What does it take to kill off an unfunny comic strip?

Inspired by this thread, I got to wondering about something.

B.C. Wizard of Id. Peanuts. Garfield. Cathy. Dilbert. Beetle Bailey. Hagar the Horrible. Blondie. Nancy.

What does it take to kill off a classic comic strip that just isn’t funny any more–assuming that it was ever funny in the first place? Okay, maybe it’s not fair to include Peanuts because it’s all reprints today, but let’s face it. A lot of these old warhorses ought to be put out to pasture. There are some exceptions, of course–Popeye, Little Orphan Annie, maybe a couple of others–but almost all of the “classic” strips are moving on sheer inertia now. Zombie-like, they refuse to lie down and be still even though any discernible reason for their existence disappeared a long time ago.

Will all the fans of the old strips have to die before these things can finally be laid to rest? Or is it simply a lack of good new strips that keeps the walking dead on their feet?

Bill Watterson had the class to leave at the top of his game when he stopped doing Calvin and Hobbes. Walt Kelly’s widow was wise enough not to get someone else to do Pogo when Kelly died (though she did consider a comic book). Likewise the Li’l Abner strip was wisely allowed to die with its creator, Al Capp, although many say the strip had long ago grown stale by the time Capp passed on. But isn’t anybody else concerned with bowing out gracefully when it’s time to go? Can anybody still be reading Blondie or Beetle Bailey for any reason other than sheer force of habit?

Please tell me that someday I’ll get to dance on Garfield’s grave.

But in the mean time, tell me: Why won’t these damn things die?

Is this a rhetorical question? They won’t die because a lot of people still like them. Personally, I enjoy over half of the strips on your list.

Which half?

I assume many people are like me in that they don’t put a whole lot of thought into how their local paper chooses the comics to run. Instead, the comics in your daily paper are just “THE” comics. And when you travel or get a different paper on occasion, the comics just aren’t “RIGHT”.

Every once in a while the Chicago Trib has had “polls” where they asked readers to rate the comics, and then did some rejiggering of the page. It must be a rather difficult task, trying to appeal (at least somewhat) to everyone from kids to seniors, and folks of all cultures, ethnicities, educational backgrounds, lifestyles, etc. Given that, I’m surprised I actually like as many of the comics as I do! I probably really like maybe 1/4 of them, but I read them all except for 2 or 3. The majority of them are just pretty “Meh.” Good for a smile occasionally, but generally not memorable in any way.

It always almost personally offends me when they eliminate one of “MY” comics, instead of one of those lame ones “NO ONE” could possibly like. And even if they eliminate 2 lame ones, it is unlikely that both replacements will be “good.”

Interesting topic.

Is there any support for the idea of condensing all these strips into one? I’m envisioning a highly bureaucratic pet hospital on an Army base…

I just wish they’d get rid of those stupid soap opera strips. Does anyone actually read those?

Mark Trail, Gil Thorp - the comics curmudgeon is starting to turn me on to Apartment 3-G…

Newspapers need a rule that they will not automatically publish strips done by the children of the original cartoonist. The strip must earn its way back onto the page once the originator retires or dies. That gets rid of Shoe and Hagar , both of which were excellent back in the day but tended to suck once the original artist/writer passed on. The comics page editors must get some spine and get some new blood onto the comics page.

The soap opera/continuity strips are popular, but their problem is a matter of pacing: since some papers only run the Sunday version, and others don’t run the Sunday page, you have to tell the story so nothing happens at all during the week except for a recap of the Sunday page. And even less happens on Saturday, the day of lowest circulation. So story lines are dragged out endlessly.

But it’s hard for a newspaper to gage popularity of strips; they don’t get a lot of feedback, and no one ever cancelled the paper because the comics were too dull (they did if they got too political, but that’s prevented by putting Doonesbury on the editorial page). Every once in awhile they may try to poll readers, but that’s inexact. (Though I did help to get “Cats With Hands” dropped from my local paper – they printed my poll comment about it).

At the same time, there are plenty of people who think Garfield is funny a cute. So, generally, once a strip is established, newspapers will stick with it as long as it’s produced.

