I didn't entirely get the intended construction of the jokes in the Sunday Bizzaro (Sp??) strip yesterday .   ( The strip appars to be not online , as it is a King Features Syndicate strip , who - Gasp !!! - appear to think they're in the comics business to make money , and keep their strips behind a wall . )

  The joke was " variations on ' I Love New York ' "...but was the panhandler's shirt supposed to be saying " I Owe New York " ?"  I Have Zero , New York " ?

  The yokel , in Middle Ages garb...Was his shirt suppost'a mean " I Love York " , as in the English county that New York was indeed named after ??? ( And Prince Charles is now considered the Duke of , if I recall correctly . )

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Well, The Daily Cartoonist figures it wasn't meant for the newspapers at all, but for social media

The Washington Post covers the story here:  "Is the Print Newspaper Comics Page in Trouble?"

Jeff of Earth-J said:

I lived in the St. Louis area for most of my life. Both the (now defunct) Globe-Democrat as well as the Post-Dispatch ran periodic polls of their readership every few years in order to gauge interest in strips before making a change. 

Just checking through my files...

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran comic strip polls in 1984, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1997 and 1999. I have the results of all of them. (They published the results of 1984-1990 in 1993.) In addition, I have the articles launching the polls and their results for 1993-1999. (After that I moved to Texas.) I also have my personal votes from 1993 and 1995, as well as my mom's votes from 1993, 1997 and 1999. (That is because she wrote them on the paper itself.) My mom and I didn't have too many things in common, but we both loved the newspaper comics. (That may be the only thing, now that I think of it.) 

Also, I have clippings from letters to the editor, not just about poll results (although I have plenty of those), but anything comics related [SPOILERS]: teen suicide in Funky Winkerbean; sex in Terry and the Pirates (revival); Johnny Hart's "Born Again" strips in B.C.; the death of Farley in For Better or For Worse; a gay character in For Better or For Worse; stealing cigarettes in For Better or For Worse. One of the themed "letters to the editor" columns appeared under the headline "Laughter Ends In Comics"; in another column, one reader supplied the lyrics to Spike Jones' 1949 song "The Funnies (Aren't Funny Anymore)" to illustrate how long this trend has been going on. 

The Post also used to have a "Readers' Advocate" to address readers' concerns (an old white guy in 1994 and a young Black woman in 1999) and I have one each of their columns about comics as well.

I am going to take a closer look at 1993-1999 to see if there's anything worth mentioning here.

Dan Piraro of Bizarro speaks to the issue on his blog: "Has Bizarro Been Canceled?"

Jeff of Earth-J said:

One of the themed "letters to the editor" columns appeared under the headline "Laughter Ends In Comics"; in another column, one reader supplied the lyrics to Spike Jones' 1949 song "The Funnies (Aren't Funny Anymore)" to illustrate how long this trend has been going on.

I'll never understand why many people think that comics are all supposed to be funny, even after a century of well-written features proving they can be anything. 

So many still think all comics or animations are for kids after decades of proof otherwise.

Maybe the word "comics" is a problem, and there are those who consistently refer to them as "funnies."

Following are the Mutts comic strips from a couple of weeks ago.

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH 1993 COMICS POLL & RESULTS:

The Post's stated intention was to reduce the number of comics by about half a page. At the time they carried 49 strips, from Andy Capp to Ziggy. 1990's poll drew around 30,000 responses, all tabulated by hand. 1993 was the first year votes were tabulated by computer. The poll drew responses from approximately 34,000 readers. 

The ballot had spaces for five readers per household. (About 14,000 were returned.) The ballot asked for each respondent's five favorites, two least favorites, age and sex. There was also a section in which to indicate which strips are read by anyone in the household. (This question always struck me as odd because, love 'em or hate 'em, I always read them all.) At the bottom was a section to nominate strips, and also a comment section, 25 boxes, one letter per box. I usually included a letter with my ballot, but none of my comments were ever printed.

MY VOTES: I chose eleven favorites and ranked my top five as follows:

  1. Peanuts
  2. Calvin & Hobbes
  3. Doonesbury
  4. For Better or For Worse
  5. Far Side

Other favorites included Sally Forth, Mother Goose & Grimm, Rose is Rose, Foxtrot, Geech and Funky Winkerbean. I am surprised to see that I ranked Rose is Rose among my favorites, because it is one of my least favorites now. Also, I barely remember Geech. My least favorites were Comics for Kids and Brenda Starr.

MY MOM'S VOTES: She listed Sally Forth as her favorite among 23 strips she read.

THE RESULTS:

Calvin & Hobbes ranked first for the third poll in a row (1988, 1990, 1993). It scored high among all groups.

For Better or for Worse was the 12th most hated strip, but it ranked second place overall. It also drew the highest number of comments and complaints. (The teenage character Lawrence had recently come out as gay.) Some of the comments were not fit to print, but one of them was: "I strongly oppose homosexuality as a subject matter for comic strips. Homosexuality is an evil that should not be given any visibility, especially to children. I know that familiarity breeds acceptance, and this will certainly desensitize readers, which will have some far-reaching effects on the St. Louis community." (I had forgotten just how far that stick was up St. Louisans' collective ass.) As I remember that story, it was a call for tolerance, compassion and understanding. The strip rose from 13th in 1988to 5th in 1990, with virtually no dislikes at the time.

Sylvia, #1 among most hated strips, rose from 43 to 32 overall.

Doonesbury, the 2nd most hated, was rated #15 overall.

Beetle Baily ranked 1st in 1984, 1st in 1987, 2nd in 1988, 4th in 1990, and 6th in 1993, but it had an overall readership rate of 84%; in comparison, Calvin and Hobbes had 79%.

Men vs. Women: Cathy was 4th among women, 24th among men; Sally Forth 3rd among women, 10th among men; Sylvia 23rd women, 42st men. On the other hand, Beetle Baily, The Far Side, Hagar the Horrible and Andy Capp all ranked highly among men.

Young readers: Most popular were Fox Trot and Drabble. The only serial that ranked was Spider-Man.

Over 55: Serials were popular among this age group, including Gasoline Alley, Mark Trail, Rex Morgan, Mary Worth and Brenda Starr.

Pogo: Ranked 48 of 49 overall, 46th in terms of readership. (This is the revival by Walt Kelly's heirs.)

The Post warned that the following strips were in danger: Pogo, Quality Time, Comics for Kids, Mary Worth, Bound & Gagged, Jump Start, Heathcliff, Bizarro, Marvin, Rex Morgan and Geech. Also ranked toward the bottom, but high in certain demographics, were Donald Duck, Curtis, Brenda Starr and Mark Trail.

ACTIONS: The poll results were announced in May, but the actual cuts weren't made until October. Some of the strips were lost through attrition (Gary Larsen retired from Far Side and the Pogo revival didn't last long, for example.) The Post ended up dropping Donald Duck and Wizard of ID, and adding Dilbert and Non Sequitur (which was seen as a replacement for Far Side. Readers suggested that the Post run Far Side reprints, but Larsen nixed that idea.)

I remember the revival of Pogo. Initially, it wasn't run by Walt Kelly's heirs, but by another writer/artist team. I felt their work was superior to that of Kelly's children, as they captured Kelly's whimsy far better.

For Better or for Worse was the 12th most hated strip, but it ranked second place overall. It also drew the highest number of comments and complaints. (The teenage character Lawrence had recently come out as gay.) Some of the comments were not fit to print, but one of them was: "I strongly oppose homosexuality as a subject matter for comic strips. Homosexuality is an evil that should not be given any visibility, especially to children. I know that familiarity breeds acceptance, and this will certainly desensitize readers, which will have some far-reaching effects on the St. Louis community." (I had forgotten just how far that stick was up St. Louisans' collective ass.) As I remember that story, it was a call for tolerance, compassion and understanding.

I've always loved For Better or for Worse. I bought all of the mismatched, odd-sized paperback reprints, and am now replacing them with the hardcover, uniform-sized books as they come out. The person who commented failed to mention it, but Lawrence's mother had literally thrown him out of the house.

