If you're a fictional character, and no one reads about you any longer, do you cease to exist?
That's the thorny existential dilemma facing four-color gumshoe Dick Tracy, who in today's comic admits that he no longer reads the funny pages that gave him his best known fame. "Don't you read the comics anymore?" asks a disgruntled cartoonist who has been forced to give up the comic she loved. Tracy's response: "Usually don't have time."
His words are more chilling than a face-to-face encounter wtih The Brow, Flattop or B.B. Eyes - longtime Tracy nemeses all. Why? Well, if even the comics-page's best known detective can't be bothered to read the medium which conveys his adventures to the world, well, why should we?
The story goes on to talk about the disappearing readership of newspaper comics, and the worried comments of cartoonists, many showing up as storylines in their strips. Many of the old-time strips are suffering (Phantom, Mark Trail, and, closer to home, Charlotte's own Gasoline Alley), and some (Annie and Brenda Starr) have actually been cancelled.
Is it lack of time? Lack of relevancy? Lack of flashy animation? Why do some old-time strips fade to obscurity and others, such as Blondie, still lead popularity polls? Feel free to chime in with your comments.