Tuesday, March 30, 2021


Jeffrey Lindenblatt's Paper Trends: The Three Hundred for 1983 -- Biggest Winners and Losers

 The biggest change in 1983 happened on the first day of the year, when Doonesbury went on its 22-month hiatus. With over 100 papers running the strip, it would leave a big hole for comic editors to fill. The big winner to fill that void was Bloom County, which gained 29 papers from 1982 to 1983. Overall, though, the biggest gainer for the third year in a row is that juggernaut Garfield, which gained 52 more papers. In the last three years that’s a history-making gain of 122 papers. 

Interestingly, Hotel America, which was Universal Press' suggested replacement for Doonesbury during Trudeau's vacation, was picked up by not a single paper in The 300. 

Otherwise, the continuing thread is that a lot of papers were picking up strips that had already been running for years. Three newer strips gained a bunch of papers: For Better or For Worse, Shoe and The Far Side. Here are the biggest winners, and the number of papers they added:

Garfield – 52
Bloom County - 29
For Better or For Worse - 15
Shoe – 13
Cathy - 13
Hagar the Horrible – 11
Family Circus – 11
Hi and Lois – 11
Ziggy – 11
Far Side - 10
Peanuts     - 8
Wizard of Id – 6
Frank and Ernest – 6
Born Loser – 6     
Marmaduke - 5

The big losers this year were all newer strips, including the big rookie from last year The Muppets, which lost 46 papers. The only classic strip that had a big loss was Archie with 7 papers. The strip that started the new boom of adventure strips had it first big drop -- The Amazing Spider-Man lost 6 papers. Here are the top losers and the number of papers each lost:

Muppets - 46
Archie – 7
Star Wars – 7
Amazing Spider-Man – 6
Goosemyer – 6
Le Grand Chef – 6
Winnie the Pooh – 5

The adventure strips this year continued their downward trend, but the losses were generally not as great as in previous years. We even had some strips gaining papers, like Brenda Starr and The Phantom. Here are the adventures strips, with their number of papers, and their gain or loss for the year:

Star Wars – 6 (-7)
Amazing Spider-Man – 45 (-6)
World’s Greatest Superheroes – 1 (-4)
Steve Canyon – 30 (-3)
Buz Sawyer – 29 (-3)
Steve Roper and Mike Nomad – 19 (-3)
Captain Easy – 28 (-2)
Rip Kirby – 12 (-2)
Joe Palooka – 8 (-2)
Flash Gordon – 4 (-2)
Star Trek – 3 (-2)
Alley Oop – 44 (-1)
Buck Rogers – 2 (-1)
Lone Ranger – 4 (-1)
Latigo – 18 (-1)
Kerry Drake – 13 (-1)
Mark Trail – 22 (0)
Popeye – 2 (0)
Brick Bradford – 1 (0)
Modesty Blaise – 1 (0)
Secret Agent Corrigan – 1 (0)
Mandrake the Magician – 2 (0)
Dick Tracy – 44 (1)
Sergeant Preston – 1 (New)
Little Orphan Annie – 13 (1)
Phantom – 27 (2)
Brenda Starr – 12 (3)

New adventure strip The Legend of Bruce Lee did not get any papers in The 300. One paper did pick it up when it debuted in May but dropped it by November. The Incredible Hulk, which had 4 papers last year, ended in September 1982. Three of the four papers did run it to the end. Star Wars, Star Trek, Buck Rogers and World’s Greatest Superheroes all continued to lose many papers. Latigo seems to have a kept most of its papers since its debut in 1979, starting with 22 papers and only dropping to 18 papers. The strip would end in May 1983. 

Based on this data I would say that after The Amazing Spiderman, Latigo would be the second most successful new adventure strip for the period of 1977-1985 if we are thinking in terms of long-term client retention. Star Wars had the biggest start, but it did not keep the readers even after the first year.
The total adventure strip spots for 1982 was 392 down from 429,  8.8 percent down this year.


Modesty Blaise was a British import. Did it do better outside the US? For that matter, did any American strips on the list prosper as exports?

Also, about how many clients would it take to make a strip profitable? That is, enough for an artist to quit other gigs, if so inclined. Noticing some strips credited with only one or two. A creator / franchise owner / syndicate keeping it alive at a loss? Reruns? One or two major clients to be indulged?
Not being too 'up' on foreign papers, I couldn't hazard a guess about the popularity of British strips elsewhere, but I'm guessing they did well in British commonwealth nations. That being said, I have not seen much in the way of British strips in Canadian papers.

How many clients to make a strip profitable? Depends a lot on the clients. If a strip can get the LA-Chicago-NYC biggies, that goes a long way compared to a whole bunch of podunk papers. I used to hear that 100 papers were needed to keep syndicate and creator happy, then later I heard that scaled back to 50. Keep in mind that The 300 is a representative survey, not by any stretch does it offer the total client base.

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