But what we don't see much of is comic strip news. There aren't any dedicated news sites for strips, and it's rare they crossover into comic book news sites. Peanuts is getting a bit of attention at the moment, but mostly in reference to the movie. Aside from that, we get about zip. There's a Garfield animated cartoon that's been around since 2009 but it's barely even mentioned on Garfield.com! And aside from the occasional (and unfortunate) death of a creator and an annual passing mention of the Reuben Awards, we don't hear much.
So I'm sitting here wondering why that is. Why isn't there enough news to warrant at least a few dedicated comic strip sites? Why does a magazine like Hogan's Alley focus primarily on historical pieces? (I mean, besides the fact that it's a printed magazine and inherently slower than a website.) Why do comic books dominate headlines over comic strips?
Here're some facts about some specific comic strips...
- Dean Young inherited Blondie when his father passed away in 1973. He's been working on the strip ever since.
- Pearls Before Swine and Six Chix are two of the more recent comics United and King have syndicated. They both debuted fifteen years ago.
- Bill Amend and Gary Trudeau dropped their daily strips in favor of Sundays only in 2006 and 2013 respectively. Many newspapers continue to run Foxtrot and Doonesbury re-runs during the week.
- Charles Schultz died in 2000, a day before the last new Peanuts ran. Aaron McGruder quit Boondocks in 2006. Both strips continue to be syndicated in re-runs.
- Little Orphan Annie ended in in 2010 after an 86-year run. Brenda Starr ended in 2011 after 70 years.
Argueably the biggest news in comic strips last year was Bill Watterson doing several guest strips for Pearls Before Swine. Watterson, who had retired as a cartoonist nearly two decades earlier! It was news because he was no longer in the comics industry. He left in 1995. He was news in large part because he was the first outsider to appear on the funny pages in over a decade.
Readers bemoan the nature of legacy comic strips. That they recycle the same jokes and gags their predecessors use, and keeping them in circulation prevents new voices from being heard. But the often unspoken corollary to that is that recycling jokes and keeping out new talent means nothing new is happening. With nothing new happening, there is no news. With no news, there are no news sites. With no news sites, there's no easy way for readers to stay informed -- and interested -- in the comic strips beyond the strips themselves (which, as noted before, are mostly recycled). With decreasing interest, there's less incentive to bring in new cartoonists. With no new cartoonists... well, we're back at the beginning of this cycle.
The insular nature of comic strips is, in effect, creating a downward spiral of disinterest among readers. There are certainly other factors at play here, as well (declining in newspapers generally, for example) but the comic strip industry isn't doing itself any favors by making their "big" news events things like this extra Sunday supplement of old strips that's supposed to be in papers this weekend.