Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Frank & Ernest

A web site promoting the syndicated Frank & Ernest comic strip by Bob Thaves says the strip is "read daily by over 25 million people in 1,200 newspapers."

Those numbers will have to be revised now that Sun Media has dropped the longtime favourite from the daily papers.

Frank & Ernest, launched in 1972, was one of four daily comic strips axed by Sun Media this week. (It is Sunday's only for the punsters from now on.)

Were the changes based on surveys and reader feedback? Or was the goal to package a less expensive, centralized cartoons page for use in all Sun Media newspapers?

Whatever the motivation, we'll miss Frank & Ernest. You could always count on a humorous message from the punsters after wading through the daily diet of murder, mayhem, war coverage and stereo ads.

Also trimmed to Sunday's only - The Born Loser, a Toronto Sun comic strip since Day One in 1971, first drawn by Arthur Sansom and then by his son, Chip, after Arthur died in 1991.

The Born Loser, created by Arthur in 1965, is published in more than 1,300 newspapers in 30 countries, so father and son must have been doing something right.

Sun Media's daily comics are now top heavy with relatively new comic strips, so we're down to one favourite established daily strip - Garfield, created by Jim Davies in 1976 and syndicated since 1978.

Time will tell if the recycled Archie strip and the three other newer strips will catch on with readers.

Glenn Garnett, editor in chief of the Toronto Sun, said in his Inside The Sun blog this week that dropping cartoon strips "is a fairly risky thing to do, but every once in awhile a breath of fresh air on the comics page is a good thing. I hope."

There will be letters to the editor over the changes, much like 1993 after the Sun suddenly threw Overboard overboard. The Sun refused to revive Overboard. It is now in the Globe and Mail.

But there is always hope. When the Chicago Sun-Times dropped Garfield in 1978, 1,300 "angry" people wrote letters and called the paper. Garfield was quickly reinstated.

Garfield is now viewed daily in 2,600 newspapers around the world by an estimated 230 million people.

We'll be looking for another Inside the Sun blog with an honest appraisal of reader feedback to the comics page changes.

Until then, we're on the hunt for another daily publication that carries Frank & Ernest. They are always good for a laugh.

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