Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Obscurity of the Day: Zoonies
One of the problems of relying on obscurities for many of my daily posts is that in a lot of cases there's darn good reason the feature is obscure. And I take no joy in saying bad things about these features -- I wish I could call them all neglected classics and undiscovered gems. But take Craig Leggett's Zoonies, for example. Here's a strip that mines the anthopomorphic animal genre, a vein that for my money was tapped out by, oh, about 1910 or so. And Zoonies brings absolutely nothing new to the concept, in fact many of the gags don't even take into account that we're dealing with talking animals, a cardinal sin for the genre. Most of the gags are jokebook filler material at best, and the art is professional but does nothing to elevate the strip.
You have to wonder what the people at NEA were thinking when they started syndicating this strip (it ran 4/18/77 - 7/12/80). Was the newspaper world really crying out for a clone of Animal Crackers, a strip that is almost indistinguishable from this one? Did the syndicate see something of genius in this strip that completely eludes me? Did the syndicate editor seriously think to himself when he saw this, "Hey, this is bound to be the next Peanuts, by gum!"
Now I don't mean to dump on Zoonies or Craig Leggett specifically -- they just happen to be perfect illustrations of a point. So, Craig, buddy, wherever you are, I'm really, really sorry to pick on you. But this strip and many others of similar quality seem to continually issue from the syndicates now just as they always have, as if the editors just couldn't find anything better to put on their roster. And what do syndicate editors always cry about? They bemoan the fact that they get so many submissions, and so many of them are just fabulous, that it is a terribly hard job to pick just a few of them every year. Say what now? Zoonies was your pick over all those great submissions you received?
I've seen quite a few rejected syndicate submissions, some of which have blown my socks off. Zoonies makes me want to put a sock over my head. I'm left with one inescapable comclusion. Many syndicate editors are utterly incompetent nincompoops. End of diatribe. And, once again, sorry Craig.
Some time back, there was a comic-strip called "Unfit", which was poorly written and poorly drawn (now, I can tolerate bad drawings, but "Unfit" took the cake).
Coincidently, "Unfit" was syndicated by United Features, which is part of the United Media organization, where they have a another syndicate NEA, which distributed "Zoonies"...maybe there's a connection here.
Wiley Miller, who draws "Non Sequitur", said it best - syndicates only care whether strips are marketable or not. It would be nice if editors pick strips that's both marketable AND funny, but whether it sells or not is more important. This would explain, though, why "Mallard Fillmore" was ever picked up. ;)
Y'know, I can almost forgive a syndicate editor picking up "Mallard Fillmore". It is undeniably one of the most humorless strips ever, but at least we can see why the editor chose it - there were no other strips available at the time that had a conservative viewpoint on politics and society. Yes, "Mallard Fillmore" is awful, but it does fill a niche that wasn't being served, and was bound to have a receptive audience among newspapers looking for a counterpoint to "Doonesbury"'s liberal viewpoint.
Purely on the basis of the almighty dollar, I get "Mallard Fillmore". I imagine the syndicate has found it to be a profitable property since it runs in a pretty healthy number of papers.
The same bottom dollar approach would not, however, explain "Zoonies" or "Unfit".