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Speakers Feel Comic Pages Are Too Safe; They Make Their Views Known during an NFC Gathering Which Also Features an Address by Eugene Roberts, Elections and, More

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Speakers Feel Comic Pages Are Too Safe; They Make Their Views Known during an NFC Gathering Which Also Features an Address by Eugene Roberts, Elections and, More

Article excerpt

Speakers feel comics pages are too safe

They make their views known during an NFC gathering which also features an address by Eugene Roberts, elections, and more

Are comics pages too conventional and one-dimensional? Several people who spoke at this month's Newspaper Features Council (NFC) meeting believe the answer is yes.

"I think the comics pages suffer from a lack of variety," said "Sylvia" creator Nicole Hollander, one of the "Safe Cartooning" session panelists in Charleston, S.C.

The self-syndicated Chicagoan noted that there is nothing wrong with traditional comics being on these pages, but said there should also be more comics showing various lifestyles, tackling controversial issues, offering ethnic humor, and so on.

"Here we have [other parts of] newspapers dealing with everything in the world," commented Hollander. "But when you come to the comics pages, you're not supposed to disturb readers, you're not supposed to make them think."

Some columns, for instance, contain fairly frank material. National Cartoonists Society president Mell Lazarus -- an NFC meeting attendee who does "Momma" and "Miss Peach" for Creators Syndicate (CS) -- said by way of example that King Features Syndicate writer Dr. Joyce Brothers' feature includes "very intimate stuff" on occasion.

Another panelist, "Dilbert" creator Scott Adams of United Feature Syndicate (UFS), observed that many newspapers which ran front-page stories on Pee-Wee Herman's alleged masturbation in a movie theater would probably not allow gags about it on their comics pages.

Adams said a large segment of younger readers want "more of an edge in their humor; they want more risk-taking." He noted that a number of his friends have stopped buying newspapers because they feel the medium has "to a large extent been lost in the 1950s."

"Newspapers may not be allowing enough creative space for their cartoonists," stated panel moderator David Hendin. He observed that other media such as tv, magazines, and comic books -- as well as stand-up comedy -- allow riskier material than newspaper comics pages.

A couple of NFC attendees said media such as tv reach many kids, meaning that youngsters are already being exposed to material editors feel they shouldn't be seeing on comics pages.

Sarah Gillespie, United Media's vice president/director of comic art, observed from the audience that "one of the reasons we can't get away with more" on comics pages is that they can be looked at again and again while tv images are "there and gone."

Hendin, UM's senior vice president/editorial director, said some newspaper editors and readers get annoyed whenever Mike Peters has his cartoon dog drink from the toilet bowl in the Tribune Media Services (TMS)-distributed "Mother Goose and Grimm." But he added that the toilet drinking is much more accepted in the new Saturday morning tv show based on Peters' comic.

Adams spoke about how he periodically tries to take "Dilbert" material "near the edge" of what newspapers will accept "without crossing it."

The cartoonist -- whose humor comic starring "a typical engineer and his atypical dog" appears in just over 100 papers -- showed several of his strips as examples. One featured a woman (who had given birth in her office because she wasn't allowed maternity leave!) breast-feeding a baby under her blouse.

Adams said he had received no negative letters about this comic, but sometimes gets complaints when he least expects it -- as when two people thought "Dilbert" was being "mean to scientists."

Hollander -- whose humor strip addresses subjects such as feminism, politics, sex, food, cosmetics, and cats -- said comics with more modern themes are often quite acceptable to most readers. But the "Sylvia" creator added that even the occasional concentration of angry responses should not deter newspaper editors. …

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