Interviewed: Stephan Pastis on ‘legacy’ strips

Pearls Before Swine creator Stephan Pastis was interviewed by the Duluth News Tribune who picked up his strip along with Blondie (see my post on Dean Young and Blondie). The interviewer takes Stephan into a line of questioning about the passing a comic strip on to a younger generation to produce. It’s a strongly worded exchange.

Here’s a peak:

DNT: There have been successes. If there hadn’t been a Ernie Bushmiller (“Nancy”), there’d be no Jerry Scott, who took over “Nancy.” Once he got in the door, he went on to do his own strips (“Zits,” “Baby Blues.”)

SP: For every Jerry Scott, there are 50 grandsons who suck at it.

33 thoughts on “Interviewed: Stephan Pastis on ‘legacy’ strips

  1. Legacy strips are strange. On one hand, I get the point of the papers and the syndicates. Those strips make money. And the reason they do is the readers like them.

    On the other hand, many haven’t been funny in decades and readers like them out of comfort (I guess). Hence, new readers aren’t likely to start reading comics with the fervor most people who read this site did, and because of that I feel like I’m watching a true American art form, and one I grew up loving, die from lack of innovation.

  2. @Joe If you’re comparing TV reruns to comics reruns, it’s not the same. There’s plenty of time and space on hundreds of channels for reruns on TV.

    Newspaper comics sections are shrinking.

    The comparison would be if NBC was still airing reruns of Seinfeld in primetime instead of the Office.

  3. The comic pages are concise with a unique foundation and identity. The Internet’s saturated with ‘hip’ strips which dilute the medium. There’s nothing to be gained by replacing a few proven standards for more panels de jour, Seinfeld or Cheers reruns on NBC primetime win hands down! *SIGH*

  4. Terms like ‘Millennials’ are dehumanizing and stilt the perspective of persons who think in those terms.

    Mr. Pastis is no better in his rhetoric. I’m pretty certain he can’t name fifty (cartoonist’s) grandsons who suck at it(or ever existed). Of course I recognize that its rhetorical, but it’s sloppy and self serving; and it doesn’t go well in supporting his thesis.

    And his Picasso bit is completely ludicrous.

  5. Cul De Sac deserved to be in over a thousand newspapers, but because it’s nearly impossible to remove any comic strip without a wave of angry letters and reruns of Peanuts and For Better or For Worse are taking up space it didn’t happen.

  6. I’d don’t know where you are coming from Mark? You think my comments are more harsh than those I responded to?

    As one who writes on technical, scientific and philosophical subjects I have to be clear in my thought and expression. I know and have been mentored by many cartoonists, and I know that many of then think and express themselves as I do and much more ‘harshly.’

    Someone who is a published cartoonist and a role model for others should be held to a higher standard, not a lesser one. So when I read one talking thru his hat on this board I don’t hesitate to respond.

    Although Mr. Lester is commonly and frequently mistaken in his posts that I have read, I am indeed a character in Mary Worth. Bravo Mike!

  7. So I meant it to read:

    “Garsh, Mr. Rex Jr., you talk perttier than a 20 dollar whore!”

    See how one stinking letter can throw off a whole joke? Imagine what a bunch of half-talented relatives can do to the carefully crafted world of a single cartoonist, without even knowing it.

  8. For Better or For Worse isn’t in reruns, by the way. Lynn played around with framing sequences and reprints right after she wrapped up her first 20-something-year run, but ultimately decided to turn back the clock and tell new stories with de-aged versions of her characters. Kind of like a big DC Comics Crisis thing.

  9. You’re right! That must have happened pretty quietly, since this is the first I heard of it. Apparently it switched over to straight-up reruns in July 2010.

  10. I just listened to that interview read to me by my computer in the voice of Sangeeta, the Indian English voice.

    From now on, that’s the way I always want to hear Stephan.

    Now, back to your regularly-scheduled controversy.

    For the record, neither of my kids has any desire to draw a comic strip, much less mine.

  11. Not one of my three children has interest in either of my comics, which is a good thing. They won’t pick up their towels after taking a shower, I can’t imagine them ruling panel borders and writing gags.

