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Scott Kurtz calls on Bill Amend to save the comics

Scott Kurtz is hoping to save comics and is openly soliciting help from Bill Amend to make a 1989 statement made by Bill Watterson come true – that comics can be improved with (and without) the syndicate’s cooperation.

In essence, Scott is proposing that someone from the established cartooning industry (Bill Amend) can get together with a group from the web comics world and come up with something new to revitalize the industry.

The syndicates are failing online. Comics.com, Comics Sherpa, Ucomics. Nobody cares. They’re hiring hipsters to bring new talent into their existing system but they meet resistance with such piecemeal actions I think.

More and more I’ve been wondering if there’s a halfway point where we can all meet. What we need is a bridge. Someone who understands both sides and can work with both sides. Someone who has the time, which means someone who’s probably retired from comics or is superhuman in is ability to meet his daily syndicate schedule. Someone who is willing and able to work alongside or outside is syndicate contractual obligations.

Bill Amend recently quit his daily Foxtrot commitment to work on new things. How about working on something like this, Bill? Michael Jantze took his syndicated strip “The Norm” out of papers and offered it online via subscriptions. Why not expand that business? Bill Holbrook draws an online comic strip alongside his newspaper strips. Why not help us create something new for papers, Bill?

Let’s imagine the possibilities. What if there were a Keenspot or Blank Label hub that had Bill Amend’s next big comic strip on it? What if it combined the works of well known syndicated cartoonists as well as the best of the new guard. What could we all learn from each other’s experiences and build something new. Something that both worked with the papers and outside of them simultaneously?

How long are we going to wait for this to happen for real? Who are we waiting for to make this happen for us? Who are we leaving it up to? Do you want the newspapers and syndicates setting this up? Do you want to leave it up to the old guard and their fears of the web? Do you want to leave it in the hands of the new upstarts who are passionate but inexperienced and unknown? What’s the pragmatic choice here? Isn’t it our responsibility to at least try? What if Bill Watterson said “I’m starting something” instead of saying “Somebody should start something.” Maybe nothing, but maybe something incredible.

If I might be so bold as to infer that what Scott is really asking is someone with name recognition and clout to help create this next big whatever it is. The problem being – nobody knows what “it” is and no amount of name recognition is going to make a “whatever” a reality unless it’s defined first – otherwise you have a committee and name the last great thing to ever come from a committee.

Hat tip to TCJ Journalista for pointing me to this issue.

Community Comments

#1 Charles Brubaker
January/11/2007
@ 9:22 am

That’s interesting post.

I said it once and I’ll say it again: reading comics in print is better than a goddamn monitor. And I sometimes wish internet was never invented (yet sometimes I’m glad because it’s THE best place to find obscure information in seconds)

#2 Charles Brubaker
January/11/2007
@ 10:12 am

Sorry to double post, but I think I got an idea. Feel free to chime in.

I’m thinking of a weekly magazine, each issue being 30 to 50 pages long and each issue contains one page of different comics. It’d be like MAD Magazine, except more tamer and has the feel of Sunday comics.

It’d be something like “Weekly Sunday Comics” and it’d be like a magazine full of Sunday comics that can be read nation wide, and it would be separate from newspapers.

Hey, just a thing I came up. Maybe it won’t work, but maybe it will.

#3 Rick Stromoski
January/11/2007
@ 10:14 am

To quote Scott Kurtz on this forum from just a month ago:

“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 Reubenâ??s award ceremony.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, youâ??ll probably hear them mention either Get Fuzzy or Foxtrot and both of those strips are, at best, the top of the mediocre pile.”

I’m certain that many established syndicated cartoonists will jump at the chance to work with Scott on his proposal.

#4 Danny Burleson
January/11/2007
@ 11:08 am

First of all, Scott Kurtz has always rubbed me the wrong way with his “I’m so great because PVP is the best webcomic ever, says me” attitude. Second of all, I entirely agree with him.

I remember reading the referenced Bill Watterson comments at the time, that “someone” should make a better system for presenting comic strips. And to this day I’ve wondered, “Why not you, Bill?” But no, he quit. Not only did he quit, but he has hid for over 10 years now.

Ultimately, I believe, taking away syndicated comics’ last chance at redemption. While I can understand bowing out of Calvin and Hobbes while it was still good, I don’t understand how someone with such… ‘strong opinions’ about the state of the industry, could justify abandoning it altogether. He had enough clout to get his Sunday comic bigger didn’t he? Why not help to better everything else?

