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The comic strip "Barney & Clyde" is about the unlikely friendship between J. Barnard Pillsbury, a self-made billionaire who thinks he has it all, and Clyde Finster, a self-made failure who maintains a defiant dignity.

But the story behind the strip is about an even more unlikely collaboration between Dan Weingarten, "a young, itinerant smartass,"and his father, Gene, "a liberal atheist with a big-city bias, a grumpy attitude and a Pulitzer Prize."

Actually, Gene Weingarten, the Washington Post's nationally syndicated humor columnist, has a pair of Pulitzers. He said creating the strip with his son "sort of healed a lifelong difficult relationship" between them.

The addition of "Barney & Clyde" is one of many changes coming to The Salt Lake Tribune's Sunday comics section, which will be reduced from six pages to four this weekend. The Tribune and the Deseret News, which have published a joint Sunday comics section, will each offer its own, focusing on strips each has exclusive rights to, while agreeing to share a limited number of comics.

It's a function of economics, as newsprint is among the greatest expenses for any newspaper. And it's part of the evolution of The Tribune's online presence, where comics and puzzles account for approximately 1 percent of's total page views.

In addition to the comics and puzzles in the print edition, in July we added "Comics Kingdom," which includes 90 strips and a bunch of puzzles and games to the online offerings. (From the home page, you'll find our comics, puzzles and games under the Entertainment tab).

And beginning Sunday, we're adding "Barney & Clyde," which brought together the Weingartens, who were "at odds over many things," Gene Weingarten said. "But one thing we really had in common was humor and the comics. We would always discuss comics analytically."

Including one that was sent to him by his friend Joe Martin, the creator of "Mr. Boffo." "I didn't love it," Weingarten said. "I showed it to Dan and he didn't love it far more profoundly."

Dan's criticism was so severe, "I got angry with him. He was a college dropout at the time, living in my basement. I sort of yelled at him. I said, 'Who are you to critique the great Joe Martin? You've never done anything of lasting significance in your life.' "

The father continued his rant, saying that coming up with the idea for a comic strip wasn't easy. It didn't happen in a minute. Five minutes later, the son came back and said: " 'You know what would be a good idea for a comic strip? A friendship between a billionaire and a bum.' And then he just walked away," Weingarten recelled.

"So help me, what happened was I sat there at my desk for a few minutes and then got up, walked to the wall where I had a calendar and I circled the day."

That was April 28, 2005.

It took the Weingartens five years to get the strip off the ground, including their search for an artist. They eventually teamed up with Dave Cook.

Because Cook mostly drew children's books, he didn't have any of the bad habits of comic-strip artists, Weingarten said.

The two Weingartens hash out a week's worth of strips every Sunday afternoon, and it's a 50-50 writing partnership. Each has veto power.

"It's a real father-son war," Weingarten said. "Our Sunday afternoons are spent fighting with each other, but it's a pleasant fight."

Twitter: @ScottDPierce