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Diesel Sweetie to launch January 8

Diesel Sweeties sample
Diesel Sweeties © Richard Stevens. Used by permission of United Media. All Rights Reserved.

What looks to be the first comic strip launch of 2007, United Media will launch Diesel Sweeties by Richard Stevens. Diesel Sweeties is about a love relationship between a robot named Clango Cyclotron and his human girlfriend.

The feature has been on the web since April of 2000.

Ted Rall who handles acquisition and development for United has this to say about the feature:

“It’s exceedingly rare for a comic strip to reflect its time in a timeless way. Diesel Sweeties is such a strip: engaging, fun to look at and, most of all, funny. A webcomics phenomenon whose work is understandably popular with hip and smart readers, Richard Stevens’ take on relationships and popular culture is easily accessible to everyone.”

Since this feature started as a web comic, you can see the strip on Richard’s web site.

The papers that have already signed up include: The Houston Chronicle, Rocky Mountain News, Seattle Times, Calgary Herald and Detroit News

Community Comments

#1 Charles Brubaker
December/14/2006
@ 3:27 am

Meanwhile, “Minimum Security,” which is currently self-syndicated to handful of alternative newspapers, got picked up by United Features for their comics.com website.

http://mcmillan.livejournal.com/206153.html

Like “Diesel Sweeties,” Ted Rall showcased “Minimum” in his “Attitude” book series. “Diesel” was showcased in the third “Attitude” book, while “Minimum” was in the first one.

#2 Jeff
December/14/2006
@ 9:13 am

Looking at this strip, It appears every crappy little “edgy” cartoonist in Rall’s books will be getting a contract, edging out real talent.

#3 Charles Brubaker
December/14/2006
@ 10:03 am

I’m still waiting for “Ozy and Millie” to be syndicated. That strip is pretty good and Rall also showcased it. It’s at http://www.ozyandmillie.com

#4 Charles Brubaker
December/14/2006
@ 10:07 am

Whoops. It’s at ozyandmillie.org

#5 Steve Greenberg
December/14/2006
@ 11:02 am

Can’t speak for the writing, but the artwork is another example of lowered expectations: All computer copying of the same image again and again, substituting one of a few mouths. Even the dialogue balloons don’t really point to who’s speaking. Does “new” or “edgy” necessarily mean a demise of the ability to draw?

#6 Jeff
December/14/2006
@ 11:12 am

Well said … it’s said to see this happening … imagine … no more Al Capps, Bill Wattersons, Milton Caniffs… just young, inexperienced computer geeks who figured out how to make a few strokes on their wacoms, type a few inane words, and call it a comic strip – and THEN get SYNDICATED!! (Of course, Ted Rall is a pretty poor artist in his own right) …Even sadder, the reading public will consider this the norm more and more, and you’re left with completely unimaginative, rude, brash, disrespectful drivel, as Ted Rall will be sure to feed to newspaper editors, who could really care less or know a good comic if it bit them in the ass anyway.

#7 Jeff
December/14/2006
@ 11:15 am

btw – What the heck makes Ted Rall think we want to read a comic strip that looks like one of those stupid “Digi-Pets” things kids use, anyway??

#8 Freezer
December/14/2006
@ 12:27 pm

I do wonder how many people complaining about DS’s art are Dilbert fans?

#9 ROB
December/14/2006
@ 1:21 pm

Ahh..the age of lowered expectations.

#10 Lefiite
December/14/2006
@ 1:56 pm

I think there are some very well-drawn new strips out there now: Ink Pen is gorgeous. Edison Lee is very sharp. Lio is perfect. Dog Eat Doug is simple and well done. Retail is quite nice. As far as Web, Penny Arcade, PvP, Perry Bible Fellowship — all their art matches the tone and attitude of the strip.

#11 Rob
December/14/2006
@ 2:25 pm

I predict that Diesel Sweeties will not survive outside the web.

#12 Alex
December/14/2006
@ 2:37 pm

I have to agree with your prediction Rob. On the web it can be viewed much larger and while the art work is subpar (which is being complimentary), at least it would be legible. In print it will be shrunk down even more so than it appears at the top of this post. I can only imagine the results being blury at best.
Plus, a woman dating a robot? Syndicates always talk about being marketable. Which demographic exactly are they trying to reach here?

#13 Alex
December/14/2006
@ 2:38 pm

Oh, and Jeff…right on man! You hit the nail on the head!

#14 rstevens
December/14/2006
@ 9:05 pm

“btw – What the heck makes Ted Rall think we want to read a comic strip that looks like one of those stupid â??Digi-Petsâ? things kids use, anyway??”

I won’t argue the rest of your points, but there’s a million or more people doing looking at my comics every month without any kind of major media backing. When you can say that about your own stuff, you can make blanket dismissals of six and a half years worth of comics.

PS: I don’t use a Wacom. May the rest of your assumptions be as accurate.

Hugs & Kisses!

#15 Nabil
December/14/2006
@ 9:46 pm

How novel would it be to actually congratulate someone on getting a coveted syndication contract, instead of sniping about it? It’s like the people at a wedding who sit in the corner and scowl and talk about how it’ll never last. Regardless of whether it’s how they feel, it’s rude and disrespectful to do.

It will be an interesting experiment to try out a pixel-based comic in newsprint. I think there is potential for it to work well, simply based on fundamentals of any raster-based imagery (my biggest concern is the font). Best of luck!

#16 Amy
December/14/2006
@ 9:49 pm

Actually, I think DS’s drawing is rather innovative and interesting. Take a look at the comics on his website. It isn’t one of those copy-and-paste-stock-images-with-catchy-lines. The characters faces change subtly to show expression. The story lines are great, and the characters are hilarious.

#17 Rodd
December/14/2006
@ 10:04 pm

Right on, Richard. Wacoms are bush league. Whatever they are.

I’m not afraid of the future.

#18 Lauren
December/14/2006
@ 10:05 pm

Did you say “subpar”? “Lowered expectations”? I think what you meant was “original” or perhaps “innovative.” Diesel Sweeties is like nothing else out there. It looks different, it reads different. Also, it’s actually funny, which is more than I can say for 75% of the comics in my local funnies page. I, for one, am glad there’s going to be something in syndication that isn’t rehashing the same jokes it (and everyone else) rehashed last year.

#19 Charles Brubaker
December/14/2006
@ 10:20 pm

I guess I’ll say it.

Congrats, Richard. I wish you many lucks for your syndication.

#20 Dan Bielinski
December/14/2006
@ 10:29 pm

Rich, I can’t believe you actually responded to this. Why? Your comic stands on its own, so you have no need to go on the defense.

I’m interested to see how syndication goes for you and wish you the best of luck. Your comic has been around forever and you obviously have lots of fans.

As for the way your comic is drawn, I have been curious on how you do it. Is it done in the paint program? Besides that, the comic is usally funny and thats good enough for me. Thats what a comic strip should do.

Maybe as you pick up some papers, it can replace some dinosaur strips that have to go. As I said before, good luck. It has been a long time coming and I congratulate you.

#21 rstevens
December/14/2006
@ 10:33 pm

I really like my readers, so it really gets to me when people act as if they count for nothing. I’m done being defensive!

As far as drawing and fonts go- It’s all bitmaps in Photoshop and the text is all really crisp pixel fonts. It actually shrinks and reproduces infinitely large AND small.

I’ve got lots of bitmap and halftone experiments on my blog: http://www.iheartpixels.org/

I’ll shut up now and get back to drawing! Thanks all.

#22 Mike
December/14/2006
@ 10:39 pm

Wow, it’s amazing to see how many people dismiss something simply because it’s not what they are used to. So, how many of you naysayers went to the site and read some DS? Anyone? Just curious. Or did you all look at the strip provided and decide to make a blanket judgment?

It’s really a shame that all comic strips can’t be Cathy or Marmaduke, you know? When I look at the comics page, I see the same strips I’ve been seeing — no, that my parents have been seeing — since reading comics to begin with, all I see is the same old stories, same old characters. Same old jokes. It’d be nice to see an innovator in the newspaper.

My only concern is as to how much of DS will be removed or butchered by editors and censors, as it’s not always terribly family friendly to say the least.

Congratulations, Richard, I hope your comic is as successful in print as it is online.

#23 Lauren H
December/14/2006
@ 10:43 pm

Wow, so many people are clueless and threatened by the ‘change’ that a comic done in a non-orthodox format would get syndicated. Considering how plain or awful looking a lot of syndicated hand-drawn comics look, here I thought the focus was mostly on the writing and jokes, whereas the art is primarily there to accurately get the point across.