But, if all his anti-computer/tehcnology strips and personal comments about not wanting to have e-mail, etc. are any indication, Bill Watterson is just as afraid of changing the establishment as those he complained about. Afraid of change and anything that’s different, unless of course it falls in line with his pre-determined ideals of how things should be.

While Scott’s big plans for “something” are rather vague, I think I have an idea of what he’s hinting at. And if I’m right, we do need the help of the established cartoonists willing to let go of the old ideals and try something new. Cause Scott’s right, syndicated comics are going down the toilet. Not only are newpapers falling by the wayside, the comics that are there… suck.

I can count on one hand the number of current newspaper comics that are worth reading; two fingers for the ones that are “good”. On the flip-side, there are lots of webcomics that are not only worth reading, but are better than most of the ones in print. That is assuming they’re updated often enough for one to read them regularly.

Bottom-line, a hybrid system is in order. The Old guard is fading away, the New guard is, at best, unreliable. Whether or not Bill Amend is the man for the job, remains to be seen. But if other syndicated cartoonists can jump on the bandwagon and help smooth out the details of the “whatevers” and “somethings”, I think something good can come out of this.

If, as Scott suggested, we can meet somewhere in the middle, it will help both sides to be strengthened, rather then one dying out while the other limps along down the road of mediocrity. And since I don’t think the Internet is going anywhere anytime soon, webcomics will be the limpers and syndicated comics will cease to exist.

#5 Rick Stromoski
January/11/2007
@ 11:22 am

I’m not sure that calling out professional peers and telling them that their work is mediocre and sucks is the best way to get those people to help you further your career.

#6 Danny Burleson
January/11/2007
@ 11:43 am

“Iâ??m not sure that calling out professional peers and telling them that their work is mediocre and sucks is the best way to get those people to help you further your career.”

…Except, if the way their work is presented were updated for today’s age, it might help it to *not* suck is what I think Scott’s trying to say.

#7 Lurker behind the keyboard
January/11/2007
@ 11:48 am

Scott may have some good points, but he’s a bit advesarial in the way he says it.

#8 Jonathan
January/11/2007
@ 12:00 pm

I like Charles Brubaker’s idea about a weekly comic magazine. I enjoy the New Yorker every week and I could see a similar publication work for comics. Something that combines the best of print and web comics along with commentary and profiles. The Music industry has weekly publications to promote itself, why not comics?
I know the reality is publishing costs money etc. etc. but this is an interesting starting point.

#9 brian
January/11/2007
@ 12:29 pm

Simply stated, you can’t lump print comics or webcomics into a single entity. Each one is it’s own living, breathing world and the public (web surfers or newspaper subscribers) ultimately determine what becomes successful and what doesn’t.

I was a webcomic first (still am) before my syndication deal. Even when I first started DeD, all I heard from webcomicers was that newspaper comics sucked and syndicates are evil. Not every webcomicer but a lot. Syndicates aren’t evil. Even if a cartoonist thought they were, all they need to do is never sign a deal. I’m sure Bill Watterson was aware of all the terms of his contract before signing it.

So it stumps me to why a cartoonist like Scott who hates newspaper comics and syndicates keeps trying at every turn to get into newspapers?

I think cartoonists should focus firstly on their product. They should be most concerned with the quality and passion they put into it. Whether it goes to print or lives online, a good strip will find an audience.

#10 Mark
January/11/2007
@ 12:33 pm

I kind of like Charles Brubaker’s idea. A slick magazine like “Mad” might be something nice. It could and should be commandeered by an editorial staff interested in showcasing the best of the offbeat, irreverent comics out there (a staff with the sensibilities of “Spy” and “National Lampoon” magazines in their heydays).
Perhaps Scott Adams could have a hand in it, or Robert Mankoff from the “New Yorker”…people who truly know from funny.
I’m just sounding off here, of course. There’s no telling how one would go about raising the money to launch such a project, or how eager advertisers would be to vie for ad space.

#11 Jonathan
January/11/2007
@ 12:56 pm

Actually what I thought was interesting about the magazine idea was that it could be something that benefits all, including the syndicates. By having a publication that caters to comic fans in general what a great place to advertise a new innovative feature. (No it would not be a place for legacy strips.) Something similar to the indie film or music industries…both hugely profitable industries within larger mainstream industries.

