Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Eastern Accent

Does anyone recall the Eastern Accent, a now-defunct Eastern Kentucky University newspaper? It began in 1978 and only lasted a little over a year.

The Accent was sometimes rather idiosyncratic and primitive in its approach, with strange features like a regular column "written" by the editor's dog. The whole enterprise seemed especially quirky next to the comparatively slick Eastern Progress paper. (Why did anyone think a campus of EKU's size could support two school papers, when there was precious little news to report in the first place? I do not know the answer.)

The publisher, David Shew, just happened to be the son of Randall Shew, the publisher of The Richmond Register, the local newsdaily in Richmond. The Accent was reportedly printed on the Register's presses and, in fact, used identical fonts, layout, and style. It's possible they hoped to somehow eclipse the Progress and eventually become EKU's sole or primary paper. But it didn't happen.

But what really intrigued many of us about the paper was that they, in an apparent cost-cutting gambit, let a very young local elementary schoolkid from Model Laboratory School draw the paper's comics. Not once or twice as a cute gimmick, but on an ongoing basis. Most of the comics were surrealist swipes from Charles Schulz' Peanuts characters, but there was also "Fighto the Super Dog" and other oddities.

I recently spoke to that very same local elementary schoolkid, who is now in his 30s and operates from a bunker in an undisclosed location. On his early comics career, he had this to say:

"The Accent was hit with a "cease and desist" order… basically, the Syndicate didn't care that there was a nine year old boy who idolized Charles M. Schulz and was one of the biggest fans of "Peanuts" and wanted to express his love of the comic in this manner. It was infringing on the property of the Syndicate, and that was simply not allowed. However, since the newspaper wasn't really making money (it was given away for free) and it was, after all, being drawn by a nine year old who didn't quite understand the situation, certain changes had to be made if the comic strips were to continue: It could not be called "Peanuts" and the characters could not be named. I suppose they weren't too worried about the issue of the likenesses being infringed upon; my artwork wasn't that good.

And so, on January 29, 1979, a new era began … the comic strip known as "Weanuts". Hey, the Syndicate only said that the strip was not to be called "Peanuts"… this became a running gag for the next few weeks, as each week's strip had a different title, based on the theme of nuts … "Walnuts" … "Brazil Nuts" … "Spanish Nuts" … "Mixed Nuts" … "More Nuts" … apparently, the Syndicate was not amused, because they apparently griped enough that I was asked to do "something else" for the comic strip. And so, on April 2, 1979, my last "Peanuts"-inspired strip ran, the final part of a monumental three-part epic featuring Charlie Brown versus a fortune-telling vending machine that explodes on him, not once, but twice.

Unfortunately, the next school year, The Eastern Progress decided to go in a different direction and (wisely) decided not to bring me back as a regular feature. Oh well."

Does anyone out there still have copies of the Accent? Please let us know!

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