You can write about a character getting hit with a pie in the face with a big fat ‘SMOOSH’, but it’s only actually funny when you see said character drawn in an amusing format getting hit with a pie in the face.

Perhaps DS is just too radical for people who grew up worshipping Dilbert and Garfield.

#24 Jason
December/14/2006
@ 10:43 pm

Wow, what a surprising number of whiny elitists on this thread.

I for one love RIch’s work and find it to be infinitely more original and interesting than yet another “beautiful” strip with either a plot that tries to go over everyone’s head or the same rehashed newsprint jokes over and over.

Congrats Rich!! best of luck, I hope you kick ass.

#25 kiwi
December/14/2006
@ 10:52 pm

“Plus, a woman dating a robot? Syndicates always talk about being marketable. Which demographic exactly are they trying to reach here?”

You must be pretty out of touch with pop culture if you haven’t noticed sci-fi, robots and video game nostalgia among today’s youth. They’re icons of a generation.

Sorry, but you all sound like a bunch of bitter old men. Subject material that’s weird to you isn’t necessarily inaccessible. Good art doesn’t necessarily look like the classics. Keep an open mind.

#26 Charles Brubaker
December/14/2006
@ 10:58 pm

I’ll agree that strips that use this technique (clip art/cut and paste) doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad.

Look at “This Modern World.” That strip relies heavily on cut and paste and it’s pretty good.

#27 Alex
December/14/2006
@ 11:22 pm

So apparently now we’ve heard from the enlightened few who “get it”. Good for you. You all are so far over our heads with your bitmaps and your fonts. You’re right…who needs to know how to actually draw or write anymore? That’s not what this medium is about, is it?
I’m the one who made the comment about a woman and a robot dating not being marketable. You’re right..at my ripe old age of 26 I must be out of touch with pop culture. However, if you remove your head from your rectum for one moment you’ll realize I never said it wouldn’t make a good comic book or movie premise. I’m simply talking about the industry of comic strips which, if I’m not mistaken, is what we’re discussing.
Furthermore, if the comic does well…more power to ya! I have no problem with new comics getting syndicated, when they’re good. Check out “The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee” or “Retail” or “The Argyle Sweater”. These are all fantatstic new comics. Did your parents read “Bizarro” or “Pearls Before Swine” or “Get Fuzzy”? Didn’t think so. Oh.. and “Cathy”…”Garfeild”…”Marmaduke”? If any of you think these are the comics us “out of touch” people use as examples of good comics, then maybe all the drugs you’ve done have fried your brains. Anyway, I think the people who are the “naysayers” on this particular thread just happen to know more about the syndication industry (and apparently art) than those doing the name calling and defending.
So, good luck Richard. I wish you success, but may I just remind you that Scott Kurtz of PVP had far more readers than you and he couldn’t give his comic away to newspapers. Online readership doesn’t mean sh– to them.

#28 Alan Gardner
December/14/2006
@ 11:39 pm

At this time I need to step in and tell you all to remember your manners. This is a public forum so please avoid pot shots of other participants. Posting comments with profanity (words not allowed on network TV) is not tolerated. Alex, I edited out your four letter word. Next time, I’ll delete the whole comment. That goes for all who visit this blog. Keep the discussion academic or I’ll shut the comments off.

Thanks Rich for visiting the blog and jumping into this thread.

Carry on.

– Alan

#29 Alex
December/14/2006
@ 11:55 pm

I apologize and completely agree. Some of these discussions can get out of hand as we are all very passionate about whatever our idea of art is, but my use of profanity was uncalled for and inexcusable. However, I stand by the rest of my post.

#30 Alex
December/15/2006
@ 12:00 am

Just for the record, I don’t believe that anyone was attempting to discredit Richard as a creator. The point I’m trying to make is that to be a cartoonist you must make writing and art a priority. I think the only thing people “fear” is the further degradation of the art aspect in this equation by those who take it less seriously.

#31 Laura
December/15/2006
@ 12:12 am

I really want to see some sample pixel art from everyone claiming that the strip is artistically worthless. If you are familiar with the style, it is easy to tell the difference between someone who sat down and clicked in MS paint for 10 minutes, and someone who puts the kind of care into his work that Rich does. Go look at some of the Halloween strips. The costumes are ridiculously intricate, and quite recognizable to those who are familiar with the references being made. And that is HARD. Maybe harder than hand-drawing, because you have a far more limited ability to do things like show detail. You have to know how to make the most out of every single pixel block.

#32 Dan Bielinski
December/15/2006
@ 12:23 am

I’ll agree with some of the points that have been raised here. I really don’t care for the “cut and paste” thing, and I personally like ink and bristol board. There is a intimate feeling with ink and bristol that can’t ever be replaced.

But Rich has a cool thing going. You can’t deny the originality.

By the way Rich, I checked out your blog and I was quite impressed with the process. I’ve never really looked into until tonight. Thanks for the link. And for those of you who haven’t checked it out yet, give it a click.

http://www.iheartpixels.org/

#33 Lord Manley
December/15/2006
@ 2:39 am

The thing about cartoons is that they are there to entertain and to be art. DS entertains me almost every day and I am fairly confident that impressionism is art, yet critics here seem to be wanting the cartoon version of a bland watercolour.

Please people, have some vision.

#34 The Poster Formally known as Mike
December/15/2006
@ 2:40 am

Just so theres no confusion, the above poster Mike, and myself are 2 different people. not that I disagree with his points, I just wanted to clarify that so no one confuses us. Not that I’m so important that you would, but….oh, you get the idea….

Anyhoo, I don’t think anyone can deny the strip is original looking. Personally its kind of hard to look at for me, but that doesn’t mean its bad. It will be interesting to see how it does. I wish Rich the best in it.

#35 Keiran
December/15/2006
@ 3:55 am

Ruben’s used one style, then there was Constable, and then there was Warhol. They all used different styles and all are ‘now’ seen as fine art.

Is poster paint better than oils better than photography better than sculpture better than found art?

It is not the medium but the message and having been a fan of Mr Stevens for as long as he has been around (and I have to admit to owning a large number of his t-shirts!) his message, aimed at the marketplace of people who can remember 8-bit gaming, and indeed anyone who finds his humour funny (which I guess ‘Alex’ is not you), is the key and it is good (long enough sentence for you?).

Mr Watterson is god, Mr Schultz was very good, but then got tired and should have retired. Was Peanuts better as a short 3 or 4 panel strip, or as an animated feature. Christmas isn’t Christmas for me without Charlie Brown and his little forsaken tree, but I can live without 50% of the Peanuts strips. Mr Stevens is a great creative and whilst he isn’t up at Mr Watterson’s right hand, he certainly has a good shot at it, along with his Dumbrella soulmates Mr Allison and Mr Rowland.

As Laura stated, creating an astounding amount of emotion, humour and recognisable characters, with the detail that Richard throws in every now and again takes a HELL of a lot of skill and artistry, it is NOT ‘cut & paste’. Try it, you will be surprised.

I also know that the man can draw too! Most of the high quality web comic artists can actually draw with a pencil and ink on paper, but as starting a web comic and gaining an audience is a hell of a lot less soul destroying than trying to get a space in that limited area of newspaper syndication, even in that huge continent of North America (I live in the UK and wont be seeing DS in print :( ), many either convert their art to digital by scanning it, by using Illustrator or Photoshop and tracing it, or by drawing outright in a computer art package and speeding up the process.

None of these routes are wrong, and all I can say is, if you criticise someone’s displayed art, but cannot balance that criticism by showing yours, to be held to view in the same space, keep your mouth shut.

Good one Richard, and that coffee is still waiting to be brewed! Now get ‘Fred Basset’ removed from a paper in the UK and replaced by DS!

#36 Jeff Stanson
December/15/2006
@ 6:46 am

Like “Mike”, I’ve noticed someone else is posting to the this board using the same name I’ve been using, which is “Jeff.” I am the “Jeff” that posts about such things as the state of the newspaper business and the worth of keeping some classic comics around. I am not responsible for the comments on this page by this “Jeff.” In the future I will post with a last name in order to distinguish my comments from the other “Jeff.” While I do feel a lot of the art on the comics page is sub-par compared to what it once was — and have complained about it, but in more general, gentler terms — I recall one cartoonist saying one secret of creating a good comic strip is that “first you must create funny pictures” (was that from Schultz?).

#37 Carly
December/15/2006
@ 7:54 am

Why are people reacting so harshly to this? If you don’t like Diesel Sweeties, there is a whole page (sometimes even two!) of other comics for you to read!

