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Metapost: A tragic day

Well, the day I’ve been dreading has finally arrived: the Baltimore Sun has at last unveiled its new, unimproved comics pages. All I can say is: Ugh. I’m so upset that I’m turning this blog black for the week in protest. Because today the real reason behind the cull has become clear: they’ve added four new comics, but they’ve removed sixteen. It’s all part of a larger master plan to cut down the number of pages in the Today section and cram the TV listings onto the same pages as the comics. (Up until Saturday, the comics had two full pages to themselves.)

Since I know you turn to this space for comics news, I offer you the complete lowdown on the carnage. First, the new strips:

  • Fox Trot
  • Get Fuzzy
  • Pearls Before Swine
  • Zits

This is a mixed bag: I like Get Fuzzy and Fox Trot a lot; Zits is a so-so strip that manages to amuse occasionally; Pearls Before Swine looks dumb, but I’ll give it a shot. In addition, the Sun is running another new strip, Speed Bump, on an entirely different page in the Today section. They’re printing this single-panel thing at a squint-inducingly small size, which is fine with me because it looks unspeakably lame. All of these strips will make their debuts in this space eventually.

Now, the tragic victims of the purge. Here are the eliminated strips that I will genuinely miss:

  • Apartment 3-G
  • Gasoline Alley
  • The Lockhorns
  • Mark Trail
  • Mary Worth
  • The Phantom
  • Prince Valiant

That’s right — it’s almost all of the serial strips, with the odd and notable exception Rex Morgan, M.D. I have no idea how this, the serial with the most consistently bland storylines, survived the bloodbath. Meanwhile, the greater Baltimore area is apparently unequipped to deal with the cavalcade of marital savagery that is The Lockhorns.

There was of course some genuine dead wood that was pruned. These comics I will miss primarily in that they provided material for mockery:

  • Barney Google and Snuffy Smith
  • Dennis the Menace
  • Herb and Jamaal
  • Jump Start
  • Kudzu
  • Marmaduke
  • Momma
  • Willy N’ Ethel
  • Ziggy

But then there are the bland time-servers that, against all logic and reason, were retained:

  • B.C.
  • Beetle Bailey
  • Cathy
  • The Family Circus (though I admit that I get a sick fascination out of this and would secretly be sad if it were gone)
  • Hagar the Horrible
  • Hi and Lois
  • The Middletons (if you’re going to be retaining one amiable, family-oriented strip with a racially mixed cast, I can’t understand why you would jettison Jump Start and keep this)
  • Peanuts (which I like as much as the next guy, but for God’s sake, he’s dead, can we please move on)
  • Shoe
  • Zippy the Pinhead

In theory, it’s not too late: The Sun has provided both a phone number (410-783-2537) and a Website (http://baltimoresun.com/comics) for your comments. Inimitable comics aficionado Sam Wiley has already called to complain about the elimination of the serials (much to the confusion of the editor he spoke to, who said, “Most of the people complaining about Mary Worth were … older”), and was told that the current lineup is not “set in stone.” So, on the off chance that I have power and influence over vast hordes of comics readers, or even if you’re just bored at work, I urge you to give a call to vent your righteous anger (politely, of course).

Meanwhile, just to show you how addicted I’ve become to Mary Worth and the gang, I’ve broken with my longtime paper-comics-only stance and signed up for the Houston Chronicle’s excellent build-your-own-comics-page-online service. They have all the serials that the Sun cut, plus even weirder ones like Gil Thorpe and Steve Roper. Look for these guys too to make their appearance here in the coming days.

28 responses to “Metapost: A tragic day”

  1. amber
    December 13th, 2004 at 2:02 pm [Reply]

    To quote Tali-

    “Sam Wiley? I LOVE HIM!”

  2. Hubris
    December 13th, 2004 at 2:24 pm [Reply]

    Paint it black, man.

    I’ve never seen Gil Thorpe before, but it seems his expression is permanently fixed, with the only effort towards an animation effect being the occasional tilt along his longitudinal axis. Looks like there is the potential for lots of awkward locker room scenes, though.

  3. Bob
    December 13th, 2004 at 2:59 pm [Reply]

    No Mary Worth? Damn.

  4. Flasshe
    December 13th, 2004 at 3:17 pm [Reply]

    Give Pearls Before Swine a chance. It’s nicely dark and cynical, yet still funny. If you’re into dark, cynical humor that is.

  5. Lexy
    December 13th, 2004 at 3:17 pm [Reply]

    That Houston Chronicle service rules!

  6. Kristen
    December 13th, 2004 at 3:48 pm [Reply]

    Hey, its not too late. A couple of years ago the Post nixed Zippy the Pinhead and they had to bring it back after two weeks because they were flooded with complaints about it.

  7. JM
    December 13th, 2004 at 3:56 pm [Reply]

    I misread “inimitable comics aficionado Sam Wiley” as “inflatable comics aficionado Sam Wiley”.

    Regarding the new paper-comics deficit, maybe you should seek out the Washington Post, which has more comics and doesn’t shrink them quite as small as the Sun does.

  8. Frank Willis
    December 13th, 2004 at 4:45 pm [Reply]

    Jeeze, that’s a massacre. Bet there was ink EVERYWHERE.

    While I’m glad to see they axed a lot of strips that should have died a long time ago (I wonder if they’re the first to drive a stake into Peanuts?), I’m sorry to see “Jump Start” go. It’s no “Foxtrot,” but it’s not “Hi and Lois” either, and there are few strips featuring black families out there anyway.