#12 Alan Gardner
January/11/2007
@ 1:00 pm

Hasn’t this already been done? I vaguely remember something like this being tried. Anyone have a better/clearer recollection?

#13 Rick Stromoski
January/11/2007
@ 1:18 pm

>>>And if Iâ??m right, we do need the help of the established cartoonists willing to let go of the old ideals and try something new. Cause Scottâ??s right, syndicated comics are going down the toilet. Not only are newpapers falling by the wayside, the comics that are thereâ?¦ suck.

It’s difficult not to laugh at this entire ridiculous premise. First you insult people and then turn around and ask for their help to bolster your career. I’m becoming enamoured with web cartoonists more each day.

#14 Danny Burleson
January/11/2007
@ 1:18 pm

“Hasnâ??t this already been done? I vaguely remember something like this being tried. Anyone have a better/clearer recollection?”

I recall there used to be some kind of collection of the past month’s popular strips in a magazine type thing. I’d read it in my old chiropractor’s office about 8 years ago. But I haven’t see since, and can’t remember the name. If I remember the format correctly, some modified version of that could work.

#15 Mark
January/11/2007
@ 1:21 pm

Good point, Jonathan. Definitely no legacy strips, but the inclusion of other syndicate material would certainly broaden the readership. It would certainly play a part in attracting ad revenue.

#16 Rich
January/11/2007
@ 1:33 pm

I believe the great new idea is called The Funny Times … http://www.funnytimes.com but perhaps it isn’t exactly what you are driving at. I hear an awful lot of sour grapes in this discusion. Would anyone hear not jump at the chance to sign on with a syndicate if presented the opportunity?

#17 Danny Burleson
January/11/2007
@ 1:45 pm

“Itâ??s difficult not to laugh at this entire ridiculous premise. First you insult people and then turn around and ask for their help to bolster your career. Iâ??m becoming enamoured with web cartoonists more each day.”

Nice out of context quote to make your point. The point is that *newspapers* and *syndicates* have put such extreme restraints on comic strips that the quality of them has faltered, whether anyone wants to admit or not. While *sometimes* this is indeed the *creator’s* fault for not being crative enough, it’s mostly an *establishment* thing.

Look at what Bill Watterson did: his ‘newer’ Sunday strips were infinitely better than his ‘forced-format’ ones, yet people said he was ridiculous to request a BETTER format because of “the way things are.”

A similar change is needed across the board now(or page/screen?) What I actually find ridiculous are the comments that basically say we shouldn’t ask to change things because things are the way they are. How does THAT make any sense?

I don’t think it’s wrong to basically question the current, dusty sysytem and in turn call people on their abilities: can the truly talented ones do better in a new format? Should the mediocre ones get a reality check and either quit or learn to be better? Either way, the current setup of watered-down, syndicated tiny-boxes and the Internet free-for-all isn’t working.

We need to meet in the middle. Period.

It’s reactions like this that have kept things the way they are for so long; either accepting everything as-is because it’s familiar or just not stepping up out of fear. Scott did. Granted, he was very forceful in the way he stated things, but the underlying principle is valid, and has been valid for many years. Frankly, the guy has ticked me off for a long time. It’s because I actually agree with him that I believe he’s onto something.

#18 Corey
January/11/2007
@ 2:01 pm

You guys wanna know how and why Bill Watterson did what he did with such success? He stopped worrying about what everyone else was doing and saying and did what felt good. The moment everyone stops engaging in these long, combative and somewhat useless discussions and starts getting to work, the sooner things will change.

sheesh.

#19 Mooncity
January/11/2007
@ 2:40 pm

I’ve often wondered why Watterson’s idea of syndicate-printed comic supplements was never acted on, because it seemed to be a logical progression for comics. And Chuck’s weekly magazine idea is easily something that could be done. Heck, if Oprah can have a magazine, why not comics? MAD is probably the best template, but I don’t think limiting the content to subversive or irreverent titles is the best way to gain a broad readership. A mix of that and more traditional [new] comic content would be more ideal. I’m not sure if this is what Scott wants. I read into his comments that he seemed more interested in creating a marketing vehicle, more than creating a bold new approach for “saving” comics/webcomics in general. Regardless, if something like a “Weekly Sunday Comics” magazine indirectly comes about because of Scott’s commentary, I say good. I know I’d buy it.

