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Published: Sunday, 12/26/2004

Roper out, Fuzzy in on Blade comic pages

After spending more than 60 years in America s newspapers, the comic strip Steve Roper and Mike Nomad is stepping aside.

Drawn for many of those years by a Toledo-area man, the strip known by some as simply Steve Roper has suffered declining sales recently and is being discontinued. Today is the last day the strip will be published. It will be replaced in The Blade by Darby Conley s Get Fuzzy.

Steve Roper is not one of the more popular of our serial strips, said Rose McAllister, marketing manager for King Features in New York. I guess adventure strips, they re not as popular.

Up until last year, Steve Roper was written by John Saunders, a Whitehouse man who died in November, 2003. He started working on the strip in the 1950s and officially took it over from his father, Allen, in 1979. The strip began in 1936 as Big Chief Wahoo, a parody of Westerns but it progressively got more serious.

John Saunders wife, Alice, said of the comic s demise: Everything has to come to an end.

Fran Matera, a Florida man who has drawn the comic since 1984, had been writing it for the last year. He said he loved the freedom of working on the strip, though not always the deadlines. Now, he s

ready for other projects.

I sort of bid farewell in good feelings, he said.

In The Blade, readers now will find Get Fuzzy, a strip appearing in more than 450 newspapers and several books. It examines single life with pets as it follows the adventures of Rob Wilco and his dog and cat.

Steve Roper has long been a popular feature of The Blade s comics pages, enjoyed by many readers. But its conclusion has given us the opportunity to add a fresh, new voice to the comics, said Richard Paton, Blade assistant managing editor for features. Get Fuzzy is both contemporary and funny, and I m sure it will quickly gain an avid following.

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