’t borrow money there to start a business because if it fails they will come and kill you for losing their money.

There are also arguments that we are tops in innovation because we just don’t care as much about failure in our society. Seth Godin has been posting a lot about this very issue recently – killing off the lizard brain that doesn’t want to take a chance.

It’s a transitional phase we’re going through and I think we’ll pull through just fine.

#84 Brogan
March/2/2010
@ 2:40 pm

I think newspapers are dinosaurs that will eventually go the way of the LP. I know of NO ONE that has a subscription anymore. They get their info from the ‘net. When we go on vacation, the hotels tend to have complimentary papers, and really, it’s stuff I’ve already read…YESTERDAY. It is sad, but when the boomers are done, so are the papers. I think it’ll come done to those little local type papers and one national. Maybe USA Today or something (although they don’t have comics). I’m 41, so I recall reading the funnies quite well, but I think my generation (as well as the previous ones) were used to holding something tangable in our hand while we read including books. I don’t think that’s the case with kids now. They get their info from the computer. I guess we’ll see…

#85 Ted Rall
March/2/2010
@ 2:49 pm

From LA Weekly:

Among the many fascinating revelations in the recently released Nielsen SoundScan 2008 sales tally of recorded music product is the ranking of the year’s top vinyl sellers. As anyone reading this probably knows, the music industry is in the middle of a much ballyhooed “vinyl revival.” Publications far and wide have reported on the recurrent interest in black wax and analog sound, and the SoundScan numbers do indeed confirm a trend. In 2008, sales of LPs were up by an impressive 89%, from 990,000 in ’07 to 1.88 million this year. It’s an astounding number considering that the combined sales of CDs, LPs and digital files fell 14% this year.

#86 Mike Cope
March/2/2010
@ 2:51 pm

Just as music folks love that vinyl sound, I love the look and feel of comics on newsprint :)

#87 Jesse Cline
March/2/2010
@ 3:06 pm

Hipster do love their vinyl. We just have to convince the American Apparel crowd that newspapers are the next big thing, and bam, industry is saved.

#88 Stephen Beals
March/2/2010
@ 3:20 pm

@Ted,

I agree Gen X is squished. I’m just hoping that a generation with different values and perspectives, which our crowd (and the crowd before us) weren’t capable of will result in a country with more progressive thinking.

But laziness is entrenched everywhere in the US and the easiest road is the one that gets the potholes fixed.

It still ticks me off that Baby Boomers enjoyed the last hurrah with American newspaper comics. It wasn’t their fault until they grew up to run the newspapers and make some pretty crappy decisions that ignored long-term effects.

Dropping Cul de Sac is like throwing away a Monet painting. Yeah, I’m that big of a fanboy.

#89 Matt Forcum
March/2/2010
@ 3:48 pm

And yet strangely, NPD is telling us that Digital sales have risen 15-20% and NOT fallen as your numbers seem to suggest Ted.

And that 15-20% increase means that digital downloading now has a 35% share of the music distribution market.

See? I have numbers too!

#90 Charles Brubaker
March/2/2010
@ 4:22 pm

Not going to argue against vinyls here.

Sincerely,
Charles Brubaker
Who collects old animations on 16mm film and spent lots of $$$ on them, even though some are available on DVD for less cost.
(you can see the list on my blog)

#91 Ted Rall
March/2/2010
@ 4:38 pm

@Matt, I dunno but everything I find sez otherwise:

From Business Week (March 2009):

“Overall music sales have continued their years-long slide. Total industry sales were about $10 billion last year, down from $14 billion in 2000, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Revenues from digital download services like Apple iTunes (AAPL) and Amazon MP3 (AMZN) are still growing strong, but they’re not generating enough revenue to make up for the sharp decline in CD sales. Overall spending on music is forecast to shrink 4% through 2013, according to a recent report by Forrester Research (FORR) “

One interesting bit is that streaming sites are hurting digital music sales: “Researchers and industry consultants say online music sites are being used by a growing number of listeners as a substitute for purchasing music, rather than serving as a catalyst for more purchases.”

#92 Chuck Agins
March/2/2010
@ 4:57 pm

As a Post comics reader, I’m insulted (and, trust me, I’ll be letting them know) by the big “advertise here” spaces that now take up a large percentage of the comics page. Said spaces claim that 753,000 readers will see your ad if you buy space on the comics page. So the dropped comics were based on a poll of 18,000 readers, or less than 2.5% of the total number of subscribers. If I was considering purchasing ad space, I’d be interested to know that less than 2.5% of the people who saw my ad would respond to it in any way.

#93 Tom Pappalardo
March/2/2010
@ 5:08 pm

The problem with surveys is the people who willingly choose to take surveys.

#94 Jeff Stanson
March/2/2010
@ 6:42 pm

It’s not a problem to me that decisions were made based on 2.5% of the total readership as that’s about right for most marketing studies. The problem is that this type of survey is not a marketing study as the structure is very unscientific. What if a music store only offered the top 20 albums? Music stores have more than the top 20, in fact, they offer variety, a little something for every taste. Newspapers should provide comics in the same manner.

#95 Drew Litton
March/2/2010
@ 7:22 pm

There’s so much I could say here but can’t. That anyone would cancel that many strips at a time is hard to believe.

The editor who hired me at the Rocky Mountain News back in 1982, was the late Ralph Looney. Ralph was a man who believed the COMICS (and Ann Landers) were the single most valuable properties in the newspaper. More valued than columnists and more valued than color on the front page. It’s why the Rocky had two cartoonists on staff, myself and the great Ed Stein .
You know what Ralph wanted as a retirement present in the late 80’s? He wanted to steal Garfield away from the Denver Post. And he did. Ralph was totally elated the day it happened. I even recall sheet cake was ordered for the newsroom. Ralph was actually the reason we had a great line-up of comics. The same-lineup that the Post acquired when we closed the doors last February.

Today, I think comics are more seen by editors as items that take up space and cost them money. They don’t value the incredible contribution they make to their overall product. I’m not saying that is the case at the Post, but clearly the cost of comics played a key roll in this decision.

And so we are left with days like this, and, I fear, many many more ahead.

#96 Mike Peterson
March/2/2010
@ 7:33 pm

I also, Drew.

I think the comics/Ann Landers/Ask Amy/Jumble page ought to be turned over to Marketing. News just doesn’t get it. I don’t mean at the Post, but everywhere I’ve been.

But I mean “marketing” in the sense of “How can we best attract new readers while maintaining our existing subscriber base?” not marketing in the sense of “How can we wring the most pennies out of this property and then leave the bleeding, drained carcass on the side of the highway?”

Meanwhile, the news department rankles at those who think of the product as “product” but, in the meantime, they don’t seem to understand that, if people don’t come into the tent, it doesn’t matter how good the preacher is.

#97 Dave Stephens
March/2/2010
@ 11:31 pm

It’s more like they are removing the tent poles, one by one, blissfully unaware of simple concepts of gravity, reality, etc…

#98 Johnny Wilson
March/3/2010
@ 1:43 am

I read Monty and Fusco Brothers daily, without fail. Two of the wittiest comics ever published IMHO. Now I have to read them on the web, since I am hopelessly addicted.

They did keep a few of my favorites, but seem to have cut the ones that were not middle-of-the-road. Which is a shame.

I sent an e-mail. BOOOO, Denver Post, BOOOO!

#99 Ted Rall
March/3/2010
@ 7:11 am

Why don’t Denver comics fans organize a protest? Picket the building, throw some tomatoes.

Zippy fans did that at least once to stave off a planned cancellation at the SF Chronicle, and it worked.

