The New York Times, which is the one newspaper that never ran comics strips, reverse engineers their insertion into Sunday papers as something of a novelty, instead of an elegy to the death of the newspaper itself. The occasion is a piece on a special 16 page color comics insert spotlighting the 100th anniversary of King Features, one of two surviving comics syndicates.
Brendan Burford, the comics editor at King Features, is one of the chief architects of the insert, as well as of the hefty hardcover “King of the Comics: 100 Years of King Features.” His hope is that both projects will highlight the “amazing impact on a century of pop culture” that King and its comic strips have had.
The irony, for those over 35, is that virtually every newspaper except the Times used to run color comics inserts every week! Every week! So crazy, man. These “comic strips” as they are known, introduced some of the most enduring and likable characters every created just to be put on kids pajamas, including Garfield, Peanuts, Popeye, Dilbert and more.
King Features Buford (who is awesome, BTW) asserts that recent-ish strips such as Mutts, Zits and Rhymes with Orange are still popular. (It would be rude, I suppose, to mention the incredible huge and popular world of webcomics where the form is exploding, at least in a piece devoted to print.)
Anyhoo, comic strips are not quite dead:
Newspaper strips are having a cultural moment — even if the attention is not coming from work printed on broadsheets. In July, Bloom County, by the cartoonist Berkeley Breathed, returned when Mr. Breathed started posting new installments on Facebook.
In September, “Hilo,” an all-ages graphic novel by Judd Winick that was partially inspired by his love of comic strips, was published. And last week, “The Peanuts Movie” was released. It is the latest trip to the big screen for Charlie Brown and his friends, who originated in the newspaper strips Li’l Folks in 1947 and Peanuts in 1950.
And finally, Comics Curmudgeon‘s Josh Fruhlinger confesses that he has strayed from his obsession with strips like Apartment 3G
He started his blog in 2004 after his wife grew tired of hearing about the strips. His migration to the web has not been a solitary one. “There’s a whole wave of web comic artists,” he said, who are creating their own strips on their own sites. That transition may continue, especially as long-running series come to an end. Apartment 3-G, for example, which began in 1961, will end on Nov. 21.
Funny how that works.
Anyway, excited to see this last blast of color comics glory delivered to my non existent front step!
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.