A special format of Newspaper Comics. Instead of the three to five square panels afforded to the weekday episodes of a newspaper comic, the gaudy Sunday editions of newspapers often feature luxurious color episodes taking up half a page each. These larger comics allow the cartoonist to engage in longer, more elaborate gags than are possible in a typical weekday strip.
Sunday Strips, being quite clearly differentiated from their weekday counterparts, are often used for non-Canon stories, or even separate Story Arcs altogether. This is sometimes done because not all newspapers that carry the weekday strip carry its Sunday counterpart. It is also sometimes done because the artist produces the weekday and Sunday strips on separate schedules (since the Sunday ones need more lead time to set up for printing). More often, though, they simply continue the story being told in the weekday strips, or lack thereof.
Before World War II, most comics took one entire page. In the 1920s and 30s, these were accompanied by "toppers", complementary comics (done by the same artist) and cut-outs that were often replaced by advertising. After 1940, most comics became printed in half-page and third-page formats. The quarter-page format was introduced later. Now with newspaper pages being narrower than their pre-1970s counterparts, most comic sections crowd six features per page.
Newspaper Sunday strips use a version of Edited for Syndication. The top row and first subsequent panel of a strip may be discarded by papers that want to fit more strips onto a page, and therefore has to contain a literal throwaway gag which is usually unrelated to the rest of the strip, or at least the rest of the strip still makes sense if it's removed. The panels are also expected to fit into certain formats so newspapers could rearrange them to form two rows (with or without the throwaway panels), three rows or four rows of equal breadth. Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes protested against this practice and demanded (and won) the right to produce a Sunday strip with a fixed layout and no throwaway panels, but this was still an exception to the rule; it helped Watterson's case that he was, even by that point, looked upon by many as the benchmark for pushing the bounds of what a newspaper comic strip was capable of. Walt Kelly's Pogo ended because of disagreements with the syndicate regarding the size of the Sunday pages.
Sunday strips are published a day early in Canada due to blue laws in the past that prohibited the publication of Sunday newspapers in most provinces, making the Saturday paper the biggest edition of the week. (These laws were mainly repealed after World War II, but most newspapers still publish the comics on Saturdays (those who have Sunday editions publish the Saturday installment on Sundays - and yes, they are known as "Saturday strips".) Back when newspaper comics were Serious Business, Americans living in border cities would often travel to Canada on Saturdays for the sole purpose of getting the Sunday strips a day before their neighbours. In the US, Saturday comic sections were published in evening newspapers, and for a time, the Washington Post carried the Sunday comics on Saturdays. In Australia, comic strips are carried as part of "puzzle sections".
Despite not being newspaper comics, several webcomics participate in this trope. After all, Sunday strips look a lot nicer than normal strips—but they take more time and trouble. Using both allows some beautiful strips while lowering the chance and severity of Schedule Slips; and because it's already done in print media, it's accepted on the 'Net.
Newspaper Comics - notable variations
- Disney's Sunday strips were a different thing from their Daily Strips. Donald Duck's nephews, José Carioca and Panchito all made their debuts in Sunday Strip form, up to a year before their respective movies debuted in North America.
- In 2006, FoxTrot ended its weekday strips and went to Sunday strips only. In 1999, it had swapped formats from a half-page to a third-page.
- Mark Trail uses its Sunday strips for PBS-style nature lessons. (Though it occasionally goes off-topic à la Network Decay.)
- Slylock Fox turns its Sunday strips into miniature activity pages, with a Slylock mystery, a six-differences puzzle, a how-to-draw, and a featured drawing, with the throwaway panels being used for a gag involving two kids.
- The above case of Calvin and Hobbes, which in addition to being the first strip in decades to be printed in an unbroken format in every paper, also became the reason many papers print some strips down the side of the page, one panel per row: Some papers, not wanting to use up the whole nearly-half-page on Calvin and Hobbes, printed it and a few other strips at a smaller size, with one strip — usually Doonesbury, which is almost always nine identically-sized panels — laid out down the side. This led to...
