You love the gentle humor of “Family Circus.”
You’re OK with “Frank and Ernest” and “Ziggy.”
You hate (really dislike) “Pearls Before Swine.”
And you really, really don’t care about the longstanding printed game of Bridge.
That’s what we found out by asking Charleston Daily Mail readers about their favorite, least favorite and “don’t care” comics and puzzles over the past few months.
Readers who sent in ballots printed in the newspaper showed an affinity for gentle humor and established strips and less enthusiasm for newer, edgier strips.
We don’t necessarily have any upcoming changes to our comics and puzzles lineup, but we wanted to know what our readers really like, really dislike and aren’t very interested in at all for any decisions we might make in the future.
“Thank goodness you published a comic survey! I was about to call the paper and complain about all the ‘hate it’ ones. Please change them for something that makes sense,” wrote a respondent who described himself or herself as a faithful comics and Daily Mail reader.
Lots of readers seemed enthusiastic about the survey.
There were 362 submissions overall — although not every category adds up to 362 votes.
That’s to say that some people marked two options for some features — for example, they think “Mutts” is OK and they also wouldn’t notice if it were gone.
Some people left some categories blank or just voted for features that they feel strongly about.
It took longer than anticipated to add everything up. In other words, it was 362 votes for 19 comics and puzzles with four voting options, which meant a grand total of 27,512 possible tiny boxes to check and read. Also: two crossed eyes for the editor who read them all.
“Family Circus” got the most “like” votes of any of our syndicated features with 285 votes in that category. “Peanuts” got 270 “like” votes, “Grand Avenue” got 239 and “Shoe” got 210.
“Please keep the ‘Family Circus,’” one fan of that strip wrote. “I look for it daily, and it’s the only comic that I enjoy. I have clipped many of the comics through the last few years and often look at them for a laugh or heartwarming moment. Right now I have three of them hanging on my refrigerator so my 11-year-old grandson can see them. When my dad was living, I would often pass him the paper so he could read the ‘Family Circus’ cartoon. I’ll really miss it if it’s gone.”
Another reader: “Comics aren’t FUNNY any more, except ‘Family Circus.’”
OK: It’s hard to describe what was OK-est with readers, but we wanted to know. This category was headed up by “Frank and Ernest” with 119 “OK” votes and “Ziggy” with 115, followed by “Real Life Adventures” with 109, “Close to Home” with 105 and “Mutts” with 100.
Those comics are apparently the most “just OK” of all.
Lots of people have mid-range, oatmeal-like feelings about them.
“Mutts” was singled out favorably by a few commenters:
“Love comedy, animals, kids. ‘Mutts’ is my favorite,” a Scott Depot resident wrote.
Another comment said, “‘Mutts’ is our favorite!! Please keep ‘Mutts!’”
“Pearls Before Swine” stirred up the most hate (although some readers mildly objected to the use of that word) with 115 “hate” votes. It was followed by “WuMo” with 91 “hates” and “Tundra” with 63.
What do those comics have in common? They’re all new to our paper within the past couple of years.
Many comments reflected a distaste for newer strips.
“Have tried to like new comics but not funny — ‘Tundra,’ ‘WuMo,’ ‘Pearls’ — hate them,” wrote Mary, a retired teacher from Charleston.
Other readers commented:
“Funnies are supposed to be funny — not stupid.”
“No like weird strips. No more WEIRD strips.”
“Pearls” was especially divisive, grating on many voters but delighting a vocal minority.
“I have tried daily reading of ‘Pearls Before Swine’ and ‘Mutts,’ but they are both terrible,” one reader commented.
Some rushed to defend “Pearls.”
“Please keep ‘Pearls Before Swine’ and ‘Mark Trail,’ wrote a husband and wife who submitted their tally together.
A Fraziers Bottom resident commented, “‘Pearls’ is the best strip you run. Don’t listen to those who complain about it. I have three grown children who love ‘Pearls’ and we would hate to have you stop running it.”
Some of the new strips have grown on regular readers. Kind of.
“I’ve gotten less hostile to ‘WuMo’ and ‘Tundra,’” wrote 79-year-old Lawton Posey of Charleston.
The final category asked readers what they wouldn’t miss at all if it disappeared from the paper. That doesn’t mean we’re cutting what got the vote here — it just means we want to know.
Bridge got the highest number of votes here with 252 people saying they wouldn’t care if it stayed in the paper or left.
I did receive an impassioned phone call from a Bridge enthusiast who said we’d played up the comics in our survey and downplayed the puzzles — possibly creating a bias against puzzle enthusiasts.
Related: Jumble had 130 people say they wouldn’t miss it (but also had a lot of fans with 151 “likes”), while the crossword puzzle had 110 “don’t care” votes (compared to 155 crossword “likes”).
One commenter regarded Bridge as wasted space.
“The space for Bridge could be much better utilized. So few people play the game.”
Others expressed appreciation for the challenges of crossword and Jumble.
“Retired, enjoy reading paper with my coffee and look forward to Jumble.”
“Crossword and Jumble help me stay mentally active,” wrote a 77-year-old Campbell’s Creek resident.
Some said our puzzles could improve, even if they’re appreciated.
“I would like more challenging crosswords.”
Of the comics, “WuMo” got the highest number of “don’t cares” of any comic with 162.
“I expect ‘comics’ to be funny by people who can draw,” one reader commented.
A lot of readers yearned for older comics.
Among the older strips that got write-in votes to return to print were “Beetle Bailey,” “Phantom,” “B.C.,” “Broomhilda,” “Prince Valiant,” “For Better or Worse,” “Dick Tracy,” “Alley Oop,” “Li’l Abner,” “Marmaduke,” “Herman,” “Snuffy Smith,” “Nancy” and “Pogo.”
“Some you took out should be put back!! We are retired and we like ‘Dagwood,’ ‘Beetle Bailey’ and about all the old comics,” one reader commented.
An 83-year-old reader wrote, “How about some classic ‘Li’l Abner,’ or other old comics for your older adult readers instead of this childish gibberish?”
“Beetle Bailey,” which was removed from our lineup last year because of its advancing age and increasing price, was singled out frequently.
“Bring back ‘Beetle Bailey,’” said a 69-year-old retired man.
“What happened to ‘Beetle Bailey’??”
“I agree — bring back ‘Beetle Bailey.’”
“‘Beetle Bailey’ was an ‘always read.’”
Many readers expressed a general distaste for some of the newer offerings. Much of the criticism referenced age.
“I am 75 and the new comics do not make sense to me.”
“I am of the ‘press’ (print media) generation. Comics are mostly not amusing any more.”
“I’m one of the ‘old people’ who find little to like in the new comics.”
“I’m 85 years old. I need a good laugh every day. Get better funnies, please.”
“Young people text and tweet but don’t read comics! Where are ‘Herman,’ ‘The Born Loser’ and ‘Dennis the Menace’? Please give us old people our funnies!”
In any case, thank you for participating in our comics survey. It was interesting to see on paper what people like, dislike and don’t care two hoots about.
And I’ll always remember the guy who circled my name in my email and drew an arrow from his comment.
“You, sir, have screwed up our comics,” the 65-year-old retiree wrote.