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Which strips are best positioned to replace Cathy? (UPDATED)
With the announcement that Cathy Guisewhite is retiring her comic strip Cathy after 34 years, a ripple of excitement was felt through the syndicated comic strip industry. There are a dozen 1,000+ client comic strips on the market right now. Very few of them will actually retire. So when Cathy exits the funny pages in October, the natural question is: how will this affect syndicated cartoonists?
I think the best response came from Tina’s Groove creator Rina Piccolo who tweeted yesterday after learning of Cathy’s impending retirement,
DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS NEWS MEANS TO SYNDICATED CARTOONISTS? I SHOULD GO GET DRUNK NOW!!
Indeed. When that many slots in the newspaper becomes vacant, a large number of cartoonists are going to see an increase in clients. The question is which strips are the most likely candidates to fill the soon-to-be vacant slot?
If we learned anything from Bill Amend’s partial retirement back in 2007 was that just because a comic strip targeting a particular demographic retires, doesn’t automatically mean another like-demographic comic strips are going to take its place. The top selling comic strips that benefitted most from the end of the daily Foxtrot strip were not family strips, they were: Lio, Pearls Before Swine, and Pooch Cafe. Will Tina’s Groove, Between Friends, Pajama Diaries and other female centered strips gain papers? Absolutely. But will they be the big winners? Maybe.
The one variable that I see different now than when Foxtrot ended is the number of strips filling the female demographic. Most newspapers have a plethora of family based strips, so when Foxtrot retired, it wasn’t like a huge population of readers were not going to lose their dose of family centric amusement. There are many strips that target the females, but proportionally they’re not as many. Editors may feel more inclined to seek out another female oriented strip.
A couple of things that we can bet on. Editors are going to use this departure to run a near endless stream of comic trials to find a replacement. They can usually run comics in trial mode for free – so there is incentive to keep a trial going for months. The other thing is the best comics are going to come out on top – even if they hit another demographic. Editors want to an array of comics, but they also want popular strips. Having a strip that has a strong sales record is going to be key to pick up a lion-share of Cathy’s market.
If you feel like that describes your strip then take Rina’s advice and go get drunk. OR perhaps the smartest action right now is to wait until Oct. 2 and see how things settled and then either drink to celebrate or drink to drown unfulfilled expectations.
UPDATE: I’ve heard back from Universal Uclick. Cathy will not be offered as a rerun strip in print, but will for web clients.