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FOX TROT NEWS

In December, Bill Amend decided he’d had enough—enough of the unrelenting grind of producing seven FoxTrot comic strips every week. With the December 30 release, the FoxTrot daily ceased. But Amend will continue doing the Sunday version of the strip for the time being. Amend has been thinking about this development, he told David Astor at Editor & Publisher, for years. “The sense that this full-time pace wasn’t working well for me probably started about two years into the run,” Amend said. He spent about 60 hours a week at the drawing board, and that was a bit too much: there was little time left for him to spend with his young family.

In a statement released by his syndicate, Universal Press, Amend said: “After spending close to half my life writing and drawing FoxTrot cartoons, I think it’s time I got out of the house and tried some new things. I love cartooning and I absolutely want to continue doing the strip, just not at the current all-consuming pace. I’ve been blessed over the years with a terrific syndicate, patient newspaper clients, and more support from readers than I probably deserve, and I want to assure them all that while I’ll be now a less-frequent participant on the comics pages, I’ll continue to treat my visits as the special privilege they are.” Some of these sentiments Amend expressed in the strip’s unprecedented final week of dailies wherein he addressed his readers, indirectly but to the point.

Amend told Astor that he would “decompress” for a month or so—reading, spending more time with his children and so on—then he would explore other creative options, none of which he would discuss. “I’m headed into uncharted territory,” he said. “I hope I’m not driving off a cliff.” But he’s pretty sure he made the right decision: “I needed to slow down and add variety to my life,” he concluded. While Amend doesn’t think the Sunday FoxTrot will be much different than it’s always been, my guess is that it will be somewhat. For one thing, Amend hopes to color the strips, and that, in my view, will prompt him to experiment a little with format.

FoxTrot ran in over 1,000 newspapers, and Amend’s retirement created a windfall of opportunity for other strip cartoonists: all of those subscribing papers scrambled to find a replacement in their daily line-ups. Many opted for other so-called “family” strips. Some added Zack Hill, about a young boy and his family, or Baby Blues with its herd of rug rats, or Rose Is Rose, featuring a young and loving family, or, maybe Stone Soup, which started with a single mom or two, at least one of whom is now married again. Frazz, a strip about the janitor at an elementary school, has been picked up variously, probably because kids are so often the actors in the series and many editors doubtless see the kids in the Fox family as the core of the strip’s appeal. By a stretch in somewhat the same direction, Lio, a newly launched pantomime strip about a strange kid who ventures into unconventional realms of imagination, is another FoxTrot replacement. But papers that already have what their editors think is enough “family” strips opt in a different direction altogether, sometimes picking new strips that seem on the cusp of great popularity, about which the buzz is burbling—Pearls before Swine, for example; or Get Fuzzy. Or Mutts. Even Pickles, a great strip about a family most of whom are senior citizens, one of them dafter than the others.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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