Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

April 9, 2006

CR Sunday Magazine

Missed It: Those Kirby Eyes


Why Comic Strips and Their Creators Seem to Not Get Their Fair Share of Press Coverage When Compared to Less Popular Properties and Practioners of the Funnybook Arts and Less Prominent Icons and Citizens of the Pop Culture World

It's come up.

1. They do, it's just a different kind of coverage. Comic books are sold to a passionate sub-culture, comic strips are sold to a general audience. Comic strip people get way more general press devoted to them. Comic books have targeted news, which is a particular strength of the Internet.

2. The syndicates are almost entirely geared to selling to newspaper editors rather than to audiences. Therefore, most of the news about comic strips you see is in publications geared towards newspaper professionals.

3. Comic strip teams at the syndicates are probably the leanest companies/divisions per comics reader of all the different companies getting comics out there, and there's simply not enough manpower to pursue new publicity routes as they've opened up in the last 10 years just to pursue a new minor celebrity paradigm common to comic books.

4. Comic books are re-staffed, re-launched tweaked and special-editioned. Comic strips go years and years and years without change. "T.K. Ryan to Continue Doing Tumbleweeds" isn't much of a story.

5. A significant chunk -- but certainly not all so don't believe that if you hear it -- of North American newspaper editors run the gamut from indifferent to outright hostile when it comes to their comics pages, an impediment to pr-driven coverage because the crucial features-buying audience would rather hear less, not more.

6. Most self-starting comics-focused media people tend to see their view of comics as the one worth pursuing, even if they pretend that they're covering the medium. I, for instance, am really bad with editorial cartoonists. Some see related media featuring properties and creators as a more vital area of coverage than some areas of comics. So you tend to get people working out of very specific formulations.

7. The devoted comics press got its start in the 1970s, when for a variety of reasons, some of them near-insane but many of them sensible at the time, it was decided that the future of comics could be found within the North American comic book industry. Not in the undergrounds. Not in the New Yorker. Not in the newspaper. This choice colors a lot of things about the way comics are covered in North America.

8. Laziness and disinterest.

In the end, I think it's primarily the different audiences/different strategies thing. And I think this does frequently reflect the wider readership that a comic strip person may have over a comic book one. Aaron McGruder takes a sabbatical = international wire reports, Al Columbia stops publishing = occasional threads on the Comics Journal messageboard. I mean, would anyone have cared to mention in an article if Frank Miller had appeared in a parody-response-video to a SNL skit? No, but I've seen a few people mention Jim Davis being in one.

Go, Read: Heath Robinson Comics


Go, Read: Midstream APE Report

This post from James Lucas Jones of Oni is probably as good of a halfway-through report on a convention as you're likely to read anytime soon. If I were on the West Coast I would be at this show, and I'd say that even if APE wasn't an advertiser.

Go, Download: Dash Shaw's Risk Board


Chicago Defender's Line-Up

Russ Maheras writes in with a brief report as to what features are included in the Defender's all-African American comics lineup.
The "Our Comics" page lineup in the Chicago Defender for April 5 was as follows:

Ebony Laughs by Bill Murray; an unnamed gag panel by Charlos Gary; Weepals by Gwen Moore; Herb and Jamal by Stephen Bentley; and a lucky numbers filler "strip" called Sonny Boy Says.

There are also two other comics-related items in the issue:

A gag-panel cartoon called (Th)ink by Keith Knight, and an editorial page cartoon by Tim Jackson.

That's basically it.

Thanks, Russ.

Go, Read: 3-Foot Sleuth


Initial Thought of the Day
Is there a bigger "Yikes!" moment in comics history than when Captain Easy takes it in the back from a metal hook at the beginning of Wash Tubbs' whaling sequence? It's not only that Easy goes down like a punk from the follow-up blackjack to the head after weeks and weeks of being an unbeatable ass-kicker, it's the thought of a nasty hook landing between your shoulder blades, and the black ink stain with which Crane illustrates the damage.
posted 10:20 am PST | Permalink

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