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The Incredible Shrinking Doom


February 27, 2022 Prickly City © Scott Stantis 

 


July 15, 2009 Doonesbury © G. B. Trudeau

 

Jim Keefe (Sally Forth, Flash Gordon) recently posted about the
sad state of print comic strips, focusing on the Sunday Funnies.

Comic strips reigned supreme back in the 1930s. The Sunday sections were printed much larger than they are today and were a thing of beauty to behold.

To see how much things have changed, just compare these two Sunday pages below from 1934 and 2002.

Jump ahead from 2002 to now and the comic strip Sunday pages have regrettably shrunken even smaller.

 

The shrinking began in earnest 80 years ago with WWII conservation efforts.

Cartoonists, following syndicates instructions, drew the comics so the bottom quarter could be chopped off, allowing the newspapers to print more comic strips per page. At that time newspapers were profitable and popular comic strips attracted readers so the cost of outside material wasn’t a major issue. Some papers compressed the strips further, even after cutting off the bottoms.

 

© Tribune Content Agency

 

Virginia Commonwealth University published a Mike Talley essay about the shrinking of comic strips. 

If the comics are so important, then why are they shrinking? Superficially, the comic strip size issue is an open and closed argument. Newsprint prices are more and more expensive, and newspapers must combat these prices by cutting costs, such as reducing the actual size of the newspaper and the number of features it carries.


November 11, 1987 Calvin and Hobbes © Bill Watterson

If comic strips consistently draw readers to newspapers and newspapers have formatting options available, why do newspapers continue to reduce the size of comics? Despite the contributions comic strips have made to society, they are still misrepresented as children’s cartoons and stupid jokes.

 

Allan Holtz tries to bring the old terminology describing comic strip sizes and formats into the modern settings and can only throw up his hands in despair.

[H]ere’s one last crime against comic strips:

I don’t know what those ones at the top are called in the business. I call them squares, or to be more exact, I call them recycle, ’cause that’s where they go when I’m clipping.

 

We are nearing a time the Great American Newspaper Comic Strip will disappear, literally.
Once the comics started shrinking they were derogatorily referred to as postage stamp-sized.
Now that they are, in fact, printed at that size who will read them in print instead of on-line?
Monetizing the webcomic renditions becomes ever more urgent.


Stone Soup © Jan Eliot

Hedder lettered by John Costanza and © Marvel Entertainment

 

Community Comments

#1 Rich Furman
February/27/2022
@ 9:37 pm

Monetizing comics needs, first and foremost, a consumer facing platform that is dependable and usable. GoComics is there. Rarely down, easy to use, color scheme that doesn’t feel like sandpaper on the retinas. Comics Kingdom, on the other hand fails all these tests. I pay for GoComics because I like it. I pay for Comics Kingdom because I want the creators to be able to eat. I know a number of people who dropped their CK subscription because horrible interface design and frequent downtime is not an intersection you want to be at.

With Newspapers fading and becoming a worse medium for content delivery the online presentation needs to be rock solid. It’s not that difficult to do. I would recommend that the KFS creators really lobby hard to get them to clean up CK.

#2 Jim Keefe
March/1/2022
@ 9:00 pm

I’ve been with King Features through their first website they started decades ago, Daily Ink (when I was writing/drawing Flash Gordon), and now as the artist of Sally Forth with Comics Kingdom. It’s been a long learning curve through three different Presidents at King at the helm. The new hires (relatively speaking) recently overhauled it because of the bugs in the system, and I’m hoping for a little smoother sailing in the future.
That said – even with the postage stamp size strips are distributed in newspapers – I’ll always prefer seeing my comic strips in print. Makes me feel like a real cartoonist. ;)

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