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Newspaper Comics
aka: Newspaper Comic

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Before the Internet and Webcomics, 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 and Pogo, 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.

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Compared to other media, newspaper comics can have incredibly long tenures. New Peanuts strips appeared daily for over 49 years. Doonesbury has been running since 1970 and Garfield has been coming out since 1978. Neither show any signs of stopping. Even more impressively, Blondie has run since 1930, Gasoline Alley has run since 1918, and most impressively of all The Katzenjammer Kids ran for 109 years (from 1897 to 2006)! While traditionally, a 10-year run was considered tremendous for a television show, when Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, Bloom County and The Boondocks each ended production after around a decade, it seemed far too soon (let alone Cul de Sac, which ran for barely five years).

Actually, one of the reasons why Webcomics have gotten a lead over Web-based indie music distribution (let alone 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". Actually, many top cartoonists got stinking rich (for instance, Bringing Up Father's George MacManus was able to make a fortune, lose it after the 1929 crash, and become even richer) and even reached stardom in some cases, at the same time keeping a degree of anonymity most celebs wouldn't dream of.

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The downside is that, since the 1990s, newspaper comics went from being an American institution read by millions to become a byword for stodgy humor mainly read (at least as the stereotype goes) by the old fogeys who still read newspapers these days (particularly in the Web, including The Comics Curmudgeon, The Punchline and Wondermark's Comic Strip Doctor), with Long-Runners being regarded as not being funny anymore, if they ever were, derisively described as "zombie strips". One of the chief reasons comics haven't adapted to the more cynical comedy tastes of the 21st century (or non-English-speaking countries), being seemingly stuck with the tired jokes and premises associated with 50s/60s-era sitcoms lies in the fact newspapers see features as a means of attracting readers in general (while, since the 1990s, the rule has been the exact opposite, especially as comedy goes). Thus, Darker and Edgier humor, political- and/or current-events-based humor must be handled carefully, lest they cost more subscriptions than they gain (this counts for both the paper and the artist), especially considering that in the English-speaking world, newspapers are forbidden by stylebook from printing anything more "offensive" than "hell" (except in special cases, but these never apply to the funnies). And, like in the case of animated shows, a newspaper strip can be written even ten months in advance of print date, which doesn't help topical humor (political strips are often done six weeks in advance, although it's still a long time). Ironically, in its early years (1890s-1910s), the medium was associated with the raucous "yellow journalism" of Hearst and Pulitzernote .

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As a result of their financial woes, 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 simpler 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.

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. Webcomics 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".

See Born in the Funny Papers for tropes from newspaper comics. See also Military and Warfare Comics.


Formats

  • 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.


By decade:


Newspaper Syndicates:

  • Bell Syndicate
  • Creators Syndicate
  • North America Syndicatenote 
  • Register and Tribune Syndicate
  • MacNaught Syndicate
  • McClure Syndicate
  • New York Tribune
  • Post-Hall Syndicste
  • Publishers Syndicate
  • Washington Post Writers Group


Newspaper Comics with pages:


Alternative Title(s): Newspaper Comic, Comic Strips, Comic Strip

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