Newspaper editors treat comics fans like dirt because nobody calls them out on it. Emails are so easy to delete.

#100 Milt Priggee
March/3/2010
@ 7:44 am

Drew speaks of a WORLD that no longer exists. Since we can’t go back in time, it’s best we spend what time and energy we do have to creating a new world.

“In times of change. learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

#101 Mark_Tatulli
March/3/2010
@ 8:35 am

“Why don?t Denver comics fans organize a protest? Picket the building, throw some tomatoes.”

Because readers, especially younger readers, know that they can get any comic strip they want for free online. Cancelation of a comic strip in a print newspaper has no bearing on their reading habits. It would be different if their were no option to the print version, but that simply is not the case.

#102 Derf Backderf
March/3/2010
@ 9:14 am

Ted, knowing Bill Griffith, who has always been smarter than the average cartoonist, a guy dressed as Zippy will be protesting in front of the Denver Post in a matter of days.

MY kids fight over the crappy comics section every morning at the breakfast table. I never encouraged them to read it, because the Cleveland rag has an abysmal selection, but they read it just the same.

There’s some comfort in that.

#103 Ted Rall
March/3/2010
@ 9:58 am

@Mark: Then it’s up to cartoonists to explain to our fans that the Internet doesn’t pay and that their favorite strips will vanish–online too–if newspapers cancel them.

#104 Stephen Beals
March/3/2010
@ 10:29 am

Wow, the idea of picketing the building is hilarious. I’d love to see a comic strip protest.

Cartoonists and fans alike, kneeling while being sprayed with a firehose. Documetaries in the future about the great comic strip riots.

I could see me involved in such a protest. War, gay marriage, health insurance …. nah, I’ll wind up in a comic strip protest.

At least my friends wouldn’t be surprised.

#105 patty leidy
March/3/2010
@ 12:27 pm

Ted-“Newspaper editors treat comics fans like dirt because nobody calls them out on it. Emails are so easy to delete.”

I CALLED and was met with a voice of “defensiveness and an’ I really don’t care what you have to say” attitude….
by the end of the call I was practically livid…
especially when she kept saying to me things like:
WE have to pay for the strips we KEPT.
and NO one really voted for Cul De Sac, Lio
WHAT?
She also kept saying it was the READERS that decided everything..AS IF!
I called her on THAT too.
She also said to me..well NOW we have more room for longer articles. WTF?
They CUT pages in the paper.
AND added HUGE blocks for ads in the comic page.

If i was rich I’d buy ad space just so I could RUN a GIANT ZIPPY comic there…lol

Rumor out there is, and I’m inclined to lean towards this one..is they cut a deal with a certain syndicate to keep most of THEIR strips..and cut alot of another syndicates strips…
Dunno..what do YOU all think?

#106 Jason Nocera
March/3/2010
@ 12:35 pm

@103 Ted Rall: Yes, syndicated cartoonists need to get in touch with their fanbase, rally them, and tell them to buy things so that they can keep on drawing (ie; buy a newspaper) Sounds like the webcomic-model.

#107 Ted Rall
March/3/2010
@ 12:46 pm

@Jason: As Derf notes, cartoonists like Bill Griffith have been reaching out to their fan base for years. How is the webcomic model different (<–not being snotty, still waiting for an answer after hundreds of posts) from print?

#108 Ted Rall
March/3/2010
@ 12:51 pm

@Patty: It’s certainly possible that a syndicate cut a deal. That happened in Canada, when one syndicate cut a bulk deal with a chain of papers that resulted in many other (superior) strips getting canceled.

#109 Scott Kurtz
March/3/2010
@ 12:55 pm

I was talking to Wiley about this the other day and it makes me wish I didn’t have so much going on because I would seriously considering pursuing this myself.

In one camp, we have syndicated cartoonists who are currently a little stuck. Papers are dropping their features, revenue is decreasing. The syndicates and editors seem to have their heads up their asses. Most of these cartoonists have enough permission and control of their features to seek out web-based revenue streams, but they don’t know how to do it or (most likely) don’t have the time. They especially don’t have the time or desire to START COMPLETELY OVER. And it’s stupid to ask them to.

In one camp we have the web-based cartoonists. And by that, I don’t mean anyone who’s strip is online. Cause that’s everyone. I mean the camp of people who never went through traditional channels with their features. They run it all independently, and have spent the last 10-12 years building up a personally owned and drive business that relies on a number of revenue streams, but never really depends on the sale of the actual feature it self to survive.

What’s missing is middle ground. Middle ground would be companies with the time and experience of both the syndicate and the independent web bus guys. Who can take someone like Mark Tatulii and his feature, and exploit it for him in Independent channels, without Mark having to stop everything and start over. Some company that offers that service in the middle.

Not quite a syndicate. Not quite doing it all yourself. That’s the middle ground that needs to be filled.

Then it wouldn’t matter what editors or syndicates do. It would be sad if that part of your business started tanking, but it wouldn’t mean you were suddenly standing in bread lines either.

#110 Tom Wood
March/3/2010
@ 1:08 pm

Not quite a syndicate. Not quite doing it all yourself. That?s the middle ground that needs to be filled.

If you go to alt weekly The Austin Chronicle and scroll to the bottom of their site, there is a link called National Advertising that goes here:

http://www.voicemediagroup.com/

I think those are the companies that can do this. It means packaging content with advertising, which is a business model that’s been talked about, but not done much unless I’m missing it.

Seth MacFarlane did a few ads that combined a short with the advertisement but I haven’t seen those around for a while.

#111 Drew Litton
March/3/2010
@ 1:30 pm

Milt,

I so agree with you. I know the world we knew is vanishing. That’s why we have to adapt to find new ways to flourish.still we have to fight for the art form in it’s present state as well. I just hate to see this shift by editors who don’t value comics the way the Ralph Looneys of the world did.

But change we all must. It’s one of the reasons why I’m always so puzzled by this war between print cartoonists vs. web cartoonists. It does no good for us to rail at the stern man on the Titanic because he didn’t see the ice berg. We’ve hit the stupid thing already. Get to the lifeboats and find a way to survive. Experiment. Think like Edison. Invent. We are some of the most creative minds on the planet ( ok, maybe not me, but you guys are)) so let’s get with it. We must become innovators to move forward. Spend our energy finding positive SOLUTIONS not wasting negative energy dealing with “web comics are insipid” argument. They’re not insipid. They’re the light bulb in the darkness of a newspaper industry who has hit the icesberg. They are the beginning of innovation. They are the beginning of reinvention.

#112 Drew Litton
March/3/2010
@ 1:31 pm

OK maybe that sounded a bit like Lombardi. Or Bluto in Animal House. But you get the idea.

#113 Jason
March/3/2010
@ 1:40 pm

Oh well… Other than Brewster Rockit, none of the ones that got cut are that entertaining anyway. “edgy” does not equal “good” and neither does “new”. I a cartoonist is given an audience and can’t convince them that the work is quality, that artist should be out of a job and his work should be condemned to the trashcan of history. This is business. Don’t like it? Self publish and quit whining. This is 2010, for goodness sake. Who cares about newspapers? I don’t know anyone under 50 who even subscribesto one.

#114 Ted Rall
March/3/2010
@ 1:48 pm

@Scott: I was having the same exact conversation a few months ago with my agent. What cartoonists need now isn’t a syndicate?they need something closer to a PR agent. But normal PR agents are too expensive, charging at least $1000 a month…and that’s rock-bottom.

Like you, I don’t have the time to do this, but someone really should form a group PR agency for cartoonists to help them exploit their film, book, and merchandising rights, while maximizing their presence online. Not because it would be nice, but because it would make them and the cartoonists a nice bit of cash. Such a company would need experts from the worlds of syndication, webcomics, Hollywood, book publishing and licensing, etc.

#115 Chris Fournier
March/3/2010
@ 3:24 pm

Ted and Scott:
You’ve both hit on a good idea and I’m surprised that syndicates haven’t tapped into this yet or at least had a division that works in new media.
Syndicates already have the backend support (sales, marketing, accounting, distribution) so what would it be for them to put more emphasis on internet sales/marketing and selling complete packages to websites or individual features to targeted websites?
I know King Features is doing something like this already with Comics Kingdom so I wonder how that’s working.

#116 Tony Piro
March/3/2010
@ 3:36 pm

@Scott What you describe sounds attractive in practice, but I agree with Ted that it would be hard to get it off the ground. One of the main successes of the webcomic business model is that it is so streamlined. When you publish your own books and t-shirts, the profit margin is so huge that you can live off of a relatively small core audience. Once other people start getting involved in webdesign, promotion, and everyday running of the business, your comic has to be that much more successful to feed the growing number of mouths.

Isn’t this basically what people like Th3rd World and Joey Manley have been trying to do, with, what it seems, isn’t very much success?

@Chris My suspicion for why this hasn’t been done by the traditional syndicates yet is that 1. they have too many people that they employ to make such a business model work and 2. they don’t know what or how things get popular on the web (when the readership is truly free to read whatever they want), so it would involve a lot of inefficient promotion of properties that might not go anywhere. That’s why (at least one reason) companies like DC resort to contests.

#117 Jeff Stanson
March/3/2010
@ 3:43 pm

1. The majority of newspaper readers are older folks.

2. Older folks like older comic strips.

3. Older comic strips are getting cut to try to attract younger people.

4. Younger people don’t read newspapers.

5. Newspaper editors are alienating their reader base by cutting older comics for newer comics in an effort to attract an audience that isn’t interested in the product.

#118 Steve Skelton
March/3/2010
@ 3:51 pm

responding to Jason who wrote “Who cares about newspapers? I don?t know anyone under 50 who even subscribes to one.”

The main reason to care about newspapers still is because:

1. There are still over 1,300 daily newspapers in the U.S.alone
2. Newspapers still pay for content. Albeit, pitifully low pay, but pay nonetheless.
3. Low pay from 10% of the daily U.S. papers is still doing pretty good. Beats the no pay model of the internet.

Now, having said that, I realize there are some making money from web comics, but I am not one of them yet. That leads to point number 4.

4.To make revenue off of a web comic, you need to have a certain sustained level of traffic, ie., readers. How do you find an audience on the web when starting from scratch with a new feature? That, I believe, is the million dollar question. I do know one thing that is required. A feature worth reading on a regular basis. That alone is very hard to accomplish.

#119 Ted Dawson
March/3/2010
@ 4:35 pm

Only three percent of newspaper reading happens online.

75% of the adults in this country read a newspaper at least once a week. Two-thirds of those aged18-34 read the paper at least once a week.

Ten years ago or so, everybody made up their mind that newspapers were dying. It’s like we’re watching Olympic divers and not expecting them to come up to the surface.

In 2006, newspaper profits were 25%. The oil industry was ten or eleven. Newspapers are having a harder time now because we’re having a recession. I know, that’s a shocker! It shouldn’t be looked upon as a harbinger of doom.

If newspaper comics are going to thrive and not just survive, it’s up to the cartoonists. We should observe what efforts cartoonists are making to get more people reading the comics and reading newspapers.

#120 Donna Barstow
March/3/2010
@ 7:36 pm

I don’t know why I bother reading all the comments, even though this is an important crisis that needs to be fixed.

Same old webcomic cartoonists coming to boast and instruct. They take the issue – a paper letting a huge amount of comics go – and turn it into..”But seriously, be like me and make tons of money.”

I also feel sorry for everyone here who keep trying to convince everyone that papers are dead. Oh, and that’s cool, because we’re cool. I don’t particularly like standing with Ted, as his idea of editing seems to be choosing either alts or those people who belong to the group of which he is Pres, but I can’t read all the news online, either. I’m online for hours and hours and hours. It’s nice to look at hardcopy for an hour or so a day.

Plus, I don’t believe for a minute that people get ALL the news online. They think reading a headline is getting it! It’s too hard to read a long, scientific, or thoughtful article that way. Online only = uneducated people.

#121 Donna Barstow
March/3/2010
@ 7:41 pm

Now I drifted off the subject, too. I think 18,000 people is a pretty big poll, although again I have to agree with Ted that they can’t vote for what they don’t know.

Amusing that there are ads for the big spaces left!!

There are 4 comics of the ones dropped that I would definitely read. Meanwhile, I’ll drop a line to the paper and give them what for. I always emphasize that cartoons are an art form, and papers have an obligation to support the arts.

#122 Jeff Stanson
March/3/2010
@ 8:08 pm

— Quote Ted: “75% of the adults in this country read a newspaper at least once a week. Two-thirds of those aged18-34 read the paper at least once a week.” —

Problem is that the newspapers having the most trouble are DAILY papers. Daily papers can’t survive when they are read just once weekly. And just what is considered a “newspaper” when the poll question is asked? A shopper? The free weekly that is used to wrap inserts that arrive in the mail? Plus, I have answered poll questions myself that I read a newspaper daily… meaning full well that I go to my local paper’s Web site every day.

— Quote Ted: “If newspaper comics are going to thrive and not just survive, it?s up to the cartoonists.” —

Newspaper cartoonists aren’t concerned that they won’t be able to ply their craft, what they are concerned about is that what has been the major delivery channel for their craft is drying up.

— Quote Donna: “Plus, I don?t believe for a minute that people get ALL the news online. —

No one is saying that. Most are saying they get the majority of their news from TV, then a big drop off before online news comes in second.

— Quote Donna: “They think reading a headline is getting it! It?s too hard to read a long, scientific, or thoughtful article that way. Online only = uneducated people.” —

What a faulty analogy! For some, a headline is all they need/want to know of a story, such as who won the election? Many aren’t interested in the precinct-by-precinct breakdown. For others, they only care about the information in the Google News window. For years, J-schools have taught the inverted pyramid style of writing ? put the most important facts first, then include facts of lesser importance as the story goes on. This has been for two reasons: (1) Because readers often just read the first few paragraphs of any story, even in a print newspaper, and (2) editors and copyfitters cut stories from the bottom so that they fit on the page. So even we old print newspaper people ourselves haven’t expected our readers to read the whole story.

#123 Ted Dawson
March/3/2010
@ 10:06 pm

Jeff, you claimed younger people don’t read daily newspapers. They do. So does nearly every adult in America.

One of the reasons is to read the Comics. If that is going to continue to be the case, it will depend on what cartoonists do now and during the next few years.

#124 Jeff Stanson
March/3/2010
@ 10:17 pm

Ted, sure, you can find some young people who read newspapers. Research ? not my claim ? show that few do. Statistics show that the more technology and new media that become available, the more younger people gravitate away from getting their news from traditional media outlets. Read the item Alan has posted just tonight, The changing tide of media consumption. I don’t make this stuff up, it’s being reported. Cartoonists can’t stop the decline of physical newspapers just by delivering quality material, as long as that material is available in other media formats.

#125 Jim Thomas
March/4/2010
@ 12:26 am

I have come into this discussion a bit late but had some thoughts on the matter.

@ Donna Barstow
I disagree that web ‘toonists have come on to this thread and boasted or tried to instruct, negatively that is. As far as most print/web distribution talks go on this site, this has been fairly tame with both sides actually seeing middle ground. I think people who have taken a stand as being pro one dist. method over another are hypersensitive to suggestions that do not align with what they WANT to be true, this I believe for both camps.

@ Ted Rall
You brought up a point about vinyl sales way back in the beginning of the post, I believe to point out that old technology can still excel in the face of new. So that although newspapers are no longer the force they used to be, we should not write them off because like vinyl, they have their fans. But this is not a direct comparison. I buy vinyl. I do not buy everything on vinyl. I get my old Dylan and Beatles albums at thrift stores and I buy my new stuff online, usually through Amazon because it is easy to find. But vinyl is not making a comeback as a mainstream format. It is a niche collectable. Generally you pay more for it because it is a fetish item. It is something people collect, it is a status symbol and while the market is growing it is nowhere near that of CD sales or digital downloads. A newspaper is just as throw-away as internet articles. In their current state, they offer no value greater than their online edition and THAT is the issue with newspapers. Until newspapers find a way to make the print editions special, whether it be more localized journalism, better design, better format, more emphasis on their features, such as comics, they will continue to fail.

@ Ted Dawson
I take issue with both statements you made in post #123. As a 27 year old ( I believe that qualifies me as an adult) I know no one my age the subscribes to or frequently if at all picks up a newspaper. People my age do still seek out news, but we do it at our desks over our morning coffee browsing the internet instead of working or on our free New York Times app stuck in traffic :)

You said that the future depends on what cartoonists do to keep readers coming to the comics section…The cartoonists have no control over this. Editors, well I guess no, the 1800 people that have nothing better to do than vote on newspaper polls will determine that unless things change.

— It seems whenever we talk about why comics are failing in newspapers we bring up Cul de Sac. And for good reason. It is a truly original and inspirational strip. I think most everyone here who has taken time to read it can see that. Yet in Ohio, the only paper I have access to that carries it is the Pittsburgh paper. yet I can open any paper and read Peanuts or Blondie. That is baffling and the crux of the newspaper’s failings. Catering to old audiences while ignoring the audience they will need in the future

— The harsh truth is this. Newspapers have missed out on my generation, the twenty-somethings. They never tried to reach us and we have no history with them. So many people who fight for Blondie do so because they say it is a comfort, it is something they have always read. Very few under the age of 35 have that attachment to newspapers. If they want to bring some of us back, and more importantly not miss out on the next generation they need to realize that at some point they are going to have to bite the bullet and create content for us. Those of us that read webcomics don’t do so because they are simply online and we think newspapers are dumb, we do so because that is where creators are producing work that speaks to us. The artwork is less compromised and large enough for the art to sing, so to speak, and the content is not watered-down, for better or for worse. People who go off about legacy strips are not disrespecting the classics, in my opinion, they are just frustrated that their generation isn’t being given a chance because 1800 retirees respond to a newspaper poll.

#126 Ted Dawson
March/4/2010
@ 7:11 am

Harvard University says the online share of newspaper readership is only 3%. Online revenue is less than 10 percent of print revenue.

http://www.niemanlab.org/2009/04/print-is-still-king-only-3-percent-of-newspaper-reading-actually-happens-online/

Jim, I appreciate your input about how print newspapers are irrelevant to your generation, but it’s anecdotal. Yes, you’re the Online Generation, but over two-thirds of folks aged 18-34, (30 million people) read a daily newspaper at least once a week.

http://www.naa.org/advertiser/whynewspapers.html

All I’m saying is the reported demise of print newspapers is premature. Newspapers are holding their own, in spite of their efforts to sabotage themselves through corporate ownership and an attempted online transition.

Comic strip cartoonists are not limited to just drawing their usual comic strip each day. The last thing I’m suggesting is that cartoonists can save the industry by drawing really good comic strips through Business as Usual.

When the comic book industry appeared to be in its death throes, something happened. Cartoonists acted. Comic strip cartoonists need to go into action as well. Cartoonists are the only ones who can positively affect their field.

The most innovative thing I’ve seen a cartoonist do in the past several years is Tom Gammill’s “How to Draw” videos. Why don’t we see newspaper comic strips going into comic book or graphic novel format? Why don’t cartoonists make a beefcake/cheesecake calendar? What happened to the April Fools Day strips? Why doesn’t Richard Thompson go on Oprah?

Television didn’t replace newspapers or radio. Cable did not eliminate network TV. VCRs didn’t stop people from going to the movies. The only thing that can weaken or eliminate a media form is government action; JOAs have had only one result: elimination of newspapers. Taking away the airwaves may result in the disappearance of free TV and radio.

I’ve got plenty of problems with the newspaper industry. Newspapers suck in many ways. But I don’t believe the survival of newspaper comic strips is dependent on the iGeneration, nor the old farts who apparently are the only ones still reading stone tablets. Cartoonists need a Hail Mary. That takes teamwork, initiative and the willingness to take risks.

Taking print comics off the Internet would be a great start.

#127 Ted Rall
March/4/2010
@ 7:16 am

@Jim Thomas: Newspaper editorial neglect of younger readers didn’t begin recently. I am 46 years old. When I was 18, I was hard-pressed to find comics I could relate to, reviews of bands whose records I bought, or coverage of news stories I cared about in daily newspapers. Truth be told, youth culture has been ignored for the last three or four decades at least. I mean, why on earth does the New York Times give extensive coverage to classical music, which is a largely irrelevant niche? Hell, why does the Village Voice cover dance, which 0.01% of the population cares about?

While the Web has accelerated the move of younger readers away from print, the truth is that aging (now Boomer) editors have pushed younger readers away for ages. Now even a lot of middle-aged people don’t think the newspaper is relevant.

That said, as crappy as print newspapers are, they still (a) represent a far better intellectual return on time spent reading than Internet news roundups, and (b) cartoonists’ primary means of earning an income.

@Donna: If I’ve emphasized alts, it’s because there are basically no alt comics or editorial cartoons whatsoever in daily papers. No altie political cartoonist has ever been hired on staff. Ever. Only two–Tom Tomorrow and I–have ever won a major prize, and only one–me–has ever been shortlisted for a Pulitzer. This work–I’m talking about scores of cartoonists, not just me and Tom Tomorrow–is important, and deserves better. More importantly, readers want to read it.

But that doesn’t mean a newspaper I would edit would be composed exclusively of altie stuff. There is a lot of mainstream comics and editorial cartoons, not to mention webcomics that should be in print, that I would publish. In my view, the ideal newspaper comprises a diverse body of material that brings in readers from every demographic who care very intensely about several items in the paper.

A good editor doesn’t run what he or she likes. A good editor runs what his or her readers would want. I’ve tried to be a god editor; for instance, there are cartoonists in books I’ve edited whose work I don’t care for. But it’s not about me. It’s about who should be in the book.

It’s like running a TV network. You don’t want lots of boring middle-of-the-road pabulum that gets middling ratings. You want a mix of shows, each of which has rabid fans.

#128 INDenverTimes
March/4/2010
@ 7:17 am

When the beloved Rocky Mountain News departed last year, many staffers became involved with INDenverTimes.com, a web only news start-up.

We were especially privileged to have the Rocky’s two nationally recognized cartoonists, Drew Litton and Ed Stein, join us as contributors.

We have proudly and prominently carried their work since day one.

Additionally, and in spite of the limited budget of a start-up, we committed to carry as many comic strips as possible. That number currently stands at 39.

While we wish it were a larger and more comprehensive list, we are committed to continuing to carry the work of these fine cartoonists.

