Thursday, February 29, 2024
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A Rhode Island-based comic strip got canned from the Providence Journal. Then the letters came.


Arts

Fans of Will Henry’s “Wallace the Brave” opposed corporate consolidation – and won.

Rose, Wallace, Amelia and Spud have their adventures in the fictional seaside town of Snug Harbor, Rhode Island, in Will Henry’s “Wallace the Brave.” Courtesy photo / Will Henry

Will Henry is far from the first person to find himself in the cost-cutting category when it comes to corporate newspaper ownership. But he is one of the few whose contact with the realities of modern journalism had a happy ending.

Will Henry is actually the pseudonym of Rhode Island cartoonist Will Wilson (he says you should just call him Will); he is the creator of “Wallace the Brave,” a daily comic strip that has been added to more than 100 newspapers across the country since it was first picked up by Andrews McMeel Syndication in 2015. It received the Reuben Award – the Oscars of the cartoon industry – for best newspaper strip in 2018 and 2022.

And – perhaps most importantly for the local crowd – his comic’s young characters live out all their adventures in Rhode Island, in the fictional seaside town of Snug Harbor. (Which may or may not resemble the real Snug Harbor, which is a neighborhood in South Kingstown.)

This makes the Journal of Providence, essentially, Will and Wallace’s hometown newspaper. That’s why it stung when the NewspaperCompany owner Gannett announced that it was moving toward more consolidated comics sections among its newspapers and that some strips would be left behind. In Providence, that included “Wallace the Brave.”

Will Wilson, aka Will Henry of “Wallace the Brave” fame. Courtesy photo

“It’s a little disappointing for comic book readers, but I understand. It’s profitable,” Will told Boston.com, noting that he had been warned by his union that the move was imminent. “So it wasn’t a surprise… It was inevitable,” he said. “But it still hurts a little.”

But for some loyal local readers of the comic, it apparently hurt a lot – and they contacted each other on social networks to commiserate and to the newspaper to complain.

“Besides wanting to support journalism, ‘Wallace the Brave’ was the last thing that kept me a subscriber,” Rhode Island native Jennie Polan wrote to the British newspaper. Newspaper, according to a message she posted on Facebook. “If ‘Wallace’ is removed, I am canceling my subscription. This will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. »

“‘Wallace the Brave’ kept the Journal of ProvidenceThe comics are fresh and vibrant,” offered another reader, Peter Geisser. “Will Henry is a local artist…cutting Wallace is an insult to RI audiences, but replacing him with ‘Blondie’…I thought I was in a time warp this morning and was watching something my grown-ups -parents would have seen 100 years ago.

“My favorite comic strip is from Journal of Providencewrote Amy Hagan on the “Wallace the Brave” Facebook page. “No more corporate BS.”

“It was definitely the positive side of this whole fiasco to find out that there was this group of die-hard readers who were really upset to see the comic go, and they talked about it very openly,” Will says. “And they left the Journal of Providence know they wanted to see the comic. They wanted to see Wallace.

“So, you know, that was the comforting part: knowing that my neighbors support me and that they can see themselves in the comic and the characters. »

A recent Sunday edition of “Wallace the Brave.” – Courtesy photo / Will Henry

And why not ? Rhode Island is as much a character in “Wallace” as the kids in the comic’s cast – chief among them being kind-hearted Wallace, his anxious sidekick Spud, and their tough pal Amelia.

“Any creator, you know, tries to examine the things that made you who you are. Growing up in Rhode Island by the ocean, I think it had a big impact on me,” Will says. “And drawing different things that I see through observation keeps the comic fresh, at least for me, on the creative and illustrative side…I can add the pier that I pass by every day, or I can add the windmill that I see on the way home – all these things kind of help build the comic.

Which brings us to the happy ending: Apparently, the cartoonist and his loyal readers weren’t the only ones who saw the benefits of having Wallace’s Snug Harbor in the local newspaper. After receiving more than 200 calls and emails, the Newspaper reversed course and returned “Wallace the Brave” to its pages.

They even gave him better placement, in the local section of the paper, rather than trying to put him back on the comics page. “This seems particularly appropriate, since the strip is, after all, a local element,” wrote Newspaper And Newport Daily News regional editor Lynne Sullivan in her note welcoming the return of “Wallace.”

“The decision to continue publishing Wallace was easy,” Sullivan told Boston.com, noting that she was “thrilled” to be able to bring him back. “‘Wallace the Brave’ is incredibly special to The Providence Newspaper And Newport Daily News,” she says.

Special or not, it’s a decision that, frankly, came as a surprise to Wallace’s creator. “Honestly, I didn’t expect that Journal of Providence to bring him back,” Will said. “And this is not an affront to the Journal of Providence. I just understand how these corporate entities work and how the inner workings of the business world — there are harsh realities to that.

“But I have to take my hat off because they listened to their readers and reached out to the guy on the corner,” he says. “They [even] did a great story about it, on the front page, that was really, really groovy. I walked into my local gas station, the newsstands were all there with my character right in front, and I was like, “Well, wait a minute. That’s my boy Wallace!’

For the full conversation with Will, check out the latest episode of “Strip Search: The Comic Strip Podcast,” below:





Note: The content and images used in this article is rewritten and sourced from www.boston.com

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