Our Sunday comics contract was no laughing matter — a long-term deal involving several other newspapers and a Colorado printer.
It is nearly impossible to get newspaper editors to agree on anything, especially something as controversial as a comics lineup. One editor’s favorite strip is another editor’s snoozer. That arrangement made it difficult to change our lineup to ensure that The Gazette continued to deliver a bunch of Sunday giggles to our loyal comics readers.
Tee hee. We’re now on our own.
That restrictive contract is in the rearview mirror, and we’re now printing our own funnies.
Our readers helped shape The Gazette’s four-page lineup that debuts today by leaving their thoughts on our comics hotline earlier this spring.
Many thanks to the callers who left hundreds of suggestions on what to add and what to subtract from Sunday’s collection of comics. From those suggestions came some easy additions.
Readers love “Pickles,” which has been on the daily comics page for a few years. More callers asked for “Pickles” than any other strip. That’s why you will see that the funny side of Earl and Opal Pickles’ family life now occupies the top spot on the front page of our revamped section.
Close behind were a couple other daily favorites — “Baby Blues” and “Zits.” They, too, will come to you in Sunday color on the cover of the comics section. And though a few callers said they’re growing tired of “Garfield” and “Peanuts,” support was solid for the famous fat cat and Charlie Brown, who will bring their antics to you from the cover, too.
Other daily strips that drew enough support to move into Sunday’s lineup include “Luann,” “Pearls before Swine” and “Non Sequitur.”
Readers still like “Blondie.” Another long-running strip, “Beetle Bailey,” drew some criticism from those who find it sexist and irrelevant, but it had a platoon of supporters, too. Both made the cut along with several other holdovers from the previous edition.
On the subtraction side, callers made it clear what stinkers they’d retire to make room for new strips. “Prince Valiant” was the biggest loser in our unscientific survey. It received an overwhelming “toss it overboard” sentiment. “Ziggy” fared poorly, as did “Shoe,” “Sally Forth” and a few others.
Our freshened up, 21-strip lineup includes two new features.
I think you’ll love “Tundra,” Chad Carpenter’s award-winning strip about life in Alaska. Readers of all ages in our Rocky Mountain region will connect with this hilarious panel, which we’ll also add to the daily paper. I think it has a “Far Side” feel to it, and folks loved the “Far Side.” More than 400 newspapers spread the “Tundra” humor.
“Uncle Art’s Funland,” a feature for kids, didn’t fare well on the hotline. So we found a popular kids feature that provides brainteasers, fun facts, jokes and helpful tips. “Slylock Fox and Comics for Kids” will engage children — and adults — as they follow the capers of Slylock Fox and his sidekick, Max Mouse. More than 400 papers carry Bob Weber Jr.’s activity feature.
The comics hotline that helped us shape our new section is still hooked up and awaits your feedback. Dial us up at 657-1421. Did we go far enough in shaking up the lineup? Did we go too far? What do you think of “Tundra” and “Slylock Fox”?
Again, thanks to all the comics fans who took the time to call. Let the chuckling begin!
Steve Prosinski is editor of The Billings Gazette. Reach him at 657-1289.