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But mess with their comics and you’ve got trouble.
Even the comics you’ve barely glanced at have their partisans, and they write letters!
Last November, faced with budget cuts demanded by our new owners, we decided to stop running comics in the classifieds section and to cease commissioning weekly illustrations for Savage Love and News of the Weird. This was not a fun decision—-we’re big fans of Robert Ullman and Shawn Belschwender, the columns’ respective illustrators. I grew up reading “Refrigerator Johnny” in the City Paper and loved Shawn’s work in Chickfactor (like this one, which still haunts me).
We made the best of a bad situation: Both artists agreed to do permanent illustrations for their columns, both of which debuted last week. And we’ll use them as illustrators when we can; Rob illustrated last week’s Young & Hungry column, for instance.
On his blog, Rob encouraged fans of his work to write in and complain that we were discontinuing the Savage Love illustrations. He asked me if I’d mind; I said I didn’t, but I think he was a bit disingenuous in the post: “I think it’s more of a budget thing than a they-think-I-suck thing,” he wrote, knowing well that it was a budget thing. He also neglected to mention that we’d hired him to do the permanent illustration.
Write in they did. The cause was taken up by ComicsDC. We got a few letters every week from then on; unfortunately, after publishing the first two we were hit with even worse budget news and had to lay off five people. I’m sympathetic to those who think dropping weekly illustrations is the death knell of this paper, but since we can’t afford to keep, say, our food critic on staff, artwork for syndicated content is not foremost in my thoughts. Last week we ran a letter about dropping our comics. Apparently, swearing in a letter will get you mentioned on Editor & Publisher‘s blog.
There’s no end in sight for this new era of austerity at the City Paper (and it’s not like we were stirring organic milk from monogamous, grass-fed cows into our coffee to begin with). I hope our readers will continue letting us know how these changes affect their experience with the paper. Even if it means I’m gritting my teeth about yet another friend of Rob’s writing in.