As we continue to grow, we hope to add as many more as possible.

Long live the daily cartoonists!

#129 Jeff Stanson
March/4/2010
@ 7:51 am

Quote Jim: “Newspapers have missed out on my generation, the twenty-somethings. They never tried to reach us and we have no history with them.”

The Ganett newspaper where I live has tried for years to reach a younger audience and it has been one big FAIL after another. It’s not the paper’s fault, or the content or comics they carry, it’s the generation’s attitude/preference toward new media vs. old media. Heck, I’m 50, and I prefer to get my news on the Web. I read comics on the Web. Many of them are what you would call legacy comics ? I come to the Web for them because my paper dropped them long ago. But I also read some of the better of the newer comics as well.

Quote Jim: “So many people who fight for Blondie do so because they say it is a comfort, it is something they have always read.”

And why shouldn’t they be able to continue to read it? This is the audience that’s buying subscriptions. Comics were added to newspapers for their entertainment value, and most newspapers have forgotten how to entertain as well as inform.

Quote Jim: “If they want to bring some of us back, and more importantly not miss out on the next generation…”

Too late. They’re dead, Jim.

Quote Jim: “Those of us that read webcomics don?t do so because they are simply online and we think newspapers are dumb, we do so because…”

…they feature content that wouldn’t be allowed in a family publication.

Quote Jim: “The artwork is less compromised and large enough for the art to sing, so to speak, and the content is not watered-down, for better or for worse.”

Well, yes, this is what those of us who read legacy strips have been telling newspapers for years! This isn’t something that’s happened just last month, this has been going on for a few decades now. The papers constantly shrink space for strips and the size of strips. Frustrated creators are forced to continually simplify art and story as a result. This didn’t just happen in time for 20-somethings to read papers.

Quote Jim: “People who go off about legacy strips are not disrespecting the classics, in my opinion, they are just frustrated that their generation isn?t being given a chance because 1800 retirees respond to a newspaper poll.”

Good grief, Jim, are you saying the mere presence of Blondie and Peanuts on a comics page is such a turn-off that it keeps the 10 comics on the page that are new from being read as well? A newspaper should offer something for all of their readers and you seem to want a comic page that addresses only the 20-somethings?

#130 Jeff Stanson
March/4/2010
@ 8:03 am

Ted Rall and InDenverTimes, it seems to me you are confusing arguments addressing editorial cartoons and entertainment comics. Sure, there are some strips that blur the lines, but the editorial cartoons and entertainment comics were created to be two distinct features of a paper. And they’re two separate discussions.

@Ted Rall: This phrase from your post most previous to this one actually explains a lot:

“I?ve tried to be a god editor…”

#131 Ted Rall
March/4/2010
@ 8:50 am

@Jeff: “The Ganett newspaper where I live has tried for years to reach a younger audience and it has been one big FAIL after another. It?s not the paper?s fault, or the content or comics they carry, it?s the generation?s attitude/preference toward new media vs. old media.”

No. It’s also the content.

Many dailies tried to reach out to Gen X and then Gen Y. But they did it lamely. No follow-through. Or with ghetto sections that talked down to them. No daily newspaper has actively pursued younger readers over a significant period of time, hiring the writers, editors and artists that might have worked. Not ever.

#132 Tony Kinnard
March/4/2010
@ 9:03 am

Further proof as to why I don’t take print seriously anymore: they drop some relatively new strips that are trying to develop an audience (Dog Eat Doug, Lio, Brewster Rocket), yet keep comics that have lost their appeal a long time ago and are just running on autopilot (Blondie, Garfield, Zits) or have been in reruns for over ten years (Classic Peanuts; seriously, go buy the books if you want to see the adventures of the old Peanuts gang).

Denver Post, say goodbye to some of your subscribers.

#133 Stephen Beals
March/4/2010
@ 9:38 am

Oh God, I had to create ads for one of Ganett’s alt-newspaper imitations. “Check out this SWEET deal!”

Yeah, they reached out to the younger generation with zero insight. The articles read like grandpa was telling you what local clubs had reasonable parking.

#134 Jeff Stanson
March/4/2010
@ 11:16 am

Quote Ted Rall: “No daily newspaper has actively pursued younger readers over a significant period of time, hiring the writers, editors and artists that might have worked. Not ever.”

Totally disagree. In the case of the local paper, comments from research indicated preference for new media formats and capabilities (eg. search engines and aggregators) for accessing news. They also revealed disdain for the newsprint format (already read the news on the Internet, unwieldy, too many sections to keep up with, don’t want classifieds or store inserts, have to find a way to dispose of it, kills trees, etc.). Most rated content high, and those who did not either lashed out against bias or didn’t care for news about bars and the club scene.

#135 Jim Thomas
March/4/2010
@ 11:24 am

@ Jeff
“Good grief, Jim, are you saying the mere presence of Blondie and Peanuts on a comics page is such a turn-off that it keeps the 10 comics on the page that are new from being read as well? A newspaper should offer something for all of their readers and you seem to want a comic page that addresses only the 20-somethings?”

No. I love Peanuts. I love my hardcover reprints of it. I own the first twenty years of it on my bookshelf. I respect the legacy strips. I collect them. And I do believe a comics page SHOULD offer strips for everyone. As it is now, it has very few relevant strips for tweny somethings or teenagers, or younger. And the strips that are geared toward us are the first to get dropped because they are the newest and therefore, most unfamiliar to the older readers and for them to get space in a paper they have to push out a Blondie. My point was not that legacy strips turn me off, it is that they take up the space that could be used for fresher perspectives. NBC doesn’t air Friends in repeat during the same prime time spot as it did when it was new, why do newspapers do that for Peanuts? I actually think the age that newspapers should be targeting are the tweens and younger. They need to develop the habit of newspaper reading. Where are the manga-inspired strips? Hell, run a comic from a popular saturday morning cartoon, whatever it takes to get kids interested again. Why aren’t syndicates seeking out talent to reach this market, not just waiting on submissions? I am not against legacy strips, in many cases I buy their reprints. I am suggesting the place for them might be online. clicking through 50+ years of content would bring the syndicates a pretty chunk of change in ad revenue, especially on a strip like Pogo, where no new complete collections have come out in years. And then when the collections do come out, you would probably sell more copies because they have been exposed and loved online.

@Jeff again…
“Well, yes, this is what those of us who read legacy strips have been telling newspapers for years! This isn?t something that?s happened just last month, this has been going on for a few decades now. The papers constantly shrink space for strips and the size of strips. Frustrated creators are forced to continually simplify art and story as a result. This didn?t just happen in time for 20-somethings to read papers.”

I was not suggesting this is something new, I was suggesting that for all of my comic reading life this has been the case (about twenty years). And I was suggesting that creators my age and ten years older are finding ways around this by avoiding newspaper syndication altogether.

@ Ted
I realize newspapers are behind on reaching out to new generations, I suppose my point was that my generation is the first to grow up with the internet as alternative for most of their lives. The newspaper wasn’t geared towards my dad but he had no other choice until he was in his forties.

— An important detail to remember was that as far back as the 1900s during the great newspaper fights comics were used as a selling feature. It was competitive. Comics were important business. Now with so many towns and cities with just a single paper their is no need to compete for readers at the newsstand, and therefore no need to prioritize space for comics and no foot hole for cartoonists and syndicates to demand better rates.

#136 Ted Rall
March/4/2010
@ 12:10 pm

@Jeff: “Totally disagree. In the case of the local paper, comments from research indicated preference for new media formats and capabilities”

Let me clarify:

This is no doubt true about young people TODAY. But previous generations of young people, now older like me, began the trend of declining circulation. And this was before the Internet came along. The downturn in newspaper circulation began decades ago, driven largely by the refusal of editors to publish content that would attract (then) younger readers.

