Tag Archives: Comics

In his Monday column, Bloomington (IN) Herald-Times editor Bob Zaltsberg revisits the story of the boy who complained in a voicemail about his favorite comics getting canceled. (The kid called Zaltsberg and his colleagues “shitholes,” “jerks” and “idiots” for yanking the strips.)

Zaltsberg says he knew after I called last Monday that the “the H-T’s 8-year-old critic was going to become an Internet sensation ­— and I would be a very well-known (naughty name) for a few days.”

He writes in today’s paywalled column:

Within 36 hours after Romenesko picked up the story — which we had posted on HTO and distributed on Twitter and Facebook — we’d also heard from,,, the New York Daily News, New York Magazine and radio stations in New York and Indianapolis.

Digital heavyweights Gawker, Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post had run the story, as had The Independent of London, the Irish Times and various other digital publications. Within 72 hours, the audio had been played more than 140,000 times.

A representative from a company that distributes books with collections of Peanuts comics — one of the comics the young man wanted back — said she’s sending five books along, “not to reward his cursing, but to acknowledge the heart behind his activism.”

Zaltsberg notes that many commenters who blasted the boy’s parents “did the same kind of name-calling for which they were denouncing an 8-year-old. …I saw this from the beginning as a ‘kids say the darndest things’ issue, not some morality play about child-rearing.

The editor adds: “I don’t believe for a minute Mom, Dad or any adult knew what he was saying or would condone it. But he’s a kid, and he was frustrated. …Mom told me the family has used this as a teachable moment about civility. Son believes he might find some favorites in our new comics and has decided to draw some of his own.”

* Time to re-focus after boy’s call goes viral (
* Earlier: Boy calls newspaper editor a “shithole” for pulling his favorite comics (

With the help of his mom, an 8-year-old boy named Mac got on the phone Sunday and complained in a voicemail to Bloomington (IN) Herald-Times editor Bob Zaltsberg about his favorite comics no longer appearing in the paper.

“OK, I want back these comics now,” the boy demanded. His list- some of his parents’ faves, too? – included “Peanuts,” “Dilbert,” “Doonesbury,” “Nancy,” “Garfield,” “For Better or For Worse,” “Ziggy,” and others.

“I’ll give you all my money” if the comics are returned to the paper, the boy said before ending his call by blasting the “idiots, jerks, [and] shitholes” at the paper.

The editor tells me: “I thought it was a very funny thing, but still an eight-year-old calling me a shithole isn’t that pleasant.”

Zaltsberg says the paper negotiated with three syndicates after the publisher ordered the comics budget cut. The Herald-Times got “pretty good breaks” from Creators Syndicate and King Features, but Universal Uclick wouldn’t negotiate. Its 13 comics were dropped.

“We replaced them with 13 others from Creators and King,” says the editor. “We haven’t had an onslaught on callers [complaining]. I had explained in a column that this was a cost-reduction issue, and I think some readers took pity on us.”

* Editor hears from an 8-year-old about comics changes (
* Listen to the boy’s call to the newspaper editor (

Philadelphia City Paper cover by Art Baxter

Back in April, there was a mini-flap over the Village Voice not paying “Comics Issue” contributors. Editor Tony Ortega told me at the time that “in order to fill [the issue] out with so much art, we asked some artists to donate their work.” In Philadelphia, the City Paper told artists they had to donate their work and pay $5 to even be considered for the annual Comics Issue. (Cash prizes went to the winners.) It sounds like the alt-weekly won’t be doing that again. Here’s what the A&E editor Patrick Rapa wrote:

Also new this year was the $5 submission fee. Oh man, what a terrible idea. We wanted to “reward” the artists whose stuff we liked enough to print, but probably ended up discouraging some fence-sitters from taking a shot. Lesson learned.


How many entries did you get this year vs. average of previous years?

I haven’t figured that out – and I can’t right now; Tuesday’s our deadline day – but I’m certain we got fewer entries.

Do the published cartoonists then get a cash prize/compensation, or is getting published the reward?

All the money collected goes to the artists whose work got published in the issue. The top comic, as chosen by our expert judge Art Baxter, gets $100. Everybody else gets the divided-up remains of the entry pool. I still haven’t worked out how much that will be (we’re having a minor PayPal issue right now) but I’m hoping to bolster it with some money from the paper if we’re under our editorial budget. Even then it will be meager. I’ve already warned the winners not to quit their day jobs.

I saw the one comment from a cartoonist who wanted his $5 back [I’ve posted it below]; what other reactions are you getting?

Well the initial reaction, when the contest was first announced, was decidedly negative. Pretty much all the complaints were about the entry fee. Once we announced we’d enlisted Mr. Baxter, however, at least some of our detractors appeared to be satisfied. Since the
issue came out, the only negative responses I’m aware of were left as comments, both from people whose comics didn’t get chosen for print, for whatever that’s worth. I do agree with the one who wishes we’d printed more comics. The one who’d like his/her $5 sent back is out of luck.

One last thing: We use the $5-per-entry/winners-get-the-money model for our annual fiction/poetry contest and everybody seems to like it, so that’s why I thought it would work with comics. I was wrong. The comics world is a different animal.

From the City Paper’s comments:

I want my $5.00 back. As a professional cartoonist, I don’t agree with your choice for first place. First of all, it was too talky. Yes, the text was interesting but in a comic strip a picture should speak a thousand words, not a thousand words a picture. Second, the drawings appeared to be rushed. There was very little line variation, the scenes were too dark and in the last panel the art was way too busy . My wife and I barely made out the Invisible man, we thought he was part of Frankenstein’s jacket. And the tiny captions in that panel were unnecessary. The smiles on the monsters faces (except for the Invisible Man) showed that they were glade to see the Count. May I suggest that you run all of the submissions, including mine, on line and let the readers choose the top 10.

Check out that “too talky” winning entry, by Mike Sgier.