‘Diesel Sweeties’ Newspaper Launch Stirs Online Debate

By: E&P Staff

The news that United Media will syndicate “Diesel Sweeties” starting Jan. 8 has stirred a huge number of love-it-or-hate-it comments on The Daily Cartoonist blog.

“Diesel Sweeties” is an unusual launch for a traditional syndicate for a couple of reasons: 1) It’s a popular online comic that’s now being made available to print newspapers. 2) The strip, launched by Richard Stevens in 2000, has a very “computery” look — and stars a human woman and her robot boyfriend.

Universal Press Syndicate editorial cartoonist Ted Rall helped bring the comic to United, for which he handles feature acquisition and development.

Approximately 80 comments about “Diesel Sweeties” have been posted on The Daily Cartoonist site since TDC blogger Alan Gardner mentioned Stevens’ comic last Thursday. Some samples of the remarks, in chronological order:

— “Can’t speak for the writing, but the artwork is another example of lowered expectations. … Does ‘new’ or ‘edgy’ necessarily mean a demise of the ability to draw?”

— “I predict that ‘Diesel Sweeties’ will not survive outside the Web.”

— “A woman dating a robot? Syndicates always talk about being marketable. Which demographic exactly are they trying to reach here?”

— “How novel would it be to actually congratulate someone on getting a coveted syndication contract, instead of sniping about it?… It will be an interesting experiment to try out a pixel-based comic in newsprint. I think there is potential for it to work well….”

— “I think [the ‘Diesel Sweeties’] drawing is rather innovative and interesting…. The characters’ faces change subtly to show expression. The story lines are great, and the characters are hilarious.”

— “‘Diesel Sweeties’ is like nothing else out there. It looks different, it reads different. Also, it’s actually funny, which is more than I can say for 75% of the comics in my local funnies page. I, for one, am glad there’s going to be something in syndication that isn’t rehashing the same jokes it (and everyone else) rehashed last year.”

— “I really want to see some sample pixel art from everyone claiming that the strip is artistically worthless. If you are familiar with the style, it is easy to tell the difference between someone who sat down and clicked in MS paint for 10 minutes, and someone who puts the kind of care into his work that Rich does.”

— “I think it all comes down to taste really. Personally, I can’t read a comic strip unless it’s well-drawn (emphasis on draw).”

— “You may not like [the ‘Diesel Sweeties’] art, but it is creative, experimental, and yes, innovative. The comic itself is an enjoyable read, and I think it can do fine. First off, instead of being turned off by the pixel art, it will catch the eye of readers, and they will try the strip. Chances are good it will get a following. The writing is strong….”

— “It’s very exciting to see a strip like ‘Diesel Sweeties’ being picked up by so many mainstream newspapers. It actually feels like a quantum leap in the progression of newspaper comics. I can’t even remember a time when a comic strip so unique was added to the comics page. Every new syndicated strip has seemed like a very slight variation on the old standards….”

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