#137 Jim Thomas
March/4/2010
@ 12:10 pm

I mean, if syndicates were REALLY trying to create content for young readers invest the money in a Twilight Comic, There is a manga and I think an American comic on the way. Hell, spend the money to get Harry Potter. What newspaper editor would turn down having a Harry Potter strip? All of these young adult movies coming out, Percy Jackson or whatever. How about a Diary of the Wimpy Kid daily comic? Shrek? These are all properties that syndicates could go after. I remember the Ninja Turtles comic, the Rugrats, Disney had comics, get an artist on the spider-man comic that draws in a style not trapped in the sixties… Find new talent to draw and write the strips in styles that attract young readers… Will these strips be long enduring? Probably not, but they will bring in readers and create an audience for newspaper strips in the future. Maybe a kid picks up the paper to read Shrek and he finds Cul de Sac or Zits or any of the great stuff that is out there.

Newspaper editors could leave the current comics page untouched and add one page of young adult focused strips that are only available in newspapers and advertise the hell out of it…syndicates could send free samples to schools, air commercials during saturday morning cartoons and cartoon network and mtv. You know, try. Try a viral marketing campaign online. sell branded scrap books so they can clip the strips out of the paper. Is it a risk, absolutely.

#138 Ted Rall
March/4/2010
@ 12:35 pm

Good ideas, Jim.

Reminds me of when I tried to get my fellow execs interested in a WWE comic…

#139 Garey Mckee
March/4/2010
@ 12:53 pm

The only thing more outdated than the mode inwhich newspapers operate, is the usual suspects exhaustive banter in this topic thread.

#140 Steve Skelton
March/4/2010
@ 1:12 pm

Me thinks that comic strips that attempt to cash in on popular culture are the low point of any culture. In fact, at that point you could argue that it isn’t even culture anymore, because it is insincere and unoriginal.

Imagine a world where Charlie Parker played weddings and Walt Witman wrote jingles for Alka Seltzer, as they were “cashing in”.

#141 Jim Thomas
March/4/2010
@ 1:47 pm

@ Steve Skelton
Comic strips ARE pop culture. There is nothing more pop culture than Snoopy. Tapping into what people find interesting is a good first step into creating original content that does the same thing. The world has Felix the Cat because of Krazy Kat. We have Garfield because we had Heathcliff. All those one panel comics that seem to close to The Far Side… Where do you draw the line on uninspired and unoriginal? Hogan’s Alley and the Yellow Kid were the same strip run for different papers… A Harry Potter strip with the right writer and artist could create as original content as the guy who made a strip after reading too many Calvin and Hobbes…No wait, but what if the tiger was a real dog, that would be different…

The comics exist today because they started as a selling tool. They were a commodity. Artists came and went in the early days. Sure it is Will Eisner’s the Spirit, and Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster’s Superman, but much of that work is ghost drawn and written. Now we look back on the art and see that some was more inspired than others. Some live on and most are lost to time. That is OK. we are not talking about perpetuating comics as ART, there are other venues for that. We are talking about keeping a outlet for cartoonists to work open. Even if it isn’t their opus it is a way to inspire new readers. The Long Tail doesn’t work if there are no hits. Calvin and Hobbes was the last strip to capture the attention of America and that 15 years ago. If it takes Harry Potter to get kids reading the comics then so be it. I can accept that.

#142 Steve Skelton
March/4/2010
@ 2:02 pm

There’s a big difference between becoming pop culture and cashing in on existing pop culture.

What you are doing is making a business of art.

Completely common in today’s world where it seems there isn’t an original idea left. Currently, Hollywood is remaking Arthur, Romancing The Stone, Back To School, The Karate Kid, Short Circuit, The Birds, and Rosemary’s Baby. With all due respect, your world bores me, Jim.

#143 Jim Thomas
March/4/2010
@ 2:12 pm

@ Steve
But milking Peanuts, Blondie, Marmaduke of every drop of life that they have left…that excites you?

#144 Jim Thomas
March/4/2010
@ 2:20 pm

What would draw a thirteen year old to the comic page, reading about a character they know, like harry potter or Diary of a Wimpy Kid, or wondering if Bumstead will make another big sandwich…it’s funny ’cause its so big! That will keep comics alive….

I am not saying to only bring in already hit properties. I am suggesting by doing that it will revitalize interest, thus encouraging editors to try new strips, and eventually regain some space. It will give young artists a chance to be in papers encouraging interest on their end as well. As an artist, working on Harry Potter strip is no different that drawing Batman for DC. I am not talking about remaking Short Circuit here…and if Harry Potter doesn’t interest you, that might be a good thing. We are trying to reach your kids.

#145 Grant Halis
March/4/2010
@ 2:31 pm

I’m actually genuinely surprised that a daily paper has not put a manga strip in their comic section. Seriously surprised.

#146 Jim Thomas
March/4/2010
@ 2:37 pm

And one last thing, making a business of art? I am not the one who did that, since the dark ages art has been a business. Do you think the sistine chapel exists because Michaelangelo just felt the urge to paint a ceiling? Comics did not set out to be art. In hindsight we see what it is capable of, but not necessarily required to be. I am not saying that comic strips are not art quite the opposite, but we cannot and should not expect them all to be High art. any time a pen hits paper whether to write words or pictures it is an act of creativity. But comics are entertainment, first. That is their function. If a strip or an artist is able to do more we should celebrate that. If it makes us laugh or think for even a moment it has done its job.

Writing and drawing original strips for an already existing property is no different than what legacy strips are. What I am saying is that those properties while much beloved by older generations do not speak to younger readers. And creating new content for them is what will save comics in papers. Editors aren’t concerned with comics as art, if they were cul de sac would be in every paper. They want comics that sell papers. A Harry Potter strip could still be art. the writing is original, the drawings original. why can’t art come from that?

#147 Anne Hambrock
March/4/2010
@ 2:47 pm

It’s not as though there haven’t been any strips since the 50’s that capture the fancy of the 10-30 year old age group – Bloom County, Calvin and Hobbes, Far Side, Fox Trot, Pearls Before Swine to name a few, have all debuted since my childhood and been incredibly successful to boot.

If Bill Amend hadn’t pulled the plug on Foxtrot, I’m sure it would still be in 2000 papers. Every Foxtrot collection we own is in tatters. Why? Because my kids have read them over and over and over again. Likewise our Far Side books. They also read the comics page in the paper every day. This is because we the parents are subscribing to the paper and it’s around.

The way I see it, the parents of those young people stopped reading the newspapers for reasons other than the comics and then the younger crowd found their comics in other places instead. Like Barnes and Noble and now the web. Consumption of news and entertainment are not down – it’s up. It’s the delivery system that’s changed and the money hasn’t changed with it.

#148 Anne Hambrock
March/4/2010
@ 2:49 pm

Short version of above comment. Kids don’t buy newspapers. Grownups buy newspapers and then kids read them. No 30-50 year olds – no kids.

#149 Jim Thomas
March/4/2010
@ 2:56 pm

@ Anne
And of all of the comics you named, one still shows up in papers today, Pearls. (and Foxtrot on Sunday)

#150 Anton Walters
March/4/2010
@ 3:07 pm

Dropping Cul de Sac is like saying “I’m sorry Mr Schulz, but the survey shows that people find that round-headed loser character of yours depressing. Please take your work elsewhere.”

