Comic Strips Need Newspapers

4 Oct

My continued thanks to everyone for your thoughtful words this week. The end of “Lila” has not been easy and I guess it didn’t sink in until the last strip appeared this past weekend. I’m still experiencing some “shock and awe” at your support for the strip and can’t tell you how much it has helped me get through these past few days. Based on some of the comments, I thought I’d give some more insight into why “Lila” had to end. When I became syndicated nine years ago, I was thrilled. It was a lifelong dream to have a syndicated comic strip. I thought I was going to be the next Charles Schultz or Berked Breathed.  “Lila” quickly got into newspapers like the Denver Post, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and the Seattle Post Intelligencer, but then were quickly removed when readers complained about the contemporary storylines and the openly gay character. It then became a hard road and the strip was never able to gain its footing again. What readers don’t realize is that despite a lagging newspaper business, cartoons need to be published in newspapers for cartoonists to make any money We receive literally pennies from online publication and readership. Newspapers wonder why they can’t attract new, younger readers? Perhaps it’s because they refuse to let go of old comic strips. When there is a coveted opening on the comics page, like there was when “Kathy” retired, newspapers hold contests instead of choosing a strip that may create a nice balance on their comics page or may attract a new audience. When “Kathy” ended, I thought “Lila” would be a perfect replacement, but “Lila” didn’t even get included in the contests. So, there you have the plain truth. If you’re enjoying online comics, help your cartoonist out and send an email to your local newspaper.  That’s the only way it will survive, unless that cartoonist is independently wealthy! And that’s the end of my rant. It’s actually been a fun nine years and I’ve loved all the comments those years. That’s something newspapers can’t do, give you instant feedback from your readers…and I cherished it, everyday. Thanks, everyone. I am YOUR biggest fan. –John

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21 Responses to “Comic Strips Need Newspapers”

  1. Susan Koch October 4, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

    Lila is way better than Kathy. It will be severely missed. I enjoyed reading it everyday. It is too bad more people don’t have an open mind. You are very talented. I hope you are able to contribute another comic strip to the world someday.

    • roto13 October 4, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

      I don’t think Cathy was bad so much as it ran out of steam. The earlier strips were really good, and Cathy was basically the Mary Tyler Moore of the comic section. It probably should have ended ages ago, though.

      • Susan Koch October 5, 2012 at 4:34 am #

        I did not meant to imply Cathy was bad. I just think Lila is better. But I agree it ran out of steam.

      • jwforgetta October 12, 2012 at 12:11 am #

        I was actually hoping that “Lila” would replace “Cathy” in some newspapers when she retired, but, alas, I didn’t get a single newspaper from it. In fact, some newspapers preferred to add a word game, instead. Ugh!

  2. roto13 October 4, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

    Comic strips only need newspapers if you insist on sticking with that dying model. If GoComics doesn’t pay you what they obviously should, maybe give the world of webcomics a go. It’s not easy, but there are certainly webcomic artists that do well enough to make it their main source of income, or at least make it worthwhile as a secondary project in addition to their day job. Hell, the guy from Basic Instructions recently blogged that, through his own site, he’s managed to make his comic his primary source of income, and his day job is his secondary one.

    Wecomics come with the added bonus of not having to appeal to the hateful octogenarians who read newspapers.

  3. Moth October 4, 2012 at 9:30 pm #

    John, newspapers inability to attract new, younger readers has little to do with the content or comics selection and everything to do with the medium itself. The internet and mobile devices are faster and much more convenient than the paper medium. Younger readers have a preference for skimming rather than reading, don’t want to deal with the hassle of flipping through sections of the paper to find the stories or content they’re interested in reading, carrying the physical paper around with them, or finding ways of disposing of newspapers when they’re done with them. A news story is available on the internet soon after it happens whereas it won’t appear in the newspaper until the next day. By the time the paper prints it, it’s no longer news. On top of that, comparable quality content is available on the internet for free compared to the cost of a newspaper.

    • jwforgetta October 12, 2012 at 12:14 am #

      I so agree, Moth. It’s a Catch-22 and I was part of it when I worked at the LA Times. The newspaper was appealing to its over-55 male demographic so it automatically prevented a new, younger demographic from reading. But, as you say, the younger demographic wasn’t going to read it, anyway. The real problem is that writers can’t get money from the Web. Lila actually had a huge online readership and I made about $50 a month from it, total. Perhaps, someday, writing will be valued again. Hmmm…I think I need to write a screenplay. That’s still valued. LOL!

  4. Roberta O October 4, 2012 at 11:47 pm #

    I am so sorry. I feel like I have lost people I actually know. You are so talented. Funny and warm. You made me laugh aand cry. Here is hoping for a comeback….don’t kill off Annie……please…..Good luck and thank you.

    • jwforgetta October 12, 2012 at 12:15 am #

      Thank you, Roberta, for such a nice note.

  5. Ed guerrero October 5, 2012 at 12:49 am #

    Don’t give up. Media today is in flux. Old formats are dying and new ones are being born. I think newspapers are going to become a lot smaller in size and circulation and online formats are going to expand. Making money through online means is stil being worked out. A lot of hit and miss but it will level out. Keep a presence online. Rethink your business model and consider a web comic updated twice a week. I subscribe to many of them using that format. You have a current base following and need to maintain that in some format for future growth. Your talented and relevant. Never give up, just adjust to today’s realities and move forward!

    • jwforgetta October 12, 2012 at 12:17 am #

      All good advice, Ed. Thanks. Right now, I’m exhausted though and rethinking a business model seems like a lot of work. LOL. I am keeping LILA going by updating the Classics. Perhaps I’ll think of a new way to make money online as I do them. I appreciate your reading LILA! –John

  6. MsDarkstar October 5, 2012 at 2:23 am #

    I think you need to talk to Randy Milholland who does the webcomic ‘Something Positive’… Several years ago Randy told his comic readers he’d have to end the strip unless they could match his income from his ‘day job’… and they did.

    I’ll miss ‘Lila’ and hope you find a way to restart in the future.

    As someone else said, you are talented and relevant, use your creativity to find a new model that you can work with.

    Best of luck to you and keep us updated, ok?

  7. Roo-ba-Roo October 5, 2012 at 5:57 am #

    I’m just here to remind you how good you are.

    You have no idea who ALL you’re addressing when you say “local” – I’m in India. One Kolkata (erstwhile Calcutta) newspaper used to run “Luann” … I had reached searching for my pre-teen friend. Then I met Lila. I do not know if Lila was syndicated in any newspaper in my country. But “Gay” is just a (difficult to grasp) CONCEPT for the average Indian. “Homosexual intercourse was a criminal offence until 2009 under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.”

    I, as an individual, have SOME understanding of normalcy of Gay people, it’s totally owed to Boyd. I feel just like PP Roberta O. The characters are SO real!

    John, this is not just a financial struggle for you, it’s also a fight for retaining your identity & that of your brainchild.
    I seriously wish there was some way I could really help.

    & “The Meaning of Lila” is AWESOME.

    • jwforgetta October 12, 2012 at 12:18 am #

      Who doesn’t like to be reminded how good they are?! Actually, noone ever said it to begin with, so it’s no so much a reminder but a declaration ;-) Thanks, Roo, for the kind words!

  8. Carol October 10, 2012 at 4:18 pm #


    You are truly talented and your strip was wonderful. Your characters were so flesh out that they became real to me and your other readers. Thanks for four years of laughter. So sorry to see it go.

    • jwforgetta October 12, 2012 at 12:18 am #

      Thanks, Carol. I really appreciate it!

  9. Glenn October 12, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

    Just a thought — comic authors have had a lot of success raising funds on Kickstarter (and I think also, indiegogo). In fact, they have a separate “comics” section. For example, “The Order of the Stick” raised $1.2 million to do some reprints, and Penny Arcade raised over $500K just to keep the comic going (ahem!). Might be worth a shot — I would absolutely donate!

  10. Bn Hart November 9, 2012 at 2:06 am #

    How much do you need to extend the strip for a year or two, John? State the number and perhaps enough of us will pledge. Or use Kickstarter. We miss Lila!

  11. Susan Osborne November 24, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    I miss waking up in the morning to a cup of coffee and The Meaning of Lila! All the characters were “real.” The storyline was never old. My husband feels the same way. We are retired and “old,” but young at heart. Life with gay friends is natural to us, and Lila’s friends were fun and savvy. We loved little Annie, too…..a real cool little girl with an old soul. I’m pleased that my newspaper, The Wichita Eagle, stayed with you until the end. I wish you future success and hope to see the Lila clan in the future.

    • jwforgetta November 24, 2012 at 9:09 pm #

      Thanks, Susan. The Witchita Eagle was one of the few newspapers willing to carry “Lila.” I truly appreciate their AND your support through the past several years.

  12. Lumbar Spine Surgery January 16, 2013 at 7:52 am #

    Although the site doesn’t look too different on the surface, it has been completely reworked and includes some better navigation and browsing capabilities. Check out the new browse page, and try clicking on the terms for any particular episode of a strip and see how you can navigate the taxonomy.

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