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Santa Rosa cartoonist joins revamped comics page

The Press Democrat's comics section gets a new look today, adding some popular current strips to freshen the lineup in the biggest revamp since 2005.

"Pearls Before Swine" by Stephan Pastis of Santa Rosa, currently in 450 newspapers, will run daily including Sunday.

A former litigation attorney for a San Francisco law firm, Pastis introduced his sardonic strip about a cynical rat and a naive pig in 2002. He won the National Cartoonist Society award for best newspaper comic strip in both 2004 and 2007. The ninth book collection of his strips, "The Crass Menagerie," comes out in March.

"I'm thrilled to be in my hometown paper," Pastis said. "Now maybe my neighbors will believe me when I tell them I do a comic strip."

Other additions include Patrick McConnell's gentle talking-animal fantasy, "Mutts," and Brian Crane's "Pickles," about an elderly couple based on his in-laws. "Bliss," by New Yorker magazine cartoonist and children's book author Harry Bliss, and Richard Thompson's new "Cul de Sac," about a suburban pre-schooler, will join the lineup daily except Sunday. "Baby Blues," co-created by "Zits" writer Jerry Scott and appearing only on Sundays so far, will run daily.

"We're reducing the Sunday color comics section from six to four pages because of newsprint costs, and we're taking this opportunity to reorganize, adding newer strips that readers have requested," said Bob Swofford, managing editor of The Press Democrat.

The paper is dropping "Elderberries," whose Bay Area co-creator, Phil Frank, died last year. Other canceled strips are "Candorville," "Cathy," "Prickly City," "Prince Valiant," "Sally Forth" and "Sherman's Lagoon." "Flying McCoys" and "Luann" will run weekdays only.

The Press Democrat welcomes your reactions to these changes. E-mail comments to comics@pressdemo.com or call 521-5328. Vote for your favorite comics in our online survey at www.pressdemocrat.com/comics.

"We want to make it easy for readers to let us know what they think," Swofford said. "These responses will help us determine whether we need to make further changes or bring back some reader favorites."

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