Lalo Alcaraz has a habit...he buys the L.A. Times Sunday edition on Saturday - not to get that night's winning Lotto numbers but to leisurely peruse it on Monday. Yes, a little weird, but that's Lalo for you.
But he noticed something missing in the comics section.
La Cucaracha, the daily comic strip he has been writing and drawing since 2002, was no longer in its familiar space. Yes, he'd been reading in the Times that the section was going to be revamped, but there was no indication that his creation was part of the purge.
Checking out yesterday's Times (March 5), there it was: a small item explaining the new Comics design and the elimination of several comics, including his.
"Nobody told me," said Lalo, in an exclusive interview with LatinoLA. "I thought, 'No way in hell!'"
Shocked, he called his editor Greg Melvin at Universal Press Syndicate. He had not a clue.
"This is not good. Especially the way they did it, without even telling me. Not cool. This is a bad day in Roachville," he remembers.
What surprised him most about being dropped by his hometown newspaper was the abruptness, more than a lttle impolite and disrespectful. Here, the publisher, David Hiller, is the same guy saying the newspaper needs to be a better job at reaching "Hispanics" and then drops one of the few Latino features of the paper.
He sent out an email to fans, supporters, friends...everyone on his email list...to alert them of the situation and to contact the LA Times for support.
"I got about 200 emails that were forwarded to me. I know that people called, there was a handful of cancellations....there was a tsunami of Cucaracha fans!"
LAObserved.com covered it, asking: "This is a Latino Strategy?" Columnist Steve Lopez gave Lalo a call, wondering what was up. Gustavo Arellano
Meanwhile, Lalo himself was frustrated. "I want to be in the Times, my homebase paper!"
And then about noon today, he gets first an email, then a call from Sherry Stern, comics page editor: La Cucaracha will return beginning tomorrow, Wednesday, March 7.
He's laughing now, glad to be coming back.
"I'm grateful to the Cucaracha Army, they've got special feelers."