You would think being the editor of a newspaper’s comics page, in which all the content is provided by the syndicates, would be the world’s easiest job, but in fact, it’s well known to be a headache, especially when the editors try to change something. T
his recent article from the Capitol Journal, titled “There’s nothing funny about changing the comics page,” could be put under glass at the Smithsonian as the purest example of all such editorials, a perfect distillation of all the necessary elements: reader revolt at the removal of a moribund comic (in this case, Dennis the Menace), introduction of four new comics (they’re good, people, give them a try), and finally, the editors’ courageous stand against Peanuts:
But the fact is, Peanuts was written from 1950 to 2000, and it has survived for the 13 years since then as reruns. Also, just so you know, the syndicated outfit that sells it to us wants to pay three times as much for it as lots of other things we can buy. Maybe it’s still a funny comic strip to some of you, but it’s surely not three times as funny as everything else, and some of our readers told us it’s boring.
So … that one’s gone.
If the usual history of these things holds, Peanuts will be back next week, once all the tar and feathers are cleared away.
Meanwhile, in the what-were-they-thinking department, The Washington Post actually pulled a Barney & Clyde strip the other day, when, apparently, the editor actually read the comic and saw the phrase “f up” used as a pun. What’s much funnier than the actual joke (which is rather strained) is that the newspaper that killed the strip is also the syndicate, and the creator, Gene Weingarten, is its humor columnist. In his Q&A column at the Post, Weingarten had this to say:
Time and again, the Post exercises more delicacy in comics editing decisions than other papers! We’ve had to rewrite or replace strips several times for the Post, but for none of the many other client papers.
Weingarten adds that he doesn’t have any problem with that: “It’s not censorship, it’s editing.” Which only seems to create problems when it’s done on the comics page.