- ...Non Sequitur being laid out in two different, seamless, unbreakable formats, the traditional two-row strip and with the panels stacked vertically. This was all done by the artist before submitting the finished product to the syndicate. Now its only published in the vertical variation because the other version was run as a quarter-page, even smaller.
- Opus was also offered in an unbreakable format and, unlike Calvin and Hobbes, was initially required to only be printed full-size.
- Close to Home used to run two normal-sized strips on Sundays, but now runs one big one.
- In Britain, Fred Basset has a two-tiered Sunday installment. So does Andy Capp (this until recently).
- The Perishers briefly had a Sunday edition, but it was only printed in the Scottish edition of the Sunday Mirror, and was a similar size to its weekday version.
- Spider-Man has a Sunday strip that continues the story whilst also being longer and flashier than the other 6 days of strips, however, because some newspapers don't print it, most Monday strips are just a compressed rehash of the Sunday strip, to some readers' aggravation.
- The Phantom solves this problem by running a completely different story on Sundays, with a few notable exceptions for key events such as the Phantom's wedding, where the Sunday strip ran a condensed version of the events of the week's dailies so that readers wouldn't be left out if their paper only ran one or the other.
- Narbonic featured a variety of material on Sundays - reader art, reader poems, a spinoff arc recasting the characters in a Victorian pulp serial homage, and a particularly long Fan Fic called "A Brief Moment of Culture." (It was about sentient yoghurt.) Skin Horse follows suit.
- Schlock Mercenary runs a double strip on Sundays, and while some times it's covering another scene during the events of the current story line, as during the Oisri story arc, usually it continues with the story line of the time, particularly for events that wouldn't really be practical in the normal sized strip.
- Sluggy Freelance used these for a while. For the past few years, however, Pete Abrams has greatly relaxed the strip's format; nowadays strips can vary from a single black-and-white panel to two pages of full-colored, extra-size panels, and anything inbetween.
- Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire: It used to be that these were normal strips, just colored. Nowadays, they've moved into once-a-week, single-panel splash pages, often without dialogue.
- Arthur, King of Time and Space had extra-long Sunday strips. Towards the end these became story-free "sketch Sundays", often serving as reminders of things that are important to the strip's mythology, but can't easily be worked into dialogue.
- No difference in size, but at one point, The Wotch was telling one story on weekdays and a different one on Sundays, the Sunday story being a continuation of its earlier Crossover with Accidental Centaurs.
- In late November 2008, Least I Could Do recently added a Sunday update that is large format, a different art style and all flashback.
- And Shine Heaven Now usually sticks to three-panel strips from a given storyline during the week, but the Sunday Edition provides a space for Filk Songs, Fourth-Wall Mail Slot Q&As, one-shot gags, non-canon parodies, and other material that has nothing to do with the main story.
- The Unshelved Book Club has appeared most Sundays since mid-2005.
- Squid Row does this, even though the daily strips are also in full color.
- Kevin & Kell not only has bigger Sunday strips, but they used to have a newspaper-style throwaway top strip (the author also draws newspaper comics On the Fastrack and Safe Havens). More recent Sunday strips are much taller, to allow for publication in Bill Holbrook's local newspaper.
- Mr Square had a monday strip featured in color in light of this tradition.
- Nuparurocks' Comics has done this since its switch to a daily format in late 2008/early 2009.
- El Goonish Shive started out like this, and followed the format for exactly 12 weeks. The next week onwards it moved on to a different format, and eventually abandoned the daily schedule as well.
- Stairwell emulates a Sunday style strip every weekend that is totally unrelated to any story lines that might be going on during the weekly strips.
- It's Walky! had double sized colour Sunday strips. Since the rerun website adds in all the bonus comics, it's impossible to make them consistently run on Sundays. Currently, they run on Fridays.
- Leif & Thorn Sunday strips include alternate-universe scenarios, one-shot strips that aren't part of a larger storyline, and explanations of worldbuilding details. The ones that fit into the ongoing storyline are twice the size of the weekly strips, with more varied layouts.
- Adam Huber of Bug Martini has recently added Sunday comics available only to his Patreon donors, above a certain (small) donation mark.
- Lampshaded in The Bird Feeder #10, which is titled simply "Sund'y Comic," and which is in traditional Sunday comic format.