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH 1995 COMICS POLL & RESULTS:

The ballot was identical to the one used in 1993 (five readers per household, top five favorites, two least favorites, overall readership, suggestions, comments), but this is the first year the majority of the polling was done by phone. For those who didn't have access to a touch-tone phone, paper ballots (to be processed by computer) were also accepted. There were 24,000 ballots returned overall, 8000 of which were on paper. (The Post did not report how many readers that represented.) Yes, some people did try to cheat. In December of 1994 the Post ran a mini version of the phone poll in order to determine which of three comics should be added back. One teenager programmed his phone to vote for Wizard of Id 15,000 times. 

Because they still wanted to allow multiple family members from each household to vote, each phone number was allowed up to five votes, but they asked for a specific birthday for each. For the most part, they relied on the honor system but some people did try to cheat. "One lad obviously was on the phone for several days. We were able to delete all but one of the votes, but unfortunately we had to  listen to his comments over and over. His attempts at disguising his voice were pretty feeble."

This year there were 47 strips to vote on.

TOP FIVE ['93 Rank]:

1. [1] Calvin & Hobbes

2. [2] For Better or For Worse

3. [4] Mother Goose & Grimm

4. [5] Sally Forth

5. [9] Garfield

(Beetle Bailey dropped from 6th to 7th; Calvin & Hobbes was either 1st or 2nd place across all age groups.)

LEAST FAVORITE:

1. Terry & the Pirates

2. Bound & Gagged

3. Off the Leash

4. Beakman

5. Virtual Reality

(All of these were new except Bound & Gagged which placed 45th in 1993.)

MOST HATED:

1. Terry & the Pirates

2. Quigmans

3. Sylvia

4. Prince Valiant

5. Doonesbury

Michael Uslan and the Hildebrant Bros. revival of the Milton Caniff classic was not merely hated, it was reviled. The Post ran non-poll-related letters against it on three separate occasions (also in my files), plus printed many comments when reporting the results of the poll, including: "It's terrible. It's immoral. I hope you get rid of it soon."; "Tracshy."; "Bad, very bad."; "It's people making out--rotten. Cancel it!"; "I may cancel."; "It's sexist."; "Doesn't belong on a page for children."

NEW STRIPS' RANKING:

9. Dilbert (also #7 Most Hated)

21. Magic Eye (also #6 Most Hated)

25. Duplex

29. Non-Sequitur

41. Quigmans (also #2 Most Hated)

I thought Non-Sequitur was intended to be the Far Side replacement (although they both ran concurrently for a time), but Quigman's is the panel which took over its actual spot. In either case, neither is very popular.

MY VOTES: Because this year's poll was taken by phone, my completed ballot is still intact. I don't have a record of how my mom voted in '95.

Favorites:

1. Calvin & Hobbes

2. For Better or For Worse

3. Terry & the Pirates

4. Prince Valiant

5. Peanuts

Least Favorites:

1. Mark Trail

2. Spider-Man

Explanation: Terry & the Pirates wasn't really my third favorite strip; as a matter of opinion, I thought it was pretty lame. But I was so exited about an adventure strip initially that I hoped that opinion of men in my age group would be recognized. Similarly, I thought Prince Valiant could use some help. I didn't think Peanuts needed any help, but I couldn't not vote for it. My suggestion for a new strip was Modesty Blaise although I knew there was no way in hell tight-ass St. Louis would stand for such a thing. My comment (25 boxes including three spaces) was: "YOUR DAILY COLORING SUCKS." Every poll I every submitted railed against their coloring of the daily strips, which I once said looked as if it were done by an intern with a crayon. 

ACTIONS: Terry & the Pirates was replaced by Brenda Starr, which had previously been dropped; Duplex, which had been moved to the twice weekly Metro Post section; a competition for the Far Side spot (including Quigmans) would soon be run. I don't know what the other choices were (or which won), but after select panels of each had been run for a week, a new vote would be taken. 

Bound & Gagged was initially about doing silent sight gags, of the type Sergio Aragonés has mastered. Unfortunately, the cartoonist dropped that angle, plainly because he doesn't know how to pull off that kind of comedy. Every time I come across a Bound & Gagged strip now, I cringe.

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