Readers' Representative Journal

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When it comes to comics, the winners are ... *

February 22, 2009 |  5:00 pm

This note will appear in Monday's Calendar section:

To Our Readers

Today we introduce two new comics to our daily lineup: "Stone Soup" by Jan Eliot and "Home and Away" by Steve Sicula. They replace  "For Better or for Worse" and "Sally Forth." For more about our decision, go to latimes.com/readersrep. And comments are welcome at comics (at) latimes.com.

Sherry Stern, the editor who oversees the comics, has been asking readers their thoughts for the past several months as a variety of strips were given five-week trial runs. The entry on this journal for the most recent try-out, "Stone Soup," includes links to previous posts as well.

Readers were variously tickled and annoyed at the chance to vote, as Stern's explanation below says.

Here's what Stern said:

In August, Lynn Johnston announced that she was going to stop creating her comic "For Better or for Worse" and that she would tell the story of the comic's Patterson family over again. We decided to sample the "new" "For Better or for Worse" and several other comics and let our readers tell us their preferences.

More than 2,000 emails later, we have decided to add two of the sampled comics to our pages: "Stone Soup" by Jan Eliot replaces "For Better or for Worse" and "Home and Away" by Steve Sicula replaces "Sally Forth."

I appreciated hearing from our readers, ranging from those who were thankful for the chance to offer an opinion to those who questioned my intelligence for even considering dropping "For Better or For Worse."

Ultimately what won was the aim to keep the comic pages fresh and relevant. Readers responded to "Stone Soup" and "Home and Away" in a way that made me believe they appreciated the humor and humanity of both comics  and wanted a long-time relationship with the characters.

I know people will be disappointed that we didn't keep "For Better or For Worse." But many, many other Times readers agreed with this letter writer:

I've enjoyed Lynn Johnston's comic strip for at least the past 15 years. I was greatly saddened to read that she was no longer going to continue it. I was rather perplexed to hear that she changed her mind and was going to continue it but do so by going back and starting over. What? As much as I've loved Ms. Johnston's work, I really don't need a rehash. There are so many new, exciting, funny comic strip creators out there. Please give them (and your readers) a chance rather than turning back the clock.

(Stern, other editors and comic artists talked about polling readers on comics in a recent story at washingtonpost.com.)

*Update Monday: Below is the note that Stern is sending to readers who have sent comments.

Thanks for writing.

Because "For Better or for Worse" was ending (in a sense), we thought it would be a good time to hear what readers think of some other comics.

The decision to replace "Sally Forth" with "Home and Away" wasn't planned as part of the testing, but was a result to the positive response to "Home and Away" and to keep our comics pages fresh. "Home and Away" is a new comic that has the promise to be a clever and relevant take on working families and should speak to the "Sally Forth" crowd. "Stone Soup" is aimed at those who liked "For Better or for Worse."

It's always tough to add and subtract comics. We keep "Peanuts" even though it's in repeats because we know it's the most popular comic we run. But we try to balance the old favorites with new comics that
speak to different audiences.

I hope you give both "Home and Away" and "Stone Soup" some time and see if they develop as we hope. We have no long-term contract for the comics and will be watching them as well.

Sincerely,

Sherry Stern
Deputy Editor, Features

*Update Tuesday: Some comments and questions from readers are addressed in a new post on this journal.

*A new post on this topic added Thursday addresses more reader comments.

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