The Boston Phoenix pulls comics over sponsor issue — UPDATED

The Boston Phoenix pulls comics over sponsor issue — UPDATED

Failure 197.jpg

Karl Stevens’ comic page Failure has been canceled by the Boston Phoenix, where it had run since 2005. The reason, reportedly, is because the above strip insulted an advertiser, Bud Light.

It’s hard to run alternative newspapers any more, what with craigslist, and alt.comix strips have mostly moved to the web too. To see one ended because of stating something that’s been said in every bar across the world at one time or another is…sad.

Several publications have contacted the Boston Phoenix over their side of this, and they deny it was an advertiser issue; editor-in-chief Carly Carioli told the Comics Reporter:

“The Phoenix recently (in September) relaunched as a weekly magazine, after 46 years as a weekly newspaper. During the transition, I had frank and forthright conversations with Karl in which both of us questioned whether Failure was a fit for the new publication. I’ve continued to make numerous changes in the magazine as we go forward, and the end of Failure is one of several changes we’re making in the new year.”

“However, it is inaccurate that Karl has been ‘let go.’ While he is not now nor has he ever been on staff, at the time that we discontinued Failure we offered him a continuing role as an illustrator — he has been illustrating features in the magazine outside of Failure, and in fact he illustrates a major feature appearing in tomorrow’s issue.”

The Phoenix recently changed formats from a newspaper to a magazine—a last ditch effort to keep the free newsweekly tradition alive. Stevens seemed non-fussed about the cancellation, whatever the reason, in emails. “I’ll live,” he told The Beat.


  1. Markus says

    kinda lame. A responsible editor/publisher should have been involved before it went to press. “Hey do you think this will piss off an advertiser? ok then lets change it to be safe”

  2. Martin Pasko says

    While the Phoenix’s response to pressure from Anheuser-Busch is arguably an overreaction — and suggests the paper may have been looking for an excuse to dump the page anyway — I find it hard not to agree with the opinion that this happened because of the absence of a responsible, effective editor. The dialogue in the sequence you reproduce would have made its point just as effectively had it been rendered, “What the hell do you think light beer is?”

  3. says

    I saw Mr. Stevens at the Massachussetts Indie Comics Expo back in September and congratulated him on surviving the Phoenix’s hideous format change. Too bad it was so short lived and done for such a dumb reason. It almost feels as if they were looking for some shoddy excuse to get rid of him.
    Oh well, I wish him luck with things and maybe he can give someone at The Dig a call.

  4. Al™ says

    I have had too many of these sorts of things happen to me to be surprised by this. These days, I edit so much in my head that it is interesting for me to hear my own voice. I marvel that I say much of anything out loud, to be on the safe side. Oops, did I type that?
    There is always a sponsor, a patron, a critic, but it helps to have an editor who has your back, who is not just a proofreader.

  5. ChrisM says

    Curious what the source is on this – I’m not seeing any references to it anywhere else at the moment … FWIW I didn’t see any Bud Light ads in the current issue of the phoenix (which is the one that features the strip in question) …

  6. says

    In Norway the biggest manufacturer of frozen pizza complained in the media that the Norwegian state channel showed a music video lambasting their number one seller for being as unhealthy as drugs.

    The only thing they were met with was ridicule from the public. Of course the state channel doesn’t have to worry about sponsors or advertisers.

  7. Jroug says

    Truth is that comics aren’t viewed as necessary in weeklies anymore. Kochalka went through a similar thing in Burlington VT a few years ago. IMO, the art in Stevens’ strip is beautifully rendered but a stone cold snooze otherwise (the strip reprinted here is one of the very best I’ve seen in many, many years of reading it). Agreed this is a lame excuse to can him, but not a huge loss. Anyone taking odds on the Phoenix replacing it with another strip?

  8. Fredo Conde says

    Where’s the controversy? Bud light does resemble diluted horse piss. Disclosure: use of “resemble” due to not having tasted horse piss.

  9. Xenos says

    That is pretty bullshit. I’ve read Stevens comic for years and even ran into him at a signing and picked up a collection.

    And Bud Light -is- a shit beer. Even regular Budwiser. You don’t even have to be a snooty craft brew beer snob like myself to think that. The Phoenix itself has tons of beer snob readers and articles too. Damn lame that they close a comic down over this bullshit.

    Meh. The Dig always had more and better comics anyway.

  10. adriano says

    Where is the evidence to support this article?
    The only word we have the comic strip was dismissed because of the Budlight reference doesn’t seem to be supported neither by the artist or the newspaper.
    Without evidence this article seems very… manipulative into self promotion of attracting readers into the website.
    Please do not underestimate our intelligence. If you will write about something DO present a proper basis.

  11. adriano says

    Not like I EXPECTED the newspaper to support it but the artist bing indifferent seems significant to me. OK He may need those freelancer gigs but then we are crossing the line of presumption.
    Which insiders are supporting this?
    Sounds like a lot of gossip to me

  12. adriano says

    Under the presumption this site has better ambitions than being the comic book version of the National Enquirer of scourse

  13. adriano says

    “Several publications”
    Name your sources. Where is “Journalism 101”?

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