Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lio and the Comics Change 3 - The Rerunuts

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 Rerunuts

In the final two sequences of Lio's story arc, the newspaper has apparently settled on a replacement for Mrs. Ivanna Laff {Momma], the Rerunuts [Peanuts]. (click on images to enlarge)

Tatulli's made his feelings about Charles Shultz' legacy strip Peanuts clear in previous sequences, like the one below.

And I have to agree. With space on the comics page at a premium, why clutter it up with reruns? Personally, I think giving the space to current comics that might attract new readers would be more productive.

I think that's the point of Tatulli's Rerunuts sequences. In Friday's strip, Lio's father laughs at the Rerunuts' stale gag. Is Lio's question mark indicating he doesn't understand why his father thinks the Rerunuts are funny, or that he doesn't understand the strip's the hopelessly dated reference? Both, I think.

Saturday's sequence ends the story arc.

If space keeps shrinking, will this be
the future of comics in newspapers?
The Rerunuts are in -- they've succeeded in offending the least number of people. And why not? The Jimmy Carter joke would have been inoffensive even when Carter was president. Bloom County, this is not. (And I don't think the final word in the panel is there by accident, either.)

Tatulli goes right to the heart of the problem. Newspapers are continually pressuring comics syndicates to shrink the size of the strips -- presumably to make room for more comics. But what do they do with that room? Waste it with irrelevant legacy strips that do nothing to grow readership. And decreased space impacts the artwork, making it more difficult to create any type of visually engaging comics.

In time, we may be reduced to reading Bazooka Joe-sized strips in the papers -- if they last that long.

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