#20 Rick Stromoski
January/11/2007
@ 4:06 pm

I guess I took the comment that mine and my professional peers work sucks completely out of context…perhaps you meant that in a nice way.

#21 Danny Burleson
January/11/2007
@ 5:05 pm

“I guess I took the comment that mine and my professional peers work sucks completely out of contextâ?¦perhaps you meant that in a nice way.”

Well, perhaps it was too strong a word, I did mean it more as constructive criticism than an all out bashing (I actually love comic strips, syndicated or not, it’s precisely why I’m so opinionated about them and want the best for and from those who make them.) But it doesn’t change the fact that syndicated comics are in a bad spot right now. SOME kind of change is warranted, but if no one is willing to admit there’s even a problem, then it’s only too obvious *why* things are slipping away.

I said to myself 10+ years ago, when the Internet first went widespread, that comic strips were going to start going downhill. Time has passed and I don’t really see that I’m wrong. It doesn’t mean they have to die slowly and disappear, it just means something’s gotta change. If those in the established industry are not willing to deal with that fact, despite if its presentation method is offensive, well, then therein lies the problem.

#22 Alan Gardner
January/11/2007
@ 5:32 pm

I don’t get the complaints about the state of cartooning. When was it ever better? Granted, you can cite the 80’s and 90’s when you had Far Side, Bloom County and Calvin and Hobbes, but those were only three features available out of hundred. Was this idealistic era void of legacy and/or tired ol’ strips? So what are you looking for? What do you want that you’re not getting now? Is it possible you grew up and your expectations and humor has changed? Is it not possible that what Garfield did that busted you up when you were a kid is unfunny to you now as an adult? Out of the hundreds of feature available today – are there not a handful of good features that you enjoy? Can’t you ignore the ones you don’t like? Must you expect EVERY feature to appeal directly to you?

The industry isn’t going to change. Step 1 is acceptance. What will change are the markets that will open up for really creative people. So spend more time coming up with a great story/characters/writing and less time whining about a bygone era that you can’t go back to.

Rant over. Carry on.

#23 Matt Gill
January/11/2007
@ 6:41 pm

I like Charles’ idea of a regular comic strip magazine. I much prefer my comic strips in print, and at regular and consistent intervals. But when you put comic strips in a magazine and publish it weekly or monthly, well isn’t that already something called a comic book? And isn’t the comic book industry going through similar struggles?

What I think might work is something along the lines of alternative weekly newspapers. This would be a weekly collection of comics on newsprint supplemented with local art and entertainment info–movie listings, concert and club listings, reviews, etc. Costs could be covered by advertising and the paper could be available for free on the street corners of the hipper areas of big cities. Like The Onion, it could have nationally published feature content, with localized supplemental content.

That’s my idea, at least.

#24 Norm Feuti
January/11/2007
@ 7:02 pm

I’d have to agree that the constant lament about the comic strip industry is part of the problem rather than the solution.

Anyone who is convinced that the syndicates turn out nothing but crap, is bound to see crap in everything the syndicates turn out.

#25 Pat
January/11/2007
@ 7:09 pm

I’m with you Rick. I love Burleson’s comment that saying your comic sucks is a “constructive criticism”. That’s just classic, and deserves defense.

For the record, here’s the text on Rick Stromoski’s cartoon of today.

“Men, this mission is one fraught with danger”

“Some of you may die for my cause”

“But that’s a risk I’m willing to take”
–“How presidential”

I think that’s an excellent comic, relevant, timely and funny, easy to get, quick. And the art is clear and funny to look at as well. I’d like Danny to explain how and why it “sucks”, if he wouldn’t mind.

So who is this Danny Burleson, resident comic scholar? I’d love to see his comics. Let’s see some Barnrats, man. My bet is they “suck” like crazy. I’ve looked at Scott Kurtz’s, and there’s no question whatsoever that they do.

Just for clarity of discussion, here’s a little info on our resident comic critic:

http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=144549103
______________________

Danny Burleson’s BarnRats’s Interests

General

The three C’s: Cartooning, Computers and Comic Books. I’m also into filmmaking and anything to do with WWII

Music Christian Rock, Top 40 and whatever C89.5 is playing

Movies Action/Adventure, Sci-fi, Animated, Drama, Comedy. My top three favorite films in order, are: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Braveheart and Back to the Future.