To those complaining about the style: Fine. It’s not your bag. But pixel art IS art; it’s another style, and it happens to suit the tone and subject of the comic exceedingly well.

Rich has been doing this comic for years. This isn’t about being “edgy” or “trendy”. It’s another means of expression. And I’m sorry, but I would rather see one well done, less “traditional” comics in the papers then ten awful, pointless ink and paper ones. (I won’t name names, but the papers are drowning in them).

I say three cheers for Diesel Sweeties!

#38 Ron
December/15/2006
@ 8:38 am

Carly, people are reacting harshly to it simply because they know better strips are being passed up just because Ted Rall happens to like something that the majority of comic readers find poorly executed.
It may have found its niche on the web which is fine, but regular comic readers (actual newsprint) want what they want, something slightly familiar yet different.

#39 Lefiite
December/15/2006
@ 8:55 am

Where are all these “better strips”?

I’m always hearing about these great strips that are being passed up b/c they’re not friends of Scott Adams or Ted Rall. I’d love to see them.

#40 Alan Gardner
December/15/2006
@ 8:58 am

It may have found its niche on the web which is fine, but regular comic readers (actual newsprint) want what they want, something slightly familiar yet different.

Once we get into January, I’ll get the official launch numbers from United Media and then we’ll have a better idea of what regular comic readers want (or at least what the editors think their readers want). And then we’ll visit the numbers again at the end of ’07. I believe “Lio” came out so strong because it was so different and original. The comic pages is long over due for some diversity in art.

#41 D. D. Degg
December/15/2006
@ 9:05 am

“Iâ??m always hearing about these great strips that are being passed up b/c theyâ??re not friends of Scott Adams or Ted Rall. Iâ??d love to see them.”

My favorite that I think should be syndicated is David Kellett’s “Sheldon”.
http://www.davekellett.com/

#42 KMiller
December/15/2006
@ 9:23 am

Alex is right. The reports we get show Working Daze is always in the top 20 on United Media’s comics.com (currently 12) and you can guess how much influence that has with the folks in charge. Zip. Zero. Nada. What does it take to sell a comic these days? You got me.

#43 Ron
December/15/2006
@ 9:32 am

Lefiite, The Argyle Sweater is a new one that’s only web syndicated, which doesn’t really mean anything. It needs to be in print as well. Just looking at at the hopefull cartoonist site Comics Sherpa, I see a few good ones that are better than DS. (44 Union Avenue, Half Baked, HOOVER the Rechargeable Dog, and The New Adventures of Queen Victoria).

#44 Alex
December/15/2006
@ 9:35 am

… and indeed anyone who finds his humour funny (which I guess â??Alexâ?? is not you), is the key and it is good (long enough sentence for you?).

Keiran, I’m not sure what you mean by this statement. Are you claiming I have no sense of humor for not appreciating Richard’s gags (which would be an ignorant statement on your part) or are you simply guessing that I don’t find Richard funny?

Either way, if you read my posts I never made any comments about his writing ability or potential to be funny. I commented solely on the art. I’m not a fan of it. Personal preference. End of story.

#45 Lefiite
December/15/2006
@ 9:52 am

Points taken. I like both Sheldon and Argyle Sweater.

#46 Robert G.
December/15/2006
@ 10:22 am

My favorite that I think should be syndicated is David Kellettâ??s â??Sheldonâ?.
http://www.davekellett.com/

Sheldon was syndicated by United Syndicates, although they weren’t ever able to place it in any papers. Kellett recently left the syndicate and beefed up his own web site.

He talks about the reasons behind his choice on his blog at:
http://www.sheldoncomics.com/archive/061106.html

Basically, he thinks that newspapers are on the decline and are taking comics with them. He thinks he’ll do better with an on-line only comic under his control.

#47 Hey-O Benjamin
December/15/2006
@ 10:46 am

I think the sample comic cited in the article is an accurate summary of this debate! We have the “innovative” Richard Stevens who is making the unconventional (not “desperate”!) choice of using a pixellated art medium– essentially dating a robot, while the commentator “L’il Sis” offers not jealousy, but rather a healthy dose of orthodox reserve (can you really date a robot? aren’t they cold in bed? what if you got electrocuted?)

WHOOOOOOA MONDO-METATEXTUAL, DUDES!

#48 steve
December/15/2006
@ 10:53 am

I think it all comes down to taste really. Personally, I can’t read a comic strip unless its well-drawn (emphasis on draw). But again, my taste so who am I to judge.

I have to mirror Ron’s comment. If you can wade through the crap, there are some good comics on sherpa that are deserving more attention. My fav’s up there would be 44 Union Avenue and HOOVER. Also, check out Blank Label Comics. Good Stuff

#49 Daniel
December/15/2006
@ 11:10 am

Alex, it seems to me you aren’t just saying that you are “not a fan” of the art and that it’s just a “personal preference.” Your previous statements seemed harsher than that and it appears as though more than once you are qualifying your previous statements to make them seem less harsh. For instance, earlier, you said “I donâ??t believe that anyone was attempting to discredit Richard as a creator.” However, in the same comment you imply both that Stevens doesn’t take writing or art seriously and that his comic is leading to the degradation of art. Earlier you say his art is “sub par.” To me, these sound stronger than arguments of “personal preference”–they sound like broad, encompassing statements. Disliking something is different from thinking it is actually a detriment to society, and if you believe the latter, you should stop hedging your statements to seem more like the former.

A more general comment: for a moment, lets ignore the argument that “pixel art” is harder than it seems and that using a computer and publishing on a website actually does take talent–some of you seem to be ignoring it anyway, so it shouldn’t be that hard. In some, possibly many cases, stellar writing and stellar art are not both necessary. As Bill Watterson said at one point in his 10th anniversary book, sometimes good writing makes up for bad art and vice versa. So which is more important? Are they equally important? Personally, I would rather read a comic strip with somewhat worse art if the dialogue were especially good. It annoys me, however, to read all of the comics in the newspaper today that have passable or even “good” drawing but have terrible, absolutely horrendous writing. In the end, the most important things are the characters and the story.

#50 Alan Gardner
December/15/2006
@ 11:30 am

Ted Rall has graciously accepted an invitation to answer your questions regarding Diesel Sweeties. If you have questions about its selection, what market this feature is pointing to, etc. this is your chance to hear it straight from Ted.

See my recent post for instructions and timelines.

Thanks all.

#51 Alex
December/15/2006
@ 12:20 pm

Man, people take things waaaay too seriously. Apparently I’m on the chopping block, so I’m going to respond to Daniel and then I’m done. Once again, Daniel, please thoroughly read posts before attacking their author. You took what I said way out of context. I never at any time insinuated that Richard does not take his writing seriously. Once again, I only commented on his art. Once again, it is a personal preference. When I called it subpar, it was my opinion. It was not meant to be some generalized, “us against them”, all-encompassing statement. And, seriously, what are you talking about with this detriment to society nonsense? That is taking comments made about cartooning far too seriously. Just as you apparently enjoy Diesel Sweeties, I do not. That’s it. Take it for face value and don’t let it ruin your day.
If it seems as though I was attempting to qualify my comments or make them seem less harsh, it was out of respect for Alan and his fantatstic site. Not to water down my opinions. Which is all that they are…my opinions. They mean nothing to anyone but me. However, I am allowed to express them, just as you are. You agree with them or you don’t. That’s the beauty of living in a free country, isn’t it?
Anyway, sincerely, I wish Richard luck. No subversive context, no backhanded compliments. I mean it. Good luck, dude!
Peace everyone!

#52 Alex
December/15/2006
@ 12:22 pm

I know I said I was done, but I wanted to add that I think Ted Rall agreeing to accept questions is extremely classy and very cool on his part!
Ok, that’s all folks.

#53 Rob
December/15/2006
@ 1:29 pm

Very touch DS fans.

#54 mooncity
December/15/2006
@ 2:27 pm

First, I’ll admit, DS is not my cup of tea and that’s that; I prefer more traditional line work in a comic. Second, I think it’s impressive that a syndicate is willing to try something like this, and good luck to Richard.

I’ve read over the comments here, and I think there’s one factor folks haven’t touched on yet. Namely, although some people here really like DS, and it has a respectable web following, and others here are decrying the graphic style, the real question is whether or not DS will appeal to the newspaper readership. I freely concede that I don’t have numbers or research to back it up, but my feeling is that sprite comics (or sprite-like pixel comics like DS), only appeal to a niche audience, and not a mainstream one. The guys who do Penny-Arcade said it best; in the paper “you have to appeal to everyone from five years old to grandma.” This comic likely won’t appeal to the average comics reader, who will simply be turned off by the art. If not that, they’ll be turned off by the lettering, because it will make the writing that much harder to read. Now, we comicky people know Richard is doing more work that it may appear at face value, but the average comics reader isn’t going to factor that in; to them, it’s gonna be a low-res pixelized comic which at first they may dismiss as some kind of printing problem. Is grandma going to like pixel art? Or middle-aged folks? Will kids like it, and if so, will they be able to follow the humor? And is the web following for DS going to translate into newspaper sales and increased newspaper readership? In these cases, the answer is likely to be “no.”

