Before the Internet and Web Comics
, the only place to find daily, serialized comic strips was (and for many people, still is) the back page of your local mainstream or alternative newspaper.
Comic strips can cover a wide range of formats, topics, characters and artistic styles. The Far Side
and The Family Circus
are one-panel gag strips. Bloom County
, while light-hearted on the surface, were thick with Story Arcs
and political commentary
. Other strips, like Peanuts
and Calvin and Hobbes
, delightfully portray the experiences of childhood, and thus have broad, long-term appeal. There have been countless serialized adventure strips like The Phantom, Flash Gordon, Prince Valiant
and Dick Tracy
; soap opera/slice-of-life strips like Gasoline Alley
and Rex Morgan M.D.
, and strips that fall in between, like Little Orphan Annie
Compared to other media, newspaper comics can have incredibly long tenures
. New Peanuts
strips appeared daily for over 49 years. Doonesbury
has been running for over 45 years and Garfield
has been coming out for almost 40 years. Neither show any signs of stopping. Even more impressively, Blondie
has run for well over 80 years, Gasoline Alley
has run almost 100 years, and most impressively of all The Katzenjammer Kids
ran for 109 years (from 1897 to 2006)! A 10-year run is considered tremendous for a television show, but when Calvin and Hobbes
, The Far Side
and Bloom County
each ended production after a decade, it seemed far too soon.
On the flip side, one of the reasons why Web Comics
are 5-10 years ahead of Web-based indie music distribution (and 15-20 years ahead of non-corporate Web movies) is that "making it big" in sequential art has been traditionally defined as "being able to support a middle-class lifestyle without a day job". Only about 10 people in the whole 20th century got seriously stinking rich drawing Newspaper Comics
, and of those only two or three achieved actual stardom
(with Charles Schulz, Jim Davis and Al Capp being the most obvious examples).
The downside is that many newspaper comics have a reputation for not being funny anymore
and the Long-Runners
often derisively described as "zombie strips." This is because, as far as a newspaper is concerned, comic strips are just advertising: they're there to lure in readers and make them more willing to fork over some subscription money. They're Fanservice
, basically. And the last thing you want to do with fanservice is serve up something that doesn't actually please the fans. As such, Darker and Edgier
humor, political- and/or current-events-based humor must be handled carefully, lest they cost the newspaper (or the artist!)
more subscriptions than they gain, especially considering then in the English-speaking world newspapers are forbidden by stylebook from printing anything more "offensive" than "hell" (displaying it as "son of a (expletive)"). Even worse, newspaper strips are written anywhere from six weeks to ten months
in advance of print date, which doesn't help topical humor. As a result of smaller paper sizes, newspapers have also been cutting down on the amount of space that comic strip artists are given in which to practice their visual, art-based medium, resulting in Bowdlerized
art and abbreviated storytelling.note
. Compare and contrast the Infinite Canvas
and complete lack of censorship offered by Web Comics
as a medium. And the newspaper itself has become a victim of the Information Age; not only can consumers get the news online, they can get comics
online too. So newspapers have to play it safe, and they do so by angling for broad, non-offensive humor with a wide appeal, often by recycling tired jokes and premises that sitcoms put to pasture years ago.
Successful newspaper comics usually find their way into other media
, but are most fondly remembered as simple pen-and-ink drawings on cheap newsprint.
Sometimes you'll hear the term "Underground Comix"
; in the USA, at least, this term refers to pen-and-ink comics not distributed by a syndicate and normally published in "alternative" papers, 'zines, etc. Web Comics
and the consolidation of the supposedly "Alternative"
newsweekly industry have put a dint in their circulation, but Cerebus
and American Elf
among others started out this way, and the latter still appears in alternative weeklies, or at least the one in the author's hometown.
Also, these have a very high chance of Breaking the Fourth Wall
, but only
when they do a very common "look at the reader at some other person's comedy or comedy failure
The medium has also inspired many works that criticize it, including The Comics Curmudgeon
and The Punchline.
See Born in the Funny Papers
for tropes from newspaper comics. See also Military and Warfare Comics
- Daily Strip (or Panel): A small piece published between Monday and Saturday, often in black-and-white.
- Sunday Strip: A larger version (often in color) published on Sundays hence their name. Known as "weekend comics" in Canada as they are traditionally published on Saturday.
- Topper Strip: A now disappeared variation, consisting of a smaller feature accompanying the main comic, often by the same artist.
- Bell Syndicate
- Creators Syndicate
- Field Syndicate
- Universal Uclick
- Washington Post Writers Group
Newspaper Comics with pages: