By ROBERT McFERREN
Vindicator Graphic Arts Director
While newspapers are traditionally where readers turn for hard news, information, sports and features, one of the more popular pages in the newspaper is what readers affectionately refer to as ‘the funny pages.’
The Vindicator has run comic strips for 112 of its 150 years. And believe it or not, some of the first strips were in color. Here are some of the highlights of all the comic strip artists who have worked hard to make you smile each day:
The Sunday Vindicator started running a weekly color comic supplement as part of the newspaper. In 1911, the first daily comic strip, “Doings of the Van Loons” by Fred Leipziger (Detroit News) began.
A second strip, “Felix & Fink” from North American Press Syndicate, was added in 1912.
Since then, The Vindicator has consistently run daily comics for the last 100 years: 1919 saw the beginning of the daily comics within The Youngstown Vindicator, starting with “Somebody Is Always Taking the Joy Out Of Life” by Briggs, followed by “That Son-In-Law’s of Pa’s” by Wellington. “School Days,” a single-panel cartoon by Dwig, also appeared.
Within years, comics appeared in most sections of the paper, including editorial cartoons (which occasionally appeared on the front page).
By 1923, the first comic page, with six strips (“Winnie Winkle,” The Bread Winner.” “Bringing Up Father,” “Cicero Sapp,” “Toots and Casper,” “Pa’s Son-In-Law” and “Polly and Her Pals”) and a columnist, began.
By the end of 1923, “Barney Google” and “Gasoline Alley” were added to lineup.
By the mid-’20s, a crossword had been added to newspaper.
In January 1930, the first serial strip, “Tailspin Tommy,” was added to comics. By 1934, 10 comic strips were running daily, including “Little Orphan Annie” and “Dick Tracy.” One year later, the newspaper continued to add new strips, with 13 daily strips, and the expansion to two pages, adding comics “Moon Mullins” and “Joe Palooka.” By the late 1930s, 15 more strips were running, including “Terry and the Pirates” and “Lil Abner.”
However, on Jan 4, 1938, The Vindicator added the most popular and longest-running strip in its history – Chic Young’s “Blondie,” starting its current 81-year-run. The strip is handled by the original artist’s son, Dean, who was born in July of the same year.
By the end of 1947, comic strips were all the rage, with “Steve Canyon” starting in the paper, followed by “Mary Worth” and “Rex Morgan, MD” in 1948.
By 1959, The Vindicator was running 20 daily strips.
The comics spent the next several decades making minor changes, adding “Peanuts,” and other new strips – such as “Hagar the Horrible,” followed by more political strips such as Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury.”
When a 1984 redesign reduced the number of columns per page from eight to six, this also led to the elimination of several strips – for a brief period. The Vindicator switchboard was inundated with complaints, and the paper relented and returned the strips and ran all the missed strips in one edition to get readers caught up.
The addition of new comics continued, as the number of daily strips had grown to 23.
By 1990, we were up to 30 daily comic strips. But in 1995, we saw the loss of two popular comic strips, Gary Larson’s “The Far Side” and Bill Watterson’s “Calvin and Hobbes.”
In 2002, the newspaper was changing, and so were the reading habits of our readers. The Vindicator ran a comics survey to see what comics were not as popular with readers – and you were more than happy to give us your feedback. We received nearly 1,500 opinions by letter or email – and this led to the addition of ‘Pickles” and “Zits” as our new strips.
In 2010, The Vindicator redesigned for our new press, which also meant smaller pages, and less space for all the comics on a single page.
The Vindicator dropped to 22 comics, losing “Doonesbury, “For Better or Worse,” “Shoe” and “Cathy.”
With the new press, however, came the addition of comics that were in color seven days a week.
Over the years, strips came and went – whether replaced for a more popular strip, or retired by the death of the comic or the artist. And while there is nothing funny about that, the newspaper industry itself is facing an uncertain future.
So, appreciate what you have while you have it, and remember to laugh.