#151 Anne Hambrock
March/4/2010
@ 3:08 pm

@Jim,

Yes but other strips I did not mention are on the rise and selling books. Both Zits and Pooch Cafe spring to mind.

Paul Gilligan had a recent post on his blog addressing the situation at the Post and the comments he received are telling. His fan base is loyal and willing to pay – not only for merchandise – but for content as well.

My comment above was not aimed specifically at the current situation at the Post but rather the claims on this thread that there have not been any comics in the last 30 years that are attractive to young people. I agree with Ted that the problem of declining readership goes back to OUR generation, not the current one.

#152 Steve Skelton
March/4/2010
@ 3:11 pm

Jim,

Good comments.

“What would draw a thirteen year old to the comic page, reading about a character they know, like harry potter or Diary of a Wimpy Kid, or wondering if Bumstead will make another big sandwich”

Geeze, what is wrong with a new strip with a new story that captivates? The two extremes you listed are what makes modern pop culture so repetitive and homogenized. There are original strips out there that appeal to people of all ages because they are good without being a remake or a property cash cow.

And don’t get me started on art as a business. I have been a professional artist for 30 years. I live it, man.

#153 Jeff Stanson
March/4/2010
@ 3:18 pm

Why isn’t there a manga-inspired comic strip? Don’t you people keep up? Universal Press Syndicate distributed a strip from TOKYOPOP starting back in 2005. Several papers bought it. It attracted very little interest from readers and died. Nothing like trying to shoehorn new media into old media. Just doesn’t work.

And as far as bringing in other staples of current pop culture to the comics page. It’s been tried over and over again in the last few decades, with everything from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Batman to Rugrats to Peach Fuzz and… FAIL!

Kids like to do what other kids are doing and talking about. Comic strips as found in ink-on-paper newspapers just aren’t social currency in a world of video games and youtube.

#154 Anton Walters
March/4/2010
@ 3:23 pm

This may be a bit off-topic, but does trotting out established character traits constitute a joke in and of itself?

Is it funny when Dagwood crashes into the mailman *because* we know that’s what he does? (Is it funny at all.)

This is most apparent in legacy (zombie) strips, but I’ll bet not-so-old strips indulge in this. It’s why I stopped reading Safe Havens.

There are people out there doing fantastic work. Reader surveys just make democracy look shoddy.

#155 Ted Rall
March/4/2010
@ 3:34 pm

Boondocks was Manga-influenced.

#156 Derf Backderf
March/4/2010
@ 3:35 pm

@Ted. If I?ve emphasized alts, it?s because there are basically no alt comics or editorial cartoons whatsoever in daily papers. No altie political cartoonist has ever been hired on staff. Ever. Only two?Tom Tomorrow and I?have ever won a major prize, and only one?me?has ever been shortlisted for a Pulitzer. This work?I?m talking about scores of cartoonists, not just me and Tom Tomorrow?is important, and deserves better. More importantly, readers want to read it.

Uh, Excuse me, Ted. But I won an RFK, too! Just bragging. Otherwise I agree with everything you say here.

#157 Ted Rall
March/4/2010
@ 3:56 pm

Oops! And you won quite rightly, too, derf.

#158 Tom Wood
March/4/2010
@ 4:28 pm

Boondocks… See, there’s a template that could work. Old guy gets saddled with young Manga styled relatives from Japan. It has old people, young people, and Manga! Throw in a talking pet and all the bases are covered. And maybe a zombie…

#159 Donna Barstow
March/4/2010
@ 5:17 pm

@Jeff, so….are you saying reading headlines is being educated? Yeah, I know the triangle principle. But you can’t fit many facts in an 8 word headline.And I’m glad you’re not an editorial cartoonist, because then it would be crap.

@Jim Thomas, it’s sad to see ageism in such a cool young guy. They polled 18,000, not 1800, and not all paper readers are retirees. But #137 good ideas.

And what is this idea several commenters brought up about rewriting the NEWS for 20-somethings?? When did 20 somethings become so entitled? Which stories in the paper need to be rewritten so you can “understand” them?

And unless you spend as much time reading actual news online as you would a paper, don’t talk to me at a party and bore me. Have you ever noticed that the same people who say they don’t read a paper anymore also say they don’t go to the library or read a book? Case closed.

An important point no one has brought up – nor is it elsewhere on DC, but I may have missed it – is WHY the paper did add one new feature? Justin, by Steve Kelley & Jeff Parker, 2 oped cartoonists. I’ve been discussing this in private w/another very well known cartoonist – very suspicious, and a good reporter might want to look into this…

#160 Jeff Stanson
March/4/2010
@ 5:34 pm

@Donna: I said reading headlines is being educated? Uh… no, I didn’t. I said it is sometimes all people need/want to know. I don’t consider reading a newspaper getting educated. I do, however, consider a completed J-school master’s degree might make one educated.

As for my ever being an editorial cartoonist: I’d consider my own freehand art to be pretty much what you describe. But it would probably qualify me to create a Web comic.

#161 Terry Rowe
March/4/2010
@ 7:01 pm

Most editors are self-absorbed idiots. They think they know their readers, if they did, why are so many readers cancelling their subscriptions? A majority of editors are ignorant when it comes to comics. They like to play it safe so they don’t upset Grandma and Grandpa…..sickening. If Calvin & Hobbs were launced today, it would be a flop. The current editors are gutless.

#162 Ted Rall
March/4/2010
@ 7:15 pm

@Jeff:
I suspect Donna meant “informed” when she said “educated.”

If so, she’s probably right. I’ve never known anyone who got their news exclusively online to be well-informed.

It’s not that the information available isn’t as good. To the contrary, it’s infinitely broader and more extensive. It’s that people skim online rather than read, and that people don’t read things online unless they’re predisposed to finding them interesting–which limits their acquisition of new subjects.

#163 John Read
March/4/2010
@ 8:53 pm

Donna (#159), surely you’re not suggesting that there’s some conspiracy at work behind the success of Steve and Jeff’s new strip, “Dustin” (not “Justin”)? That the fact that they’re both editoonists has been the determining factor for the comics editors of over 100 newspapers? Surely you jest.

#164 Jim Thomas
March/4/2010
@ 9:31 pm

@ Donna
It isn’t ageism, not at all. I love my parents, grandparents etc. Older people are awesome! :) And I love the classic strips. Today’s cartoonists can learn a lot from the originals. And a lot of the older stuff still holds up today. I attend anything that the OSU cartoon library does because it is fascinating stuff.

But there is a whole group of soon-to-be teenagers that were not alive when Calvin and Hobbes was in the paper. They never read Far Side, Bloom County etc. Most of us on this site look at the comics page as comics fans, as people who know the history of comics and have nostalgia for the legacy strips. But most people that read the newspaper are casual readers of the comics. And the sad truth is that just like music, comics tastes age with their readers. my grand parents had Hank Williams, my parents had Bob Dylan, my older brother had Nirvana, my generation has its music and the younger kids have the Jonas Bros and Miley Cyrus. The comics page is trying to get tweens to read Hank Williams, so to speak. The cartoonists of my generation have been asked to go elsewhere to create their work because there is no space in the newspaper, so for the most part the comics fans my age went with them and will continue to go with them. It has nothing to do with ageism, but if the comics page is to continue it needs content that interests its potential future readers.

#165 Eddie Pittman
March/4/2010
@ 10:16 pm

ssshhhhhhhh! Can you guys keep it down? We’re trying to talk in the “Jim Davis planning Garfield musical” thread and can’t hear a thing!

