Universal Press Syndicate is offering a late 20th-century phenomenom in an early 20th-century size.
"The Simpsons" TV show has spawned a Sunday comic that's bigger 3/4-page broadsheet or full-page tabloid than most strips have run for decades. That means some newspapers are scrambling to find room to publish it.
The comic, available Sept. 5, has 52 episodes that papers can use until the end of next year, according to Universal vice president/editorial director Lee Salem.
Will there be more episodes after that? "It depends on the response," says Terry Delegeane, managing editor of the Bongo Comics Group, an eight-person company producing the strip with the help of freelance artists and writers. "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening oversees the process.
Groening, whose animated show has aired on Fox for 10 years, founded the Los Angeles-based Bongo in 1993 and has seen it release over 60 comic books featuring "Simpsons" characters.
Salem says about 35 papers bought the newspaper "Simpsons" by mid-July. One is the Los Angeles Times, where managing editor for features and design John Lindsay says the popularity of Fox's sitcom convinced the paper to sign on. He says the Times may increase its Sunday comic section from six to eight pages, hopefully with extra ads, to fit the strip.
The Boston Herald, a tabloid with broadsheet Sunday comics, also hopes to go from six to eight pages. Deputy managing editor for features Linda Kincaid says the paper will try to sell a 1/4-page ad under the 3/4-page "Simpsons."
She adds that buying the strip is a big commitment for the Herald, because it was asked to sign a contract for all 52 episodes. Usually, newspapers aren't obligated to run a comic for that long.
But Kincaid thinks it's worth it. "The comic is funny and has the potential to draw in readers," she says. "It's based on a popular show that has originality, consistently good writing, …