21 Comments

  1. Hmmm. This is from the comments on GoComics: “Mr. Tatulli has retired from Heart in the City, and this is from Christina ‘Steenz’ Stewart, his handpicked and fully endorsed replacement.”

    I wish Steenz all the luck in the world, but I like Tatulli’s work, art and humor. Not sure I will gravitate towards this 1995 webcomic style.

  2. And here is the full story. http://www.dailycartoonist.com/index.php/2020/04/20/tatulli-passes-heart-of-the-city-to-steenz/ I can see that it is a lot easier for a new artist to take over an old strip (as hard as I am sure that is!) than to start a strip all on their own. Take me, for example, it doesn’t immediately jump to me as something I will like, but it is in my feed so I will leave it there and give it a chance. I don’t know if I would have stumbled across Steno’s “new strip” otherwise.

  3. The new artist isn’t even pretending these are the same characters. Even Riverdale goes through the motions.

  4. The existing strip is already sold to however many publications. A new strip would have to claw it’s way in based on its own merits. Much more money involved doing it this way, as I assume he’s still getting a substantial cut of the income from the strip. More money for the noob, who doesn’t have to struggle to try to get picked up. More money for the publisher.

  5. I assume this was a rhetorical question, but just in case: the obvious answer is that keeping the strip name the same gives the new artist an opportunity to keep a bunch of readers from the old strip.

  6. Is this a serious question? As SingaporeBill says, this is an existing successful strip that has newspaper slots all across the country. Short of a creator decision not to have the strip continued by a third party (a la Charles Schulz and Peanuts), why would anybody give those up? It’s extremely difficult to start a new strip, and this gives a new artist a chance to step into an established property.

    That said, I can’t say much for the way it’s been handled. There was no in-strip valedictory from Tatulli of any kind. There was no warning to readers at all, although I knew about it from Dailycartoonist.com, and Tatulli announced it on his Instagram account. Steenz just jumped in with a new story line that ignores strip history and current events, and with a radically different art style with unrecognizable characters, relative to what has gone before. I think the strip would have been better served with some continuity. This is an even greater change, at least artistically, than when Olivia Jaimes became the Nancy artist. Of course, it could be that Steenz will redeem the change with her writing, but nothing in this initial strip gives me confidence on that point.

  7. “Why?” Because I’m willing to give it a try (for a while, at least), so many others likely will, too. Win for Tatulli, win for Steenz, bit win for their syndicate. As for whether it’s a win for the rest of us, we’ll know soon.

  8. I understand Steenzs’s motivation, of course: but if I were the syndicate (or the person buying strips from the syndicate), and I heard “somebody new is taking over the strip AND turning it into something unrecognizable to what it was before, but we’re keeping the same name so we’d like you to consider it the same strip it was before,” I would say “Not so fast, pardner.”

  9. The syndicate wouldn’t object; it has the same motivation as Steenz. If it drops Heart completely, it would have to compete for that space with all the other syndicates again. As for the buyers — first, a lot of them, if not all, are in long-term contracts — so as long as the syndicate keeps supplying a strip with the same name, they’re stuck paying for it. Second, the days when newspapers had editors with enough time to think about rearranging comics are long gone. One strip more or less isn’t going to have any effect on continually declining circulation. And if readers complain — well, nowadays, these decisions are not likely to be made locally, anyway. Comic choices are being centralized, the same as copy editing and page design. Finally, as the existence of so many ghost strips shows, inertia is a powerful force.

  10. Bill, from a moral and ethical standpoint, you’re probably right. But syndicates are there to make money. By having an established strip, with established newspaper subscriptions, it’s a much safer bet than trying to sell some different strip.

    There was a marked difference between the James Bond movies of Sean Connery and Roger Moore. There is a marked difference between the Cadbury candies sold in the U.S. and the originals as still sold in the U.K. Regardless of whether it’s “right”, if you can keep the name, you can keep many of the consumers and much of the income.

    So, if you were in a syndicate, you might say, “This is nothing more than fan fiction set in the Heart world. I won’t allow it.” But if you weren’t way high up in the hierarchy, you’d likely get overridden by the bean counters.

    I like and agree with your stance. But it’s not likely to prevail against fiscal strategy.

  11. ‘how is this a “win for Tatulli”?’

    Tatulli doesn’t have to do any work, but, I presume, still gets some kind of percentage. (If he wasn’t getting some money from the deal, why allow it?)

  12. Tatulli said that the syndicate chose Steenz. As far as storylines, there weren’t really any in the last few weeks. He did several “social distancing” ones, and then some “memories while looking at photos” strips. It’s a fairly clean slate.

  13. Arthur, if the syndicate owns the rights to the strip, he had no say over anything (and might not get a sou).

    Ask Milt Caniff.

    And maybe he owns Lió?

  14. And within our lifetimes, didn’t Jim Meddick abandon Robotman, which he didn’t own, and hang onto Monty, which he did?

  15. @CIDUBill, Meddick stopped writing a strip called “Robotman”. I would not have picked “abandon” to describe it.

    As I once emailed him, the Robotman trademark has been abandoned, so he could bring the character back if he wanted.

    I am amazed how many people are judging steenz’ tenure on the strip by literally three panels. Maybe it’s my history as a comic book fan, but I’m used to seeing different creators have different takes on characters and stories.

  16. I used to read ‘Heart’ once in a while a few years ago, when I had more time and inclination to follow more strips.
    In the meantime, I hadn’t realized Tatulli had already aged the characters a couple of years ago, to junior high age.
    That made the new artist’s tske on the characters look even less familiar.

  17. Uh, I thought we had a rule about disparaging comics creators in this space. Or is deeming a work “piece of c***” after one day now acceptable around here?

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