I was very saddened to read on the Daily Cartoonist that the comic My Cage has been cancelled.
I believe My Cage was the last comic strip launched by King Features that was the under the guidance of the legendary Jay Kennedy. Jay recognized the huge impact the Manga was having and My Cage was the first - and to my knowledge, only - nationally syndicated comic strip to have a Manga influence.
My Cage is a top quality strip that deserved to be in many more papers. I enjoyed Ed's edgy sense of humor and Melissa's beautiful artwork. I will definitely miss reading it on the Dailyink.
Unfortunately, the business of comics has always been a brutal one with a high failure rate and truly wonderful strips often don't make it. The terrific Franklin Fibbs is another comic launched in recent years that should have been much more successful than it was. And, the terrible truth is that the current climate at newspapers makes it even more brutal.
I was asked recently by an industry insider if I would still recommend syndication as a goal for aspiring cartoonists. I answered emphatically yes, which I think surprised him.
My reasons are these:
No matter how grueling the deadlines or how limiting the "g-rated" parameters in which you must write, the experience you gain working with a syndicate and an editor are enormous. Even if your feature doesn't make it, you will learn a tremendous amount about the business that can only be helpful if you decide to head out on your own.
Some syndicates - King is one - pay a minimum royalty starting at launch. This at least gives you some income while you are finding your feet and honing your feature for a broad public appeal.
Syndicates still provide greater exposure for a new comic than it can generate on its own in the internet wilderness. It's all very well and good to paint the next Mona Lisa, but trying to find an audience for it on the internet can be like standing in the middle of the Sahara holding up your painting and saying "Look at this! Look at me!" It's a whole lot easier if you have someone advertising your painting aggressively to art galleries.
Contrary to popular belief, artists no longer sign away their rights to their feature when they become syndicated. John retains full copyright to Edison and all properties that may spring from it. If it is optioned for a movie or anything else, John must be compensated - the money doesn't all go straight to the syndicate.
I'm not saying syndication is for everyone - it is very difficult and can be discouraging and the schedule is grinding. But I think ruling it out as a career option is short sighted.
I wish Ed and Melissa all the best. I hope that, after the dust settles, they remain in the business of producing comics - My Cage or something else. They are both truly talented and bound to be successful.