    It’s my unborn grand children that scare me. Are they going to look at me like, “when’s grandpa gonna kick so we can mail it in?”

  12. Adoption might be a better option than the possibility of untalented progeny. You should give up all rights of your creation to the syndicate and they can adopt an heir when you pass on. This has worked so well in the past, right?

  13. As I cruise through the subscription numbers on gocomics it becomes clear that many legacy strips have huge followings, not just in print, but on the web as well. (I can’t do the same with king features properties because daily ink and comics kingdom don’t publish subscriber numbers.)

    I can also read as many reruns of peanuts, bloom county, Calvin and Hobbes etc as I want on go comics. Reruns on the web don’t bother me. In my local paper they do.

    If online paid as well as print, we could send all the older strips strips there, syndicates could still earn the cash they need from them to support launching newer strips, and newer strips could gain a foothold in print.

    I want to see a world where both platforms generate the money comics deserve.

    Gettin pretty tired of waiting though……..

  14. The success of legacy strips should be taught in marketing classes. Look how many subscribers B.C. has on GoComics. Incredible. It’s the same reason you could create the perfect soft drink and never be of any concern to Coke and Pepsi.

  15. Why should strips like Blondie, B.C., Wizard of Id, and Family Circus continue to take slots on the comics’ pages because a relative can draw like the original creator? Seriously, it’s tragic that newspapers allow this kind of bait and switch to happen. It just shows how lazy editors are and is a prime example as to why newspapers are in a state of steep decline. Comfort does not equal excellence. If you can’t deal with the truth, then you may be the problem.

  16. Mark- if you use ‘accent’ marks with irregular spellings and colloquialisms they are usually ignored by auto-spell (or it may be set to do so).

    It is good to remember that a light and silly facade best supports more substance and message beneath. This is why new strips can’t knock Schulz, Hart, Parker and Keene of the funny page even after death. Their ‘formula’ was quality, but this is not the newspaper industry’s reason for decline, and any number of great new strips will never solve it’s woes.


    Will this work?:


  17. If a newspaper drops a comic strip, a bunch of subscribers write and say they’re cancelling their subscriptions. But they don’t have any direct feedback on who isn’t subscribing because they’re not carrying some other strip. The current subscriber base provides the only measurable feedback, which contributes to the staying power of legacy strips.
    Reruns, on the other hand, are unconscionable. Plenty of other newspaper content could go into reruns – the advice column, food and recipes, horoscopes, crosswords – but they don’t. There’s absolutely no reason why comics should be treated differently from other content.

  18. These days most editors stay on the path of least resistance because they are under seige. They’ve cut content from TV listings to stock pages to sports stats to local columnists. Pages of comcs have been the victim of the budget ax. These editors are tired and many don’t even read the comics’ page. In the past, any comics’ changes have triggered irate phone calls from the elderly when one of their favorites gets pulled. The editors let the elderly readers dictate comics’ line-ups for years. Finally, that is beginning to change because the size of that audience has declined and the willingness of editors to continue to pay inflated rates for the old legacy strips has stopped. When Blondie or Dennis the Menace costs fives times the amount for say Rhymes with Orange or Get Fuzzy, the economics’ of the newspaper industry won’t allow that discrepency to continue any longer. Money has emerged as the deciding factor in many cases.

  19. Now, more than ever, newspapers have to focus on keeping readers. Without the readers, all the wit and style in the world won’t keep the doors open. If the readers want Snoopy, give ’em Snoopy. But that won’t work forever.

    Electronic versions of the newspaper should be allowed a different set of strips to reflect, what I assume is, a younger set of eyeballs. I believe that paid journalism is staged for a comeback as publishers figure the details of out how to get paid. The ubiquity of hacks (arguably like myself) who have webcomics or newsblogs is becoming so much noise that it’s hard to sift out the gold. People will begin turning back to “reputable” sources for news they can count on without having to check snopes on every article. Then, hopefully, these new readers will run across the comics “section” be drawn into the comics “page” and become hooked.

    Maybe I’m just crazy. It’s has been said.

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