[Series of Tubes] Doonesbury: What happens to comics if newspapers go away?

On February 2nd, one of my favorite old school comics, Doonesbury, asked, “What happens to comics if newspapers go away?” The answer kicked off a bit of controversy and several webcomics artists filled the blank spot with their own art in protest of the idea that without print newspapers, there would be no comics at all.

In an interview with Slate.com last year, the writer/artist of the strip, Gary Trudeau, said,

Slate: As the 40-year supreme veteran of the daily political comic strip, do you think the form is alive and well in 2012 or dying off, as some people worry?

Trudeau: People are right to worry. Everyone knows where print is headed, and most Web comics are struggling. With adroit merchandising, a couple of them have been profitable, but they don’t connect with readers in the same visceral way that traditional comics once did. Comics used to be central to popular culture, enormously influential. They were a daily habit we all had in common. [Emphasis mine – MS.]

Finding Webcomics:

Finding Print Comics Online:

Personal Favorites:

See, here’s the thing, though: we all had the comics page in common because there weren’t any other choices.

Newspaper comics – and a lot of old media – held our collective attention because there wasn’t anything else to watch/read/listen to/etc. If you wanted to read comics, you read the funnies in the paper. If you wanted to see some TV, you watched one of the – grand total – three channels available. You listened to what the radio played and what the record stores sold. You watched the movies that made it to your local theater. That was it, folks. You didn’t have any other options.

Today, we’re drowning in choices. Cartoonists, writers, filmmakers and musicians are unleashing fresh tsunamis of content daily upon the Internet, and a lot of it is really good – particularly in the realm of webcomics.

Now, Trudeau’s got something of a point when it comes to making a living as a webcomic artist. Very few people have managed that. But it’s worth pointing out that the same thing is true of print comics. It’s not like just anybody can snap up a print syndication and be rolling in the dough in no time drawing two-tone, four-panel comics for the newspapers. I mean, when was the last time you saw a brand new comic in the funny pages?

And yeah, the funny pages were a cultural touchstone, and it’ll be a little sad when that goes away. A bit of nostalgia is not unwarranted. But it’s not exactly the end of the world. There’s a veritable sea of hungry webcomic artists turning out thoughtful, insightful, funny and well-drawn content out there on the Internet, and it’s not hard to find. Not only that, but you’ll still be able to find your cherished favorite newspaper comic strips online, too.

What do you think?