I’m not hatin’, I’m just sayin’.

However, if I’m proven wrong, then great. No one would be happier than me if it turns out I’m red-shifting towards Wrongville on this, because what’s good for webcomics is good for me (I do one, too), and good for other webcomickers as well.

But the reaction of the actual readership the strip will face is the unknown factor at this point, and whether they will embrace it or not the real question posed by launching a comic with this particular graphic style.

#55 Sean C
December/15/2006
@ 4:50 pm

For everyone bashing Diesel Sweeties simply on the art, may I ask why you have to be so fickle? Honestly, I would not be surprised that if Watterson debuted Calvin and Hobbes today, there would be plenty of people who would call it “sloppy” art, and demand cleaner, more well-defined lineart like that of Beetle Bailey. There’s just no satisfying some folks.

We read comics because they cause us joy – however, there are plenty of strips that no longer do this – Wizard of Id, Garfield, Nancy, and countless other old strips that have long passed their prime and are simply coasting along on name recognition and familiarity alone. One of DS’s detractors has made an excellent point, though; there are plenty of good comics being passed over for the few empty slots available. Instead of fighting for those scraps, why do we, the readers, not simply demand that the strips that have been running on life-support, that have long ceased to be funny, be pulled – plenty of fresh blood would get their shot then. Newspaper comics need to be rejuvinated desperately, especially as newspaper readership declines. The funnies have always been a solid attraction.

You may not like DS’s art, but it is creative, experimental, and yes, innovative. The comic itself is an enjoyable read, and I think DS can do fine. First off, instead of being turned off by the pixel art, it will catch the eye of readers, and they will try the strip. Chances are good it will get a following. The writing is strong. In the webcomics world, we’ve learned that strips can stand up on writing alone – look at Dinosaur Comics, White Ninja, or XCDC. I’m not saying the art is lacking – it is quite the process to assemble DS’s art, and I for one can appreciate it.

Let creativity run wild; webcomics are fascinating in that they can be different, and that they aren’t restrained by some commonly held beliefs and preconcieved notions about what can and what cannot be a comic. It’s why so many people read them, and are attracted to the medium. Truth be told, webcomics will eventually overshadow (if they already haven’t) syndicated newspaper strips in overall readership. There’s a new, younger generation of potential newspaper readers that just aren’t getting a good experience because they can’t get into the same old jokes that have been “funny” for 40+ years.

“Lowered expectations?” Don’t kid me – if you’re accepting Garfield as some standard, then you have some LOW expectations to begin with – and probably some apathy, to boot.

Don’t attack a cartoonist for being different, or for not following the same old styles. Don’t accuse him of denying some other artist his or her shot. It’s not the new guys that come along that are the problem. It’s the comics that coast – that really don’t try anymore, but stay around forever that are the root of the problem. You want fresh blood; you want young, talented and unrecognized artists to get their fair shake, then write to your newspaper editors and demand new comics; demand those unfunny strips get the boot. Or would you rather have Gil Thorp around for another couple decades while Sheldon never gets its chance?

#56 Jeffrey C.
December/15/2006
@ 5:30 pm

I agree with almost everything mooncity is saying. I have to admitt, that I actually prefer the more traditional “hand-drawn” comic which makes their characters look more cartoon-like than that of DS, BUT – if DS runs in any newspaper in my area, I wouldnt be against giving it a try.
I used to read “Calvin & Hobbs”, a comic that made me laugh-out-loud. Sometimes it was the artwork, and other times it was the contents, (usually it was both). Now I read such comics as “Soup to Nutz”, and “Off the Mark”, comics like these are pleasent to look at and funny to read. (I think that’s the point Mooncity was making)
I’m an Editorial cartoonist. I’ve been drawing cartoons for about 7+ years now, and I can give you some inside info in the newspaper industry.
Contrary to what mooncity said about whether DS, or ANY COMIC can translate into newspaper sales and increased newspaper readership is false. A Newspaper has to pay out money just to print the comics on their pages. Comics don’t really increase readership or sales. Hell, they don’t even turn any kind of profit for the newspaper. I mean really, have you ever heard of anyone buying a newspaper JUST for the comis. As much as I hate to say it…Most Editors view comics as a neccessary evil in this business.
So, If Richard Stevens is given the opportunity to incease his readership thru syndication, then I say GOOD FOR YOU, RICH. Alot of people would like to see you fail. Don’t give them the saticfaction. Take the ball and run with it!Don’t follow the crowd – Stand out and BE DIFFERENT. Isn’t that what our parents told us?

#57 mooncity
December/15/2006
@ 5:44 pm

All true, my friend, but the potential readership you mentioned has mostly moved on to TV or digital means of getting their news as well as their funnies. As Berkley Breathed mentioned not long ago, there are kids graduating from college today who have never picked up a newspaper in their lives. If the idea is to reach out to that audience, I can’t see DS doing that. At least not on it’s own, anyway. I can’t see someone getting a subscription just because DS (or any other single, individual title), is on the funny page.

That means the *current* potential readership, not the *hoped-for* potential readership, will determine if this venture will succeed. Frankly, I just don’t see the current readership of today’s newspaper excited by this particular graphic style enough to stay with it. Younger, “hipper”, web-savvier readers, yeah. They get it, as evidenced by DS’ popularity as a webcomic. But those younger, “hipper”, web-savvier readers aren’t the ones buying the papers today.

That means DS has an uphill climb to translate its web popularity into popularity across a wider spectrum of readers already used to the comic styles in the paper. Many of those readers are middle-aged or older, and may not accept pixel-style art as what they wanna see in the funnies. For that very reason, Watterson and his syndicate would not face the same potential problems if he was launching C & H today, because C & H was a fairly traditionally-styled comic.

So again, I’m not hatin’, I’m just sayin’.

It’s a bold move on Ted’s part to launch DS in papers, and even though I don’t care for DS, that doesn’t mean I don’t want it or Richard to succeed. I’m only pointing out DS will have to overcome what current readers are already used to seeing, and that’s not going to be easy.

#58 mooncity
December/15/2006
@ 5:50 pm

D’OH, looks like we were posting at the same time, Jeffrey. We do indeed agree here on an individual title not driving sales. Well, maybe a “super-strip” like C & H might possibly have, but that’s the exception if it ever happened.

#59 DJ Coffman
December/15/2006
@ 6:45 pm

I heart RStevens.

#60 Chris Crosby
December/15/2006
@ 7:18 pm

It’s very exciting to see a strip like DS being picked up by so many mainstream newspapers. It actually feels like a QUANTUM LEAP in the progression of newspaper comics. I can’t even remember a time when a comic strip so UNIQUE was added to the comics page. Every new syndicated strip has seemed like a very slight variation on the old standards, but DS looks and reads like nothing else on the page. You put it next to the average newspaper comic and it looks like a hover-car sitting next to a horse and buggy.

Congrats to United Media for being so bold and forward-thinking! Maybe there is hope for the future of newspaper comics.

#61 Eric Millikin
December/15/2006
@ 7:21 pm

I think United Media, The Houston Chronicle, Rocky Mountain News, Seattle Times, Calgary Herald and The Detroit News made great choices when they picked up Diesel Sweeties. The Detroit News, for one, takes plenty of chances on new comics, and runs plenty of comics that may predominately appeal to certain groups — Baldo, Sylvia, Zippy the Pinhead, Rex Morgan M.D., etc.

Diesel Sweeties may appeal predominately to some people that really aren’t into, say, Crankshaft. Appealing to different types of readers as well as new types of readers is a good thing.

Disclaimers: The Detroit News writes me occasional paychecks, but did not pay me to write this. And I, too, was in one of those edgy Attitude books that is “edging out real talent.”

#62 jdalton
December/15/2006
@ 8:31 pm

I’m not usually a fan of pixel art, for some of the reasons stated by others, but I am a fan of Diesel Sweeties. It’s a darn good comic.

I don’t subscribe to a paper. I never have. And I don’t think I would start just because DS was in one (assuming I lived in a city where it was available). BUT if there were a paper, a magical wonderful paper, that had a full page every day of all my favourite webcomic strips (Count Your Sheep, Beaver and Steve, Bolt City, Dinosaur Comics, Dresden Codak…) I think I might actually buy the paper just for that.

