I’m not sure exactly when I changed my mind, but it probably started as I listened to the voice in my phone message: “Who canceled Get Fuzzy, and when is that idiot going to be fired?”
I dialed the caller and as it rang, I hoped that his tone would soften when he heard me — another human being — on the other line. It didn’t.
“This is Autumn Phillips, editor of the Quad-City Times. I got your voicemail message. I’m the person you wanted to be fired for canceling Get Fuzzy.”
“Yeah. Why are you still there?”
I explained that the artist who draws Get Fuzzy has, for the most part, turned in weekday reruns since 2011. The Washington Post very publicly canceled the cartoon in 2013 because he wasn’t producing original work anymore. Three years later, I’m on the phone explaining that I find it offensive to pay someone for work they were already paid for years ago.
“Sometimes, people need to read something a couple times to see why it’s funny,” the man on the other end of the phone said. He was joking around now. He turned out to be a nice guy, just a reader who didn’t like his favorite comic messed with.
If he had been the only one to call, I would have held my ground. But he wasn’t.
A woman stayed on hold for 45 minutes, waiting for a chance to tell someone she missed Get Fuzzy. When I called her back, she described the personality quirks of Satchel (the dog) and Bucky (the cat). She liked their banter.
Another woman said she enjoyed the politics of the cartoon. If fact, she said, some days she thought the most insightful political commentary in the paper came from the comics page. “Those guys slip things in,” she said.
A man explained how good the Get Fuzzy author was at using language.
I enjoyed most of these conversations, listening to passionate readers tell me about their paper reading routines, their likes and dislikes. And finally, after several dozen of these phone calls, something in my snapped.
“This isn’t my paper,” I thought. “This is their paper. Why am I digging my heels in?”
Midway through someone’s plea, I said, “You’re right. I’m bringing Get Fuzzy back.”
It takes some time to bring a comic back from the dead. So, give me a couple days to reverse the wheels I put in motion when I canceled Get Fuzzy. It will be back in the paper soon — weekdays and Sundays.
I still look at Get Fuzzy and see a stale loaf sitting on the shelf with fresh bread. I don’t think it’s fair that he doesn’t produce new work. Other comic artists have taken breaks, such as Doonesbury, but they were honest about the fact that material they offered during that time was “classic.” I’ve been told that pressure is on to push Darby Conley to get back in the saddle. He’s talented, and Get Fuzzy deserved all the attention it got after it launched in 1999 and through the next decade or so. But five years is a long time to sit on the bench.
The Longest Day
Monday, June 20, is officially the longest day of the year. We’re going to do a fun project that day with reporters and photographers out and about sending back vignettes and images as a way to documented a day in the life of the Quad-Cities. We’ll have a hashtag that day — #qclongestday. If you have a photo to share, use that hashtag or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll publish what we collect on Tuesday, as we begin the slow slicing away of minutes toward the short days of winter.