Television I mainly watch TV on DVD: Star Trek (all series), MacGyver and Batman cartoons. The only show I watch on-air is Gilmore Girls.

Books Classics, Halo, Artemis Fowl, Harry Potter and all the cartoon/comic books I can get my hands on

Heroes Bill Watterson, Charles Schulz, Patrick McDonnell

—————–

That should clarify things.

Can anybody say “Simpsons Comic Book Guy”?

#26 Pat
January/11/2007
@ 7:15 pm

Norm Feuti said:

“Anyone who is convinced that the syndicates turn out nothing but crap, is bound to see crap in everything the syndicates turn out.”

I think that’s a great observation.

#27 Rick Stromoski
January/11/2007
@ 7:26 pm

>>>Well, perhaps it was too strong a word, I did mean it more as constructive criticism than an all out bashing.

Perhaps you should be more careful when it comes to articulating your point then. Most people who are told that their work sucks would not be inclined to help the person loudly expressing that opinion.

#28 Jeff Stanson
January/11/2007
@ 7:35 pm

There have been many attempts at creating ongoing comic strip magazines, and the only one still standing is Comics Revue (I don’t include the Funny Times because it focuses on editorial cartoons rather than comic strips). However, some time back Comics Revue became pretty much a reprint magazine of legacy strips. Funny, so many here seem to knock them, but the only successful comic strip magazines have always focused on them.

To refute the intial Kurtz quote above, for me, there is one syndicate that is succeeding and that’s King Features with its DailyINK. I subscribe to it for three reasons: (1) It gives me certain still-running strips my local newspapers will no longer show me; (2) It allows me to view strips at a size that is larger and higher in resolution than what other syndicates show online, and if I want to print it, it’s high enough resolution that it doesn’t look all jagged and mottled on paper; and (3) It offers me a selection of classic strips from the vast King library, with the promise of more on the way.

For those reasons I will pay for DailyINK online and will not pay for other syndicate subscription services. I would subscribe to the others, however, if they too would offer greater resolutions and more classic comics. I just don’t see paying for a poor, low resolution image of badly drawn comics.

And, oh, did anyone notice that items 1 & 3 above relate to *gasp* legacy comics? Would I pay for someone’s attempt at creating their own new comic? Maybe — depends on the quality and subject of the new comic. But I haven’t found a Web comic yet that I’d pay for on its own merit. Can anyone recommend a quality Web adventure strip?

#29 D. D. Degg
January/11/2007
@ 8:47 pm

The Douglas A. Cohn/Jack Anderson fortnightly “Strips” comes close to that comics magazine.
Published during the 1990s it printed two weeks of strips (close to three dozen strips) a month after they had appeared in the papers.

But didn’t King Features (and others?) publish a weekly magazine with all their comics?

#30 Scott Kurtz
January/11/2007
@ 9:35 pm

I love Rick.

Grrr….Do you really expect the cartoonists you insult to help you?

No, Mr. Stromoski, I expect them to DIE!

Sorry, I couldn’t resist the Goldfinger reference.

If any syndicated cartoonist wants to participate in something like this, I expect that they’ll only do so because it interests and benefits them (and comics in general) directly.

I still think most comic strips in the paper are boring, trite and lacking of real heart and teeth (including Soup 2 Nutz, sir). And you can be upset with me about that opinion if you want, but there it is.

The inescapable truth is that my opinion is shared by the majority of the very demographic that you, the papers and the syndicates are trying to lure into your work. How’s “Mullets” working out for you these days? Still setting the world on fire?

So we can sit here all day taking shots at each other if you want, and all wish we had something better. The webbers can wish for the exposure and prestige that the syndies have. The syndicated guys can wish they had the freedom and tech savvy of the web-crowd. We can go on as we are and watch things die.

Or…we can try something new.

So what would you rather do, Rick?

#31 Pat
January/11/2007
@ 9:52 pm

You know, Scott, it doesn’t matter what -you- think of Rick’s comic strip. Your opinion is irrelevant. The papers’ readers’ opinions are what’s relevant. The majority of newspaper readers are older and family people. Where you get your “inescapable truth” from is a mystery, but I suspect it’s a dark and odorous place.

I will grant you that in other matters your opinion may weigh more heavily, as judging by your photos you do apparently count for some three or four people.

As regards “syndies” not having the tech savvy of the web crowd, have a look at muttscomics.com, or fbofw.com someday.

