Last summer the Express-News made a big fuss over a reader survey for its comics section in advance of making a few minor changes to its comics lineup. So I was a little startled last week to open up the paper and find that they had suddenly dropped five comic strips and added three.
With one major exception, I don’t have a problem with any of the changes. I’m just surprised that they did it without any forewarning considering their past cautiousness when monkeying with the sacred funny pages.
The latest comics shakeup was brought about by the decision of T.K. Ryan to retire his long-running Tumbleweeds strip. While not one of my favorites, Tumbleweeds was still a good strip that I would read on occasion and I respect Ryan’s decision to end the strip and not pass it off to the syndicate.
The E-N took advantage of the Tumbleweeds exit to dump Willy n’ Ethel, The Amazing Spider Man, and Snuffy Smith. I was mostly indifferent to Willy ‘n Ethel. I thought Spider Man was stupid and Snuffy Smith, one of the longest running strips, should have been retired decades ago.
But the BIG problem I have was the decision to drop the daily Curtis strip (it will still run on Sundays). Curtis is an excellent, contemporary strip that has fresh and intelligent story lines (not a gag-a-day strip) and great character development. Why would they dump Curtis and keep Prickly City and Cathy, both of which scored in the Bottom 10 of the last comics survey? Better yet, dump Born Loser, Marvin or The Lockhorns to free up space.
The new strips they chose to add - Retro Geek, The Other Coast and Family Tree (Sunday only) - seem like fine choices, but why would they pass on Sherman’s Lagoon which was one of the top requested strips in the last survey? And some other excellent strips that are missing from the E-N include Monty, Big Nate, Rudy Park and Heart of the City.