#63 jdalton
December/15/2006
@ 8:44 pm

…I mean Copper. Bolt City is the website, Copper is the comic. Sorry.

#64 B. Shur
December/15/2006
@ 11:22 pm

Diesel sweeties was my gateway comic for online work. I have been a fan for years now. One question that hasn’t been tackled here too deeply is whether DS quality can stand up to the limits of syndication.

Rich does a lot of great work with color. In the very limited realm of pixel art, color is a pretty powerful tool that won’t be there. Also, the original is nicely raunchy. Clango’s girlfriend in the original is an ex-pornstar. If you can picture what naughty bit * is a pixelated symbol for, you have a good idea of the tone of much of it. And I love that.

With all these new artistic and content limitations, the newspaper DS will need to be an entirely new beast. I’m excited to see how it goes.

Also, kinda funny to see a (seemingly)webcomic artist-free thread suddenly include DJ, Chris and Eric.

#65 Dumok
December/16/2006
@ 8:23 am

While Diesel sweeties is not my cup of tea, as a fellow webcomicer, I have to say congratulations.
To the rest, It’s easy to be hatin’ so shut up and draw something better.

#66 scott kurtz
December/16/2006
@ 1:31 pm

The low expectations came when the gag cartoonists took over and started chruning out boring, trite, strips about family life and office working.

And when those creators died, the low expectations continued as syndicates hired others to take over their work and keep the franchises going instead of allowing new work and new generations to come in.

How many times can we hear Cathy “ACK!” about being fat? How many Monday’s must Garfield suffer through? Mediocrity lives and thrives. Lowered expectations breathe healthy, but not on the web. It lives in these newspapers and with these syndicates…

…and nobody is reading anymore.

So you can get all pissy about the kids on the web. You can shake your fists and tell them to get off your lawn all you want.

But if you want to blame a group for mediocrity in comic strips, you need only look at the current membership of the NCS or attend a Reuben’s award ceremony.

Don’t blame Rich. At least he’s trying something new.

#67 Eric Millikin
December/16/2006
@ 3:37 pm

The idea that nobody reads newspaper comics anymore is just plain laughable, as well as contradicted by plenty of research. Every reader poll I’ve seen shows the comics pages to be some of the most-read pages in any newspaper. The five soon-to-be-Diesel-Sweeties-carrying newspapers listed above have a daily combined circulation of over a million and a half copies. For those that are really bad with math, 1.5 million is greater than nothing.

The idea that no “new work and new generations” are seen on comics pages is pretty ironic in a thread about a new comic debuting in a half dozen major metro newspapers. I know that The Seattle Times regularly gives new comics a shot (last time I read it, they had a rotating monthly new comic strip spotlight), as does The Detroit News (the News is already running several newer strips like Pooch Café, Tina’s Groove, Dog eat Doug, Lucky Cow, etc.). But do newspapers run as many new comics as the internet? Um, no, of course not.

Also, getting all “pissy” because some readers enjoy reading comics you don’t is pretty silly as well, whether you’re wetting yourself over Cathy, Gil Thorp, or Diesel Sweeties. Myself, I don’t have any kids, a soul-crushing office job, or a horrifying obesity problem that makes swimsuit shopping difficult; but I can respect that some other readers can identify with comics that address those topics. Sometime around when I was three I saw an episode of Sesame Street that explained that there are people different then me that are into things I’m not and that’s OK.

So, I’m really looking forward to seeing Diesel Sweeties in the same newspaper as Dilbert, Mallard Fillmore, Six Chix, In The Bleachers, Spider-Man, etc. Hooray for new comics and comics diversity.

#68 markt
December/16/2006
@ 4:17 pm

None of us likes to be painted with one broad brush, Scott. Suffice it to say that 95% of newspaper comics are “boring, trite, strips about family life and office working when mediocrity lives and thrives” and 95% of webcomics are amateurish, violent, crass, vulgar strips about computer geeks, gamers, and elves…agreed?

This is not a vitriloic board. Let’s try to keep it civil.

#69 Rick Stromoski
December/17/2006
@ 6:46 am

Who ate all the pies?

#70 Rick Stromoski
December/17/2006
@ 8:36 am

I just took a quick look over at the PVP site to see what I’ve been missing and randomly clicked on a few of the archived pages. Found an AD banner loudly proclaiming a fart joke, a full color page with another fart joke, a strip with a talking cat lambasting a dog for eating the cat’s poop and a guy using the lady’s room at his office……mmmmm cutting edge stuff for sure.

#71 steve s
December/17/2006
@ 4:27 pm

As far as stellar art in the newspapers due to the size constraints it’s hard to get too detailed. DS is a great strip (for those of us who get it) and for those who don’t, that’s fine. The fact is if this is a successful launch and a big hit you can rest assured the syndicates will take note and search the web for the next hit. Good luck R Stevens. You’ve got a lot of people rooting for you.

#72 The Poster Formally known as Mike
December/18/2006
@ 2:35 am

Rick, while I have to agree with the point you just made, I will say that I have enjoyed PvP from time to time. That doesn’t invalidate your point, and I don’t particularly agree with everything that Scott said either….but he does have a point also.

Too many editors I think want to play it safe. The Born Loser or Hi and Lois may not make you laugh but they won’t offend anyone either. Perhaps if DS makes a splash they’ll be more apt to try and update their comics pages.

#73 The Poster Formally known as Mike
December/18/2006
@ 2:45 am

Oh, and by the way Rick, I just wanted to tell you that the “Satan’s lap” strip cracked me up. :)

#74 Anon
December/18/2006
@ 7:48 am

How about a break for some levity?

http://www.gocomics.com/lio/2006/12/17/

#75 Scott Kurtz
December/18/2006
@ 9:50 am

Rick, nobody knows who you are. So you can’t even make fart jokes work, apparently.

Newspaper comic strips are total crap. They have been for years. They are nothing but boring, unfunny, recycled, stale non-humor.

If you ask someone my age or younger if they read any strips in the newspaper, you’ll probably hear them mention either Get Fuzzy or Foxtrot and both of those strips are, at best, the top of the mediocre pile.

All, I’m trying to say is that you can get all bent out of shape about Diesel Sweeties if you want, and you can rally against Ted Rall all you want. You can say that you don’t get the humor and make predictions of impeding failure.

What you can’t do is blame the web for the lowerin of standards in the medium of comic strips. Because the people on the web have been striving to do the opposite for the last decade.

What have people in newspapers been doing the last 10 years?

More of the same.

#76 The Poster Formally Known as Mike
December/18/2006
@ 10:54 am

Whoa! Scott, don’t you think you’re being a bit antagonistic? (and for the record, I knew who Rick was). Not every newspaper strip is “crap” and not every web comic is either. Either one of you could probably cite examples to try prove your points. What does that prove?

We don’t need to start attacking each other over this. Its pointless and not helping anyone. Actually, I find it disappointing and childish. I’d like to think we’re all on the same side…the side of the art and the craft, here.

There are people trying to improve the state of comics on both mediums I think. Maybe we should be discussing ideas and ways to make things better on both sides rather than arguing over who sucks.

#77 Rick Stromoski
December/18/2006
@ 10:56 am

>>.Rick, nobody knows who you are. So you canâ??t even make fart jokes work, apparently.
Newspaper comic strips are total crap. They have been for years. They are nothing but boring, unfunny, recycled, stale non-humor.

Given the prediliction of it in every other strip on the PVP site, crap seems to be the predominent theme in Kurtz world. Those who live in glass outhouses shouldn’t throw their excrement.

#78 Dan Bielinski
December/18/2006
@ 11:29 am

Come on, y’all. Alan has asked us a few times to chill out on the attacks.
This oppurtunity for Rich has got to be exciting. And not just for him, but for all of us. Maybe this strip could help turn a page in the medium. Yeah, we all know about the “legend” strips in the paper, but there are a lot of new strips lately that I think are pretty good. I see progression. Rich getting syndicated is just another step forward.

#79 Sean C
December/18/2006
@ 12:07 pm

Ooh, is the next big feud Rick Stromoski vs. Scott Kurtz? I wouldn’t know who to root for there – Rick came to my high school art class and actually taught us some real useful information about cartooning – so I do owe him for kinda helping me get started.

Can we really claim webcomics are really THAT much more fresh given the glut of unfunny gaming, sprite, and American-made manga on the web. There are plenty of fantastic webcomics out there, but the medium as a whole has its flaws and strips dragging it down. Let’s be real – there’s plenty of crap in both worlds, here.

