In this rare case, size DOES matter

Interesting post from last week on the Comic Riffs blog about shrinking newspaper comics. Apparently Doonesbury is now 41 picas (17.3 cm) wide in the Washington Post. This is comparable to the Dom Post’s 44 picas (18.5 cm), the minimum size contractually required by the syndicate. By comparison, Jitterati is 43 picas (18 cm), albeit in full colour and in a juicy position on page 3, booyah!

Throughout the ’70s, Doonesbury was criticized for poor art* and one of the notable features of Garry Trudeau’s ’80s retooling (along with suddenly increasing the age of the characters by a decade) was an improvement in the look of the strip. The artwork even became experimental on occasion in the ’90s, and although it’s settled down, ironically it’s now one of the best drawn comic strips around.

To combat legibility problems (newspapers have been shrinking their comics since the ’80s, hence the need for contractual size requirements) most new comics are extremely simple. So are the successful old ones – Dilbert, for example, although the visual look of that particular strip may be more influenced by the fact that it’s deep into its ‘autopilot’ period, when the creator stops giving a damn and just rakes in the licensing cash. See also Garfield, although its studio-produced artwork is very good.

*Compared to Pogo, they had a point.
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