Bring back the Pinhead!

Baltimore’s primary newspaper, The Baltimore Sun, recently cut its daily comics section by four strips, effective this week. A few weeks ago, the paper offered an online survey in order to get the people’s judgment on the published strips. There were some thousand-plus responses, the paper reports. Presumably the survey results decided, or helped decide, the cuts.

Three of the strips cut I am happy to see go. They’re old storyline-type titles that were undoubtedly good examples of the strip form at one time, but that are now long since degenerated, in different ways, to an appalling state in both the writing and the drawing. (Other titles, among those retained, certainly could have been cut by the same reasoning. Not that I know what reasoning was applied, in fact, in making the cuts.)

But the editors didn’t cut from the bottom without also cutting from the top, taking away what I regard as one of the strips most to be prized — perhaps, I would even say, the best thing I know of being created for the comics pages today.

Here’s my brief response on the cut, emailed to the editors a little while ago:

You dumped some of the worst, strips that had declined years ago to an embarrassingly low level of staleness, or even simply to mere amateurishness. I applaud that.

But you also got rid of one of the very best! Bill Griffith’s Zippy is constantly fresh, constantly a reader’s intrigue & delight, constantly alive & engaging as graphic form — and all in spite of the severe limits the newspapers place on the comic strip format today. You ought to have held on to Zippy regardless of the poll results, simply because it is one of the enduring standards of artistic effort and meaningfulness for the comic strip genre in our time. [That sounds a little overblown, I know. How much cultural value do we really want to attribute to the funny pages, after all? But I meant it.]

Sure, I can still get the strip online, and I will. But it meant a lot to me that my city’s paper was an outlet for Griffith’s work. A comic strip is made for the newspaper, after all. And publishing Zippy seemed to me to be a way that The Sun said to its readers that despite market pressures it would seek to remain a reader’s newspaper.

Please consider finding some way to re-instate Zippy. Thank you.

(Complete coincidence, by the way, that the last post’s title is a phrase that comes to us from the Pinhead.)

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