BTW, Selby Kelly (Walt’s widow) did try to keep Pogo going after Walt’s death, and even authorized a revival in the 80s that was pretty good – but not up to Kelly’s genius.

I like almost all Dilbert, Peanuts and Beetle Bailey strips. I like quite a few (probably over half) of the B.C., Wizard of Id, and Hagar strips. I sometimes get a good chuckle out of Blondie, but they are down to about two jokes. Every now and then a new Garfield strip makes me laugh, but not often anymore. It’s rare that I even bother to read Cathy or Nancy.

Let’s see I think the procedure is:

  1. Stake through heart
  2. Stuff mouth with garlic
  3. Decapitate

Or harpoon them, attach the line to a truck tow cable, and pull them into the sunlight.

Good luck!

Yeah, I remember that’s how they killed Prince Valiant when I was a kid. I was pissed as hell, and I didn’t even really like the thing! It was just, you know, the thing that went in that part of the page.

Re: soap opera comics - remember that bit in the Golden Girls? Something like “Oh, Apartment 2-G, I haven’t read that in ten years! What’s happened?”
“Well, it’s later that day…”

The comics page keeps going, possibly, because there’s nothing better waiting in the wings. Plus, my dad likes Beetle Bailey, and my mom always wants to see what old Dennis is up to. Personally I think the “frozen in time” aspect of the comics page is a little weird and creepy - Blondie is a 30’s comic, you know. Still going, like a little zombie, but without any connection to its readers that made it popular in the past.

Cathy hasnt been even amusing in years. How much stupid shopping can anyone stand. Blondie is trying to update but abusive bosses are not amusing. There are laws. Beetle should have fragged sarge years ago. Beating your soldiers to a pulp does not amuse.

The Rapture.

Snoopy gets rabies, kills everyone.

Feed him poisoned lasagna.

Feed her poisoned chocolate.

Have him actually see combat.

Have him actually see combat.

Crushed to death by three rocks.

It’d be nice to retire old strips with dignity, but they have a monetary value independent of how much you ot I like the strips, and that monetary value keeps them in print. Dick Tracy and Flash Gordon have enormous merchandising potential, and the occasional movie project keeps the syndicates from pulling the plug and allowing sweet, merciful death for these two old hondos. Even a crappy, unpopular strip like “Over the Hedge” can have a lucrative film project to buoy its value.

I work for a newspaper that runs about fifteen daily strips. They cancelled the ones I like and replaced them with ones I hate. There were no aesthetic considerations in this transformation. My paper grew explosively from a suburban local to a serious player in the same market as the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun, and the Post and Sun had some of the same strips as us. Once we moved into their market, the syndicates had to pick between us and them, and all of them chose the more established papers. If you ever wonder what moron chooses the crappy strips in your paper, I can tell you–it’s an editor who has the choice of about 150 strips that no other nearby paper wants.

What does it take to kill off an unfunny strip? Subscribe to the New York Times.

Someone in a CS thread not long ago (can’t recall which thread) suggested it’s because all the good new cartoonists are publishing webcomics now. Newspaper syndication is just too daunting to break into – mainly because of inertia, lack of audible reader demand for anything new, and the shrinking space most papers allot to the funnies.

Oh, for the days when your average weekday strip filled up half a page . . . :frowning:

Dorothy: “Apartment 3-G, I haven’t read that in 30 years!”
Blanche: “Oh well, let me catch you up, it’s later that same day…”

Some of the comics the OP listed are pop culture institutions, but some of them stopped having a certain appeal after a few decades past their original sell-by date. Some comics should have been left to gather dust, until getting redrawn by new artists, in which case the zombie-comic strip idea completely comes into play.

As long as The Dinette Set stays in print – the worst, least funny comic strip I have ever read – I don’t think that we as a nation can possibly evolve.

Is Family Circus still around? That’s one I’d recommend to boot off.

Businesses like the newspaper industry are inherently conservative when it comes to monetary decisions. That’s why the comic pages are filled with warmed-over crap, yet there are dozens of amazing, intelligent and funny independent and web comics that blow them out of the water.

If you’ve got an old strip that’s still the tiniest bit popular, why risk bringing in new blood when there’s even the slightest possibility it will fail and money will be lost?