Thursday, March 12, 2020

 

Jeffrey Lindenblatt's Paper Trends: The Three Hundred for 1980 -- The Biggest Winners and Losers

Looking at the changes from the beginning of 1979 to the beginning of 1980, we see a pattern developing. Both Doonesbury and Hagar the Horrible continue their big gains again this year as they did last year. Doonesbury gained 15 papers this year while last year it gained 8,  making an impressive total of 23 papers in the past two years. Hagar the Horrible gained 13 papers this year while last year gaining 12 papers making a total 25 papers. Those gains pushed these two strips into the 4 and 5 position on the total leader chart.

Panel cartoon Family Circus gained 12 papers, pushing it closer to take the top panel cartoon crown form Dennis the Menace. Also, the newer panel Ziggy gained an impressive 9 papers.

The three year old Shoe strip gained 11 papers making it the most successful strip that started in 1977.

An old timer, Wizard of Id, gained 8 papers. Garfield began its climb adding 7 papers. Even Peanuts, already in a huge number of papers, gained another 6.

Also showing excellent gains were Annie, Beetle Bailey, Guindon, Lockhorns, Marmaduke and Winthrop, each gaining 4 papers.

Many papers continued to have little faith in new strips, showing that the off the cliff performance of Best Seller Showcase last year was no fluke. The Rookie of the year of 1978, Winnie the Pooh, lost the most papers with 15. Other new story strips were also big losers: World’s Greatest Superheroes lost 11 and Incredible Hulk lost 6 papers.

The NEA package features were also hit hard with the following strips losing a bunch of papers: Berry’s World was down 12, Short Ribs lost 9, Our Boarding House down 8 and Alley Oop lost 6 papers.

Other big losers were They’ll Do It Every Time with 9, Archie and Dunagin’s People with 7, Dennis the Menace and Miss Peach with 6.

Three story strips lost 6 papers each. Steve Canyon for the last 2 years has lost 6 papers each year. Rick O’Shay lost 6 papers, but in that case many replaced it with Stan Lynde’s new strip, Latigo. Star Hawks also lost 6 papers too, but only some for the new science fiction strips -- half of them were replaced by either Buck Rogers, Star Trek and Star Wars, while the other three were just dropped.

In the past three years following the history of Star Hawks it seems to have never been a success for the syndicate. Starting with only 6 papers, hitting a high of 9 at the end of 1978, and falling to 3 at the beginning of 1980. Star Hawks has a very popular following in the comic book world, being published in Menomonee Falls Gazette, Comic Reader and Amazing Heroes (That was the first place I saw the strip) and being reprinted not by one company but three companies over the years. It has a nice cult following but it failed as a newspaper feature. A good golden age comparison would be Dick Moores’ Jim Hardy; it was not one of United’s successful strips, lasting only six years, but had a very successful run in comic books.

In the section about the rookies of 1979 we discussed that this was the last year of the new adventure strips. After three years of gains we will now start to see the slow demise of the genre, leading to today when we are now down to 5 dailies and one Sunday strip. So, starting with this year we are going to go year by year and see the end of a great genre.

Title # of Papers Change since Last Year
Amazing Spider-Man 55 +1
Alley Oop 51 -6
Dick Tracy 50 -4
Star Wars (new) 50 +50
Steve Canyon 48 -6
Buz Sawyer 37 -5
Captain Easy 34 -4
Mark Trail 25 +1
Phantom 25 +2
World’s Greatest Superheroes 23 -11
Latigo (new) 22 +22
Steve Roper and Mike Nomad 22 -4
Kerry Drake 20 N/C
Rip Kirby 14 -1
Buck Rogers (new) 13 +13
Star Trek (new) 12 +12
Brenda Starr 11 N/C
Incredible Hulk 11 -6
Annie 11 +4
Joe Palooka 10 -1
Conan the Barbarian 9 -3
Encyclopedia Brown 8 -2
Flash Gordon 5 N/C
Rick O’ Shay 4 -6
Star Hawks 3 -6
Mandrake the Magician 2 N/C
Modesty Blaise 2 -2
Popeye 2 +1
Brick Bradford 1 N/C
Secret Agent Corrigan 1 N/C
Tim Tyler’s Luck 0 N/C
Jeff Hawke (Ended) 0 -1

The total came to 581 slots for story strips, up from 532 slots last year. This will be the last time the adventure strip total would go up from a previous year.

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Comments:
Interesting that the three new strips were Star Ward, Star Trek and Buck Rodgers: two movies and a TV show. I remember after Star Wars came out space operas were all over the movies and TV.
 
Aside from a flurry of sci-fi properties, it looks like adventure and soap were already dying off. I remember a flashy, trumpeted reboot of Terry and the Pirates that flamed out quickly; likewise an ambitious and historically scrupulous version of Zorro. The latter was published in book form; what read well as a graphic novel felt like a doomed concept for a daily strip (many months given to returning a murdered native's body to her people).

Current survivors are overwhelming extremely old titles, some lavishly executed (The Phantom, Dick Tracy and Prince Valiant) and some less so (Apartment 3G in its final years, and lately Mark Trail looks worrisome). Others have gone into reruns.

Do these old adventure strips have much of a client list, or are syndicates underwriting them to keep those franchises marketable? The old radio networks would sometimes run a series without a sponsor, out of hopes of attracting one and perhaps holding onto a time slot.

And on a semi-tangent, do individual strips make much money off paid internet exposure? I subscribe to both Comics Kingdom and GoComics, and wonder how annual fees are divvied up among creators. Is it enough to make a strip with zero print clients worthwhile?
 
First of all, thank you to Jeffrey for compiling this information. This is great stuff.

Second, shouldn't "Apartment 3-G," "Mary Worth," and/or "Rex Morgan, M.D." be in this table of story strips, too? Or were none of them carried in any of the sampled newspapers in 1979?
 
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