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Comics for Youth Refugees Incorporated Collective (CYRIC) is a not-for-profit group that is trying to help fill a hole in the lives of refugee children. Other groups are working on getting basic survival items like food and shelter but, as you might guess from their name, CYRIC is focused on getting comic books in the hands of these kids.

You might ask, "Why?" After all, comics aren't exactly a necessity when you're displaced from your home country, likely because of violence. People are naturally going to concentrate on survival. To quote from their mission statement...
In conjunction with mental health professionals and on-site experts, the tales are adapted for their potential healing content. Supported by the principles of art therapy and the use of comics’ unique visual-verbal hybrid for therapeutic use, we aim to encourage children not only to reconnect with their homes but also to express themselves through the medium as well.
CYRIC's first comic is fairly simple; they're calling it a proof-of-concept. Eight pages, black and white, all of the work for the stories was donated. The stories aren't long or complex; they're adapted from Syrian folklore and basically all promote the idea of being good. But geared as they for 6-12 year olds, there's no need to get into lots of grey moral areas or convoluted storytelling. A mother sacrifices her own food to feed her children, and her children in turn sacrifice some of their food so that the mother can eat. A jeweler is hired to fix an earring for the princess, but his evil brother "loses" it, only to have the earring turn up again before the King's return. A miller is tricked into an impossible task by an evil djinn, but a good djinn recognizes the miller's character and helps. Nothing complicated; just something to provide refugee kids for free so their lives aren't completely horrible.

So how did this proof-of-concept go over?
Our partners at NuDay Syria have generously provided us with images of the kids receiving and reading their copies of Haawiyat. Says one of our contacts there, "The kids were super excited to read over the stories, and in some cases distracted me from photographing since they were eager to read to me!"
CYRIC is trying to keep the ball rolling with more via a crowd-funding campaign. "For phase one, all production and services were donated or volunteered," explained project leader A. David Lewis. "In phase two, we hope the expanded incarnation of the title will have more stories, be in full color, AND go out to many more deserving children!"

They're currently fund-raising via Razoo here. Please do what you can to help make kids like these feel normal and happy again.
Random question of the the day... what comic has been published by the most number of publishers? As in, what property has been run by the widest variety of publishers discounting foreign editions? (I should probably also discount individual works that are repeatedly re-adapted over and over -- like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.)

A couple of examples spring to mind. ElfQuest started basically as a self-publishing venture. (WaRP Graphics literally stands for Wendy and Richard Pini.) Marvel published it for a while in the 1980s and DC has picked up some rights. Currently, Dark Horse is printing collected editions. Apple Comics and StarBlaze both had the title for a bit in the '80s as well. That's six US publishers who've run the series.

Another that I can think of is Groo. The character debuted under Pacific Comics, and soon after went over to Eclipse. Marvel had the title for a decade, and Image ran with it for a year. Graphitti Designs ran a special, and Dark Horse has been running them most recently. That's also six. Plus, IDW had an Artist's Edition version -- arguably, that might not count, but it could be a potential tie-breaker.

Interestingly, Star Wars does not have many comics publishers to deal with, despite a more robust publishing history. There's Marvel and Dark Horse, naturally. Blackthorne did a 3-D version in 1987, and Tokyopop did a manga version a couple decades later, but I think that's it.

Star Trek has actually been passed around more. It started at Western Publishing, but later hit Marvel and DC. Malibu had it for a short while in the mid-1990s, and Tokyopop has done manga versions of it as well. It's currently published by IDW.

Tarzan might be a good candidate, just based on the character's longevity. A lot of the major comic publishers have taken turns on the series: Marvel, DC, Dark Horse. Both Dell and Western took their turns. Malibu's and Blackthorn's names pop up again. NBM did some collected editions, and Williams Publishing based some books off Burne Hogarth's newspaper strips. Although technically illegal, Charlton did a short run in the mid-1960s too. That's ten publishers, for those of you keeping score.

What about The Shadow, another long-lived property? Here again we see Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse. Archie Comics also took a stab at the character briefly in the 1960s. Dynamite is the current publisher. Only five, it appears.

