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Panpa Bulletin : August 2011
Serious funny business THE way cartoonists carry on about the rotten deal they get from news- paper editors would be pathetic if they weren’t absolutely right. It is bad enough to have editors expecting artwork to be almost do- nated. The artist then sees the work he or she has spent hours creating reproduced in miniature, and so dis- torted that it bears little resemblance to the original image. It is a very odd way to treat car- toons, and comics in particular. Sto- ries are not printed in type that has been reduced to five or six-point, nor squashed or stretched so much it is hard to read, and photographs are reproduced looking as close as they can be to what the photographer presented to the editor. Yet the smaller and more distorted comics appear, the less value they have for the newspaper in which they are printed. It might be a coin- cidence, but cartoonists note that the ever-increasing practice of distorting comics runs parallel with the decline in newspaper sales over the past 25 years. It might also help during nego- tiations to point out that back in the days when The Sun-Herald was the largest selling newspaper in the country, it had the best comic sec- tion in Australia. Comic sections have played a large part in building the circulation of newspapers in Australia for nearly a century. The Sunday Sun added comics in 1921 and soon after all the other Sunday newspapers added comic sections of their own. By far the most successful was Us Fellers – better known now as Gin- ger Meggs – and it filled an entire broadsheet page. First printed in The Sunday Sun on November 13, 1921, Ginger Meggs was soon syndicated to newspapers all over Australia and around the world. Jimmy Bancks drew Ginger Meggs and from the early 1930s he was the highest-paid person in Australian media. On June 3, 1951 Ginger Meggs moved from the Sunday Sun to the Sunday Telegraph. 80,000 read- ers moved with it – and Mr Bancks doubled his salary. Associated Newspapers and the Sunday Sun never recovered from the loss and the title was soon taken over by Fairfax. In 1949 the Sunday Sun had a circulation of 507,418 but by the time of the takeover it had dropped to 442,339. The Sunday Sun was merged with the Sunday Herald and the comic sections of the two newspapers were combined. The resulting pages con- tained Australian favourites Bib and Bub, Fatty Finn, The Potts, Uncle Joe’s Horse Radish, Wally and the Major, Snowy McGann, Billy Koala and Sandy Blight – and The Sun-Her- ald quickly established itself as Aus- tralia’s biggest selling newspaper. But nothing lasts forever and over the 50 years following the merger of the Sunday Sun and Sunday Herald, most of the original Australian com- ics disappeared, as the artists who drew them retired or died – and the paper’s circulation suffered each time its comic section shrank. Even as the Sun-Herald’s comic pages were shrinking, the Sunday Telegraph’s comic section was being improved. The paper overtook The Sun-Herald and now outsells it by the thousands. It should not be forgotten those people buying the paper are not children and comics are not in newspapers for children. Comics are written for and enjoyed by adults: children may read them too, just as they may read the sports and televi- sion sections – but nobody would ever suggest those sections are there for children. Take away comics and you take away a reason for adults to buy the paper. It should also not be forgotten that once upon a time, all the papers ran a front-page strap along the lines of: “Australia’s only full-colour comics lift-out” and “Eight Pages of Com- ics!” They somehow vanished a few years ago, along with more than a few sales. It seems there are individuals in this industry who do not understand newspapers are for readers. More than a collection of little drawings with words, comics are in- dividual continuity features that give readers a reason to buy the paper regardless of the news of the day. They also entertain and extend the imagination and people of all ages en- joy them, which is something the film industry has capitalised on by turning many comic heroes into blockbuster films – a trend started nearly a cen- tury ago with the popular silent film adaptations of Sydney cartoonist Pat Sullivan’s Felix the cat. Comics may be funny, but they should not be treated as a joke. Live long and prosper . . . when Jimmy Bancks’ celebrated comic strip character Ginger Meggs moved papers in 1951, nearly 80,000 readers moved with him. This year, with the help of cartoonist Jason Chatfield, Ginge turns 90 comic strips’ power to drive newspaper sales is nothing to laugh at Opinion Lindsay Foyle Lindsay Foyle is a former deputy editor of ACP magazine The Bulletin and a past president of the Australian Cartoonists Association www.panpa.org.au The PANPA Bulletin | AUGUST 2011 | 1 The greener you think, the more your figures will be in the black. Less paper waste, less ink, less alcohol, less energy, and less emissions all add up to greater economy. With CMYK+GREEN you achieve enormous cost savings in your pressroom and protect the environment at the same time. This formula is based on comprehensive technologies, processes, and innovations that we bundle under EcoLogic – for green results that keep your figures in the black. 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