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Our recent survey reveals Zits and Tundra definitely lead pack

Sun., March 20, 2011

A funny thing happened on our way to tallying the results of our reader comics poll.

We were overwhelmed with responses – close to 5,000 of them – to the questionnaire we ran in the Jan. 16 newspaper. We certainly appreciate it, but that’s why it has taken us two months to get back to you with our findings. (We do have a newspaper to get out in our spare time, you know.)

The strongest message we received is that you really care about your comics.

“My grandfather and I fought to see who got the comics first. Now I am the grandfather, and I still love them,” one Wallace man told us.

Indeed, comic strip characters can become almost like members of the family.

“I’m so happy for Brad,” one woman said of the formerly dorky brother in Luann who spiffed up his act and landed hot female firefighter Toni Daytona.

On the darker side, another reader replied: “If murder were appropriate to comic strips, Ted Forth would be the first victim.”

But for the most part, readers turn to the comics not for darkness, but for light.

“In this world today,” one said, “we need to have a smile or two.”

Of course, funny, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder – as our poll results clearly showed.

We asked readers how often they read each of our comics, and how well they like them.

When all of the number-crunching dust settled, two strips stood out from the pack as particularly popular with readers of all ages: Zits and Tundra.

“Anyone who has ever had a teenage boy can relate to Zits,” one woman said. (Or who ever was one, or dated one, or knew one, apparently.)

Tundra, the most recent addition to our daily comics pages back in 2007, has captured readers with its rugged Alaskan perspective and offbeat humor.

Garfield and Luann also showed strong readership across the board, while Fox Trot, Baby Blues and Pearls Before Swine were especially well-loved among their regular readers.

The rest of our comics lineup scored well enough with at least one age/gender group or another to warrant keeping – with a few exceptions.

6 Chix, a single-panel comic that’s drawn by six rotating female artists, doesn’t appear to appeal much to the younger women that are its target audience – or to anyone else, for that matter.

And Get Fuzzy, the quirky cat-dog-ferret fable, hit the spot with some younger readers, but was by far the least-read strip on our daily comics page.

It’s also the one people most love to hate, judging by the comments written on their questionnaires.

So starting on Monday, March 28, we’re going to shelve 6 Chix and Get Fuzzy and test some new comics in their place.

(Two strips that appear only in the Sunday paper – Baldo and Prickly City – also performed poorly, but we’re not making any decisions about them until our daily offerings are firmed up. In the meantime, we’d like to hear any further comments about either of those.)

So what new comics are we going to try? We’re still figuring that out. We’ll likely test three or four new strips in each spot, for three or four weeks at a time – and there are literally dozens to choose from.

Readers recommended 80 possible replacements (many of whose creators are long deceased). And once the comic-strip salesmen got wind of what we were up to, they haven’t been shy about expressing their opinions, either.

We’ll be back on March 28 to tell you about the first two strips we’re trying out, along with instructions on how to rate them when the time comes.

It’s an important job, and we want to do it right. Like Dave from Spokane warned us: “Try not to screw this up – it’s one of the last reasons to buy a paper.”

Dave, we’ll do our best.

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