Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Post on comic strip collective action

The Post has picked up on the February 10th collective protest by cartoonists of a darker shade of pale - "Cartoonists to Protest Lack of Color in the Comics," by Teresa Wiltz, Washington Post Staff Writer, Wednesday, February 6, 2008; C01. The protest is largely the idea of local cartoonist Corey Thomas who does 'Watch Your Head.'

I'm afraid I agree with the opinions that Gene Weingarten expressed in his chat update today, although I like Baldo and La Cucaracha well enough. Boondocks' McGruder's comments in the initial article are interesting too - unfortunately I don't think a lot of the college cartoonists are able to sustain their strip. I was a fan of Watch Your Head when the Post tried it out, but it's become a real one-note strip.

Chatalogical Humor by Gene Weingarten, Washington Post Staff Writer, Tuesday, February 5, 2008; 12:00 PM

Gene Weingarten: Here's an interesting piece in today's Style section, about a planned protest by cartoonists-of-color.

I sympathize with these guys, and many of them produce good strips that are victims of a de facto quota system. But there's a difficult truth that undercuts their argument. In devastating economic times, newspapers are (unwisely, I believe) ruthlessly squeezing the life out of their comics pages. So there is plenty of pandering going on in all directions -- a naked, desperate effort to appeal to every possible perceived constituency -- and that has nothing to do with racism. With limited space, there are quotas for everything. Believe me, the only reason newspapers run the painfully bad Prickly City is that they feel they need to offer a conservative voice on the page, to counterbalance the lefty Doonesbury, Candorville Nonsequitur, etc. The only reason newspapers run Dennis the Menace and Beetle Bailey and Classic Peanuts is to appeal to the oldsters who they believe would feel lost without these mild, mealy things. Family Circus is for very, very young readers, and preposterously stupid adults, and lovers of camp humor. This appeal-to-all-demographics impulse leaves very little room for ANYONE to break into a newspaper.

There is another factor undercutting their argument: For some, the despicable quota system has worked splendidly. The only reason The Post runs the weak Baldo is that the pandering alternative is the weaker La Cucaracha.

It's a pretty bad situation all around.

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