Wednesday, June 29, 2022


Jeffrey Lindenblatt's Paper Trends -- The 300 For 1989: 1988 Rookies

 We have been talking about comic editors getting more conservative as time goes on and there is no clearer example as in our top rookie of 1988. Again, it is a replacement strip from the NEA package. It replaced the long running strip Captain Easy which in the last survey had only 17 papers. It increased that number by over 50% with a nice opening of 25 papers. The only thing is that the strip is not an original strip, it is reprints from 40 years earlier! That strip is L’il Abner. What make this even more interesting is that in the latter part of Li’l Abner’s original run, papers were dropping the strip constantly because of its political viewpoint. Li’l Abner’s reprint version paper count is almost like the strip never left the papers 11 years earlier. In its last year, 1977, it had 53 papers which would it put at number 24 of the top strips for that year. Even though this 'new' Li’l Abner had a good start it would last only one year in syndication.

That is not true of the remaining top rookies. Coming in second was a strip that would last 30 years in newspapers and have a name change during its run. That strip was Ernie (later The Piranha Club) with a debut count of 15 papers. Coming in third was a strip that would become very popular, Fox Trot, with 10 papers. Coming in fourth was the recent Reuben Award winner for best cartoonist, Ray Billingsley, for his strip Curtis which started with 7 papers.

The rest of the rookie strips are as follow:

Bent Offering – 6

Grammy – 5

Long Overdue – 5

Simple Beasts – 5

One Big Happy – 4

Chubb and Chauncey – 3

Safe Havens – 3

Wit of the World – 3

Counter Culture – 2

King Baloo – 2

Miss Featherbee – 2

Ophelia & Jake – 2

Wild Life – 2

 These features started with only one paper: Diary of Rock & Pop, Eureka!, Harley, Joe Palooka*.


Top five strips this year that began since The 300 survey began, 1977:

Garfield (1978) – 206

Far Side (1979) – 144

Bloom County (1980) – 133

Calvin and Hobbes (1985) – 118

Shoe (1977) – 115


Top five strips that began in the 1980s:

 Bloom County (1980) – 133

Calvin and Hobbes (1985) – 118

Marvin (1982) – 47

Mother Goose and Grimm (1984) – 42

Sally Forth (1982) – 39


* 1960s era Joe Palooka strips ran for about a year in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader during a campaign to have a monument to the fictional boxer moved from along a highway outside of town to keep it from being constantly vandalized. No word on whether they succeeded.


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