#32 Danny Burleson
January/11/2007
@ 10:55 pm

For the record, Pat, I never attacked Rick Stromoski’s strip, or even Rick, directly. I was talking of the industry, not individual strips (heck, I didn’t even name the one’s I like, much less the one’s I actually do destest.) Sorry if I generalized too much for your taste, I was trying to make a point about the industry as a whole, not Soup to Nutz specifically (in case you’re wondering, I do like the one’s I’ve seen.) And I certainly did not lay out all of his personal information just to be a jerk; thank you for laying out my Myspace profile (that I literally made 8 days ago and am still tweaking by the way) for completely irrelevant reasons. I was speaking as both a comic reader and a cartoonist; I’m so sorry for having an opinion.

I didn’t attack anyone personally, thank you for blowing things out of proportion. Even when I responded directly to Rick, I tried to make my response not personal to him, but again, as general as possible to the point at hand. I think the movie industry has sucked for the last several years, that doesn’t equal me saying I think Lord of the Rings or something is the worst movie ever (although, if we’re talking about the 3rd one…)

Also for the record, I have been cartooning for many years now, and have persued syndication with mixed results (“good writing, draw better”.) And in that time I have seen the industry change from good to great to bad to worse. That has made me re-evaluate what I want to do with my art. I would still love to be a syndicated cartoonist, but I am apprehesive about the state of the industry, and it’s obvious now, that no one cares to listen because they don’t think anything’s wrong.

Well, have fun being right, I’ll see you in the funny pages (maybe.)

#33 Scott Kurtz
January/11/2007
@ 11:50 pm

Wow, a fat joke.

It’s that kind of intelligence and blistering satire that’s making the newspaper comics page so bleeding edge these days.

Wah-wah!

#34 Alan Gardner
January/11/2007
@ 11:53 pm

I’ve received email pointing out that the tone on this thread is getting personal – which I agree. I apologize to those offended – I haven’t been screening this thread as closely as I should have. I do have a rule that commentators NOT make personal attacks on other cartoonists.

Please be respectful of others and find ways to express your opinions without going negative. I really don’t want to shut off the comments here.

#35 Ed
January/12/2007
@ 2:08 am

Hmmm…that’s too bad. :( There really is some good conversation going on here. Let’s see if we can get back to the root of that said conversation.

Here are some thoughts I had reading some of the above:

First, is that if we are really trying to find answers, broad generalizations like “they suck” is really specific enough. Neither are alledged fixes like “do something”.

Also, I think it should be pointed out there are a lot of great syndicated strips out there right now, and (sorry) a lot of bad webcomics too. Truth is there are about 250 comics in syndication, and I’d say percentage wise the number of really good ones is about equal to the amout of really good webcomics.

It should also be said that although syndication is a business it’s not some cryptic cabal with a secret agenda. They aren’t keeping down brilliant new strips they could make money off of for some reason (want proof? Name the reason they WOULD do that).

I remember on a local radio show, a DJ who had worked for MTV broke into a rant a fellow DJ was doing about how bad MTV is, and how it doesn’t play videos anymore. The former MTV employee said that MTV is full of people who are there because they love music, and would like nothing better than to play videos, but the truth is…no one watches videos like they used to. The ratings just aren’t there to justify airing videos the way they used too. If they were, the music junkies who work at MTV would estatic to play nothing but videos.

The same is true of comic syndicates. It is filled with comic fans. Sure, they want to see newer comics succeed, but the truth is: it’s hard for a new strip to break into comics. The newspapers pay to run the comics they do, and they usually want somthing proven, and once they have a strip their readers are happy with, they stick with it, meaning that space is unavailable to the newer comics.

Older comics aren’t in papers due to syndicates forcing them down peoples throats. They are there because that’s what the papers are buying, and the papers are buying the ones their readers want.

Syndicates aren’t the enemy. They are a business and like all businesses are affected by the rules of supply and demand.

They are also only one option in getting your strip out there. Truth is we are lucky there is the option of webcomics. That way strips that don’t fit the rules of business the syndicates have to follow can still get their stuff out there.

Now than, I think we should ask ourselves what is is we are expecting creators like Watterson and Amend to do. Despite all the pretty wording about improving comics as a medium, I think what is at root here is the craving of webcomics for some kind of legitimacy in the form of broader recogniton and/or financial compensation.

And who can blame anyone for wanting that? Doing your own comics is great, but doing them with recognition and money is better.

