Comic Strips Ended Without Fanfare

By | Thursday, January 09, 2020 Leave a Comment
Within the past week, two newspaper comic strips ended... and seemingly no one noticed. Terri Libenson's The Pajama Diaries had it's last strip run on January 4, and Peter Guren's Ask Shagg had it's last strip run on January 5. Here are the last strips for each...
final Ask Shagg strip

final Pajama Diaries strip
Although I missed it earlier, Liebenson announced her decision to end the strip in mid-December, saying that she wanted to devote time to other projects. (Presumably working on children's books, as that's something she's been doing in addition to her strip for the past four years.) As far as I can tell, Guren made no public announcement. Indeed, I learned of it on January 5 and only then when Chip Sansom (cartoonist on The Born Loser) noted his surprise on Facebook. While I can't find any reason given for his discontinuing the strip, Guren has been drawing Ask Shagg since 1980 and I believe he's in his mid-60s, so it could well be just a simple matter of retirement.

As noted in the final Pajama Diaries, the strip is being re-run on As Ask Shagg is just a weekly strip, it's currently unclear whether that will be re-running on but it's reasonable to expect it will, I think. But there is no mention on either site -- at least as far as I can find -- that either strip has ended at all, beyond what's presented in the final strips. The site makes no mention of it either and still has form for submitting questions. (Although, aside from pulling in the latest comic, nothing on the site seems to have been updated in at least five years.) Libenson's personal website does have a note about her decision to end the strip, but that is distinct from (which just directs to Comics Kingdom) so readers would have to have been following her specifically and distinctly outside her comic in order to have seen/heard anything prior to this week.

Now, granted, neither of these strips had the reach or longevity of, say, Peanuts so I wouldn't expect the level of coverage that strip got when Charles Schulz opted to end it, but I think it is almost note-worthy in and of itself that there is so little fanfare of these two strips retiring in quick succession. Although if both strips continue their life online (and possibly in print -- I see no reason why both syndicates wouldn't continue to make them available) in re-runs, is that even really an issue? Ask Shagg in particular has decades of material, so it's unlikely anyone following the strip today is familiar with those strips from the 1980s.

In the past, syndicates would hire new artists and writers to keep the strips going -- it's something of a joke to call strips like Blondie and Barney Google "zombie strips" because their original creators have been dead for ages, but the strips keep churning along. Though we have seen fairly recent instances of that still happening, they have in some case attempted reinvigorating those strips by letting creators go in wildly different directions. (Nancy and Popeye come to mind.) It will be interesting to watch as more strips retire, and whether they'll be just set to re-runs or whether they'll try something new with them. It would seem syndicates are still trying to figure out their place in today's market and how best to compete with what's happening in webcomics.
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