#166 John Read
March/4/2010
@ 11:27 pm

Sure, go ahead and laugh, Eddie. “Garfield: The Musical” might be the next “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

#167 Donna Barstow
March/5/2010
@ 12:32 am

Is it true that putting someone on the defensive by making up one’s own interpretation, instead of asking a direct question, could be construed as passive-aggressive? I just don’t know!

But let me try to answer you anyway, John, even if I have to repeat myself. I think it’s very strange and suspicious that on a day when 21 comics are fired, one is picked up. EXTREMELY strange. Perhaps even suspect.

I liked the one example I saw, but I don’t know what your 100 papers figure means, and no, I wouldn’t call a strip popular when it’s been in papers for exactly one day. Nor was my comment ABOUT the quality of the strip, it’s the sudden appearance of it in a year when newspapers everywhere are firing, cutting back, losing 2 inches (LA Times this month), and have frozen budgets.

I’m very interested in mysteries!

#168 Stephen Beals
March/5/2010
@ 1:12 am

Real-life mysteries can have very stupid answers, especially when human beings are involved.

#169 Richard Cross
March/5/2010
@ 7:41 am

The Funny Pages are always the first section I go to before I read anything else, especially if the cover story is abnormally depressing or just plain boring. Blah, blah, blah…SSDD.

When will these idiotic Editors learn that with all the negative news stories in a paper, they HAVE to have something to make us chuckle? Something to lighten the load of reality a little?

It seems that just like in Politics, the idiots are in charge.

#170 Ted Rall
March/5/2010
@ 8:06 am

@Donna:

There’s no mystery about “Dustin.” When I was at United, I strongly advised my boss to sign Mssrs. Kelley and Parker forthwith. It was toward the end of my tenure at United–if you’ve ever lost a job, you know how the last few months are one “no” after another?–and this was just another no.

It was very clear to anyone with eyes that features editors would respond favorably to it. I bet its initial sales will stick. King was smart to sign it.

#171 Bob Weber Jr.
March/5/2010
@ 8:12 am

@Donna
John’s 100 paper figure means that 100 newspapers have signed on to publish Dustin. That is actually a pretty remarkable launch list in these days.

#172 Stephanie McMillan
March/5/2010
@ 8:31 am

A big reason editors don’t take chances now isn’t because they’re stupid or don’t know what readers might like. It’s because if they do anything different, and readership continues to decline (which they know is going to happen in the short term no matter what), then the executives above them, who are eager to assign blame to anything but their own financial mismanagement, will be quick to blame them for not saving the paper and hastening it’s demise. This will be then used as an excuse to fire them and either function with one less staff person, or hire someone cheaper (giving themselves an opportunity to pat themselves on the back for cutting costs).

At the same time editors are charged with saving newspapers that have been destroyed by larger economic forces (not just the internet and the depression, but also being publicly traded and forced to increase quarterly profits at the expense of long-term health has been a catastrophe), they’re told that their page counts and freelance budgets are being cut, and by the way eliminate 2/3 of your staff while you’re at it.

Editors are being squeezed and it’s a miracle that they can even put out anything that still resembles a newspaper. They’re paralyzed.

I saw this dynamic in action at the Tribune-owned paper from which I was laid off two years ago, and clear signs of it elsewhere.

#173 Ted Rall
March/5/2010
@ 8:42 am

@Donna et al:

OK, so there *is* something fishy about Dustin’s success in this lousy economy. After I posted the above, a well-placed source set me straight on some, shall we say, unorthodox marketing strategies being employed to get Dustin into papers.

Which is, by the way, no comment on the talents of my friends Steve Kelley or Jef Parker, but on those responsible for selling the strip.

Icky.

(But it isn’t for me to comment further.)

#174 Ted Rall
March/5/2010
@ 8:43 am

God, I miss Dave Astor.

Syndication needs a journalist to cover it again.

#175 Stephanie McMillan
March/5/2010
@ 8:43 am

Also, with so many huge, devastating losses to newspapers — huge numbers of reporters, designers, photographers and other staff, international bureaus, office space, page count, and every other kind of resource — I think can’t imagine editors worrying a great deal about what runs on the comics page. They don’t have a lot of time to think about that. Most of them are going to do whatever’s worked in the past, whatever they won’t get in trouble for and won’t cause more headaches. Assuming they’re going to care a lot about comics is like expecting the driver of a runaway train to fret that they’re out of hot dogs in the snack car. Perhaps they’ll care a little bit, but it’s not going to be at the forefront of their concerns.

#176 Stephen Beals
March/5/2010
@ 8:50 am

That was a brilliant way of putting it, Stephanie.

#177 Donna Barstow
March/5/2010
@ 5:52 pm

I would assume that when I post something about a cartoon that is brand new, that I have seen exactly one strip of, and already commented that I liked, wouldn’t have to be defended in a professional venue.

But I will, anyway: I admire Steve Kelley so much that I bought his (out of print) book while considering whether I wanted to try editorial cartooning. I had never bought a book by an editorial cartoonist before. And I like Parker’s style, too.

But marketing is my thing, and the figures are obese. I see that the launch has jumped from 60 to 100 papers now. Curiouser and curiouser. I’m surprised you didn’t agree with me right off, Ted, but I’m glad you looked at the situation more closely.

Yes, David Astor was a hard worker, candid, honest and warm. I probably only talked with him once a year, but he was also hopeful, an excellent thing in editors.

#178 pattyleidy
March/5/2010
@ 6:29 pm

Donna,
it was a fix, we all know it….
sigh I’m not doubting for a second a deal wasn’t made with a certain syndicate………huh?
did I just say that?

#179 A Jonathan Cox
March/5/2010
@ 7:03 pm

Sometimes there is comfort knowing that, no matter what happens, there are hotdogs in the snack car.

#180 Steve Skelton
March/5/2010
@ 8:16 pm

and “we’re shackled to the millstones of our dreams.”

-Jim White, from the fabulous song “Handcuffed to a Fence in Mississippi”

#181 Thom Hanes
March/9/2010
@ 12:50 pm

I will run right out and buy the products of the co. that replaced the comics that I read. YEA RIGHT……….YOU BET………WHAT DID YOU SAY?

#182 Jeff Wells
March/10/2010
@ 7:47 pm

Please post Pajama Diaries comic strip again. Love this strip.

#183 Vicky Covi
April/21/2010
@ 9:50 am

Please, please, PLEASE bring back Pajama Diaries! I’m sure I’m NOT the only one missing it! Thanks!

#184 Terry LaBan
April/22/2010
@ 9:03 am

Regarding “Dustin”, I don’t know about any conspiracies to sell it, though it certainly wouldn’t surprise me. But I’ve been reading it for a couple of months now and it certainly proves the point that to have a successful strip these days you have to target it to older readers. Though Dustin is ostensibly about a young person, it’s written from the point of view of a late middle-aged white guy. The jokes are all about how lazy the kid is and how much the wife spends on shoes, even though she supposedly has a good job and should have plenty of money of her own. There’s a heavy, conservative, 50s feel about the whole enterprise. Heck, the wife even looks like Dennis the Menace’s mom!
It’s quite true that kids love comics and devour strip collections–Calvin and Hobbes is a favorite among kids I know and it ended 15 years ago. But it seems they abandon print around the age of 12 and never go back. I haven’t met a 25 year old in years who admits to reading newspapers–and I doubt many will be picking them up to read Dustin.

#185 Terry LaBan
April/22/2010
@ 9:19 am

By the way, when I say that Dustin is written from the point of view of a late middle-aged white guy, I’m referring not to the strip’s creator(s) but to the dad, who, despite the title, is clearly the main character.

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November/17/2011
@ 4:15 pm

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