Sunday, April 15, 2007

Legacy strips

After the Johnny Hart's death last week, Creators Syndicate announced that his strips, B.C. and The Wizard of Id, would be continued by assistants and "digital archives." Some folks are upset about this. One of the common myths in the internet comic strip community is that new cartoonists are kept out of the newspapers by the proliferation of "legacy strips," or, in other words, comics by dead guys. When a cartoonist dies, his strip should cease running and a new cartoonist should get his chance, goes the popular thinking. And I've found myself disagreeing.

While we're getting rid of fifty-year old Peanuts, should we also keep John Lennon off the radio, stop selling Miles Davis albums, and take I Love Lucy off the air?

No doubt, some of these legacy strips are patently awful. (I'm looking right at you, Nancy.) But, so is most everything on television, commercial radio and the best-seller lists. Unfortunately, the major networks and the major newspapers aren't necessarily catering to our refined tastes. They are putting out what they think will sell. And for the most part they're right. Most newspaper readers would prefer to see Dagwood collide with the mailman for millionth time instead of reading a brilliant web-comic filled with timely pop-culture references and sassy talking animals.

Anybody frustrated with the staleness of newspaper comics can find fresher, quirkier stuff elsewhere--the web, a big city's alternative weekly, a good comic book store. Any good cartoonist frustrated with the business aspect of the whole comic strip business can create his or her own alternate distribution system. It's not the syndicates' job to make sure you get exposure. That is yours.