Many Publications Are Taking 'The 5th.' (Cartoonist Rich Tennant's 'The 5th Wave')(Syndicates/News Services)

Article excerpt

GIVEN THAT "THE 5th Wave" is usually about computers, does the title have something to do with surfing the Net?

Nope. Rich Tennant named his cartoon panel back in the 1980s, when surfing brought to mind board widths rather than bandwidths.

"Actually, the name was a little bit of a mistake on my part," he recalled. "Future Shock author Alvin Toffler talked about different waves, and I thought he wrote that the Industrial Revolution was the fourth wave." So Tennant added one more wave for his title.

The cartoonist soon discovered that Toffler had referred to the Industrial Revolution as the third wave, but Tennant ended up staying with "The 5th Wave" name. He said, with a laugh, that it implies a leap further into the future than"The 4th Wave" would.

In truth, Tennant's weekly feature was ahead of its time in some ways. He remembered submitting the computer-themed comic to several syndicates in the early 1990s, and being told that it was "too specific" and "too esoteric."

So "The 5th Wave" stayed self-distributed. Then, in 1995 and 1996,Tennant ran ads about his comic in E & P -- and several syndicates called to express interest in possibly representing him by that time. Of course, the topic of cyberspace had become a lot more mainstream as the World Wide Web exploded in popularity.

But Tennant opted to remain self-syndicated. The cartoonist said he is aware of the marketing clout big syndicates have, but added that he makes a good living, enjoys running his own business, and likes interacting with clients one on one.

Among these clients are about a dozen newspapers, including the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press, Houston Chronicle, Philadelphia Daily News, Salt Lake Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press. Many clients run "The 5th Wave" in their tech pages or sections.

"The 5th Wave" also appears in Universal Press Syndicate's Connect-Time magazine, which is carried by more than 50 newspapers with a combined circulation of 6.7 million.

Tennant started selling to newspapers in earnest only two years ago. Prior to that, he had clients in other media in the U.S. and abroad-and still does. Tennant's comic runs in various computer magazines, many in-house company publications, and numerous "Dummies" books (such as Internet for Dummies) published by IDG.

At least some of these IDG books aren't computer-related, which means some "5th Wave" cartoons are about food, beer, dogs, golf, finances, gardening and other topics. …