“When I started, if you got syndicated, you were basically set — you’d make a good living, and you wouldn’t have to worry much else. In the 11 years since then, that door has basically closed. There is no new great syndicated strip, and there probably won’t be. Literally, there are no new launches. Now, to make it, you have to go that web route. Many of those guys, from Penny Arcade to Cyanide and Happiness to The Perry Bible Fellowship — which are all excellent — claim to make a living, but how do you know? I can tell you that even if someone does a strip and it’s fairly popular online, the money is not online. I question a lot of claims about the money being made, and the question remains that if things continue to go that route for newspapers, and you have to make money online, how do you do it?”
– award-winning cartoonist Stephan Pastis, on how the market for comic strips has changed since Pearls Before Swine received wide syndication in 2002
Legal | The Swedish Supreme Court has overturned the 2010 conviction of manga translator Simon Lundström on charges of possessing 39 drawings that violated the country’s child-pornography laws. The court found that while the images are pornographic and do depict minors, they are obviously drawings and cannot be mistake for real children. “The criminalization of possession of the drawings would otherwise exceed what is necessary with regard to the purpose which has led to the restriction on freedom of expression and freedom of information,” the court ruled. [The Local]
Comic strips | In what Michael Cavna so accurately describes as “a seismic shift” for the world of newspaper syndication, United Media has announced it will outsource all editorial, production, sales, marketing and distribution functions for its 150 comics and other features to Kansas City-based Universal Uclick. (Tom Spurgeon likens the move to Marvel outsourcing all of its titles to DC Comics.) The transition begins immediately, and is expected to be complete by June 1. United Media’s stable of strips include Get Fuzzy, Pearls Before Swine, Rose Is Rose and Marmaduke. Universal Uclick’s lineup includes Doonesbury, Non Sequitur, Garfield, For Better or For Worse and the recently added Peanuts and Dilbert. [Comic Riffs]
Passings | Anant Pai, who’s credited with launching India’s comic industry in the 1960s with his series Amar Chitra Katha (Immortal Picture Stories), died Thursday of a heart attack. He was 81. Affectionately known by his fans as “Uncle Pai,” he also created the children’s series Tinkle and had spent the past three years working on Glimpses of Glory, which chronicles 40 defining moments from Indian history. After falling and fracturing his foot, Pai underwent surgery of Saturday, which prevented him from attending the first Indian Comic Con, where he was to be given a lifetime achievement award. [The Associated Press, India Real Time]
After more than 85 years, the sun will no longer come out for Little Orphan Annie, Harold Gray’s Depression Era comic about a red-haired waif and the kindly capitalist who gives her a home.
Although the strip, which debuted on Aug. 5, 1924 in the New York Daily News, once appeared in hundreds of newspapers, it now runs in fewer than 20. So Tribune Media Services has decided to cancel Annie with the June 13 installment — a cliffhanger, curiously enough.
The Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rosenthal reports that Sunday strip will end with Daddy Warbucks uncertain of Annie’s fate after her latest run-in with the Butcher of the Balkans.
“Annie is definitely not dying,” Steve Tippie, TMS’ vice president of licensing, tells Rosenthal. He says that while “the daily newspaper strip will go away [...] that doesn’t mean that Annie won’t come back … whether it’s (in) comic books, graphic novels, in print, electronic. It’s just too rich a vein (not) to mine.”
Indeed, Little Orphan Annie inspired a long-running radio show, three motion pictures, a television movie, and a musical — the basis for one of those films — that ran for six years on Broadway and has since been staged countless times around the world.
IDW Publishing has released four volumes of The Complete Little Orphan Annie collection through its Library of American Comics imprint.