So Stripped, a documentary on and around the newspaper comics industry, is now on Netflix. And yes, you should definitely watch it if you can. I’d been hearing good things about Stripped ever since it came out a year or two ago, and the moment it showed up in my Netflix feed I took the dive right then and there.
And again, yes, you should definitely go watch it. It’s a great look at the rise, slight fall, and then shifting culture of newspaper comics. Stripped goes over the early days of the newspaper comics, the days of full-color spreads, the days when comic artists were high-class, pop culture icons. Then it moves into the 80s and 90s, talks about syndicates, the shrinking size of the paper, the way newspaper comics began to change. And then it jumps to the modern era and the birth of the webcomic, a contentious shift in the comic space that has both supporters and detractors. And all through this, Stripped is liberally sprinkled with interviews and observations from dozens of individuals, everyone from the creators of Cathy or Foxtrot, to the syndicates, to Gabe and Tycho of Penny Arcade, to even a recorded interview with Bill Watterson himself (if that last name doesn’t ring any bells, he’s the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, one of the greatest comics of the modern era).
Simply put, Stripped approaches its subject matter well, letting many of the creators speak for themselves about how they got into the business, how hard the business is, what the business is like, and then—and here’s the little bit of contention—where the industry is going. Even if you’re not a fan of comics, you should definitely sit down with your Neflic account and spare an hour of your day sometime soon and give Stripped a well-deserved watch. It’s worth the time.
But there’s something else going on with it that I wanted to talk about here. A similarity, a more than passing resemblance to a storm that the book industry is only just moving into. Even though I read newspaper comics when I can, and watched Stripped largely for that, there was a vague sense of familiarity that started coming through the screen about halfway through, a sense which soon flared into outright similarity—right down to some of the quotes that were being bantered back and forth by the interveiwees, quotes that were almost identical to quotes that are starting to arise now, in the publishing industry.
Because there’s another story that Stripped tells, dutifully, as a part of a larger machine. Stripped tells the story of the internet, and its effect on the newspaper comics world. It’s a story that’s been repeated in many other areas of the entertainment industry already.
And book publishing is next.