Times' Comics on a Roll

Over thirty years ago, as an art director at the New York Times, I ran a two part comic strip by Art Spiegelman on the OpEd page. The only way to get comics – ostensibly taboo at that time – onto the page was not to have any words. So Spiegelman’s strip was a wordless paean to the invention of the better mouse trap. Since then comics have been part of the Times‘ graphic diet. What’s more, the 1985 review by Ken Tucker of Spiegelman’s Maus helped launch the mainstream acceptance of graphic novels. (Scores of essays about and reviews of Spiegelman’s comics have followed.)

In June the Times replaced its venerable Week in Review with the Sunday Review section, art directed by Aviva Michaelov. Eliminated was the weekly round-up of other newspapers’ editorial cartoons (much to the consternation of editorial cartoonists) in favor of a new comic strip by Brian McFadden, creator of the weekly comic strip “Big Fat Whale.”

Brian McFadden was born and raised in Brockton, Massachusetts. After following the advice of the world’s worst guidance counselor, he went on to study mechanical engineering at Johns Hopkins University, where he began the comic strip to escape the drudgery of computer-aided design and materials selection charts.

I was skeptical when I first saw the drawing style (a tad too much like Tom Tomorrow, who also appeared in the Times),. But not only is McFadden’s approach different, his primitive style has grown on me. Now, “The Strip” by Brian McFadden, which was moved from the back page to the more prominent page 3, is the first thing I jump into on Sundays. And it is well worth it. His wit is dry, smart and on topic for the times.

This week’s is postcards from vacationing congressmen. Last week was an austerity survival guide. If you are not a Times reader, see them all here.

Austerity Survival Guide


3 thoughts on “Times' Comics on a Roll

  1. Steven Heller Post author

    In 1976 I commissioned Will Eisner to do a four panel strip, “The Spirit of Nixon,” for the OpEd Republican Convention coverage.

    F. Y. I.


    Published: October 9, 2005


    Early Funnies

    Q. Now that The New York Times Magazine has the Funny Pages, complete with a comic strip, can you tell me: Has The Times ever printed a comic strip before?

    A. Yes, sometimes with articles about the cartoonists. In 1972, Li’l Abner and Spider-Man were enlisted for an article about the presidential race. In 1976 and 1977, there was a short-lived strip by Rick Meyerowitz and Tony Hendra, “The Voice of Food,” which poked fun at foodies.

    But the first strip in The Times ran from Jan. 7 to July 22, 1906: “The Roosevelt Bears,” by Paul Piper.

  2. Steven Heller Post author

    Setting the record straight: A year or two after the Spiegelman comic Bob Ciano, art director of the LIVING section sheperded a weekly comic . . .
    “which ran for several months,” Ciano recalls, “when the section first started–1977 or 78?–it was done by Rick Meyerowitz and Tony Hendra and I would send it on Tuesday each week to Abe Rosenthal for his approval and there would always be a lively exchange…it was about food and all the characters were food…at one point the food kidnaps Craig Claiborne and sends ransom notes to the NYTimes… As a continuing story it was always on page 3 of the section right next to Pierre Franey’s column.”