I'm drawing a blank on who else to check. I know several that have had two or three publishers like Airboy and Bone. There are a few more than float in the five-to-seven-ish range -- a lot of the bigger Disney titles and Conan, for examples. There are some, like Judge Dredd and Tintin, that I wouldn't even count since they didn't originate in the US -- America's versions would be the foreign editions.

So, Tarzan then? Tarzan's had the most publishers of any comic? Am I missing anything?
Way back in 2011, I talked about how we all should be trying to set up ongoing, multiple income streams like webcomikers. "Multiple income streams" basically meaning that you set up several "long tail" projects that might have decreasing revenue over time, but it's income that still continues. For example, writing a book that remains perpetually available (via print-on-demand or electronically or some other means) and you keep getting money from each sale years or even decades into the future. And while you might not get a lot of sales of that book ten years from now, if you do that with enough different projects, you always have a decent collective revenue stream coming in all the time.

(I should take a minute to plug my books: Comic Book Fanthropology and Edward Lear & the Snargetted Flartlethants of Nonsense. Go buy them!)

At the time, I couched most of my argument in terms of employers forcing more and more people to go from full-time employees to freelancers, and thus it made sense to use the long tail to provide some level of stability.
The reality is that we live in an economy that does not want you to become a success. The whole system is catered towards keeping a wall between you and rich folks. I'm not going to try banging my head against that wall trying to knock it down, or wasting my breath shouting at it. I'm okay with not being among the super-rich, so long as I've got enough to be comfortable. What I'm trying to do -- and what I'm recommending to everyone reading this -- is to set things up now so that I can be a little more comfortable in the coming economy.
Now, with that in mind, there have been an increasing number of articles over the past month or three pointing to how many people are getting involved in the gig economy. More to the point, how the gig economy is being sold as a positive development by corporations when in reality, it was meant to fill the gap from people who were being left behind. From a recent piece on The Ringer...
It’s not a coincidence that it [the phrase 'side hustle'] originated in black newspapers while Jim Crow still existed, as the concept was rooted in the idea of looking for other routes to financial stability because the “main” hustle was unavailable in a literal sense. In this way, the “side hustle” was originally an act of economic defiance. Now, the phrase has been bastardized into an advertisement for the gig economy, a way to make discounted, disposable labor seem hip.
We can see all of this play out in comics in multiple forms. Creators work on their personal passion projects to have work in constant circulation, coupled with startup funds from Kickstarter. Then, if they're able, the book gets picked up by a big publisher and they're able to get wider distribution. (Although much of the promotion still falls on their shoulders.) And then they might get tapped by Marvel or DC, which they'll often happily do for the steady paycheck, but you'll find they don't turn over many of their bigger ideas and properties over to the publisher because they wouldn't get ongoing revenue from the characters' use.

This kind of perpetual hustle is often looked highly upon, but should it be? From the same Ringer article...
Performing whatever paid work is available is sometimes a necessary step to literally surviving, and working on a passion project in one’s free time can help launch a new career. Neither situation is aspirational. Both belie an economic system that is not designed to lift masses out of poverty, but rather one that both creates and maintains poverty.
How many comic creators are still tabling at local conventions, even with a string of Marvel or DC credits to their name? Frankly, I see this situation as getting worse. It's certainly been exasperated since I wrote that previous piece, and I don't know that I see any signs of that changing any time soon. (Try asking any politician about "universal basic income"!)

I'll finish up with the same conclusion I wrote back in 2011...
The reality is that we live in an economy that does not want you to become a success. The whole system is catered towards keeping a wall between you and rich folks. I'm not going to try banging my head against that wall trying to knock it down, or wasting my breath shouting at it. I'm okay with not being among the super-rich, so long as I've got enough to be comfortable. What I'm trying to do -- and what I'm recommending to everyone reading this -- is to set things up now so that I can be a little more comfortable in the coming economy.

