Since the early 20th century, syndicated comics and gag cartoons have been a constant presence in newspapers worldwide. However, in a recent article by Rob Tornoe, at Editor and Publisher paints a bleak future for comics and cartoons.
He starts off with the first sign of things to come with the latest developments in Australia:
Ginger Meggs is an institution in Australia, where the beloved comic strip — about a “red-haired larrikin” living in the suburbs — has run in newspapers nationwide for over 100 years.
But that relationship between generations of Australians and the newspapers that have long published the comic strip was instantly severed when the two major chains down under — Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp Australia and Nine Entertainment — decided to eliminate all comic strips.
Jason Chatfield , who has been writing and drawing “Ginger Meggs” since 2007, notes one of the sad elements that made the decision even more frustrating, a reluctance to embrace new media as more and more readers of newspapers migrate from print to digital.
“We begged from day one that News Corp and Nine Entertainment bring the strips online with the Sudoku, the horoscopes, and the crosswords and puzzles they had ported to the app,” Chatfield said. “They just didn’t. There was this stubborn reluctance that absolutely wasn’t grounded in any logic whatsoever. … I was just summarily ignored.”
Tornoe continues to note that the developments in the Australian newspaper market have not gone unnoticed by cartoonists and syndication companies in the United States.
While no major newspaper chains in the U.S. have pulled the plug entirely on comics sections, publishers have been willing to make wholesale moves involving comics and puzzles they wouldn’t have dreamt of doing in previous years for fear of alienating more of their declining print subscribers.
The paradox is, newspaper companies are desperate to gain and retain as many readers as they can on their digital platforms, and yet they are slowly but surely abandoning comics and and other features that have proven to be popular with readers. Keith Knight, a syndicated cartoonist captured this growing sentiment at the 2022 CXC Festival:
“You’ve got to give up on newspapers because newspapers gave up on us,” Knight said. “Every survey, people say they go to the comics first, and yet the comics are the first thing that gets shrunk, that gets dropped. They don’t respect us; we shouldn’t respect them.”
Editorial cartoons have not escaped the cutting block of newspapers.
Newspapers also continue to shed editorial cartoonists on staff. In July, McClatchy laid off its three remaining staff cartoonists, all Pulitzer Prize winners — Kevin Siers at the Charlotte Observer, Joel Pett of the Lexington Herald-Leader, and Jack Ohman at the Sacramento Bee.
With all that being said, a few insiders still remain optimistic about the future of comic strips and cartoons.
Over at King Features Syndicate, President CJ Kettler doesn’t see comic strips going away anytime soon. In fact, Kettle said the company launched several new comics features this year, including “Break of Day” by Nate Fakes and “Never Been Deader” by Tommy Devoid.Over at King Features Syndicate, President CJ Kettler doesn’t see comic strips going away anytime soon. In fact, Kettle said the company launched several new comics features this year, including “Break of Day” by Nate Fakes and “Never Been Deader” by Tommy Devoid.
It remains to be seen whether his optimism will ultimately proven to be true.