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):
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.