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Can this Foob be saved?

Cathy, 1/27/07

Dilbert, 1/27/07

Kudzu, 1/26/07

Some comics get trapped by success. They build a big audience with a new message – professional women are insecure, cubicle life is tough, Southerners are people too. But their audiences develop expectations the authors are afraid to disappoint. So they stop taking chances. Creatively, the comics stop growing and die, often at the peak of their popularity. But they don’t go away. They keep going and going and going and merciful Heaven why don’t they stop stop just freakin’ STOP YOU HEAR ME CATHY I’M TALKIN’ TO YOU!

Ahem.

Everybody admires giants who walk away at the height of their game: Gary Larson, Bill Watterson – have there been any others?

But credit two authors trying to revive franchises that died long ago:

Garfield, 1/27/07

When he gives Jon Arbuckle a life, Jim Davis pushes Garfield out of the frame. And that could cost him a lot of desk calendars, Mylar® balloons, and suction-cup car toys. I don’t like Garfield, but I’m not the one keeping Davis in lasagna. So: bold move, pal. Way to go.

Mary Worth, 1/27/07

I owe Karen Moy a debt. I have followed Mary Worth since the freaking Kennedy administration without seeing a centimeter of character development. Now, in just six months, Mary is the center of the story, out of Charterstone, and showing the faint beginnings of self-awareness – even self-doubt. Baby steps, maybe – but steps. Thank you, Karen Moy!

OK, blah, blah, blah. Where am I going with this?

For Better or Worse, 1/27/07

Trapped between a huge, dim, slavishly-devoted audience and a self-satisfied, ham-handed Stalinist author, this strip is creatively as dead as they come. Yet it will run on and on as a Frankenstein’s monster stitched up from Mike’s mewling brats and zombies from the Good Old Days, glued up with glop from that “novel.”

But suppose somebody wanted to make it good — and without losing the current audience. Could they do that? How?

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