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The Brilliant Return of Edison Lee


Kenosha News editor Bob Heisse was stuck between a rock and a hard place.
On the one hand was Corporate orders to set the comics pages as ordered.
The other hand had upset local readers wanting their cartoonist back in the paper.

As regular readers of our comics page know, the Kenosha News recently changed its comics lineup, which is now a combined effort with the Racine Journal Times.

In Kenosha, we lost some favorites, including — in the cruelest cut — “Edison Lee,” which is created in downtown Kenosha, not far from our newspaper offices.

Despite going to bat for our hometown comic, which has been running in the Kenosha News since its November 2006 debut, Heisse said he was bound by the survey results showing reader favorites.

For a few days last week, “Edison Lee” was gone from our newspaper but, starting May 10, it was back.

Just in a slightly different spot.

above: editor Heisse’s Solomonic solution (hat tip to Paul Berge for Sunday May 12 image)

Instead of running on the comics page, “Edison Lee” now has a home on our puzzles page, nestled beneath the crossword each day.

Which makes Hambrock happy.


The paper celebrated the return of The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee with a John Hambrock interview.

John tells a bit about the current state of syndicated comics:

“The business goes up and down,” he said. “We were part of a package King Features put together a few years ago, and we picked up about 40 papers in one day. But then we lost the Houston Chronicle, which cut two pages of comics, and that was a big loss.”

When “Edison Lee” started out, successful strips ran in about a thousand newspapers; now, strips are lucky to hit the 100 newspaper mark.

“We’re doing better than average, and we hold out hope we can keep it going,” Hambrock said. “It’s a tough business, and no one has come up with a digital model that works yet.”

“We’re all keeping our fingers crossed that newspapers will still run comics,” he said. “The days of being in thousands of newspapers are probably over, as are the days of making a solid living just being in newspapers.

“Cartoonists love this work, but we have to branch out and find other ways to market it. The ‘Pearls Before Swine’ creator also writes children’s books, and I’m working on an ‘Edison Lee’ graphic novel series.”


John naturally talks about Edison Lee:

“Edison originally was based on my two sons, who are very inquisitive, but deep down he’s really me.”


In a sidebar John is recognized as a nominee in this weekend’s Reuben Awards comic strip division.

“It’s gratifying to be nominated,” he said Tuesday. “As a cartoonist, you work in a bubble and don’t know what anyone is thinking or saying about you. This is validation for your work.”

Though he said it is “an honor just to be nominated,” he added with a laugh, “But I already did that. I want to win this time!”


While another sidebar discusses newspaper editors and changing the comics pages.

We lost “Lio” — a truly clever, offbeat strip — for reruns?!?

Our editor has been fielding phone calls and emails from unhappy comics fans, and I feel your pain.

I miss my friends “Frazz,” “Foxtrot” and “Dustin.” How will I ever know if that slacker Dustin gets a job? (Spoiler alert: He never will!) I miss “Pooch Cafe” with that sassy dog Poncho. Also gone are “Funky Winkerbean,” “The Born Loser,” “Willy ‘n Ethel,” “Ziggy,” “Pluggers,” “Overboard” and the wonderfully different “F Minus.”

The Kenosha News Hambrock interview and sidebar articles.



Community Comments

#1 Darryl Heine
@ 2:26 pm

I notice Peanuts returned to the Kenosha News years after the final strip in 2000.

#2 Paul Berge
@ 7:24 am

Peanuts’ votes probably came largely from the Racine Journal Times readers, whose paper had been carrying the strip since the ’90’s. Plus perhaps a smattering of older Ktown News readers who missed it.

JT readers, sadly, had never heard of Edison Lee, and still haven’t.

#3 Darryl Heine
@ 7:16 pm

If you live in Kenosha or Racine, you can even get access to the Chicago Tribune in some locations (it still carries Peanuts in its comics), but Peanuts after it ended in 2000 no longer is in the Milwaukee Journal.

#4 Martha Fonrims
@ 8:53 am

For those of us just getting started, this is a pretty sobering read!

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