Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lio and the Comics Change 1 - The Beginning

Mark Tatulli, creator of Lio, seems to share some of my opinions about newspaper comics. His brilliant story arc last week made several mordant points about the state of the industry, and offered up some humor that worked on different levels. Rather than write one massive commentary about the sequence, I'm break it up into three parts, (The Beginning, The Transition, and The Rerunuts) each examining two days of continuity in detail. 

The Beginning:

The first sequence sets the story in motion (click on images to enlarge).

Although Tatulli's technically depicting action in two different comics, the positioning of the strips is important.

First we learn of the changes to the comics page, then we see the results. If you don't know a lot about comics, the gag works. But if you do, the humor becomes even sharper.

Hysterical, no? Ivanna Laff, I really do.
The comics character Mrs. Ivanna Laff bears more than a passing resemblance to Mell Lazarus' comic character Momma.

Personally, I've never really liked Momma. The art was OK, but the characters -- an overbearing, manipulative mother and her three emotionally damaged children never seemed to yield much humor for me.

Not that it couldn't, but for me the gags came across as dated Borscht Belt routines, even when the strip was new in 1970. So seeing this irritating character forcibly removed from the comics page made Lio's Monday sequence gave the gag a delicious edge to it.

The second sequence pretty much sums up the way the industry appears to comics aficionados.

Newspapers don't want innovative strips that further the art and really engage readers. They just want something that will appeal to the maximum number of people But in order to appeal to the most people, it has to be as inoffensive as possible. And while blandness might retain an audience, it won't grow it. And it's an audience that doesn't really care about the product. And these days, I would think newspapers would be looking for engaged readers who would be willing to subscribe because they really need what the paper offers.

I subscribe to the Washington Post (in part) because it has the largest comics section of any of regional papers. Their selection of comics are a selling point for me. Lio's Tuesday's sequence suggests that the newspapers no longer regard comics that way.

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