Comics critics like myself like to talk about living in the “golden age of reprints,” and indeed, it is exciting (and somewhat astonishing) to see classic stories and strips that often were only glimpsed in anthologies or discussed in glowing terms in historical chronicles (Skippy, King Aroo) finally be made available. Works long regarded by fans as stellar – Little Lulu, Captain Easy – now have the ability to reach an audience beyond the handful of collectors that had the time and resources, or simply the obsessive-compulsive capabilities, to track down the musty old newspapers and crumbling funny books.
And yet. And yet the success of these collection projects has often encouraged publishers to seek out work that might not be worthy of such lavish format and attention. Do we really, for instance, need a complete run of Hagar the Horrible or Wizard of Id in hardcover? Do these humorous but rather mediocre and ephemeral strips really deserve that sort of focus?
More to the point, does Bazooka Joe?
As part of an overhaul of its logo and packaging, the 65-year-old Bazooka bubblegum is replacing its red, white and blue color scheme and dropping the tiny Bazooka Joe comic strip that’s wrapped each piece of the pink candy since 1953. Yes, first Twinkies, and now the eyepatch-wearing Joe.
The New York Times reports the new packaging — it’s fuchsia and yellow with graffiti-inspired splattered paint — will begin arriving in stores in January as part of an effort by Topps Company subsidiary Bazooka Candy Brands to revive plummeting sales (from $17 million in 2007 to a projected $8.8 million this year). The new design is already a hit among retailers, with Target, 7-Eleven and Kroger now agreeing to stock the gum in early 2013.
That’s cold comfort to Bazooka Joe and his turtleneck-clad pal Mort, whose cheesy jokes and silly antics will be relegated to the pages of history, replaced by brainteasers, activities and online codes. Not that many of Bazooka’s target audience will mourn their passing: A recent survey found just 7 percent of children age 6 to 12 are aware of Bazooka Joe; of those, only 41 percent liked the character. Perhaps it’s the eyepatch, which turns out to have been a mere fashion accessory all along.
Publishing | The final print edition of the 75-year-old children’s comic The Dandy arrives Tuesday, featuring a cameo by none other than Paul McCartney. When it was announced the publication would move online, McCartney wrote the editors explaining it was his lifelong dream to appear in the comic; tomorrow he’ll be seen along with Desperate Dan. [Daily Mail, Daily Mail]
Passings | Jeff Millar, the co-creator, with Bill Hinds, of the comic strip Tank McNamara, has died at the age of 70. [Houston Chronicle]