You’re going to make me write about “Kit & Carlyle” again, aren’t you?
I’d hoped that I could sneak through a couple changes on our Comics page without uproar, but by now I should know better. Even the most minute change to that page – and I’ve done it enough times over the years – upsets the proverbial apple cart so much that it generates phone calls, emails and, my personal favorite, threats to cancel subscriptions.
I don’t want you to do that, of course. And I don’t mess with the Comics page lightly, our out of spite (frighteningly, I’ve been accused of that – What do you have against Snoopy?!?). I’ve come to understand in the last two decades or so that a large percentage of our readership is very, very attached to the contents of the Comics page, and He Who Dares Mess With It has got some serious ‘splainin to do.
That would be me, so here it goes. At the start of 2013, our primary syndicate .... wait, let me back up even further. To answer the question that’s been put to me on every scout troop tour I’ve ever given here, no, we do not draw the comics ourselves. You knew that, certainly, but what you might not know is that we buy them from several different syndication services – at no small cost, I might add. We download the comic strips from various websites every other week (a chore I never look forward to, even with my new bifocals) and assemble the page, piecemeal, daily.
Long gone and lamented are the days when the comics arrived via U.S. mail, and it was Darkroom Dave’s purview to slice them up individually and wax them to life-size page mockups ... but I digress.
At the beginning of this year, our primary syndication service dropped “Cow and Boy” from its lineup. I don’t know why, and frankly until the other day when I discovered that the majority of my newsroom are fanboys, I didn’t much care. I knew I’d have to find a replacement. From this particular service, we buy a daily “bundle,” which includes a few things – features, puzzles, columns and comics – that we don’t use. Sorting through those, I picked “Thatababy” as a suitable replacement for “Cow and Boy.”
That went by for a few days with nary a comment, so I began looking at how many services we pay for, what we really use, and the best way to consolidate and cut costs. It’s a theme around here these days, as I’m sure it is in your business, too – finding ways to work more efficiently, providing the same or equitable services while reducing overhead. So by jiggering things around a bit, I was able to cut out one syndication service entirely, and save us a boatload of money.
And then the trouble started. Sudoku is pretty popular, I know. People are very attached to that puzzle, as much or more than the crossword. I dropped the one from the cancelled feature service and picked up another we were already paying for in that bundle and not using. One Sudoku is the same as another, right?
Wrong, apparently. I confess I’ve never done a Sudoku puzzle. Nor will I. As someone averse to all things mathematical, I do not see the appeal. But to each his own ... I’m told by those who know that the ‘new’ Sudoku on our Entertainment page actually is just as good, it just looks different than the other one people were used to – the puzzle is vertical rather than horizontal. Still, I have ruined lives.
And then I had to replace the cancelled “Rubes” panel with another similarly sized comic. The only one our bundled feature service offered? “Kit & Carlyle.” So, on Tuesday, that cute little kitty reappeared on the pages of The Evening Sun.
I’ve written in this space before about the great “Kit & Carlyle” debacle of 2003, when I deep-sixed that long-running funny with the aforementioned “Rubes.” Which I liked better at the time, and was assured was popular across the nation. Threats of violence ensued. I swore then that I’d never touch that blessed Comics page again, but here I am.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention, and it’s taken me this entire column to invent an excuse for the changes you’ve seen on the Comics page this week – but all of it’s true (except the violence part – as a member of the liberal media, I suppose I’m prone to hyperbole). So now you know – the new/old comics are necessitated by both inside and outside influences, but I’m hoping that you’ll bear with us and roll with the punches, as they were. Much like we thought the Comics page would never be the same without “Peanuts,” “The Far Side” or my personal favorite, the much-missed “Calvin and Hobbes,” I’m confident you’ll get used to the new lineup (slightly rearranged to make it easier, I admit, for me to assemble every day) and come to love “Thatababy” and re-love “Kit & Carlyle.”
That was more than I ever intended to write about the Comics page, but you asked for it. I promise I won’t touch it again. This year.