Wednesday, December 17, 2014
News of Yore 1977: New York Times Puts a Toe in the Water
New York Times Promotes its First Comic StripBy Jane Levere
Editor & Publisher, June 11, 1977
Tilting at windmills is undergoing a revival, at the New York Times Special Features Syndicate, at least.
Don Quixote, the classic "everyman" created by Miguel de Cervantes, has been reincarnated as the central character of "Don Q," a politically satirical comic strip that is the Times' first venture in the field.
Drawn by Marvel comic veteran David Gantz, the strip features original characters from the Cervantes novel six times a week. Don Quixote appears as "Don Q," Dulcinea's name has been shortened to "Dulcie," and Sancho Panza and his wife also appear.
Prominently featured as well are caricatures of real figures in the political limelight. President Carter, for example, appears dressed in a medieval tunic emblazoned with a peanut, flashing a broad, toothy grin, while Henry Kissinger wears a "Superman" outfit, a big "K" replacing the big "S."
These caricatures are what differentiate the strip from Gary Trudeau's "Doonesbury," said Gantz this week. "We provide commentary like Doonesbury but we also have actual people walking through the strip," he said. "But it isn't all politics. We deal with the everyday foibles of living."
The creator of the Herald Tribune syndicated strip "Dudley D,"'Gantz said he chose the Don Quixote theme because he has been "hung up" on it for thirty years, using it in sculpture, painting and book illustration.
"I feel that Don Quixote is everyman, the embodiment of all our fears, foibles, and expectations," he said.
"Don Q" originated a year and a half ago, the joint creation of Gantz and John Osenenko, manager of the New York Times Syndication Sales Corp.
It initially had a trial run in 40 papers, according to Osenenko, who worked with editors during this period to develop and refine the strip's satiric slant. Also uncovered was the comic's target audience: business, educational and higher income groups, and the 18-35 age group.
Now the Times is heavily promoting the strip, particularly in key markets with papers over 50,000 circulation, reported Osenenko. Stressing "Don Q" 's appeal as an effective communicator of topical messages, the syndicate is selling it as a feature for either the editorial or comic page. However, the Times "does not feel it belongs on the comic page," said Osenenko. "It doesn't fit into that league."
Secondary sales efforts will eventually be aimed at smaller daily papers, especially those in university towns such as Ann Arbor, Mich. And college newspapers and foreign publications will be approached as potential subscribers, too.
An unorthodox marketing approach is also being tried for "Don Q."
In addition to the print strip, Gantz is working on the pilot of an animated one-minute news segment featuring the character, intended for television news programs with expanded air-time. Involving Don Q with "whatever is current," Gantz plans to create the animated cartoon three times a week.
The Times, said Osenenko, expects it will take at least two years for the new strip to gain popularity.
"It took Superman two years to kick off," said Osenenko. "Many comics with new ideas take at least two years to get going."
The strip is currently carried by sixteen American dailies, including the Atlanta Constitution and San Antonio Light, and two foreign publications, one in Mexico and one in Tokyo. The New York Times will not carry it, as per the paper's and syndicate's joint policy.
[Allan's note: Though the article sort of makes it seem as if the strip recently came onto the market, it had actually been offered since September 1975]
Labels: News of Yore