Star-Bulletin Features

Sunday, April 22, 2001

The truth behind
Sunday’s funnies

By Burl Burlingame

There are two wholly American art forms: jazz music and the "comic" or graphic-based literature. Both are about a century old. There's not much we can do about jazz around here, but we can take the comics medium seriously. It was born in the newspaper medium, after all, and the Star-Bulletin has always taken the lead in presenting groundbreaking strips, with "Mutt and Jeff" even before the Star married the Bulletin in 1912.

Which, in a single bound, brings us to this column. "Drawn and Quartered" will run every Sunday and deal with the graphics medium and its assorted spinoffs, byproducts and fallout, such as anime, video games, animation, comic books, collectibles, manga, cartooning, comics-influenced movies and television, and whatever else appeals to our glazed eyes.

And now (drum roll) on to today's subject, the question that has puzzled readers: What's the deal with the Sunday comics?

After the divorce last month between the Star-Bulletin and the Advertiser, each paper got weekend custody of some of the other's strips, adopted a few others and picked up joint custody of "Garfield" and "Doonesbury."

Newspaper strips are sold on a contract basis via syndicates, and there are separate contracts for the "daily" and "Sunday" strips. Since both newspapers were originally combined on Sundays back in the '60s, the Hawaii Newspaper Agency -- which represented both papers -- handled the contracts for the Sunday edition, and each paper had individual contracts for the daily strips.

But then came the breakup. The Star-Bulletin's new owners tried negotiating with the Advertiser's parent company, Gannett, to obtain the strips that we feature on weekdays for use on Sunday, but it was no go, and the syndicates said they were stuck with their exclusive contracts with HNA. The exception was Universal Press Syndicate, which decided that since HNA was being dissolved, both papers could run their strips, "Garfield" and "Doonesbury."

So we had to see what was available for our Sunday color comics section. As it turned out, many of the comics up for grabs were those that the Advertiser runs in their daily paper but not in their Sunday paper.

And so it stands.

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