McMullen: Comics changes overdue
Some of my readers might recall that I found a stash of old copies of The Sedalia Democrat when I sorted through all the junk in my garage earlier this year when the house that I live in played host to a garage sale.
I like to think of it as my little newspaper archive, even though it can’t compare to the huge backlog of papers that they keep in the offices of The Sedalia Democrat. The bulk of the collection is from 1998 to 2000, with a couple random years thrown in for good measure. The paper itself is a little wider and a little shorter than the paper we’re used to these days, and the masthead is at least twice it’s current size. Familiar faces and places appear on the front page. Friends of mine and Sedalia landmarks such as the Hotel Bothwell appear on each yellowing front page. There’s even a picture of me on one of them — July 9, 1999 — depicting this opinion columnist eating ice cream out of a gutter that’s been set up on a series of picnic tables. (We had some crazy times at Boy Scout camp over the years.)
I decided to pull out my little newspaper archive to see just how much the comics page had changed in 10 years. The closest paper I have to this very date was the issue from Dec. 24, 1999.
There it was, on page nine of the sports section — almost indistinguishable from how the comics page looked just a short week ago. Everything is there but in a slightly different order — “Peanuts” is on top, then “The Born Loser,” “Frank and Earnest,” “Garfield,” “For Better or For Worse,” “Beetle Bailey,” “B.C.,” “Blondie,” “Zits,” “Marmaduke,” “Kit ‘N’ Carlyle,” “Herman” and “The Family Circus.”
And what might be surprising to some is the strip that is tucked between “For Better or For Worse” and “Beetle Bailey” — “The Grizzwells,” then labeled simply as “Grizwell.” Many of you are probably well aware of this fact: What is old is new again and “The Grizzwells” has made its way back to our comics page after a multi-year absence.
Back in 1999 we had a syndicated advice column from Ann Landers herself instead of Marcy Sugar and Kathy Mitchell, the women who create the “Annie’s Mailbox” advice column. Now we get advice from Harriette Cole, and even though the change displeased one anonymous Sedline commentator, I just can’t bring myself to have much of an opinion on the subject. Advice is advice for the most part, and I only venture to that part of the page when the headline is particularly hilarious, like, “Husband won’t stop taking pictures of mailboxes” or something like that.
In lower right-hand corner of the comics page of the 1999 paper is the reliable old crossword puzzle, which is the only thing that has retained its exact position on the page to this very day. I should feel shame as an individual who smashes words together for a living, but it seems like my brain starts to sabotage itself whenever I try the crossword puzzle. The mental block starts forming in my mind if my eyes even dare venture into that corner. I should probably do it more often — it would probably do me some good.
Now we’ve got Sudoku and a “Celebrity Cipher.” Sudoku has never struck me personally as something that I would want to do for fun or entertainment, but people go crazy for it and it takes up a relatively small amount of space for the entertainment it provides them.
The point is this: The Sedalia Democrat’s comics page remained relatively unchanged for at least 10 years, and I might be alone in this conclusion but I think it is safe to say that we were overdue for some real changes.
A lot has changed in 10 years — back then we had a different editor, a different publisher and I haven’t yet found a reporter whose name I recognize. One of the only things that remains largely the same is the one-panel “Peanuts” Christmas countdown on the front page.
I’m sad to see that some people aren’t willing to give “Pearls Before Swine” a chance. I’ve been reading it for a while on the Internet and it really is a quality comic strip. The art is relatively simplistic but the punch lines are legitimately funny most of the time. Read it for a couple days before you knock it — you should never be wary of something simply because it is new and unfamiliar.
The comics page might have to be tweaked at some point to please the maximum amount of people possible, but we shouldn’t plant ourselves in the ground and resist any sort of change at all. Change is natural and a newspaper in this day and age must evolve constantly if it hopes to remain relevant.
I’m happy to see some new comics on the comics page — now maybe we can work toward getting rid of junk like “The Family Circus.” (I can see the letters to the editor rolling in already.)
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