To Our Readers: Introducing some changes to our Sunday comics lineup

Published: 8/28/2022 7:03:54 AM
Modified: 8/28/2022 7:00:12 AM

When you’re publishing a newspaper, change is no laughing matter. That’s true, even if you’re talking about the funny pages.

Many of our longtime readers tell us that they turn to the daily comics page and the Sunday comics section to get their day started. They find them humorous, perceptive, evocative and provoking. They know what they like and what they could live without. We know this because we asked.

And many answered. In a recent survey, we received votes from more than 330 print readers, revealing what they liked most and what we should consider adding. We announced earlier this summer that we were taking a hard look at expenses across our operation as a way to rein in our escalating newsprint costs. We knew we’d have to cut back on a couple Sunday strips so we could fit them within the paper itself, rather than in a separate inserted magazine. We asked our readers to be our guide. After the survey, we had a better understanding of what we needed to keep, what would be missed the least and what we may add to the lineup.

The comics changes

We’ve long published 22 comics in our Sunday magazine. Starting on Sept. 4, we’re cutting that number back to 18, and they’ll be found in the Sunday D section. There are no changes planned for our daily comics lineup.

What we’re keeping: Zits received the highest rating in our survey, where we asked readers to name their 10 favorites. We’ll also be keeping Pickles, Doonesbury, For Better or Worse, Dilbert, Pearls Before Swine, Peanuts, Bizarro, Baby Blues, Blondie, Foxtrot, Garfield, Rhymes with Orange, Rose is Rose and Family Circus.

What we’re eliminating: The people have spoken and the following didn’t gain much public support. Beetle Bailey, Close to Home, Mother Goose, Hi Lois, Macanudo, Born Loser and Slyfox.

What we’re adding: There will be three new strips added to our lineup. Two came on recommendations from our readers and our syndicate. The other is making its much-awaited return.

Back in 2019, the Monitor was among the many newspapers in the country that canceled the popular strip Non Sequitur when author Wiley Miller snuck a Trump-themed profanity into his strip. Before anyone noticed, he sent a message on Twitter to his readers that he’d left them an “Easter egg.” That broke many of the tenets of publishing a local newspaper, and we decided to end the relationship. There were more than a few readers who canceled, and many others who threatened to do so. That’s always hard to hear, but we continued to stand firm in the three years since. One reader recently told me he disagreed with what Miller did in 2019, but said, “Come on, doesn’t he deserve another chance?” He’s right. Miller has paid his dues and it’s time to bring him back in.

When looking at new strips, Crabgrass emerged as one that we ought to add. Written by Tauhid Bondia, the popular online strip has been picked up in recent months by papers from the Los Angeles Times to the Miami Herald. It’s set in the 1980s and it features the adventures of two best friends. The strip has gained a young, diverse following, and Bondia has said in published reports that his strip reflects something he didn’t see much of when reading through newspapers in his childhood.

“That wasn’t something that I didn’t quite question until I got much much older,” he said. “So it was important for me to have a Black character in my comic strip because I am Black and I think it’s an important voice to have out there.”

We’ll also be adding Sherman’s Lagoon to our list. It came in second on requests to Calvin and Hobbs, which is not available for purchase. Written by Jim Toomey, Sherman’s Lagoon launched in 1991 and remains popular around the world. It’s set on a fictional island in the South Pacific Ocean and it stars affable shark Sherman and a cast of underwater misfits.

More to note

The migration of Sunday comics will have a couple of other implications.

First, we will no longer be printing the Sunday television guide. This product, which includes the coming week’s television lineup, has proven to be less useful as technology races ahead and most newspapers stopped printing it years ago. For those who rely on it, though, we will continue to keep it as part of the e-edition, which is a digital replica of the newspaper.

There’s something we’re adding to the mix too. We’ve reinvested some of the money we’re going to save on printing costs to hire an arts and entertainment writer. Kelly Sennott, formerly of the Hippo, is joining us with a weekly piece on the people, places and events that make the Greater Concord region a thriving hub for the arts and for fun things to do. Look for her articles on the front page every Wednesday and in our weekly Monitor Marquee newsletter.

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