Well I figured I might start doing some blogging on this site. However, since what I blog about will ultimately be unrelated to the comic, it will just go in the ‘News’ category, and will be about things I am interested in and are pertinent.
This gem is a little hidden from view. Check out this Daily Cartoonist post, but especially the comments section that follows it. Yes, that is Wiley Miller who creates the strip Non Sequitur, among other newspaper cartoonists. And yes, that is Mike Krahulik (Penny Arcade) and Scott Kurtz (PvP) and other webcartoonists. And they are having a huge arument over, basically, the legitimacy of webcomics.
“But wait,” you might say, if you have known anything about the webcomic scene five years ago, “Didn’t we already have this argument? Between Wiley and Kurtz?” Why yes, we did, but the thing is with the downturn of the economy and the fact that a lot of newspapers are folding, it’s become pertinent again.
The thing is, in the main article, The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists is having a panel at their convention wherin they discuss their support base being cut out from underneath them, that is, newspapers. Although that’s what a lot of people are still assuming this is about.
“Jennifer Sizemore, editor of MSNBC.com and Lincoln Millstein, Hearst vice president for new media and former editor of the New York Times web site on the topic of finding a home on the web.”
Now when some webcartoonists have talked about this they note that Lincoln Millstein’s presence here looked like an admittance that they’re still stuck in the middle ages when printing was done with a manual press. But they are talking about trying to get a foothold on the internet now.
Compare with the Websnark article from five years ago and you’ll see where the conflict it. And then we get to the comments section, which wastes no time getting interesting.
Tony Piro: Looks like a good selection of speakers. Will there be anyone speaking about the webcomic business model?
Wiley Miller: Oh, no… please no… not the “webcomic business model” thread again!
Okay so, despite wanting to find a new outlet in the internet age in which to do cartooning, they are still opposed to doing things the way Penny Arcade or PvP did it, through hard work.
This poses a question: Well what do they expect?
Almost every webcartoonist I know of, even the ones who don’t have a money-making business yet, don’t expect a syndicate to come around and pay them money for their comic just because. If you’ll remember several years ago there were a few internet syndicates, the most prominent of which was Keenspot, and several of the huge names right now had ties to one or more of these places.
If they were such big moneymakers, why didn’t they stick around? It’d certainly be nice to be a syndicated cartoonist where someone pays all your bills for you and all you need to do is churn out six comics a week plus sundays maybe. And that’s what current syndicated cartoonists certainly think.
The problem with Keenspot is that their involvement was redundant. A lot of people eventually left when they realized that almost all of their traffic was generated by word-of-mouth and networking rather than just being on a given site, and if they went it alone, they could do the advertising and the merchandise sales themselves and not have to share the profits. That’s how the webcomic business model came about.
So what most newspaper cartoonists are doing are waiting for the syndicates to find a solution for them. Lest they find themselves doing such demeaning work like selling t-shirts.
Kris Straub: See, this is sensible, but I thought that this was the kind of argument that got cartoonists looked down upon — in other words, if your comic strip isn’t making up 100% of your income, then you’re somehow faking it.
I thought that was the primary argument against webcomics: that they don’t count because the money comes from ads and being a T-shirt salesman.
[. . .]
You have to understand — the last two or three times this argument has cropped up, webcartoonists stepped forward and said “here’s how” — in detail — and were met with one or more of the following responses:
- “Yeah, but that’s probably not a real living.”
- “But if you give it away you can’t make money off of it.”
- “It didn’t work for me, so it’s impossible.”
- “Okay, but I don’t want to do that.”
I mean, rather than have this discussion again, we could all just go back in the Daily Cartoonist archives and read through it again.
Further, the newspaper cartoonists seem to be upset that webcomics are free, and somehow that’s not sustainable, that people should have to pay for comics.
Rick Stromoski: I don’t agree with giving content away for free, that’s just bad business…but we are moving away from a print society and we’d be foolish not to embrace that.
[. . .]
Is it too farfetched to think that comics would become something bundled much like cable tv packages geared towards the tastes of the subscriber?
Well . . . no. There’s not nearly enough demand for comic strips for people to just pay for them directly. I don’t pay for cable because I want to watch Mythbusters and Robot Chicken and Iron Chef. I watch those because I have cable–that is, cable is an entertainment package that costs money and will distract me with certain kinds of content when I need it to. Comics are a completely different monster. They’re more like having your favorite television show (Lost, let’s say) come on at a regular time. I only started watching Lost because I had cable, I never got cable because I wanted to watch Lost.
I’m already paying for my internet. I read webcomics because they are some entertainment I can seek out on the internet. There are plenty of pay-per-view channels on TV, and yes, there are some things people will pour extra money into to see. But these things are not tiny daily strips that took four hours to make and fifteen seconds to read.
Of course, the extra argument levied against syndicated cartoonists is lack of quality. Yes, there’s a lack of quality among webcomics, but those get buried. Legacy newspaper comics meanwhile stay on top and that’s what many webcartoonists are upset about. And you have to admit, it’s hard not poking fun when you just know that many syndicated cartoonists are simply afraid that their work is no longer relevant and they can’t rely on a syndicate anymore to give them money to just barely think.
In particular, editorial cartoonists. Which Mike Krahulik hates with a passion.
Mike Krahulik: The webcomic model won’t work for editorial cartoons. A successful webcomic is what they call a destination location in the retail world. That is to say it is a place people go out of their way to visit. Someone needs to choose to visit your site and that just wouldn’t work for editorial cartoons. People read editorial comics because they are already getting the paper. If you want to maintain the retail analogy it’s like they are in the mall already so they may as well stop by they house of crap. Would that store ever survive outside the mall? No. It’s the same for editorial cartoons. They could never survive on the web because no one would log on to their machine in the morning and say “hey I really want to see a drawing of a wheelbarrow that represents stem cell research crashing into a boat labeled pork barrel spending.” Hey no stealing that idea by the way, that’s mine;)
Honestly, when you get down to it, editorial cartooning is not about entertainment. It’s about saying something that needs to be said, and frankly, there’s a glut of editorial cartoonists who too often just want to fall back on their political stances rather than be truthful about things. And worse, not clever. A proper political cartoon is clever and most of what you would see in the opinion section today is just a stock scene with labels placed everywhere that correspond to their roles as presented in a news story. So it’s not difficult to see why a prominent webcartoonist would think that they lack craft and discipline.
Anyway, yadda yadda Scott Kurtz, man, can’t anyone talk about the guy without saying that he’s ruining the reputation of webcomics? I listen to Webcomics Weekly and think that he’s smart about what he does. Whenever someone, like Kurtz, decides to be angry about it, it’s only his opponents that get upset . Which probably means that he was right, only mean about it.