Monday, January 12, 2009

All in Color for Seven and a Half Dimes

I was surprised to see the daily comics printed in full color in this morning's Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The addition of color was pleasant lagniappe; while black and white comics were fine, the color is a plus. However, in order to get the color, readers had to give up something--and the something was a second page of comic strips.

Ever since the Journal and the Constitution merged back in the dawning days of the Atlanta newspaper collapse, the two single comic pages from the morning and afternoon editions were merged into one double-page spread. This meant that there were strips for readers of all ages and interests, from classics to new-and-trendy, from humor to human interest, from universal appeal to politically-niche-marketed. The strips that geared towards older readers were the ones most devastated by the cutback; only the most popular of the bunch made the cut, while a number of strips with long Atlanta runs were tossed aside.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter much to me, since I was given a one-year subscription to the King Features comics site as a Christmas gift. Combine that with the free strips at the Universal and Tribune Media sites, and I can get every strip that's in the paper plus the ones that have been dropped, along with dozens of others. But it is one more nail in the coffin for my AJC subscription, which I will almost definitely let lapse later this month. For the first time in thirty years, I will not be reading their paper on a daily basis; political bias, bad editorial policy, and decreasing entertainment value make the decision a fairly easy one.

Still, I hate to see these strips go; it marks an increasing marginalization of comic strips, which I have enjoyed since I was a young child. I am left to wonder just how long some of these strips can survive, what with waning interest in print newspapers and declining sales; can a strip survive with a syndication of less than two hundred papers? One hundred? Fifty? I don't know what's the minimum level for an artist before he starts looking at a job outside of comics.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think the place for strip artists to go, Cliff, like so much publication, is onto the web. Webcomics like xkcd, Day by Day, and User Friendly owe much to the newspaper strip form, and seem to be a sustainable endeavor for their creators.

– Jack of Spades