Comix late hit: cockroach survives cartoon holocaust
I didn't pay much attention to the brouhaha last week over the brief cancellation of La Cucaracha by the Los Angeles Times—a decision the paper came to regret and rescinded within a day, due to a reader-mail firestorm. Of course my only attitude toward any decision made by my bosses is: What a swell decision! Excellent idea, sir! That holds even for swell decisions that reverse earlier swell decisions, as was the case here.
But can anybody claim that it's ever a good idea to cut a comic strip? In exchange for an absolutely negligible financial savings and barely enough space to run a house ad, you get nothing but heartache from readers who recognize that once again the paper is giving them less while pretending to give them more. Last week's unpleasantness was actually a relatively successful sweep, since it got rid of a truly incompetent comic—Mallard Fillmore—that was almost unanimously hated and whose termination most observers applauded. The more dismaying thing for me was the Sunday Morning Massacre, which leaves the color funnies denuded of, among others, Brester Rockit: Space Guy, a visually interesting and more or less dependably funny strip.
Readers of the funny papers are always the most abused of the paper's many target demos, and the neglect puts the lie to the idea that there's a serious movement afoot to bring up a next generation of newspaper readers. A few months back, Josh Fruhlinger the Comics Curmudgeon took to the Times' OpEd page to offer some sage advice:
[M]aybe one reason readers are fleeing print is because the papers don't give them enough reason to believe print is anything special. Few comics fans would dispute that the funnies look best on paper, or that reading the comics in newsprint over breakfast is a pleasing ritual. Going back to the childhood of the modern newspaper business—in the graphically rich Hearst and Pulitzer papers of the early 20th century—one of the main attractions was always the Sunday morning treat of page after vibrant page of full-color comics...
[B]efore the print news medium gives up on new readers, maybe it's time to double down on the comics, to make the funny papers a selling point again: Give the comics an extra page. Move the funnies out of the entertainment-section ghetto and into the A section or Sports. Better yet, run the daily strips in a stand-alone insert—not just on Sundays. Get the advertising staff to start selling against the comics section (why should TV be getting all the ads for sugary cereals and action figures?). Do something, do anything, to make the funny pages interesting.
So much for that idea!