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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 05/19/2009

The Interview: 'Comic Riffs' Blogger Michael Cavna


'STEVE GREENBERG' (Courtesy of Steve Greenberg and Cagle.com)


One danger of publicly bemoaning the state of the Endangered Newspaper Comics Industry for a living is that fellow journalists begin to contact you to speak authoritatively on the state of the Endangered Newspaper Comics Industry.

Recently, for instance, Editor & Publisher and the Los Angeles Times have called to seek my insights, such as they are. (And what they are, somedays, is terribly off-the-cuff.) In truth, of course, I very much enjoy talking shop for the greater good of comics. But I also realize that I should have a squadron of stock answers at the ready for such interviews. As such, here's Comic Riffs' Standing Q&A Responses About the Industry that outlets can filch at will, deploying at their whim. To wit:

QUESTION: Michael -- if I may call you Michael -- do you fret about the state of newspaper comics?

MICHAEL CAVNA: Not only incessantly, but also with shameless self-interest. If there's any newspaper position that's more perilous than being a newspaper cartoonist, it's being a writer who BLOGS about other newspaper cartoonists. Meds are invaluable when you know Ziggy inadvertently holds your fate in his inky little mitts.

Q: Do you think newspaper comics have a bright future?

A: I'm quite confident that they will last a lifetime -- as long as your life is scheduled to go subterranean by 2012. Beyond that, you might be betting against the house.

Q: Seriously, do you see comics in print newspapers in five years?

A: I barely see comics in print newspapers now. Those stamp-sized suckers are TINY. Honestly, even with 20/20 vision, the strain it can take to read some comics detracts from the experience. I'm far less likely to laugh when I'm squinting to see Garfield squash that sassy arachnid.

Q: So what do you advise aspiring cartoonists to do?

A: Buddy up to the Walker or Keane clans but good, and ingratiate yourself. Long after many strips have shriveled on the print-newspaper vine, "Beetle Bailey" and "Family Circus" will continue to thrive like nuclear cockroaches. Not that I am likening the strips themselves to cockroaches. Jeffy has far beadier eyes.

Q: Can tame newspaper comics really compete in an era of edgy "Daily Show" and Stephen Colbert humor?

A: Oh, most definitely. But only because eventually, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will reveal the nasty habit of actually aging, while Blondie remains forever pert, and Dagwood's soaring, cantilevered hair will outlast everything except Stonehenge, the Easter Island heads and Dr. Phil's mustache.

Q. Will those syndicated print cartoonists who loathe self-published webcomics ever fully embrace their online brethren?

A. No, I'm afraid that type of print cartoonist will resent them forever. Especially while mowing their lawns.

Q: So the real future for cartoonists, then, involves hand-held devices?

A: Absolutely. Not hand-held devices like iPhones, mind you. Speaking personally, my "hand-held" is likely to be a pencil-filled cup. On the street corner. With a sign that says: "Will draw for credibility. Or coffee. Whichever is cheaper."

Q. Thank you, Michael. Your insights were quite engaging. Almost as if you knew the questions in advance.

A. Actually, all these purloined questions first appeared elsewhere. I believe in a column by Maureen Dowd.

By  |  11:00 AM ET, 05/19/2009

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