    And, man, “Prince Valiant” is lonnnng past its sell-by. I collect the Hal Foster books, and the current crew is a complete waste of space.

  9. Anonymous
    December 13th, 2004 at 8:31 pm [Reply]

    Er…Hello? I’m typing this in the dark.

    Hooray for the Baltimore Sun. At least it’s halfway there, with the introduction of PBS and Get Fuzzy.

    Yes, it still has to dump the worst of the old guard, but it’s TRYING to get a balance.

  10. Everett
    December 13th, 2004 at 9:33 pm [Reply]

    The elimination of Prince Valiant whilst saving Cathy is like shooting John Lennon when you had a clear shot at Yoko Ono.

    Just makes no sense.

  11. Pouncer
    December 13th, 2004 at 9:44 pm [Reply]

    The Dallas Morning News just went thru a similar purge. Is Baltimore a “Belo” paper?

    Any how, if Charles Shultz is sending us Peanuts from beyond the grave I’d wish we could likewise get Al Capp, Milt Caniff, and maybe Walt Kelly to reprise some of their best stuff …

  12. maren
    December 13th, 2004 at 9:59 pm [Reply]

    Pearls Before Swine is pretty great, actually. No Get Fuzzy, but I like the design style and the dark, loopy humor that uses pop culture jokes for good, not for lame laziness. I was skeptical when it joined the SF Chronicle lineup, but but have since had my mind changed.

  13. Mark Jackson
    December 13th, 2004 at 10:43 pm [Reply]

    Don’t get too attached to Steve Roper – it’s ending shortly. And don’t sell PBS short – it’s near-great, in its own twisted way.

  14. Russell Wardlow
    December 13th, 2004 at 11:00 pm [Reply]

    I never got Zippy the Pinhead. It’s very popular here in Berkeley and SF. Apparently it’s for super-hip people.

    I guess I have a hard time distinguishing hipsters from retards.

  15. Josh
    December 13th, 2004 at 11:22 pm [Reply]

    Frank, check again. They kept “Peanuts,” denying a place to a new strip (i.e., one whose creator is alive). How weak.

    That said, I like both Foxtrot and Zits. But I’d have kept most of the axed strips over B.C., Hagar, Shoe and the ilk.

    You know, it just struck me that I really despise Shoe.

  16. Ted
    December 13th, 2004 at 11:37 pm [Reply]

    The Chronicle service is great. I’ve bookmarked a page that holds my eight favorite comics. Only downside is that they don’t get Sundays. It should be hypothetically possible to program a my.yahoo.com page to hold a series of strips, too, but I haven’t bothered to try.

  17. Mark Jackson
    December 14th, 2004 at 7:50 am [Reply]

    Many of the Chron’s King Features Syndicate comics (the “color comics”) actually do appear on Sundays. Put them on a custom page, or hand-edit the date in the URL in individual view.

  18. Caity
    December 14th, 2004 at 11:22 am [Reply]

    I was also skeptical the first time I saw “Pearls Before Swine,” but now it’s one of my favorites. Now that you’re using the Chronicle, you should check out “Judge Parker.” It’s a pretty entertaining serial strip.

  19. Stan
    December 14th, 2004 at 9:28 pm [Reply]

    Readers of the Dallas Morning News named Luann their favorite strip.

  20. Risha
    December 14th, 2004 at 11:31 pm [Reply]

    You can put strips on a my.yahoo.com page, but you’re limited to only three, the cheap bastards.

  21. Stacella
    December 15th, 2004 at 9:50 am [Reply]

    Yeah, a few people have already said this, but you’ll probably end up liking Pearls Before Swine more than you expect. It has this delightful edge of absurdity (without being obtuse and self-important, like Zippy the Fucktard.)

    Can’t you get the WaPo up there near Baltimore? They print got almost 3 full pages of comics per day, including Mary Worth and Mark Trail. No Lockhorns, though (!)

  22. Ken
    December 15th, 2004 at 3:31 pm [Reply]

    Does the Sun get the strip Frazz? My raving hatred of Frazz is a frequent breakfast conversation topic.

  23. Charles
    January 31st, 2005 at 9:27 am [Reply]

    PEARLS BEFORW SWINE, and FOXTROT rocks.

    Give PEARLS a chance. I was spectical when I first saw it, mainly because of the terrible drawing, but as I read it, I’ve became a BIG fan.

    10/10 for Pastis.

  24. Mike
    February 14th, 2005 at 1:40 pm [Reply]

    Many people referred to the Washington Post. The irony is that all 4(5) of the added strips are already carried by the Post. The Baltimore/Washington comics diverstiy got a lot worse. The Sun is now just a pale shadow of the Post. Adnd they are printing too many strips to a page and distorting the aspect ratio. It sucks!

  25. don b
    October 21st, 2005 at 2:14 pm [Reply]

    I was wondering if you know of any groups that formed in the memory of the comic strip Steve Roper & Mike Nomad

  26. donnie b
    November 10th, 2005 at 2:03 pm [Reply]

    I too was a follower of Steve Roper & Mike Nomad. If Don B or anyone knows of a group that has formed in the memory of, I would really like to be a part of it.

  27. dex
    March 12th, 2006 at 11:12 am [Reply]

    Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaary!

    Speed Bump actually has its moments. It produced one of my favourite single-panels of all time: A mother mouse walks into the mouse hole to see her son taking a bath in a teacup, with a tooth brush. There’s a huge bottle of mouth wash in the background. She’s giving him a look that says “what on earth are you doing?”. He says “I couldn’t find the thoap.” It loses a little something without the visuals, but trust me, it was GOLD.

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