This past weekend brought the National Cartoonists Society’s annual convention to Hollywood, and the group handed out its Reuben Awards recognizing illustrated excellence to winners such as editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez, comic strip artist Mark Tatulli (“Lio”), panel cartoonist Mark Parisi (“Off the Mark”) and comic book artist Cyril Pedrosa (“Three Shadows”). (For a list of all winners and samples of their work, go here.) The awards brought applause but the convention had a pall hanging over it — times are tough in the old ink business. Hero Complex correspondent Yvonne Villarreal explained why in a recent article for the Los Angeles Times. Here’s an excerpt…
It’s usually a time for fun, culminating in a black tie dinner where the best comics are given Reuben Awards. But like so many others in this changing economy, cartoonists are suffering. With newspapers cutting space and in some cases folding, print comic strip illustrators are finding their livelihoods threatened.
“We live and die by our newspapers,” said Cathy Guisewite, who created the comic strip “Cathy” in 1976. “We’ve all built our careers on trying to be content for newspapers. If newspapers are struggling, then we’re struggling as well.”
Readers of several major newspapers have seen the comics reduced or re-sized in the last few months. In late March, the Washington Post announced it was dropping five print comics, including “Little Dog Lost” and “Zippy the Pinhead” — though, all five are still available on the Post’s website. A month earlier, the Oregonian announced it was dropping 10 comics to cut back on costs. In December, the Florida Times-Union cut eight strips from both its daily and Sunday comics. The paper instituted a “Comic Strip Survivor” voting drive through which readers could pick which eight of the 16 strips would be eliminated.
But cartoonists whose strips survive are forced to be even more succinct in their storytelling as newspapers shrink their allotted space for comics.
“There’s less you can do in the size of the panel that current newspapers provide,” said Stephan Pastis, creator of “Pearls Before Swine.” “In the old days, comics were often full pages. Now, they’re squeezed down into tiny little boxes that don’t give much more room than what it takes to do a talking head. It’s sad to see something that was so important to cartooning becoming marginalized…”
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