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How Sunday funnies happen

By Ross Atkin / February 15, 2000



They're called "the funnies," but at first they were a weapon in a newspaper circulation war. In the late 1800s, newspaper baron Joseph Pulitzer's New York World featured the Yellow Kid - America's first cartoon. It was very popular. So popular, that rival newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst lured the cartoonist away. Soon the Yellow Kid, with his bald head and ankle-length yellow shirt, was a fixture in Hearst's trail-blazing weekly comic supplement. Today, some 950 newspapers run both daily and Sunday comics.

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It takes six to eight weeks for a comic strip to be processed, printed, and land on your doorstep. Here's how the Sunday funnies work:

After a cartoonist like Greg Evans finishes a Sunday strip, he sends it (usually electronically) to his syndicate. Syndicates identify and promote new cartoons and arrange for them to be published in client newspapers. Editors at the syndicate check the cartoon for grammar, spelling, punctuation, tastefulness, and factual accuracy.

Then it's prepared for printing. It's converted to a computer file (if it isn't already) and colored to the cartoonist's specifications. Most newspapers don't want to tie up their presses with Sunday comics. Of the 950 newspapers that print Sunday funnies, 700 of them have it done by American Color, in Buffalo, N.Y., or Western Color Press in Laguna Beach, Calif. These companies prepare and print the funnies in advance, then truck them back to the newspapers to be inserted in their Sunday editions and distributed.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society