I'm no more a soothsayer than the next guy with a blog. But I see zero indication that things are going to get better any time soon. So I suggest you pay attention to what webcomic creators are doing now, because I think their business model is what's going to save your tuchus in the next decade or so.
Here are this week's links to what I've had published recently...

Kleefeld on Comics: On Business: Marvel Credit Card

Kleefeld on Comics: On History: Dolenz Comic Debut

Kleefeld on Comics: Weekly Comics Links

FreakSugar: Webcomics Wednesday: Middlemen

Kleefeld on Comics: On -isms: Did Low Sales Really Kill The Crew?

Kleefeld on Comics: On Strips: GE Theater

Ron Howard has spent his entire life in/around film and television. He's not only done so much, but some of his work is so iconic, it's hard pin down what he's best known for. He played Opie on The Andy Griffith Show, Richie Cunningham on Happy Days, and was the narrator on Arrested Development. He directed Splash, Apollo 13, and The DaVinci Code. He was the executive producer on Sports Night, Felicity, and Curious George. You almost can't write a history of late twentieth century film or television and not mention Howard.

And he's no stranger to comics either. He appeared in six episodes of Dennis the Menace, he produced the film version of Cowboys & Aliens, and had a brief cameo in The Death and Return of Superman.

But one of his first gigs was in a live-action version of Crockett Johnson's comic strip Barnaby for General Electric Theater, hosted by Ronald Reagan. The story was actually called "Mr. O'Malley" and featured Bert Lahr in title role there. My hope in working on this column was to be able to present video of the 1959 episode, but it does not appear to be online anywhere. In fact, despite the episode featuring both Howard and Lahr (as well as some voice work of Mel Blanc), I can't seem to find any visuals at all associated with it! The photo of young Howard I'm running with this post is from his appearance on The Twilight Zone that same year.

Indeed, there seems to be very little information at all about this particular episode online. I did find, at least, a snippet of Howard recollecting the story in 2010...
I was this kid who really wanted a dog for Christmas. My dad was sort of a workaholic, and not paying a whole lot of attention, and sort of not interested in having a dog. And I was disappointed about that. I was kind of lonely and I wished, I made a wish. "I wish I may, I wish I might get the wish I wish tonight" or something like that. I remember this scene looking up. And all of a sudden, Bert Lahr shows up and, in his Bert Lahr voice, saying "I'm your fairy godfather." And he tries like crazy to muster up a dog with his hat, and he can't. He had a little, sort of a Tinkerbell character, and... oh, my God, who's the famous voice-over guy from Warners? He did all the great characters... Mel Blanc did the voice. So I remember Mel Blanc over here on the side, you know, doing the character, with a microphone. And he would also do some of the Warner Brothers characters for me... And at the end of the day, somehow you know, Mr. O'Malley could never figure out how to get me a dog, I don't think. But my father gets the message and I get a dog, and I think Mr. O'Malley did it.
During the closing segment, evidently Reagan ad libbed a bit giving special thanks to little Ronnie Howard for doing such a great job for such a small child. Producer Sheldon Leonard heard that, agreed, and promptly called Howard's agent to cast him in The Andy Griffith Show. The rest, as they say, is history.

Proof that Mr. O'Malley works in strange and mysterious ways.
So one of the recent news items is that, with only two issues out so far, Black Panther & The Crew will be cancelled with issue #6. In speaking with The Verge, co-writer Ta-Nehisi Coates cited low sales as the culprit.

The big comic news outlets I've seen reporting on this don't add much beyond Coates' explanation. A few opinion pieces I've read suggest that Marvel expanded the Black Panther line too rapidly for the market, and that it couldn't handle three related books a full year before the movie comes out. Which is precisely what Brian Hibbs noted in his Tilting at Windmills column a month ago, citing sales in his own stores.

