Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Honey, the LAT Shrunk the Comics, Part II: The Cartoonists Respond




Cartoonists are taking the Los Angeles Times' shrinking comic strips in stride, noting that it's better than the alternative -- losing carriage of their strip all together.

It kind of reminds me of what I tell people these days when they ask me about my job. I usually answer something to the effect of, "Hey, it's just nice to be working."

It's true -- I toil in the print media, which is not exactly a growth industry. I'm sure many of you answer that question in the same exact way.

That's why I wasn't too surprised to find that cartoonists are resigned to shrinking reality of newspaper comic strips. Cartoonists have been complaining about the trend for years, as their work gets harder and harder to read -- but these days, as newspapers as a whole continue to get smaller, they're just happy to still get published anywhere.

I asked "Candorville" creator Darrin Bell and "La Cucaracha" creator Lalo Alcaraz -- both based in Los Angeles -- to weigh in on the changes.

"Tonight I was laughing at myself about this very thing," Alcaraz wrote me. "Sure, the comics pages are shrunk, and damn, the Sundays look almost the size of dailies, but... the whole paper is shrinking. It's comforting that we notice the comics first, God bless us everyone! But now the LA Times is the size of the Long Beach Press Telegram.

"I did turn in a daily gag about the comics shrinking, it's pretty much mandatory for cartoonists to note this long running development. It should run next week.

"On the bright side, I haven't been shrunk out of the paper."

Bell, meanwhile, said he was being realistic:

"I'd love it if they could run my work 8" across, but the reality is papers are struggling to survive, newsprint costs a fortune, and if it's a choice between dropping more content (which'll alienate readers) and shrinking the content they have, they've made the right choice. I'm hoping the iPad takes off, every newspaper eventually moves to that kind of platform and then this won't be an issue anymore. But for now, I have no problem with them choosing to shrink content to save it. On the bright side, this should be a boon to the magnifying glass industry."

Both "Candorville" and "La Cucaracha" were briefly dropped, and then reinstated, by the LAT during an earlier comic strip switcheroo. (BTW, yes, the strips above have been extremely shrunk down for dramatic effect. It's actually not as bad as what you see above. Or, at least, not quite.)

As for that massive house ad that has now been slapped in the middle of the LAT comics page, it finally dawned on me why it's there (as opposed to, say, new comics): It's gotta be a placeholder for an ad -- they're gonna try to sell a strip ad in the middle of the comics!

RELATED: Honey, the LAT Shrunk the Comics -- I Mean, REALLY Shrunk the Comics

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