Creators Gone, But Clients Remain

By: Dave Astor

Four popular comics whose creators died during the past 21 months are maintaining most of their newspaper clients. The quartet are “Peanuts,” created by Charles Schulz (who died in February 2000); “Shoe,” Jeff MacNelly (died June 2000); “Barney Google and Snuffy Smith,” Fred Lasswell (died March 2001); and “Dennis the Menace,” Hank Ketcham (died June 2001).

“Peanuts” had about 2,600 clients worldwide when Schulz was alive, about 2,450 soon after United Media began syndicating reruns of the comic, and about 2,400 as of early this month.

“It has pretty much held its own,” said United Vice President for Sales and Marketing Lisa Klem Wilson.

Why? Wilson said many people think “Peanuts” is “the greatest comic of all time” and that a new generation of readers is seeing the past strips for the first time. Also, “Peanuts” continues to do well in many newspaper surveys, and some papers that canceled the reruns brought them back after reader protests.

Wilson added that some older comics are no longer that relevant to today’s readers, but she thinks “Peanuts” is.

“Schulz was timeless in a lot of ways,” said Wilson. “Many of his strips are philosophical. People can relate to them — especially these days, when we need something more spiritual and poignant.”

No Business Like ‘Shoe’ Business

The “Shoe” list, since MacNelly died, has dipped only slightly from a little more than 1,000 to about 1,000 papers. Tribune Media Services Sales Director Doug Page attributed this to the work of the current “Shoe” team — Susie MacNelly, Gary Brookins, and Chris Cassatt — as well as reader loyalty to Jeff MacNelly. And he added, “I do believe there is some reader comfort in seeing things continue.”

“Barney Google and Snuffy Smith,” which had about 900 papers when Lasswell died, still has nearly 900, according to King Features Syndicate Vice President for Worldwide Syndication Sales George Haeberlein. And the “Dennis” list has dropped only a little from about 1,000 to just less than 1,000 clients.

Haeberlein said one reason why both comics continue to do well is that the current cartoonists worked with the now-deceased creators, thus easing the transition.

John Rose succeeded Lasswell, who himself succeeded “Barney Google” creator Billy DeBeck. “Dennis the Menace” is now done by Marcus Hamilton and Ron Ferdinand; Ketcham oversaw their work during the last years of his life.

Some Say Succession’s Unsuccessful

The practice of continuing a comic after the creator dies is not without detractors, who say the successor cartoonist rarely does as well as the person who had the original vision for the strip.

Wilson added that continuing a comic after the creator dies means less space for newer comics that might appeal to younger readers. And she said newspapers that exchange some older comics for newer ones can save money.

But Haeberlein said, “I think it comes down to the readers. If the comic is still popular with the readers and the quality of the comic is maintained, it should stay in the newspaper.”


‘Out’ Is Coming Out Of …


… WPWG’s First Fellowship Pool

Matt Janz’s “Out of the Gene Pool” will be launched Dec. 31 by the Washington Post Writers Group (WPWG).

The comic stars an odd-looking guy who “works an automatic drill press by day and a TV remote by night.” There’s also his wife Andy, their son, their single-mother neighbor and her son, and other characters.

Janz is the first cartoonist from WPWG’s FineToon Fellowship program to reach syndication.

Cartoonists in the second fellowship program, which starts this January, include John Kovaleski (“Bo Nanas”) and Roy Schneider (“The Humble Stumble”). Each receives $5,000, a development contract, and mentoring by a syndicated cartoonist; and each gets to attend three seminars with newspaper editors, syndicate salespeople, and experts on syndication contracts and licensing, according to WPWG Comics Editor Suzanne Whelton.


Late Columnist Gave …


… $30 Million To His Readers

Percy Ross, the Minneapolis philanthropist who gave away about $30 million via his column, has died at age 84.

Ross wrote “Thanks a Million” from 1983 to 1999, with much of that time spent at Creators Syndicate.


‘Portraits Of Grief’ Offered


Sept. 11 Feature Is From N.Y. Times

The New York Times News Service is distributing “Portraits of Grief,” The New York Times feature that puts a human face on the thousands of people who died in the Sept. 11 World Trade Center disaster.


Et Cetera …

ScreamingMedia is licensing its technology platform and services to power Tribune Media Services’ recently introduced FluentMedia Web service for the corporate market. …

“Dear Dudley” by Jeff Stahler of TMS will end Dec. 30 after about a year in syndication. “War is hell on new comic strips,” said Stahler, noting that there hasn’t been a new client since summer. He’ll still do editorial cartoons for The Cincinnati Post and Newspaper Enterprise Association. …

This year’s NEA holiday comic is by “9 Chickweed Lane” creator Brooke McEldowney. “A Fairy Merry Christmas” runs Dec. 3-25. …

“Hair of the Dawg,” a comic that looks at life from a canine’s point of view, is being offered by At Large Features Syndicate. The creator is Quinn Williams. …

Plan Nine Publishing released the “Jane’s World” collection by Paige Braddock, whose strip is on United Media’s site. …

Columnist Bill Tammeus of The Kansas City (Mo.) Star and Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service has a new collection called “A Gift of Meaning” (University of Missouri Press). …

Evansville (Ind.) Courier & Press columnist Garret Mathews compiled a book in which people remember their first media jobs. “Past Deadlines, Past Lives” (Albion Press) includes recollections by syndicated creators. …

The National Cartoonists Society is setting up a $25,000 NCS Acquisitions Endowment that will be used to generate funds for the Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library to purchase original art for its collection. …

Frank Pauer, who edits the NCS newsletter, has received the Silver T-Square award for service to the organization. …

YellowBrix is making its “iSyndicate” content services available to client sites of the Xtreme Webworks promotion company. …

King Features Weekly Service launched “Jewel Quest,” a weekly column by gemologist “Miss Bijoux.” …

Jahan Salehi was named managing director, European operations, for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate International. John Curran was named regional sales executive, based in Hong Kong. … group will use NewsEdge electronic publishing technology to deliver 5,000 weekly news stories from 40 metropolitan publications. …

Donna Barstow, whose “Daily Special” restaurant and cooking cartoons appear in newspapers, has a Web site at …

Guy Gilchrist of Copley News Service (“Mudpie”) and United (“Nancy”) was a guest announcer last month on the “Grand Ole Opry” radio show. The cartoonist puts country music references in his comics. …

Perry ( is syndicating two columns: “Letters from North America” (commentary) and “Ponder Points” (trivia).

To see the last 10 “Syndicate World” columns, click here. Previous columns may be purchased in our paid archives. Search for “Astor” in the “Author” field.

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