Starting early next month, the Star will drop the daily comic “Non Sequitur” and run “Rubes” in its place.
Wiley Miller, the creator of “Non Sequitur,” inserted vulgar language aimed at President Trump into a strip featuring bears drawn in the style of Leonardo da Vinci. The strip, presented in black and white as a coloring exercise, ran in the Star on Feb. 10.
The offending words are tiny and barely legible, which struck me at first as a mitigating factor, but on reflection makes it all the worse. Although Miller says he meant to erase the coarse language and that he never intended it for public consumption, the end result is that he slipped in language he knew editors would never allow without giving us the chance to object.
The fact that it appeared in the section most likely to be read by kids — my 11-year-old son reads the comics each morning — makes Miller’s actions especially objectionable.
“Non Sequitur” consistently ranks as one of our most popular comics and I apologize in advance to the many readers I know will be disappointed. But had a staff member slipped this type of language into a story, photograph or cartoon, I would take action — so it’s only fair that I hold our contributors to the same standard.
Miller has apologized and pointed out he has never done such a thing in his 30-year career and never will again.
So does this punishment — dropping a popular comic strip — fit the crime? I wrestled with that and ultimately made my decision based on the artist’s intent.
This wasn’t the case of an unfortunate typo in a headline or some raunchy graffiti that a photographer didn’t notice in the background when clicking the shutter. This was a case of someone deliberately sneaking in language he well knew no legitimate newspaper would print.
The comic we’ve selected as a replacement, “Rubes,” has an offbeat view of the world and an appreciation for the absurd that I hope fans of “Non Sequitur” will enjoy. The comic, drawn by Leigh Rubin since 1984, scored well with readers of the special section “Bubbles” that appeared in Lee Enterprises newspapers, including the Arizona Daily Star.
“Rubes” won’t appear in the Star until Monday, Feb. 25, because our comics pages are laid out and printed in advance.
One more note to comics fans: In our last two surveys you told us you wanted more comics, and we listened. Soon we’ll debut an expanded comics page that adds some classics you requested.