It’s strips like DS that are helping to not only bridge the digital and newspaper comics world, it’s going to be one that helps push the envelope – given its premise – and could help get more creative freedom for newspaper comics as a whole. Doonesbury has been hidden away in most editorial sections because it’s political – it should be in the funnies with all the other comics. It’s that kind of censorship and editorial cowardice that hurt comics as a whole. There are tons of great strips on the web that will never get a shot at syndication because they would be too “controversial”, but are accepted on the web. They go with “safe” strips that are well-established and overly tame to the point they just aren’t enjoyable. It suffocates talented creators.

So come on – don’t bicker. Congrats again, Rich. You’re a trailblazer, man.

#80 Maritza Campos
December/18/2006
@ 12:21 pm

DS -or webcomics in general, for that matter- might not be the more traditional cartoonists’ cup of tea. It’s totally understandable.

You know what? I hate computer animation. To me, nothing compares to the flexibility and charm of traditional animation. But it’s hardly done anymore.

Change is inevitable, even in the apparently unmovable world of syndicated comic strips. Yes it is, or we’d have little nemos and krazy kats all over the place. Some would say that would be awesome. I say it would be awesome to have more traditionally animated movies.

But it’s not happening. So instead, we should look at it without rending our garments about it.

While Diesel Sweeties will, for many people, “setting low standards” for cartooning -and no argument will convince them of its quality- it will also hopefully bring some good things for more traditional cartoonists. For example, it will make the funnies page appealing for the younger generations. If newspapers are not appealing for the younger generations, they are condemned to extinction. And then there will be no funnies. Good, bad, awesome, crappy. There will be no funny pages.

Maritza
CRFH.net

#81 Rick Stromoski
December/18/2006
@ 12:44 pm

>>>Ooh, is the next big feud Rick Stromoski vs. Scott Kurtz?

Who’s Scott Kurtz?

I’d hate to call this anything other than what it is. I have a problem with people publicly denegrating other peoples work whether it’s the intial posts here lambasting Rstevens new launch or SK calling the NCS mediocre crap merchants.

Some will accuse me of denegrating Kurtzs site. If you’re going to publicly insult 600 working artists work, you’re going to have to offer an illustration of what you do as being a superior product. From the random exploration of what Scott offers, I simply observed a prediliction of toilet humor and happen to disagree with his vision that scatalogical humor is innovative cutting edge material that should rightfully replace what’s currently in syndication and deserves higher consideration than my fellow NCS members. I certainly saw nothing there that justifies him sitting in harsh judgement of fellow professional colleagues.

If you’re going to initiate an unprovoked attack on peoples livelyhoods, prepare for people to react to it. Perhaps it’s best to wish R Stevens well and just work on our own careers.

#82 Lefitte
December/18/2006
@ 12:49 pm

Rumors of the death of newspapers are greatly exaggerated. Their bottom lines are between 15% and 25%. I work in management for a grocery store chain, industry-wide, we make between 1% and 2%. Yet, no one is calling for the death of the grocery store.

Newspapers are adjusting and no doubt losing print circulation, but they’re also picking up huge amounts of readership on their web sites. And anecdotally, I know that I may read cnn.com for national news but I always go to my local paper’s site for local news.

I like DS and I think strips like DS will appeal to the people who are going to the newspapers Web sites … where the readers are headed.

And for all those who decry how poor newspaper strips are I would suggest all of the following: Get Fuzzy, Monty, Pearls Before Swine, Lio, Ink Pen, Bad Reporter, Tom the Dancing Bug, Speed Bump, Pooch Cafe, The Duplex, The Flying McCoys, NonSequitur, F Minus, Brewster Rockit, Retail, Frazz. All of which I would put up against any of the “best” Web comics.

#83 Alan Gardner
December/18/2006
@ 1:23 pm

I remind all readers, that Ted Rall has offered to answer any questions regarding Diesel Sweeties. I’ve only received two emails. If I can interject any suggestions into this discussion – it is to take this opportunity to ask questions from TED that might provide some understanding – rather than throwing verbal bombs at each other.

#84 The Poster Formally Known as Mike
December/18/2006
@ 1:57 pm

Agreed, Alan. I tried to play peacemaker in this discussion, but obviously I failed….

#85 aaron
December/18/2006
@ 2:08 pm

Lefitte…Well said. Best post of the week. There’s not a lot of industries out there with that big of a profit margin as newspapers. But these industries also aren’t suffering as much as the local paper, either. Can be great for investors, but for employees it’s can get depressing at times.
I’ve seen the good, the bad, and downright ugly in both newspaper strips and online comics. I hope DS is successful (doesn’t appear at this time to flip my pancake, but I can give it time). Man, I hope ANYTHING is successful in the newspaper — the comic strip industry can use all the help it can get.

#86 Scott Kurtz
December/18/2006
@ 3:16 pm

As always happens in forum threads, my original point has been totally lost in a “thread creep.”

So let me restate it.

The only people responsible for the lowering of standards within the medium of the American Comic Strip are the people currently working the newspaper syndication circuit right now.

Trust me when I say that the future of the American Comic strip is not finding the next team to take over Blondie or Hi & Lois. It’s certainly not reruns of Peanuts.

Now you can dislike the work of Ted Rall and R. Stevens, but at least they have a plan beyond “continue to run our current crop and replace the creative teams once they die.”

I never brought my own work into it. I’m talking about Ted and Rich, here.

#87 Cody
December/18/2006
@ 3:26 pm

Scott I agree that the syndicates and newspapers should make it their goal and obligation to bring inovative comics to the public. But in addition to the fact that Blondie and other old strips make a sack-load of loot, they are also still popular with a large part of the newspaper readership. Blondie consistantly finishes near the top of most comic surveys. Perhaps you would like to replace the readers too.

#88 Eric Millikin
December/18/2006
@ 3:53 pm

Scott, there are at least four very distinct groups of people responsible for the state of newspaper comics: Comic creators, comic syndicates, newspaper editors, and readers. As long as there is reader demand for Peanuts (newspaper surveys and sales of Fantagraphics Compete Panuts books show there clearly is a very large demand) then newspapers will continue to give those readers what they want.

Think about: There’a a huge retiring baby boomer population with lots of money to spend and lots of free time that likes to kick back with a newspaper and read those classic comics. Your getting frustrated that large circulation newspapers appeal to multiple groups of people rather than just your own has you sounding like a cranky old man well before your time. Personally, I’d love to see more newspapers carry “Attitude” style comics, and that’s what I’ve told the editors of the papers I read.

What newspaper do you read that has you so worked up? What comics do they run?

#89 mooncity
December/18/2006
@ 4:16 pm

Scott, I do a webcomic. While it’s nothin’ fancy, and nobody will likely ever know who I am, I have a very high regard for what you’ve done to promote/build the webcomic as a legitimate venue for cartoonists. However, I’m not sure you’re being entirely fair to the NCS. I think you’d hafta admit, not all webcomics are winners, either. In fact, giving allowances for the space of the Internet vs. the space available in the papers, the ratio of good comics to bad comics are probably similar; for every PVP, there’s a Get Fuzzy. For every Cathy/Hi & Lois/etc., there are a hundred humor webcomics that aren’t so good. Readers of the paper are not the same as the webcomic audience. Many have likely never so much as looked a webcomic, but Blondie has been there in print for years, is friendly and familliar. And you can’t get away with the “edgy” language and concepts you can in a webcomic, because newspaper readers would simply not accept that on the funny pages. You may be right that the comics have suffered a malaise, but I think it’s more because the syndicates want to play it safe, not necessarily the cartoonists. The syndicates hafta sell the comics nationwide to papers with a wide socio-political spectrum of readers. If it “won’t play in Peoria,” they may not want to risk launching it.

If possible, maybe you could point out some concrete examples to make your point; here’s what’s awesome about DS/PVP/Penny-Arcade, etc., that you won’t ever find in Hi & Lois/Get Fuzzy/Frazz, etc., and here’s why it’s better. Is it the linework, the writing, the ideas, all three, or something else?

#90 Eric Millikin
December/18/2006
@ 4:52 pm

Oh, of course Scott’s not being fair to the NCS — he’s just mad about something or other, and he’s talking from his heart, not from his brain, with nothing to actually back it up other than “trust me when I say.”

It’s not really clear what he’s mad about (somebody somewhere on the internet doesn’t like the same comics he likes?) but what ever it is it’s clearly not worth insulting every recent NCS award winner, from Gahan Wilson, Arnold Roth, and Ralph Steadman to Frank Cho, Matt Groening, and Mike Luckovich. Just like if somebody doesn’t like one of the cartoons in the Attitude books, it’s not a really good reason to insult every single artist in them.

