Comic-Editorial Cartoon Hyrid

By: Dave Astor

Why a syndicated comic that runs three times a week? “I’m trying to be un-useful to editors everywhere,” was Signe Wilkinson’s wry reply. “That was my aim, and I have succeeded!”

Actually, this frequency is one that Wilkinson feels will help her maintain the quality of “Shrubbery,” a drolly satirical feature starring a leafy President Bush that started Sept. 17 in the Philadelphia Daily News. It’s also a frequency that fits with Wilkinson’s busy schedule doing five or six editorial cartoons a week, as well as Op-Ed illustrations, for the Daily News.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Wilkinson’s editorial-cartoon clients (currently numbering about 55 papers) receive “Shrubbery” free from the Washington Post Writers Group to use or not use.

“Benjamin Franklin would have liked ‘Shrubbery,'” commented WPWG Sales Manager for North America Karisue Wyson. “It’s classic political satire done in an intriguing way.”

Or an “unusual garden-variety way,” to coin a contradictory phrase. Wilkinson, an avid gardener, was thinking of creating a plant- and flower-themed strip when it occurred to her that a shrub could personify President Bush. Other characters, including Vice President Cheney as “Shady,” soon followed.

Wilkinson said “various other flora and fauna will be introduced as they become necessary” — including “Iraqnids.”

The former Association of American Editorial Cartoonists president, who joined the Daily News in 1985 and received her Pulitzer seven years later, is one of about 20 syndicated editorial cartoonists who also do a comic. So they produce about 9% of the approximately 220 comics distributed by the seven biggest syndicates — a percentage that has held fairly steady over the past two decades.


TMS No Longer Syndicating Greene

Columnist Resigned From ‘Chicago Tribune’

Tribune Media Services (TMS) will no longer syndicate Bob Greene, who resigned Sept. 14 from the Chicago Tribune after acknowledging having sexual contact with a high-school girl more than a decade ago.

“We will not be continuing with Bob Greene,” TMS Director of Marketing Steve Tippie told E&P Online. “Since he will not be writing his column, there will be no column to syndicate.”

TMS Vice President/Domestic Syndication Walter Mahoney said TMS is offering newspapers Kathleen Parker, Leonard Pitts Jr., and Ana Veciana-Suarez as replacements for Greene, who had just over 100 clients.

National Society of Newspaper Columnists (NSNC) President Mike Leonard feels the Tribune was correct in asking for Greene’s resignation. He noted that, since reports indicate the girl approached the newspaper for help with a school project, the situation wasn’t strictly a personal matter and thus the Tribune had the right to make an ethics ruling about it.

Greene, 55, who has been married since 1971, also reportedly wrote about the girl in his column.

“Eighteen may be the age of consent, but clearly a young woman coming in working on a journalism project is going to be vulnerable,” said Leonard, a columnist for The Herald-Times in Bloomington, Ind. “With a public persona comes responsibility. Unfortunately, Bob’s judgment was apparently clouded in this case.”

Leonard did add that the NSNC is “saddened to see someone who has been such a good writer and done so many good things end his Tribune career this way.”

And he concluded: “I do hope that the media haters will take notice that our profession takes ethics very seriously.”

Greene reportedly had other liaisons with younger women over the years. In a Sept. 20 piece, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg interviewed a woman with whom Greene had an affair nearly 20 years ago after she wrote him a letter complimenting a column he did about breast implants. At the time, Greene’s book about his first child was about to be published, noted Steinberg.

A frequent column topic for Greene was abused children, which some observers feel made his adulterous behavior with the teen even more egregious.

Greene discussed the importance of writing about abused children during a speech at an NSNC conference in Louisville, Ky., three years ago (E&P magazine, June 26, 1999). “Why did we go into this business?” he asked. “I would hope it is to give a voice to people who have absolutely no voice.”

The Tribune learned of Greene’s sexual encounter with the teen via an e-mail. There were also reports that the woman phoned Greene twice in the past year, and that, after the second call, the FBI contacted her to say she could be posing a threat to Greene.


