By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Wide-eyed in Comicville

If there’s one thing to love about the Boston Globe’s new Sidekick insert – and there may indeed only be one thing – it’s that the comics are finally the right size. When the Globe moved the funnies from the main part of the paper into Sidekick, they got bigger, too. For those of us who spend a few minutes with the comics each morning, this is a cause for celebration.

Some history, pulled up not from any research I’ve conducted, but from the imperfect recesses of my memory:

The large-format comics in Sidekick are nothing new, but, rather, are a return to the size that comics were in the past. Broadsheet newspapers were traditionally much wider than they are today. Most of us recall that, a few years ago, the Globe shrank itself a few inches, and is today narrower than the New York Times. But I’m not talking about that. A true broadsheet is the width of the Wall Street Journal, which is at least a half-column wider even than the Times. Today the Journal looks like an anomaly; but that format was once standard. That was the width of the Woonsocket (Rhode Island) Call, for instance, when I was a Northeastern co-op student there in the 1970s.

With such a wide format, comics could be published side-by-side at the size that God – or at least Charles Schulz – intended them. But as the pages got narrower, the comics got squeezed. There are a few exceptions. When Garry Trudeau returned from a leave of absence in the 1980s in order to resume “Doonesbury,” he won a concession forcing newspapers that wanted to carry it to run it at the old, traditional width. Bill Griffith, who does “Zippy,” may have the same arrangement: in looking at the Globe of July 1, I see that both “Doonesbury” and “Zippy” are 6 3/8 inches across, whereas everything else is less than 5 3/4 inches.

In Sidekick, by contrast, every comic strip is right around 6 1/2 inches wide. It’s much more readable that way, and the art pops out as well. It would be nice if other newspapers were to emulate the Globe. It might even encourage artists to go for more detail and complexity than can be accommodated at the narrower width.

Elsewhere, Mark Jurkowitz talks with Globe publisher Richard Gilman about Sidekick.


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