|From Matt Tauber|
[click the duplicate pic at the very bottom to get the best enlarged view]
Last month we saw the debut of the Batman and Robin comic strip on May 29, 1966. Here is the 'Blondie' strip that ran below it. 'Blondie' was started in 1930 by cartoonist Chic Young, who built it into one of the most popular strips of all time. Even at the peak of our beloved Milton Caniff, 'Terry & the Pirates' always trailed behind 'Blondie' in popularity polls.
Chic Young is the sole credit and signer of the strip, going uncredited are his son, Dean, as co-writer, and Jim Raymond, the artist. Raymond, brother of Alex, started out as Young's assistant and would not be credited until Dean Young took over after his father's death in 1973. The strip below is from last Sunday, June 7, 2009. Dean Young, at 71, is still writing the feature, with John Marshall as head artist.
The contrast between the two strips is a startling reminder of the shrinking of the Sunday funnies. The comics page used to be an integral part of a newspaper's sales, a drawing card that built paper loyalty. With dwindling newspaper revenue and almost a total absence of competition, they now seem to be an afterthought, kept only because their absence or elimination would raise the ire of longtime subscribers.
The older strip is 12 panels. The strip takes up almost a half page - 6 1/2" high x 13" wide on 14" wide paper. The recent strip is 6 panels. A neat little 5" square on 11" wide paper. After raising the cost of the Sunday paper last year from $1.50 to $1.75, they drastically cut content about a month later. They managed to keep the same number of comics, but in a smaller space.
A look at the online strip below (from Blondie.com) reveals that there are three panels missing. The first is the logo panel. Then there are two "throwaway" panels, which can be discarded by newspapers because they don't effect the story. Note how in the '66 strip the logo panel was also used to begin the story, and if the first three panels were discarded, the entire strip would make no sense. Perhaps I'm living in the past, but the shrinking of the comic strip (a problem comic artists and fans alike have been complaining about for decades) is depressing. But I guess it's better than no comics at all.
A recent B.C. gets the last word on this topic: