Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Not so funny

This is Day Three of comics-without-Doonesbury. Monday it made me so sick, I couldn't stomach the Monterey County Herald comics. I went out and bought the San Jose Mercury News instead, and discovered the exciting reality of much more world and national news in addition to two pages of comics. Real comics.
Tuesday I called the Herald to change my subscription to Sunday only (couldn't quite make a clean break!), and subscribed on-line to the Mercury News on a bargain subscription site.
All over "Doonesbury?" Well, not quite. They also retired four or five others of my favorites. "Prince Valiant" is gone now, along with "Luanne," "Cathy," "Dinette Set," and "Close to Home."
Now, you might say, "All this over comics?" After all, a serious paper like the "New York Times" doesn't even have comics.
However, a lot of truth is spoken through humor. Remember "All in the Family," the 1970s sit com? How much did that one show, and its spin-offs, contribute to new attitudes towards the issues of the day--particularly racism and chauvinism?
"Luanne" poked gentle fun at the issues facing a young woman today. Over the years, "Cathy" exposed the foibles of the single life-style, and now goes on with those of the young-married. "Dinette Set" took on the city red-neck lifestyle, with its greed and small-mindedness. "Close to Home" came as close to the zany, off-beat humor of "The Far Side" as any contemporary comic. But these got the guillotine.
Why? In a phone conversation, the editor mentioned today's catch word: diversity. We need diverse comics today--like, I suppose, a black strip, and a Latino one, and one about gays? But what about women? Two of the strips dropped were about women. Of the new strips, one features African-Americans--"The Boondocks"--and another, "Baldo," Latinos. Now, this is a good idea, I think. But "Pickles" looks pretty white to me. "Mutts" is about animals, and I don't know what "Bizarro" is about. I miss "Frank and Ernest" too--two old derelicts. Derelicts are diverse, aren't they?
Is this, like the demise of our favorite local independent bookstore, another sign of the end of an era? Small newspapers have to be struggling financially too, but there is competition springing up all the time from even smaller ones. Considering the popularity of the comics--the Herald got over 5000 votes on its comics survey!--it would seem that increasing the number of comics rather than pruning people's favorites would be the way to keeping customers.
At least two I know of will not be reading the Herald in coming months as a result of this changing of the guard.
In my next entry, some opinions about Doonesbury.


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