But, you know, sometimes when people get mad about something, they toss clumsy insults at large groups of people. Yeah, it’s all pretty silly.

#91 Sean C
December/18/2006
@ 4:59 pm

Great points, Mooncity.

Webcomics are starting to get notice in some fringe papers; The Valley Advocate, a freebie in my area, carries Perry Bible Fellowship and (for a while) had The Thinking Ape Blues. Now, you wouldn’t see those in the major papers because the content would be upsetting to the established older readership and parents who don’t want their children exposed to “that kind of material”.

We need to face the fact that the incredible freedom of the internet we’ve enjoyed is a double-edged sword. While we can be creativly fulfilled, it makes it a hell of a lot harder to make a living doing it – you have to cowtow to editors or risk being dropped. It will take time, but the demographics are slowly beginning to change, and, as I said, small papers are starting to carry webcomics; it’s going to take some time, but there will eventually be room for fresh, edgier work. Ten years ago you wouldn’t even see a comic like Pearls Before Swine getting syndicated – some of the humor there is a bit risque for papers.

But the comics section in newspapers is held to standards the PUBLIC demands. Some papers are beginning to drop Garfield, Cathy, and the like, and have been experiencing massive reader backlash because of it. It’s going to take a concentrated effort by younger readers (Unfortunatly, there just aren’t that many.) to start to get some new material in there. Gary Tyrell had it right when he encouraged people to mail the editors themselves to call for new strips to replace tired, worn out, coasting old strips that get by on name alone – that’s what it is going to take.

I’ve been lucky in that I have a subscription to The Republican, a Western Massachusetts paper that not only has two full pages of comics, but they have staff artists that colorize them daily – there is no more black and white in my paper. They reach out to the readers, asking what they think of new comics, and they rotate strips to keep the pages fresh. Now, not all papers are like that, but if the readers reach out to the editors, then some real progress can be made.

#92 Scott Kurtz
December/18/2006
@ 6:04 pm

Are you guys seriously citing newspaper reader polls as a means of measuring that Blondie is still a decent comic strip?

A newspaper reader poll measures which comics (of a set list) are favorites among the small percentage of people who bother to respond to newspaper polls.

If you asked a group of 100 people, which they would prefer, a kick to the groin or a spoonfull of dirt, and 95% of the people chose to eat the dirt, would you claim that dirt is sweeping the nation as a hot new snack sensation?

Yeah. 90% of the senior citizens that responded to the Seattle News Inquisitor’s comic strip poll responded they liked Blondie over Peanuts. Probably because it reminds them of the good ‘ol days more.

Those strips make newspapers and syndicates money because newspaper editors buy them the most. And the reason those strips are bought the most is because they are guaranteed to generate the least amount of negative letters for the editors to deal with.

Look, the same thing is happening in comic books. You have companies that are desperately trying to keep 40-50 year old properties fresh by reinventing them and repackaging them. But at least in comic books there is an open playing field for the new guard to come in every generation and get a foothold themselves. At least comic BOOKS encourage that growth and progress.

And Milikin, everyone is reading English just fine in here. Nobody needs you to translate what I’m saying or provide commentary on my motives. It’s clear what I’m trying to say so stop attempting to dismiss me as some kook.

This has been fun, guys. I’ve been on vacation all this week so I’ve had time to partake in diversions like this. It’s been a while. I’ve been pretty busy.

#93 Alan Gardner
December/18/2006
@ 6:46 pm

It has been fun. Kinda like going to the dentist kinda fun. In all seriousness, this has been a good debate. What I take away from it is that if Bill Watterson was to launch C&H right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if the reaction would be the same as above. Everyone in the industry seems so jaded and set in their belief that all comic strips are bad – sigh :(

#94 Scott Kurtz
December/18/2006
@ 7:27 pm

Oh, I don’t know about that. Calvin and Hobbess was an outstanding strip. Bill was an incredible artist who probably stayed in too long, but it was hard to let go. He started repeating himself, but then again, don’t we all.

In my opinion, C&H would be received with open arms if it started now.

How could you look at one of those Sundays and not get excited?

#95 Eric Millikin
December/18/2006
@ 7:43 pm

OK, Scott, see if you can explain this to us morons really slowly and in English: If the choice in newspaper comics is only between “a kick to the groin or a spoonfull of dirt,” and a half dozen major newspapers’ editors and readers decide to go with Diesel Sweeties, did they choose the kick in the groin or the spoonful of dirt?

Or are you grossly oversimplifying the situation, and just needlessly insulting readers, artists, editors, syndicates, etc?

#96 Scott Kurtz
December/18/2006
@ 8:01 pm

I didn’t call anyone a moron, Eric. Those are your words. I was making the opposite point. Maybe instead of trying to catch me in some fallacy, you could just read what I’m saying.

To answer your question:

If half a dozen major newspaper’s editors chose to go with Diesel Sweeties, then that means out of all the papers that were offered DS, only 6 decided to offer their readers something other than groin kicks and dirt spoons.

Again, maybe you should just read what I’m saying instead of trying to find some error in my logic or find some way to “stick it to me.”

#97 Eric Millikin
December/18/2006
@ 8:06 pm

So, Diesel Sweeties is the only syndicated newspaper comic that’s not a groin kick or a dirt spoon?

What newspaper are you reading again?

#98 Dan Bielinski
December/18/2006
@ 8:43 pm

See what you did, Rich? You’ve started WWIII by getting syndicated. The only way to restore peace to the galaxy is to stop drawing the strip immediately.

#99 JT
December/18/2006
@ 9:16 pm

I agree the readers polls are a horrible way to create a comics page. Some of the old strips are painful to read (…one recent “old” strip had a character working at a computer and it was clear that the strip’s creator had no idea how computers actually worked.)
Creating a regular comic for the web or for print is a lot of work…I’m sure we can all agree on that. So sometimes the criticism of new strips is born more out of frustration with the limited industry and the poor financial rewards than with the potential of the new feature. DS is different and will surely stand out on most current comics pages. But I think different right now might help trigger a change. Perhaps that’s Ted Rall’s mission…the punk movement in print comics!

I also wonder if Calvin and Hobbes would be shredded if it were launched right now. Most of us on here started reading comics as kids and those “friendly” strips inspired us to create our own. The race to create “edgy” strips is fine but don’t forget that the newspaper comics page has to have something for everyone.

…I sound like an after school special…

Rich good luck with DS! If this thread is any indication your feature is attracting strong reactions and that can only be good.

#100 David
December/18/2006
@ 9:20 pm

Geez, what were we talking about again? haha …

Seriously, though… Scott, my good man, being a reader of your comic strip, which I enjoy, it’s funny … I find your comments about “newspaper” comic creators as a whole (and the very talented Rick Stromoski) and their creations to be, much like the commentary and writing in your own comic strip, very disrespectful and dismissive of anyone who seems to be able to make it in syndication, unlike someone who tried to give their creation away, and could not. Probably for much the same reason… the general public is smarter than that … smarter than those who think a steady diet of disrespectful, rude and in-your-face work is “new” and “edgy” and “the next big thing.” If this is your, and anyone else’s definition of “edgy” and new, no thank you. We get enough of that in other media slammed down our throats (it’s inescapable). Just because something is “edgy” (and the same can be said for something “popular” and long-standing in some cases in newspaper comics as well, in all fairness) doesn’t necessarily make it “good.” Perhaps the comic strips in newspapers offer that one last bastion of respect to all, and just good, clean fun. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But one such as yourself, and many others wouldn’t get that. Of course, you don’t have kids either, do you. That opens one’s eyes quickly … reminds one of what they want to actually contribute and say to the world for their kids and others. Wake up … there’s nothing wrong with good, clean fun, family values, respect for others, baseball and apple pie, etc … the general public can only stomach so many fart jokes. But then, we all do love a “good” fart joke now and then, too, I know I do.
That’s the beauty of this thread and Alan’s blog. It brings together differing opinions, but we all share one thing in common … we all care for and love comics enough to opine about them.
What would Sparky do? That’s what I often ask myself. I think Sparky would be respectful, wish Mr. Stevens good luck, and congratulations on getting syndicated, to keep working hard and be sure that while the writing is the key to comics, their true beauty lies in their funny pictures.
It’s not “us” vs. “them” in this biz. We all just wanna draw funny pictures. Good luck Rich!!

#101 Alan Gardner
December/18/2006
@ 10:55 pm

Scott – your’re looking at C&H from what you know about the strip now. If all you had was announcement that Universal Press was going start syndicating a strip about a yellow headed kid with a fancy for mischief – I suspect there would be a vocal segment of the comic fan population that would cry foul that it was a rerun of Dennis the Menace.