Five Replace Landers In Dallas

Variety Approach At the ‘Morning News’

In the Lone Star State, it’s taking more than a lone star to fill Ann Landers’ shoes.

The Dallas Morning News is replacing the late Landers with five different advice columnists. Actually, “we know we can’t replace Ann Landers; readers really miss her,” said Assistant Managing Editor/Lifestyles Lisa Kresl. “So we decided to introduce a variety of columnists to appeal to different types of readers” — including younger ones.

On Sundays and Thursdays, the Morning News is publishing “Tell Me About It” by Carolyn Hax of the Washington Post Writers Group. On Mondays and Wednesdays, “Dear Prudence” by Margo Howard of Creators Syndicate. On Mondays and Fridays, “Help Me, Harlan!” by Harlan Cohen of King Features Syndicate. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, “Sense and Sensitivity” by Harriette Cole of United Media. And on Saturdays, “Ask the Advice Goddess” by Amy Alkon.

Continuing to run every day in the Morning News is “Dear Abby” by Jeanne Phillips of Universal Press Syndicate.


Et cetera …

Universal Press Syndicate launched a one-shot features site at …

Connecticut’s Supreme Court has reversed a lower-court ruling that would have allowed lawyers for the Manchester Journal Inquirer access to The Hartford Courant‘s contracts with syndicates. The Journal Inquirer, which doesn’t have a Sunday issue, wants the option of buying Sunday comics carried by the Courant to use on Saturday — arguing that the Courant sells some Sunday papers on Saturday (E&P magazine, Jan. 8, 2001). …

A study of syndicated comics running in The Washington Post found alcohol-related gags dropped from 7% frequency in 1983 to 3% in 1999. The most drinking punch lines were in “Andy Capp.” The study was conducted by American University doctoral student Robert Brooks and reported on in a Sept. 15 Post piece by Richard Morin. …

TMS is providing TV information for Microsoft’s Windows XP Media Center Edition. …

“The Recipe Doctor” by registered dietitian Elaine Magee returned to Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services as a premium column for subscribers. …

Karen Kirk was named assistant managing editor at KRT’s news service. …

“Strauss on Commodities” is being offered by OsterDowJones Commodity News. The column is by the wire’s senior editor at large, Michael Strauss ( …

Darleen DeLisle ( is self-syndicating a cost-cutting-advice column called “Ms. Frugal.” …

A column titled “SnippinS” is being self-syndicated by John Budzinski ( It can be customized for local readership. …

Editorial cartoonist Ed Hall of The Baker County Press, Macclenny, Fla., and DBR Media won a Florida Press Award. …

Andrews McMeel Publishing released a number of comic collections. They include Another Day in Cubicle Paradise by “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams of United Media, Get Fuzzy 2: Fuzzy Logic by Darby Conley of United, High-Spirited Rose Is Rose by Pat Brady of United, Hallmarks of Felinity featuring cat-related “9 Chickweed Lane” strips by Brooke McEldowney of United, Zits Unzipped and Zits: Busted! by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman of King Features Syndicate, Baby Blues: Unplugged and Dad to the Bone by Jerry Scott and Rick Kirkman of King, Greetings from Sherman’s Lagoon and Diving Into the Depths of the Previous Decade: Sherman’s Lagoon 1991 to 2001 by Jim Toomey of King, His Code Name Was the Fox by “Foxtrot” creator Bill Amend of Universal, The Zen of Ziggy by Tom Wilson of Universal, James by Mark Tonra of Universal, Mr. Potato Head Unplugged by Jim Davis and Brett Koth of Universal, and Red and Rover: A Boy, a Dog, a Time, a Feeling by Brian Basset of the Washington Post Writers Group.

To see the last 20 “Syndicate World” columns, click here. Previous columns may be purchased in our paid archives. Search for “Astor” in the “Author” field.

Follow by Email
Visit Us

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *