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Newspaper editors are pantywaists, film at 11

(via The comics Journal forums, where the poster's choice of a subject line completely mischaracterises the content of the article)

Long article about the state of newspaper strips, the pernicious influence of the cowardice of newpaper editors, and how webcomics may come to realise Bill Watterson's artistic vision.

What happens when cartoonists have a fresh idea? ...A few weeks ago, the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Doonesbury's" Sunday strip joked about a study linking masturbation to reduced chances of prostate cancer.

Here was a fresh idea and a funny joke.

Newspapers squashed it.

"Doonesbury" artist Garry Trudeau later told the Long Island paper Newsday that over 400 papers pulled the strip. Nearly all said they were "family newspapers" and that children shouldn't see jokes about masturbation.

Trudeau defended the strip in an August 29 press release: ""It's (a) 'South Park' world now, and younger readers are unlikely to be shocked or confused by anything they find in 'Doonesbury.' Besides, our general experience is that most children don't understand 'Doonesbury' in any event, and thus sensibly avoid it."

Despite arguments like Trudeau's, family friendliness pervades the comic strip industry, where it blocks the efforts of cartoonists to try anything daring. Descriptions of the strips Universal Press Syndicate offers to newspapers stress how inoffensive these features are.

"Readers of all ages will enjoy the antics of 'Garfield'," one page says.
[snip]
There's nothing wrong with family-friendly comics. But there's a lot wrong with having only family-friendly comics. Like the fact that nobody who doesn't have a family will read that page.

On the opposite end of the controversy continuum is Jonny Hart's "B.C.", a strip originally about cavemen in the Stone Age. Since Hart became a born-again Christian, though, he's begun using more overtly religious themes in his strips.

These strips aren't funny. They're preachy-literally. But they do have an audience, a large one. And still newspapers refuse to run them.

Another controversial strip, Aaron McGruder's "The Boondocks," harshly criticizes the Bush administration, B.E.T, and American culture in general. Like "Doonesbury" and "B.C.," newspapers frequently refuse to run "The Boondocks" because it isn't family-friendly.

There's no room in the newspaper for jokes about sex or politics. There isn't any room for Christianity. There's no room in some newspapers, really, for anything interesting, because what is interesting will offend somebody.

Read the whole thing, which cites Stefan Pastis of Pearls before Swine, Tycho and Gabe of Penny Arcade, Scott McCloud, Matt Boyd of Mac Hall and Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post.

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