Tea Explains Comic Strips and the Coronavirus

Well, since Mike brought up Bakersfield

Bakersfield Californian Executive Editor Christine L. Peterson received a question about why the coronavirus pandemic is curiously missing from most of the current comic strips.

On another note — because it’s all about the comics — why are all but “Over the Hedge” void of coronavirus quarantine mention? “Pearls Before Swine” caught up this morning, but that’s about it. I realize strips are produced in advance (weeks? months?) but this seems like fertile territory for great storylines. It feels like we’ve been stuck indoors for years, so they must surely be able to catch up. “Pickles,” “Zits,” “Baby Blues,” “Take It From the Tinkersons,” “Real Life Adventures,” and even “Blondie,” seem to have missed a great opportunity.

Realize there’s not a thing you can do about that. Just curious.

Christine went to the top to get an answer.

I like your comics question — something different!

So I asked Tea Fougner, editorial director for comics at King Features, which provides several of our comics. (You can see which entity provides each comic strip if you read the really fine print on each comic.) Here’s what Tea kindly took the time to send …


King Features Syndicate has issued a correction for Blondie black and white and color for 4/9.
In the first panel, dialogue was changed to remove reference to golf’s Masters Tournament Week.
above: original and rejiggered opening panel of the April 9 Blondie


Tea’s response:

“While your paper does an amazing job of delivering daily news to you as quickly as possible, the comics you read are usually finished anywhere from five weeks to six months in advance, and printed up to a month in advance. This means that the comics you are seeing now were completed, and maybe even printed, before many people were adapting to a new world of social distancing and remote work and school.

“When states and counties first started adopting shelter-in-place orders, we invited our cartoonists to replace any comics that felt insensitive to them given new rules about gatherings or postponed events, and many did. You’ll be seeing some more comics about the impact of COVID-19 in the coming weeks, while other comics will be more ‘business as usual.’

“Some cartoonists have been featuring elements of remote work, social distancing, mask-wearing, and other changes to daily life in their upcoming comics, while others decided they preferred not to tell jokes about a serious crisis as they feel comics should be a lighthearted escape for readers.

“It’s important to us, especially in times like these, to make sure that there are comics that will appeal to every reader, whether they want to see this moment in history addressed in the comics section or would prefer for that to be left to the news sections of their paper. We are also working more closely with newspaper editors to make sure the comics and puzzles in their papers are right for their communities, so please contact your editor if there is something you would like to see more of!”


King Features Syndicate has issued a correction for Zits Sunday for 4/12.
At creator’s request, due to current events, a strip involving a large gathering was replaced.

above: the originally scheduled Zits. below: the April 12 replacement
note: due to timing not all papers will be able to replace the Sunday strip

One thought on “Tea Explains Comic Strips and the Coronavirus

  1. I’m wondering why in this digital age it takes up to six weeks for some comics to be published, such a long lag time when so many are being replaced with covid19 comics without delay today without a problem. Why not always treat them like covid comics and publish fast?

    I used to do a comic for King Features years ago and they would send the comics back to me with editing suggestions – like “remove this shading,” “change this word,” etc. Things that they could have done on their end to save time. So by the time I mailed in the comics the first time, got them mailed back with edits, sent back the edited comics, it took forever for them to appear in the newspapers.

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