Ninth Art Discusses Three Prominent Political Comic Strips

A good essay on the decline of comic strips and editorial comics in newspapers with a brief review of three comic strips that continue to provide an editorial point of view: Doonesbury, Boondocks and the conservative-minded Mallard Fillomore.

Although I still get the newspaper, I increasingly get ALL of my news from the web, including news from newspaper organizations. That’s led to a decline in my reading of comics on actual printed newspapers. Other than portability I am not sure what advantage the newspaper print version has over the web – the web versions offer color (usually), instant access to archives, and extras if I’m interested. (Heck, even portability isn’t much of an advantage if you think about the growing availability of laptop+wifi connections in homes and coffee shops).

Is it possible that newspapers have missed their opportunity to rethink and better exploit comic strips as a means to improve their readership, particularly with younger readers? Is there anything a newspaper can do with comic strips today that web-delivery cannot do?


Xaviar Xerexes

Wandering webcomic ronin. Created Comixpedia (2002-2005) and ComixTalk (2006-2012; 2016-?). Made a lot of unfinished comics and novels.


  1. Is there anything a newspaper can do with comic strips today that web-delivery cannot do?

    Well, it’s substantially harder to wrap the coolest Christmas gift a kid gets in printouts from the Web instead of the Sunday Funnies.

    And that’s not entirely facetious on my part. There is something visceral about the newspaper that’s hard to replicate online.

  2. Is there anything a newspaper can do with comic strips today that web-delivery cannot do?
    Quality control.
    Not to say that a newspaper/syndicates have good quality control on the comics page, but they could. On the other hand, anyone can have a webcomic. There are 8-year olds with webcomics.

    Sure, the best webcomic today may be better than the best newspaper comic today, but it’s not as good as the best newspaper comics of yesterday. An internet cartoonist would have to be pretty arogant to say their comic’s better than Krazy Kat, Pogo, and The Spirit.
    If the syndicates did their jobs right, newspaper comics would have no problem blowing webcomics out of the water.

  3. Quality control.

    That’s what Keenspot and the Modern Tales sites are for.

  4. I’d make the standard “can’t wrap fish-and-chips in a webpage/radio/TV” gag, but alas, they seem to have gone over to using plain paper nowadays.

  5. I once wrapped a gift with discarded covers of my comic books. It was beyond coolness.

    All right, so it wasn’t that cool. Still, it was pretty original. Also, it was cheap.


  6. I don’t disagree that a newspaper could but I still don’t see anything inherent to the newspaper that gives it a structural advantage on quality control.

    Any publisher on the web can exert quality control in various ways. The only advantage newspapers have had is the lure of better (frankly, any) pay for creators.

    Think of it this way – newspapers right now probably have a couple of advantages, assuming you can get your syndicated work into the newspaper – they pay (and consistently) and they have a large audience which will help the comic with name recognition (and the benefits that come with that). Newspapers are at a disadvantage to the web (and other printed formats) with regards to artistic freedom.

    If newspapers pay poorly and go further in that direction versus increasing revenue opportunities on the web in combination with the decline in newspaper readership versus the increase in people using the web (some blogs readerships exceed regional newspapers levels already) I think we’re looking at a permanent shift.

  7. Just thought it relevant here that Kurtz has gotten PVP 5 times a week into The Evening Bulletin, a new paper you can pick up in Downtown Philladelphia.

  8. Excuse me while type an emoticon to signify that I’m rolling my eyes sarcastically. -> 9_9
    That’s what Keenspot and the Modern Tales sites are TRYING to do, you mean.

  9. Well, the problem with quality control on the internet is that popularity/success of online comics has little to do with quality.
    Popularity and success on the internet has more to do with updating constantly/regularly and having addicting storylines. Appealing to niche groups helps too. It’s the “soap opera”/”reality television” business model.
    Some popular webcomics ARE high-quality, of course. Just not most of them.

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