TOKYO -- "Doonesbury" and "Peanuts," make way for "manga." Come January, the Sunday funnies of several major North American newspapers will have doe-eyed women in frilly outfits, effeminate long-haired heroes and other trademark images of the Japanese comic style.
The reason? Newspaper editors want to attract more young readers. A study released earlier this year by the Carnegie Corporation put the age of newspaper readers at 53 and climbing _ hardly a recipe for circulation growth.
"We thought if teens and young kids are reading manga, then why don't we get something in the paper that teens want to read?" said John Glynn, vice president at Universal Press Syndicate, which distributes comics and columns globally to newspapers. "Newspapers are being seen as their parents' medium."
The U.S. newspaper debut is a bit of a landmark for manga _ a product of Japanese pop culture that has never been quite mainstream in the United States, although it's long been a hit with the younger generation that grew up on Pokemon, Hello Kitty and Japanese animation movies _ or "anime" for short.
"This could be something that really explodes," Glynn said in a telephone interview from Kansas City, Missouri. "This is a great way to take a chance and change the landscape and readership of your paper."
Several newspapers that have signed on to carry the two English-language manga strips on Sundays include the Los Angeles Times, Denver Post, Vancouver Sun and Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Martin Fischhoff, assistant managing editor at The Detroit News, which also plans to carry manga, believes it has the potential to be a big hit and draw new readers.
"I know how popular manga and anime are among a young demographic. Go to any bookstore and there are kids swarming around the manga shelves. And by kids I mean everyone from high school into their 30s. There is even a local store devoted to manga paraphernalia, which is always packed," he said in an e-mail. "But this trend clearly hasn't made itself felt in newspaper comic sections."
The larger papers can afford to take risks, Glynn says. But if manga proves a success, others may follow suit.
"The newspapers want the manga more even than we want the newspapers," says Stuart Levy, chief executive of TOKYOPOP Inc., which publishes the cartoon strips that will be carried. "Newspapers are looking for new fresh ways to appeal to young people."
Kirk LaPointe, managing editor of The Vancouver Sun, said manga has drawn a strong following in the Vancouver area, particularly among young readers.
"We want to bring more features that appeal to a younger readership, and many of the comics we carry have an older following," LaPointe said in an e-mail. "We also like the artistic nature of manga and feel it will contribute to the graphical beauty of the paper overall."