And while those of us outside Marvel don't have access to their actual sales numbers, and the estimates we do have (courtesy of John Jackson Miller) are only as recent as Black Panther & The Crew #1, let's take a look to see how things line up...
April 2016
Black Panther #1 -- 253,259

May 2015

Black Panther #2 -- 77,654

June 2016

Black Panther #3 -- 75,037

July 2016

Black Panther #4 -- 72,302

August 2016

Black Panther #5 -- 83,756

September 2016

Black Panther #6 -- 58,746

October 2016

Black Panther #7 -- 60,857

November 2016

Black Panther #8 -- 43,451
Black Panther: World of Wakanda #1 -- 57,073

December 2016

Black Panther #9 -- 39,123
Black Panther: World of Wakanda #2 -- 45,009

January 2017

Black Panther #10 -- 38,741
Black Panther: World of Wakanda #3 -- 25,248

February 2017

Black Panther #11 -- 35,429
Black Panther: World of Wakanda #4 -- 17,454

March 2017
Black Panther #12 -- 37,612
Black Panther: World of Wakanda #5 -- 15,847

April 2017
Black Panther #13 -- 30,509
Black Panther: World of Wakanda #6 -- 14,547
Black Panther & the Crew #1 -- 35,604
First, it should be noted that pretty much all titles have a normally significant drop-off after the first issue, and then experience a slow, but fairly inevitable, decline after that. You can see both Black Panther and Black Panther: World of Wakanda both experience a sharp drop after the first issue, and then generally head down from there, but at a slower pace.

You can also see a drop in Black Panther from #7 to #8 as World of Wakanda is introduced. This would support the claim that this market cannot sustain multiple Panther-related titles, and every new title is mostly just gutting the audience of the previous one. However, that drop is only 17,406. Which might seem like a lot, but compare that to the drop between #5 and #6 of 25,010. There were no new related titles introduced then, and it experienced a sharper decline. Additionally, the drop between issues #5 and #6 of World of Wakanda when The Crew is introduced is only 1,300; even the regular rate of drop-off the book was already experiencing was greater than that.

The sales for Black Panther #1 are atypical, I would say, probably in large part due to the media hype around Coates' debut at Marvel. But if we apply the first-to-second-drop-off percentage of World of Wakanda to The Crew, that would put The Crew #2 at around 28,000. If Hibbs' experience of a radical drop is more typical across the industry, sales of The Crew would have to had plummeted by 60% to get to where World of Wakanda was (roughly) holding.

Now, considering that Marvel didn't cancel The Crew outright, and is opting to run the series through #6, I think it's safe to say that the first-to-second-issue decline didn't put it into the "losing money" category right off the bat, but I expect Marvel ran some projections and estimated the title would cease being profitable around #6 or so, assuming a normal sales decline. The exact cut-off point for any given title is different, depending in part on how much they're paying the creators. Obviously, if they're paying their creators more, they're going to need to sell more books to make that money back. But since Coates, probably the most expensive creator on any of these books, is working on all of them, that acts as something of a leveling factor.

So if we're saying sales on The Crew is what's leading to its cancellation, that suggests Marvel thinks the book will be selling fewer than 15,000 copies by #6. (15,000 is evidently enough to let World of Wakanda keep going past #6.)

Let's do some back-of-the-envelope math. Assuming The Crew has the exact same sales decline curve as World of Wakanda, the next several issues would sell like this:
Black Panther & the Crew #1 -- 35,604
Black Panther & the Crew #2 -- 28,078
Black Panther & the Crew #3 -- 15,750
Black Panther & the Crew #4 -- 10,888
Black Panther & the Crew #5 -- 9,885
Black Panther & the Crew #6 -- 9,074
While Marvel is publishing 10-12 titles a month that sell less than 10,000 these days, they are definitely way in the minority. It's just no longer profitable; I suspect they'll be dropping at least a few of those titles in the near future as well. But with the aforementioned expense of having Coates on a title, I suspect that even being just under the 10,000 mark makes for some razor-thin profits.

I'll be honest; I was fully expecting to show that it wouldn't be the sales numbers and that was just a PR spin to shut down a series that may have gone farther into social commentary of police brutality against Blacks than Marvel anticipated. But as I sit here and do my own number-crunching... yeah, it's definitely a sales thing.

Now, whether or not Marvel put enough effort behind promoting the series and whether that turns out to be an example of racial bias is another discussion altogether!