Here’s what I learned in the past couple weeks: Quad-City Times readers love the comic strip “Red and Rover.” I could hear it in the way they said “a boy and his dog” during the phone calls during my recent Comics Survey. Emails included four and five exclamation points in a row, which measured against standard punctuation rules is a lot. I received threats of cancelled subscriptions if I cancelled “Red and Rover.” I heard pleas. But mostly I heard a desire for something sweet and nostalgic as a kind of salve against all the election season shouting, against painful images from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, against the daily heartache that fills some of our other pages.
I received a total of 277 ballots. Among them, 173 people asked me to keep “Red and Rover.” Eight people said it should go. But the outpouring of emotion that accompanied each vote was so eye-opening that I reached out to the artist to let him know and make sure he knows there’s an open invitation if he’s ever passing through. I haven’t heard back, but I’ll let you know if I do.
As soon as my column came out a couple weeks ago asking for opinions on the comics, the ballots poured in. They came by mail, hand-written on flowered stationery. They came by email. People stopped by the office. The phone would ring. I would pick it up and someone on the other line would say, “Are you ready?” And I knew what they were calling about. “Go for it,” I said. And I wrote down the list.
The topic led to other conversations and it was the first time I ever heard someone say, “I like the squirrel. He makes some interesting points.”
After a few days of it, like a grocery store checker must hear the scanner beep in his or her dreams, I started to see tick marks in my sleep. Family Circus, one vote, tick. Funky Winkerbean, tick.
Apparently, my comment in the column about some of the our comics being sexist struck a nerve. It angered some (“Get a life”) but most people had fun with it (“And I like the sexist ones – Blondie, Hi & Lois”). In case you’re wondering, Hi & Lois got 63 votes to keep and 28 to cut, and Blondie got 56 to keep, 26 to cut.
I was surprised how varied the opinions are about Beetle Bailey. Many see that strip as the traditional stalwart of the page, published and enjoyed for as long as they can remember. But some found it violent, an insult to our military and outdated.
I listened, but in the end “Beetle Bailey” received enough votes from both sides (52 keep, 32 cut) it fell into the “it’s not broken, don’t fix it” category. Most comics landed there. “Speed Bump” received 23 votes to cut and 23 votes to keep.
In the end, a few comics stood out as much-beloved. “Funky Winkerbean” received 71 votes to keep and 19 to cut. “Pickles” was another very popular comic – 92 keep, 7 cut. “Family Circus” got 78 to keep and 22 to cut.
But a few comics got an almost universal thumbs down from responding Quad-City Times readers. There were plenty of exclamation points on calls to cut “Carpe Diem,” (66 cut, 6 keep) “The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee” (85 cut, 26 keep) and “In the Bleachers” (68 cut, 11 keep).
So, those will be disappearing from our pages soon and replaced with new cartoons.
I got a lot of requests to bring back “Dinette Set,” but when I researched it, I found that the artist retired in 2015, and that it is no longer available. A sprinkling of people asked for the return of “Peanuts,” “Prince Valient,” and “Hagar the Horrible,” but only one or two votes for each. A much larger number asked for the return of “Zack Hill” and “Brewster Rockit.” Both will be brought in to replace the comics that you asked me to cut. You’ll also see “Doonesbury” on Sundays only – this was much-debated – and “Non Sequitur” on weekdays. “Pooch Café” will take the place of “Carpe Diem” on weekdays.
The polls are closed. There were no election observers, but trust me when I say that I recorded every vote and listened to every opinion. Changes will take effect over the next few weeks as I work out the contract details. Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s Quad-City Times Comics Survey. I hope you enjoy the results.