News Corp cartoonists disappointed with News Corp Australia’s decision to cancel comics

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Leafing through the newspaper to find the comics will soon be a thing of the past.

News Corp Australia has announced that it will remove comics from all of its mastheads from 9/11.

News Corp’s decision disappointed cartoonists who said the comics were relevant and a way for generations to bond.

Sean Leahy’s comic book Beyond the Black Stump has been published in the Courier-Mail since 1985.(Provided)

Australian Cartoonists Association president Cathy Wilcox said there were comic book readers who bought newspapers for them and loved turning the pages to the funny section.

“It’s a lifelong habit and it’s something that always brings joy,” she said.

Comics introduce children to the news

Before smart phones, children and young people opened a paper to read comics like Blondie, Calvin and Hobbs, Garfield or The Phantom.

For many, it was their introduction to the daily news cycle.

Man talking on television with a yellow t-shirt
Sean Leahy thinks a new business model will emerge for cartoonists.(Insider ABCs)

Beyond Black Stump cartoonist Sean Leahy, who has drawn for the Courier-Mail since 1985, said there were still young readers despite a drop in newspaper sales.

“If you want to hook young readers, the comics are an introduction to the newspaper,” Mr. Leahy said.

Ms Wilcox said that without comics, many young people would not be exposed to current affairs.

“Comics were my gateway into newspapers, it’s what taught me to love them and then to go on and read other things,” she said.

“I was lucky to have a dad who loved to read those comics to me. It was our little thing.”

Why no digital comics section?

Mr Leahy said the paper giant could still post comics on its webpage.

“It’s really mind blowing to me, it doesn’t cost newspapers much to run them, why wouldn’t they keep them digital,” he said.

“It’s almost impossible to make a living in Australia from comics if that’s all you do.”

He said it cost very little to use a comic in a newspaper because the market was flooded years ago with American comics such as Hagar the Horrible and Calvin and Hobbs “which set the bar very low for the prices”.

He said American newspapers still publish large comic book supplements with dozens of pages of cartoons.

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Sean Leahy disappointed with News Corp’s decision to cut the comics.

“American newspapers are actively cultivating new comics and testing young comic artists, there is interaction with the reader,” he said.

“Here, comics seem to be stuck near obituaries and forgotten until they get their own obituary.”

Swamp creator Gary Clark said there was room for a modern take on the digital version of newspaper comics.

“Sometimes you have to stop things to reinvent them,” Clark said.

Uncertain future for some

Ms Wilcox said many artists would be left without a stable income after News Corp’s decision.

“A lot of these people have been doing this for a few years and are older practitioners, they don’t have anywhere else to go,” she said.

“You can put your stuff on your social media account, but it doesn’t pay anything unless you have a crowdfunding deal.”

A woman in glasses smiles at the camera.
Cathy Wilcox says the comics will be missed.(ABC News: Greg Nelson)

Mr. Leahy said he believes a fully independent business model will emerge in which artists make money not only from art, but also from merchandise and advertising space.

“We use multiple channels like YouTube and Instagram,” he said.

“Like a lot of these things, it’s tragic now, but five years from now comic artists who are resourceful might actually be doing better, but there will be a few years of pain first.”

Opportunities on the horizon

Mr. Clark said the speed of the decision to cancel the comics surprised him.

“I think it was a very sudden thing, I was caught off guard and others too,” Mr Clark said.

He said newspapers still needed comics because readers loved them.

A comic poster of Swamp featuring the ducks, frogs, and other creature cartoon characters from the Swamp universe
Swamp was originally published in the Sunshine Coast Daily in 1981.(Provided)

“I’m sure News Corp has done its research, but there are a lot of innovative thinkers among cartoonists and I know they’re thinking about what they can do with it,” Clark said.

Ms Wilcox said she thought the news company made a knee-jerk reaction.

“I wouldn’t give credit that there was a lot of thought put into it,” she said.

“I don’t think it will be a massive saving.”

A spokesperson for News Corp Australia said in a statement that the company’s editorial cartoonists remain as loved and valued as ever and continue to play a vital role in print editions and increasingly in its digital growth strategy.

“The decision to end comics reflects the changing reading habits of our audience and that is why we are focusing more as a company on puzzles, games and crosswords, which is put in evidenced by our recent launch of Brain Gains,” the spokesperson said. .

“It also reflects a global trend where comic book audiences have shifted to movies and events rather than newspapers.”

Additional reporting by Sacha Hamilton-Maclaren and Jennifer Nichols.

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