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Oct
18

TIME Magazine Adds Comics Section, No One Notices

You’d think that when a magazine with a weekly circulation of over four million copies (that’s about 240 times the monthly numbers of, say, an issue of Batman, for example) adds a comics section there’d be some talk about it in the usual comics circles…. but I sure haven’t noticed any.  This actually isn’t that surprising since most of us comics folk often exhibit a peculiar myopia when it comes to comics that aren’t of the variety you can purchase at your local Android’s Dungeon.  Case in point: when Parade magazine ditched all of their then-current comics features and replaced them, there was nary a peep from most of the comics press–despite the fact that the gag panels in Parade are probably the most widely read comics in the U.S.

Anyway… about a month ago, TIME magazine gave itself a bit of a design revamp and among the few substantive changes to content was the addition of a comics page, called “The Drawing Room.”  In deference to the comics press, you’ll realize once you have a look at the comics page in question that perhaps one of the reasons that there’s not been more of a hubbub about it is that it’s not really very good.  Here’s a scan of this week’s page (strips copyright their respective creators, I guess… or maybe copyright TIME):

time_comics

As you can see, they seem to be going for topical, news-related stuff… which makes sense.  The choice of the gag panel format, though, is predictable and uninspired, and the other ancillary bits (usually little charts or graphs) aren’t really pulling a whole lot of weight themselves.  Also, none of it’s very funny.   Actually, this third installment of the feature is substantially funnier than the previous two, but still not exactly side-splitting.

The problem here is that you can’t really out-New Yorker the New Yorker–not even the modern version.  Obviously, a magazine with the editorial bent of TIME isn’t going to pick up something like Get Your War On for its new comics page, but with the wealth of great cartoonists out there either explicitly doing “comics reportage” or something close to it, the current TIME comics page seems to really stand out as a lost opportunity to do something really interesting.  Imagine what a magazine like TIME could do with, say, a serialized story by Joe Sacco–or even Peter Bagge.    This is only the third week of the feature, though, so perhaps things will change.  As noted, this week’s batch are better than the previous two, so at least one can perhaps expect continued improvement of this sort, but something as bold as running some Sacco-esque work is probably not in the cards I’m guessing.

6 comments

  1. Josh Blair says:

    Unknown to me, my TIME subscription expired a couple weeks ago so I haven’t seen the new comics page. TIME used to run a couple comics before it had one of its redesigns recently (it seems to have been redesigned quite a lot in the past year or so). I was sad to see it go, but at least Newsweek kept its comics. These comics seem more like they belong in Parade.

  2. Rod says:

    Ben, the New Yorker’s Cartoonbank has been critisized in some cartooning circles for approaching markets and asking them to run used New Yorker cartoons – obviously to the detriment of freelance cartoonists. Good Housekeeping recently closed its pages to original freelance work to work with the New Yorker Cartoonbank – this looks like used New Yorker material – which might explain why the gags are not funny.

  3. Ben says:

    Josh – It’s a story in itself that a magazine subscription was able to expire without your notice. Usually those guys are on me about six months in advance, Yul Brenner in Westworld style.

    Rod – Yeah, that kind of makes some sense, especially since the strips so far have definitely been New Yorker-like.

  4. DocDoom says:

    If you look at the page editor you’ll notice it’s Matthew Diffee, a regular New Yorker contributor and editor of the New Yorker’s Rejected Collection, as well, four of the cartoons are by New Yorker regulars. I’m not sure if they’re “used” or not but these ones aren’t in the Cartoon Bank as far as I can see.

  5. Rod says:

    Interesting. They are, as you say, NYKR regulars, including the old cartoon editor. The cartoons are incredibly unfunny though, perhaps they are employing irony:>) Whether they are from the Cartoonbank or not, it looks like another closed shop – like Good Housekeeping, and the New Yorker crowd are involved in both instances.

  6. Ben says:

    It is, indeed, interesting that this story didn’t make a bigger splash in the comics circle. Yikes! What does that say about the readership of comic fans :-)

    Still, I was only informed this past week that “The New York Times” has no comics section! I was simply aghast; I mean, they have everything else in there!

    Also, I concur–those comics are all bad. Perhaps not individually, but as a collective, definitely. Someone should write a letter to suggest that they diversify the content of the comics on that page.

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