It comes as no surprise that print newspapers are on a steady decline to obscurity. So what does this mean for the comic strips published in the papers? Will they die out too, or will they continue in the digital realm? It’s hard to say, but with webcomics and apps like Webtoons, comics like Blondie, Beetle Bailey, and Garfield might be able to continue on.
While the “golden age” of comics tends to focus on comic books, it was a golden age for all comics. Newspaper strips also featured recurring characters and entertaining storylines. These comics were more aimed at small cracks of humor rather than a drawn out story. By creating comics featuring the same characters each day or week (depending on the comic’s publishing schedule with their syndicate) helped keep consistency and a loose focus for the overall comic. It also helped readers connect to the strips and develop a dedicated fanbase. However, it was the ability to have the characters in different situations or center on different topics that appealed the casual scanner of comics as well as readers looking for a little variety.
Typically, most comics (both strips and books) have simple backgrounds so the focus is on the action. Comic strips often simplify the background quite a bit, where some have no background (just white behind the character) while others use a flat color, sometimes to indicate emotion. To indicate place or setting, many comic artists just use a line to represent the ground, counter, or wall, while others will include simple furniture—such as a chair or table—to aid in the storytelling.
Another difference between the two comic forms is the overall art style. Newspaper comics are all about simplicity. Most newspaper cartoonists have a daily strip and can’t afford to spend a lot of time on it. On the other hand, comic book artists have longer deadlines and typically use a more detailed style. I think the simplicity of strips is appealing because they allow a reader to fill in the details and see themselves in the comic if they wish.
My love of comics began with newspapers. As a little kid, I looked forward to the weekends when I’d get good breakfast and could sit on my dad’s lap while we read the comics. He introduced me to the comics I still love to read today—Blondie, Garfield, Peanuts, Zits—and my all-time-favorite, Calvin and Hobbes. Bill Watterson’s comic about an imaginative, troublemaking 6-year-old and his stuffed tiger remains my favorite because it presents mature themes through a child’s eyes.
A quick note about my comics for today: I really focused on emulating the simple backgrounds. I often feel the need to fill the background space with something but I never know what to do. I think I’ve learned that comics don’t always need a background, and the simple addition of color can just as effective as a setting.