On Strips: Cafe con Leche Ends, Part 2

By | Friday, November 21, 2014 Leave a Comment
Yesterday, I noted the recent ending of Charlos Gary's Cafe con Leche. That was mostly on the socio-racial implications of the ending of a strip featuring a mixed race couple. Today I'd like to take a few moments to look at the business end of things.

First off, let's make sure everyone's aware that Gary is not out of work. Back in September, he was hired by Charles Schwab as their Senior Director for Visual Communications.
Though he was understandably excited about the new gig, he that Cafe con Leche was coming to end not much later, if he didn't already know when he took the Schwab job. Note the dates on these two Tweets from him...
(That second Tweet translates as "I feel very sad today because my comic is ending" in case you're wondering.)

Gary's next Tweets are some minor clarifications and several "thanks for your support" messages. But the interesting one comes a couple weeks after the last strip was published.
That it might come back "albeit at another syndicate" points to the idea that Creators Syndicate is no longer willing to support the strip. It does not seem to be an issue bewteen Universal and Gary himself, as they're continuing to syndicate Gary's other strip, Working It Out. (Although it should be noted that that strip has been in reruns since April 2012.)
According to Wikipedia, Working It Out was only in 50 papers as of 2004. That's a seriously dated number, I realize, but I have to believe that's higher than what Gary was getting with Cafe con Leche. He noted on his blog several years ago that newspaper editors seemed leary of a comic featuring an interracial couple, and I'm led to believe that it's been an uphill battle since Day One.

So what it sounds like is that newspaper editors are uncomfortable testing the waters very much on the comics page. They'd rather have a more generic comic that they already ran four years earlier than a new one that deals with a nearly unique topic for comic strips. What choice would Creators Syndicate have but to drop the one that (one presumes) is costing them more money than it's earning?

But what does that say about the newspaper industry? By all accounts, newspaper circulation is in something of a death spiral and, rather than try anything new that might change things for good or ill, newspapers would rather go the "safe" route of keeping the status quo, which is all but guaranteed to end in oblivion.

And from a creator's perspective, why would you want to launch a new newspaper strip at this point? It's almost inevitably doomed to fail. At least launching it on the web provides some hope that it might be successful.
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