Little Orphan Annie cancellation hastens newspaper decline

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Many of you sent us this link to the news that the Little Orphan Annie comic strip has been canceled. The strip, currently drawn by Ted Slampyak and written by Jay Maeder, will end on June 13th with a cliffhanger in which Annie’s fate is not known and Daddy Warbucks ponders anxiously over the future of big media in an uncertain landscape.

As the most prominent legacy strip to be canceled in quite a while, this is a shocker, although Annie was only carried in 20 papers so not really a shocker.

For the last couple of years we’ve been a guest lecturer at an SVA class, run by Dan Nadel, that teaches seniors “The Business of Comics.” When we first started talking to the kids, the class included a representative from a newspaper syndicate to explain how to get into the comic strip business. However of late, Dan tells us, the students have no interest in this outlet, and the class has been changed to focus on other avenues. College art students aren’t always the most savvy arbiters of business sense, but here they are right on the money — newspaper comic strips are going the way of the radio drama and the soap opera, long gone art forms. In the case of the glorious history of the newspaper strip – one of the great American art forms – we have Dean Mullaney and Craig Yoe and Rick Marschall and so on to give us the best of the past. as we quietly move on to reading webcomics on our iPads.

Tribune Media Services tells us that Annie will still be around as a licensed character and of that we have no doubt. We also have no doubt that young girls will continue to gather en masse to squall the songs from Annie in class plays, much to the dismay of parents around the world.

Comments

  1. I’ve noticed the comic sections in our local newspaper The State getting much smaller. I wonder if they will disappear altogether eventully? If that happens it will be a shame as for many kids, the comic section is their first exposure to sequential art.

  2. Todd VerBeek says:

    One part of the grand tradition of newspaper strips is still alive: reader protests whenever a strip is dropped. My local daily just discontinued “Luann” (not the worst strip on their roster) to make room for “Frazz” (an upstart less-than-10-year-old strip, by a former staffer) and immediately got complaints from both of the paper’s remaining subscribers. So they’re bringing “Luann” back, and even printing the installments they missed.

    Now they’re running a poll asking whether they should drop “Peanuts” to make room for them both. Even though newspaper readers today are (by definition) a rather traditional lot, there’s nearly 50% support for retiring it. (I love “Peanuts”, but newspapers shouldn’t be carrying reruns.)

  3. Jeffy says:

    Peanuts is the worst strip ever.

  4. To say that newspaper strips are going the way of radio dramas and soaps is incorrect. Those art forms (if you can call soaps an art form) are still alive, just in new forms that fit with the on demand society we’ve become.

    Example: radio drama is now audio theatre. Tom Lopez of ZBS is still putting out “Ruby” masterpieces. Hollywood Theatre of the Ear is about to produce an audio version of “The Mark of Zorro.” My company is about to put out a kick-ass adaptation of Lee and Kaluta’s comic book “Starstruck.” Will these pieces be on radio? Hell, no. Look to the web, to iTunes and even YouTube, look to CD’s, look to podcasts. It’s more active than ever, just in a new medium.

    The same thing is happening and will happen with newspaper strips. You can read “Dick Tracy” and “Spider-Man” off the syndicate websites. We will see a conclusion to the “Annie” cliffhanger, just not on the printed page. I’d rather not bemoan the inevitable, but marvel at what’s to come.

    And “Peanuts” is not the worst strip ever. That would be “Cathy.”

    Lance Roger Axt
    AudioComics, LLC

  5. Actually, from an aesthetic and storytelling viewpoint, I think “Mark Trail” is considered the worst strip.

    Among comics panels? “Love Is”

    But searching Google and asking people to name a worst strip, people will argue that some “bad” strips are quite good.

  6. RIP Annie and Daddy Warbucks. I never read you but for some reason I can’t get “bet your bottom dollar” out of my head right now. I should also recognize that by way of Calvin & Hobbes, I have borrowed your “pupiless-eyes” for my character designs.

    The newspaper comic strip is not dead, just mostly dead. Comic Strips are morphing into web comics so it’s probably more accurate to say that the “comic strip syndication” business is dead.

  7. Linus says:

    @Jeffy

    No, Family Circle is!

    (Seriously, did no one see the joke that guy was making?)

  8. Marcus Lusk says:

    Ending on a cliffhanger?? They couldn’t give them a few more days to wrap it up somehow?

  9. Kid Kyoto says:

    “Ending on a cliffhanger?? They couldn’t give them a few more days to wrap it up somehow?”

    I imagine it’s a way to drive their readers (both of them!) to the inevitable follow-up whether it’s a book or webcomic or cartoon.

  10. As long as there’s a Jay-Z, there’ll be a Little Orphan Annie.

  11. Then again, Little Orphan Annie has been running for how many decades? Everything must end …

  12. To this day I have yet to find a workable link of the old 70′s Fantastic Four radio serial that had Bill Murray portraying the Human Torch.

    Whatever AudioComics announced about Starstruck – I’m definitely keeping my ears open on that one.

    ~

    Coat

  13. @Rich: things don’t end in comics. They come back when editors who didn’t want them to go in the first place bring them back in a major crossover event.

    Let’s see, we could have Annie, Terry Lee, Buck Rogers, Beetle Bailey and Sarge vs. Ming, the Dragon Lady, the obsessive band teacher in “Funky Winkerbean”…

    Lance Roger Axt
    AudioComics, LLC

    (@Coat – while this is off-topic, go to archive.org. All 13 eps of the FF.

    As for “Starstruck,” click the link on my ID, it’ll take you to the blog with the press release and casting.

    And I’m not kidding with that one entry where I say I’m out to sell a million downloads.)

  14. I’ve got a complete set of the FF radio series on vinyl. I tracked down the producer and interviewed him for COMICS SCENE magazine. He gave me a set. Nya Nyah. :)

  15. @Rich: “things don’t end in comics. They come back when editors who didn’t want them to go in the first place bring them back in a major crossover event.”

    Well, you’ve hit on a major difference between comic strips and comic books. Thing sin comics end — temporarily — and return in said crossover event. OR … they’re assembly-line produced and never end.

    Several strips might be “assembly-line” produced, but there’s only one PHANTOM comic strip daily, as opposed to twenty-six different BATMAN comics every month.

  16. sroman says:

    Annie lives!

    So, just when I thought Annie was fated to suffocate to death in the trunk of the bad guy’s car (since that was the end of Sunday’s installment, the alleged “final” strip in print), I open up today’s NY Daily News, and there’s the continuation of the strip!

    So I guess that makes the Daily News the ONE paper in the country still running the comic?

  17. Kid Kyoto says:

    @sroman

    It doesn’t end till June 14.

  18. Al™ says:

    Worst comic strip still running? well, in my area’s papers, there’s a toss-up. Born Loser, Alley Oop, Peanuts, Hi & Lois, Hagar the Horrible, B.C., Andy Capp and about 6 strips each day that feature dogs, goldfish or cats. I’d flush the lot of those and get new stuff, myself.

    Ironically, the strips are being printed smaller all the time, so the very people who protest to keep the legacy comics running are likely the ones who can’t read the 6 point hand-lettered text anyway.

  19. I don’t think it’s fair to count Peanuts in the worst lot. It’s in “reruns” while the others, (as far as I know), aren’t. Stuff that worked really well decades ago doesn’t necessarily work today.

  20. Hey Lance – much obliged for that link. I’m guaranteed to have loads of fun with that.

    ~

    Coat

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