Newspapers have long been reluctant to make changes on the comics pages.
Fear drives that reluctance in most cases, I believe. Readers become attached to comic strips and woe is the editor who tells them it’s time to move on to something else.
Who wants to deal with complaints about comics when we need to be focused on the news business?
Thus, old strips that long ago stopped being funny or relevant or even loosely connected to the artist who made them popular continue on. Seemingly forever.
Which leads, rather obviously, to this announcement that we’ll be changing some of the comic strips in this paper.
Starting Monday, we’ll bid farewell to “Blondie,” “Hagar the Horrible” and “Sally Forth.” And in the Sunday comics beginning Sept. 5 we’ll no longer publish “The Family Circus” and “Dennis the Menace.”
I know there will be negative reaction from some people. Despite what I think is a consistent lack of freshness from those strips, there are people who will disagree quite vehemently .
I understand that. We all have our own tastes. But consider the fact “Blondie” started in 1930. Its creator, Chic Young, died in 1973. Like many popular strips, it was passed on to his son and is actually drawn by someone else. “Hagar” started in 1973 and its creator retired in 1988.
Too often, comics become more a franchise than a creative outlet. They continue on in newspapers, often with the same tired jokes, while new talent has a tough time cracking the limited space on the “funny pages.”
That gives me more respect for the great comic creators who just walk away, rather than continue to collect checks for old strips, or pass it on to their offspring, as though comic genius is some sort of birthright.
One of the greatest comic talents, Bill Watterson, quit drawing “Calvin and Hobbes,” at the height of its popularity.
“If I had rolled along with the strip’s popularity and repeated myself for another five, 10 or 20 years, the people now ‘grieving’ for ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ would be wishing me dead and cursing newspapers for running tedious, ancient strips like mine,” he said.
Another artist who is walking away is Cathy Guisewite, creator of the “Cathy” strip. She’ll stop the strip in October. No reruns (see “Peanuts” and “For Better or For Worse”) and no handing the cash cow to someone else (see most of the rest of our current comics).
I thought Cathy’s jokes and repetitious story lines had gone stale years ago but I do respect the way she is bowing out.
New to our comics pages, both daily and Sunday, will be “Pickles,” “Pearls Before Swine,” and “Tundra.” Additionally, “Zits” will be added to Sunday, as will a new strip called “Mr. Boffo.” When “Cathy” goes away, we’ll add “Rip Haywire,” a fresh take on the old action hero strips, to the daily lineup.
Obviously, I believe we’re improving our comics pages. “Pearls Before Swine” and “Pickles” are wildly popular in many newspapers. “Tundra” is drawn by an Alaskan artist who has a real knack for outdoor humor.
I would ask that you give them a fair chance. It often takes some time to get into the flow of a strip. After all, back before the Great Depression and World War II readers were willing to give “Blondie” a chance.
Cal FitzSimmons is managing editor of The Wenatchee World. Reach him at 665-1176 or email@example.com.