So what I didn’t communicate well before is that any unproven strip going into syndication is going to have skeptics.

#102 Revengeofpandattack
December/18/2006
@ 11:16 pm

PVP is a goodstrip, just cause he tried to get syndicated and tried to give away his strip and was unsuccessful, but that does not make his strip unsuccessful. He can be funny and his line work is good. I don;t think Scott is trying to always be funny with his strip thought. I think he uses his strip to make us think and for that I will always appreciate it.

#103 Scott Kurtz
December/18/2006
@ 11:19 pm

The papers would not run my URL, which was the only requirement for getting my strip free of charge. Their reasoning was that some newspaper reader might follow the url back to my site, read something they didn’t like, and send the paper a letter. And we all know that letters can destroy newspapers.

There’s no point in giving the strip away for free if there is no benefit to me. And I could not get the papers to keep my URL in.

Some papers would run the URL, but only wanted certain gags from PvP. Some only wanted technology gags, some only wanted relationship gags. Some wanted storylines, others wanted NO storylines…gags only.

It was really awful and disappointing. There were, of course, some really great editors (the KC star, the Philly paper that ran PvP), that totally got it and made trying worth it for me. And seeing PvP on the same page as the strips I grew up idolizing was a fantastic feeling…albiet a fleeting one. Once those editors would move on to other positions or jobs, the new guy would start removing URLs or dropped the strip.

It was a frustrating mess and impossible to stay on top of. The fans would email me everytime the strip would be dropped or run without a URL, I would call the editor and he would just give me the run around or not take my call.

Ugh. I never want to do that again. EVER! Maybe one day the climate for that will be better. But it’s not NOW.

And I’m sorry if suddenly everyone feels that Rick and the newspaper cartoonists were ganged up on by me. Honestly all I was doing was running to the defense of Rich and Ted and what they’re trying to do. I wasn’t the one who blamed DS for the lowering of expectations on the comics page. I wasn’t the one who came in here and started beating on Diesel Sweeties. I came in to defend it.

Remember, if anything I said makes you feel sad or down, you can always open up any newspaper tomorrow and catch the latest Cathy or Garfield or Blondie to cheer you up.

I bet Dagwood is going to have a sandwich and then take a nap. “Snxxxx” indeed.

#104 I call BS
December/18/2006
@ 11:36 pm

You saying they didn’t run your pvp url is a convenient way out of accepting your “give it away” exercise as being a failure. Why would editors have such a hard time with your url but no other comic strips on thier page? You say you had such big editor fans, yet they couldn’t oversee the simple procedure of includling a url. Oh, I know, they all left and were outsourced because of their renegade behavior regarding your strip. I say poppycock.

In my estimation, I’d contend that you’re trying to justify the fact that no one wanted your strip or responded to it … in its brief, very fun, free of charge run. And unless you can produce some sort of material evidence, it shall be my interpretation against yours.

Maybe the syndicates will look at your strip again if you submit it, Scott. You’re oozing with talent.

#105 Scott Kurtz
December/18/2006
@ 11:53 pm

Does anyone even READ what I post?

#106 mooncity
December/18/2006
@ 11:59 pm

Scott, I’d like your take on something. A lot of webcomics seem to go with the PG-13 or R-Rated content. DS, Penny-Arcade, even PVP now and then goes for the coarse language, body-function humor, and whatnot. Is that trend a good thing? Bad thing? And when do you think the papers will ever be ready for that? Will there still be a place for a G or PG-rated comic on the web down the road apiece?

#107 Alan Gardner
December/19/2006
@ 12:17 am

All,
I think the conversation at this point (and probably much earlier) has quite veered from the original topic and I’m ready to enforce rule number 4 of the rules for commenting on this blog.

If you want to talk about Diesel Sweetie, please continue to post. Otherwise, I’ll start deleting posts and/or turning off comments comletely.

I hate to take it to this level, but I think we could all use a break.

#108 Scott Kurtz
December/19/2006
@ 12:19 am

I dunno. I think PvP is actually pretty tame compared to other things. I never use the big curse words.

But you know, papers can’t run that stuff, and that’s completely understandable. They shouldn’t have to run that stuff. It’s a family paper.

Farts are no big deal. I’m not sure why everyone gets so up in arms about it. It’s a joke 3 year olds make.

The problem is that even when you don’t use bad words or do something really explicit, you can’t talk about it in papers.

I can mention sex, without being explicit or graphic. But I can’t talk about that stuff as freely in newspapers. So the freedom is nice.

But no, I don’t expect papers to run that stuff. There are places for that. Comic books, alternative and college papers, etc.

I think it’s unrealistic for people to expect a big family paper to take on those kinds of strips.

#109 Dan Bielinski
December/19/2006
@ 12:23 am

Agreed, Alan. This has been fun. Good Luck Rich!

#110 Ted Duffy
December/25/2006
@ 4:47 pm

You know, someone said “Why would editors have such a hard time with your url but no other comic strips on thier page?” – I don’t recall seeing any other strip with their own website on it in the paper. Sure, some have their syndicate’s URL hidden in the sidebar, but “http://unitedfoowibblesyndicate.com/funnypages/drinkytheduck” is different from “pvponline.com” in the strip.

#111 D. D. Degg
December/26/2006
@ 9:08 am

You may want to check out archiecomics.com, babyblues.com, baldocomics.com, bizarro.com, blondie.com, mrboffo.com, bucklescomics.com,…
Well, you get the idea. Plenty of strips list their own websites on the funny pages.

#112 Sara
December/28/2006
@ 2:50 am

Well, DS already has people talking, and it’s not even out yet! Whether or not you think it’s good or bad, it’s certainly noteworthy.

Good luck, Rich! I’ve already sent a letter to my local paper (St. Paul Pioneer Press) in support of you, so hopefully we’ll see some action in the Twin Cities!

#113 Chris Hardiman
January/3/2008
@ 8:27 pm

Okay, I don’t want to reinvigorate the “Diesel Sweeties” flame war, but after reading “Diesel Sweeties” in my newspaper for one year now I have finally decided that I simply don’t like it. I tried to like it, I tried to give it a chance, and I gave it one whole year. But the pixellated art, the style of humor, the characters…I just couldn’t make myself like any of it, and frankly I can’t see what makes it so young and hip, other than being in a different style (and I’m young, so don’t tell me I’m too old to understand or something). Apologies to R. Stevens, but it’s not my kind of strip.

#114 Quint Nelson
January/4/2008
@ 12:52 am

So here’s a prime example of why newspapers continue to run the garbage from the 1940’s and 50’s…King Features loves people like Chris…”I don’t like anything different, so it’s gotta go!”

#115 Lefitte
January/4/2008
@ 7:41 am

I don’t think that’s fair. Chris gave it a year (not a month) and outlined specifically what he didn’t like about it.

#116 Greg Spence
January/4/2008
@ 12:31 pm

Can I just pop in and say that I kinda like Diesel Sweeties?

It’s not my favorite, for sure, and I think r steven’s online offerings are often funnier, since he doesn’t have to worry about offending the old biddies. But I think DS has an interesting, cynical wit to it. It’s far less predicatable than the bulk of what’s offered on the comics page these days, to be sure.

I mean, I turn the comics page, and Cathy Is Still Fat, Marmaduke Is Still A Big Dog, Ziggy Is Still Depressed, and Funky Winkerbean Is Still An Endless Black Void Of Human Misery And Despair (getting off-topic here, sorry). Then DS goes and makes a joke about the Gold Standard. Or explores some quirk in the relationship between technology and humans.

It’s different. Maybe too different for the newspaper comic page. I think there’s an audience for this sort of thing, but they gave up on the comic pages ages ago.

#117 Chris Hardiman
January/4/2008
@ 2:07 pm

Quint,
As Leffite said, I did give it a year and I do have specific reasons for not liking it. I also am not saying that it should be cancelled just because I don’t like it; I’m sure some people do and I respect that.

However, in my defense, most of the comic strips that I like are pretty new, such as “Pearls Before Swine,” “Pooch Cafe,” “Lio,” “Ink Pen,” “Big Top,” “Get Fuzzy,” and “F Minus.” Furthermore, I am not a fan of the legacy strips and longtime holdovers that you mentioned. Just because I didn’t like one of the new strips doesn’t make my tastes out-of-date, especially since (a) if you read this thread there are a lot of other people who don’t like it and (b) I am actually very young.

Just because something new doesn’t mean it’s great, you know.

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