Read the news last week that United Media, a syndicate that once managed Peanuts and Dilbert, will turn over their comic strip properties to Universal uclick. For those of you keeping score, we’re down to three viable syndicates:
Universal uclick (in my limited experience, the most active syndicate)
King Features (once a fine syndicate, but they haven’t done much in the last decade)
Washington Post Writers Group (only syndicates a handful of comics; the upside is most of them are good)
The other “syndicates” (I use that term loosely as they rarely launch new features) are Tribune Media and Creators.
Comic strips continue to be profitable and, most importantly, read. It’s been clear for some time that newspapers don’t want to run comics. Maybe they should cut the cord and see what happens (hint: final nail in the coffin). The internet is becoming an increasing revenue source. Many un-syndicated cartoonists (hint) are either solely web-based or they use their website to increase their audience.
I’ve always liked to read comics on paper. Call me Old Timer. That’s why I self-publish books. Anybody can go on my website and read, for free, the entire run of Falling Rock. I haven’t heard from many people who actually do that. I do hear from the people who read my books. Maybe we’re all Old Timers.
Are books the future of comic strips? I would be more than happy with that outcome. Universal syndicate is essentially the same company as Andrews McMeel, a book publisher. They publish not only their own comic strip properties but those of their until-now rival United Media. Universal could be a web and book syndicate. It seems as if they’re heading that way. Newspapers are cutting themselves out of the loop.
Why are newspapers so stupid? Ask David Simon; after he was fired from the Baltimore Sun, he went on to write The Wire. But that’s a topic for another post.
Is this good news or bad news? I am uncertain. Universal is certainly the most forward-thinking comic syndicate out there. I’m glad United Media’s cartoonists have a place to go where they will be treated with respect. On the other hand, that’s one less submission I can send out this year in the hopes of finally getting syndicated. On the first hand again, Universal has seemed like my best shot for a couple years now. There are so many unknowns.
If you’re reading this post, it means I’m doing something right, and that’s really the most important thing. Thank you. Now let’s get back to the funny stuff.