33 Comments

  1. The last strip is not supposed to appear until Sunday (Feb. 23rd), but Feuti’s website already talks about it in past tense: “Retail was distributed worldwide by King Features from January 1, 2006 to February 23, 2020. It appeared in about 70 newspapers throughout the US and Canada during its 14-year run.
    P.S. It also says “Norm is currently exploring options for a place to read the Retail archive online.” – I think that means he is still negotiating with King Features to get their mercenary claws off the copyright.

  2. I guess once he turned in the final strip, it became “past tense” to him.

    Though honestly, I don’t know why he needed to announce the strip ending more than a month ahead. Kind of made the final month seem like he was running out the clock: “What’s up with Stuart?” suddenly became a pointless question.

  3. @ Bill – I agree that I have seen better denouments in strips that have been terminated by their authors(*). I think the primary purpose of the early announcement was to make it clear that it was Feuti’s decision, and thus to reduce the number of reader complaints that the syndicate would have to answer.
    P.S. Breathed did a very funny set of “retirement” strips when he first laid “Bloom County” to (temporary) rest in 1989.

  4. The Retail strip’s shutting down? Paralleling its subject matter, I guess. Which makes my question of the last few days moot, namely: “What will they call the strip when Marla’s working in an office? Will she be gender-swapped Dagwood?”

  5. “Why replace her?” Someone has to run the place while it shuts down. At least, until the liquidator takes over.

  6. @Lost, didn’t they already say her assistant would take over?

    My point was, they have no time to hire and train anybody new.

  7. @Kilby, he could gave made the same “They didn’t fire me, I quit!” announcement last week rather than last month.

  8. @ Bill – A sudden termination always carries a hint of “involuntariness” about it. The longer lead time gives proof that it was planned, and lends credence to it being an amicable separation.
    P.S. I’m sure the whole point is moot for many (if not most) readers: I for one would never have known about the termination at all, if the subject had not been brought up here.
    P.P.S. Sunday’s Retail strip will be the very first (and last) one that I’ve ever went and read on my own, without it showing up here first.

  9. Well, credit the cartoonist for a interesting form of closure. It does echo Mary Tyler Moore’s local TV station being bought up by a chain, but the strip takes it a step further by making the reality of the industry a major point. In its final years “Brenda Starr” would touch on the decline of newspapers, but that strip ended with the Daily Flash intact and Brenda choosing to go forth to start a new life.

    “Rip Kirby” and “Gordo” both had their heroes retire. Kirby, depressed by the outcome of a case, decided to leave detectiving for academia. Gordo, to escape the relentless Widow Gonzalez once and for all, married Tehuana Mama and presumably gave up guiding pretty tourists. “Liberty Meadows” ended mid-plot as Frank gathered the nerve to stop Brandy’s wedding. Creator Frank Cho planned to continue the story in comic books, but other work got in the way.

    “Peanuts” and “Calvin and Hobbes” were business as usual up to their final Sundays. Schulz stepped from behind the curtain to address his readers in the form of a letter, while Watterson had Calvin enthusing over the potential of a new blank page.

    Bill Mauldin planned to have Willie and Joe die in their last panel for “Stars and Stripes”, partly to keep himself from using them after the war and partly because dying just before the end of the war was a common fear. His editor shot that idea down forcefully, seeing it as a dirty trick on their enlisted man readership. As it was, Mauldin did use Willie and Joe in some panels about soldiers adjusting to civilian life but gravitated to commentary without recurring characters. “Sad Sack” also transitioned to civilian life after WWII, but it didn’t take — a long-running series of comic books took him back to boot camp.

    A few strips had quasi-finales when they tried to shift gears. After the Korean War “Beetle Bailey” became another young vet, but reader (and editor) reaction was such that Beetle went back into the Army. In “Flash Gordon”, Alex Raymond let Flash, Dale and Zarkov defeat Ming and return to Earth in 1941, to join America’s war against a fictional dictator (this was pre-Pearl Harbor). The blend of fantasy sci-fi and reality was awkward, and an excuse was found to sent our heroes back to Mongo to face a not-dead-after-all Ming.

    And my point was … uh …

  10. MinorAnnoyance:
    After the Korean War “Beetle Bailey” became another young vet, but reader (and editor) reaction was such that Beetle went back into the Army.
    Interesting! First I heard that Beetle had actually left the Army. How long did that last?
    I know he was given ‘extended leave’ to go home and help launch ‘Hi and Lois’.

  11. Me, I like the advance announcement, and the chance to see how the cartoonist winds it down. It, um, irritates me when a comic or TV show or the like just suddenly starts repeating, or stops, without explanation. One really egregious example was the TV remake of The Fugitive (2000-01). The season ended with a gunshot, without showing who got shot, then the show was cancelled.

  12. I have to say that it isn’t very smart of her. There might be some sort of severance, and she probably won’t qualify for unemployment if she quits.

  13. It makes sense to me that they would look for a replacement.

    When ToysRUs was closing, the branch near my house actually had lots of signs saying that they were hiring. The liquidation took several months. During that time, presumably people were quitting left and right, and the store needed some number of employees, even poorly trained ones, just to keep things going. Grumbel’s can’t just rely on Crystal since (1) she’s probably not going to work double-shifts to do everything Marla was going to do and (2) if Crystal leaves, then they won’t have anyone.

  14. I came to the opposite conclusion, that the very early notice meant the syndicate was dropping the strip, and he wanted to leave enough time for a groundswell of support.

    @Brian in STL, I wouldn’t count on severence pay from a bankrupt company.

  15. My guess would be, Crystal in charge of the equivalent of minimum wage Holiday Season help.

    And she won’t quit because, as Marla pointed out, this job will look good on her CV (and maybe on her QV as well, whatever the hell that was).

  16. Television shows back in the day tended not to do “wrap up” final episodes, since it was felt that reruns would be of less interest to viewers (and thus less financially viable) if everyone “knew how it came out.” There are of course many honorable exceptions to that (HOWDY DOODY and M*A*S*H among others). But I’m still grumped by cliffhanging lack of closure in some favorite shows of mine like REMEMBER WENN.

    I suppose the same logic may have applied with old time radio shows (though the radio version of HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL) did wrap up with an episode in which Paladin came into an inheritance back east and left his adventurous life in San Francisco.

  17. Some show producers try to use cliffhangers with the idea that the network won’t dare cancel them. That doesn’t really work.

  18. Brian, not only does this rarely work, but I personally will avoid future shows by the same producers.

    I remember when The Fugitive aired the Best Television Finale Ever there was a lot of discussion about how this would destroy the syndication market. To the producers’ credit, they didn’t care.

    (To be fair, the syndication value of hour-long dramas wasn’t huge at the time, in comparison to 30-minute comedies, but still..)

  19. Most TV shows are so episodic there is no reason to have a final wrap-up episode. There are a few where it is all about some goal that keeps getting thwarted. Was there ever a wrap-up where Gilligan got off that island? But I don’t see why there would be a need to wrap up I Love Lucy. I don’t even know what happened to Ricky Ricardo between the end of I Love Lucy and the start of her next series. I mean,

  20. No way, Kilby. The movie was just shy of two hours long. I believe the finale of the TV series was one hour long.

  21. @ Boise Ed – Oops, my mistake, I misread the running time of the movie (116 minutes) as 1:16, and thought it was 76 minutes. However, that’s still shorter than the final episode: IMDb lists it as running two hours, but I believe that’s the net time (without ads); I’m pretty sure it lasted 2:30 when originally shown on TV.

  22. You’re both sort of right: each episode was an hour long, but CBS ran the final two episodes back-to-back and billed it as a “two-hour finale.”

    Basically, to artificially boost the ratings for the penultimate episode which had no real connection to the actual finale.

  23. Minor Annoyance, I have always remembered the ending of Gordo when I was a kid. A flying saucer landed next to Gordo taking a siesta and zapped him into boarding it. When he woke up, there was the Widow Gonzalez, who told him how they would live together off earth and away from all the bad things there. It seemed a very strange way to end the strip. Only now, decades later, do I learn that that was just another episode and my local paper must have dropped the strip in the middle. Maybe because of that episode?

  24. MinorAnnoyance: The audience seems to be VERY appreciative that “I Married Dora” has come to an end.

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