So what is the answer? How do we gain further legitimacy, money and audience size for webcomics and their creators?

I don’t know. But I can tell you the answers wouldn’t come in coversations that are based around the word ‘sucks’ or by waiting for some savior from the world of syndication.

So now the question remains, how CAN these things be done?

#36 Rick Stromoski
January/12/2007
@ 6:06 am

>>>I still think most comic strips in the paper are boring, trite and lacking of real heart and teeth (including Soup 2 Nutz, sir).

>>>Howâ??s â??Mulletsâ? working out for you these days? Still setting the world on fire?

Any individuals opinion on any feature whether it’s syndicated or on the web is purely subjective and no indication of it’s saleability or popularity. The marketplace dictates that. Any one person’s opinion on the validity of a given feature is just that. Your personal opinion and you have every right to have it but it’s certainly not a measure of how successful or meritous imine or anyone elses feature is.. Did Mullets succeed? Obviously not. That’s what the marketplace dictated and I understand that and accept it. Did I go onto cartoonists bulletin boards and whine incessantly about how great my feature really is and how the business is falling apart and point to professional peers more successful features and say they suck? I was taught manners as a child so that reaction is alien to me.

Scott Kurtz’s taunt quoted above says more about the unprofessional mindset of what we’re dealing with versus solving the real problems with print cartooning today. Most professional cartoonists and publishers will just have no interest in dealing with such a world view. The sooner one realizes this , the better off you’ll be in actually having any kind of constructive dialog.

You may hate the Family Circus and believe it to be “trite” but it enjoys enormous success and there are reasons for it. Not understanding why such a feature is successful because of your subjective blindness as to why will cripple you in your own attempts to get ahead.

Publishing has always ebbed and flowed.Ultimately, It is up to the individual cartoonists to find their solutions that work for them.There is more to the cartooning business than newspaper syndication..I’ve never put all my eggs in one basket when it comes to my career. We are living in an age of a publishing boom. There are more opportunities to get your work published than there ever has been. Some cartoonists have the good fortune to make a living soley on their syndication work, but the vasy majority of the members of the NCS are illustrators and freelenacers as am I. Their work includes advertising and newspaper illustration, licensing, advertising, book publishing ..I have work in all these avenues…we happen to be in a buyers market when it comes to newspapers. The subjective opinion as to the quality of the features offered to papers is less of a driving force in the decline of newspaper readership than the fact that we are in a transition period in how we as a society get our information and entertainment. The historical significance of comics as an art form and the changes it has gone through is well known and I won’t get into it here. But those cartoonists who understand that we must evolve and adapt to the changes that the public force us to do will survive. Those who don’t won’t. It is your product that will make or break you. Lamenting about other’s work just illustrates immaturity and unprofessionalism and certainly labels you as an amateur. I do not feel compelled to justify my career or defend my work or the work of my peers since their ability to make a living doing this speaks for itself.

The ideas expressed in this thread regarding magazines, inserts etc. have been tried and found little success. My personal feeling is that the answer is to focus on digital marketplaces but the first step is to stop giving away content for free. That’s just stupid and self defeating. And I have hope that this next generation of cartoonists coming up will have a sincere understanding and focus on the real problems that face our industry such as work for hire contracts, stock art infiltration, rights grabs and reprographic compensation issues and stop childishly expressing their petty jealousy of those that may be more successful than you.

But I won’t hold my breath.

#37 brian
January/12/2007
@ 8:51 am

It is up to the individual cartoonists to find their solutions that work for them.There is more to the cartooning business than newspaper syndication

Well said. I view my strip as “characters”. That is to say right now they live in little panels in newspapers and on my site. But I’m also working on branching them out into other mediums, i.e. children’s books, cards etc. The success of my strip is not based on who I’ve teamed up with or who is speaking up for me. It’s based on the emotional attachment of my readers to the characters. I’d love to be able to help as many cartoonists as possible for the sake of the art, but cartoonist have to start with themselves and their own product.

#38 Gabe Strine
January/12/2007
@ 10:43 am

Scott Kurtz is a person who’s made great strides as a cartoonist on he web and in comic books. His comic has found its audience and hooked into its own growth potential. The innovation he’s adopted or outright invented in his webcomic business model have set the standards for many who have come in behind him. In fact, he’s making a living from his comic, which is no small feat for any artist.
So why, then, does he still pine for a medium that he has continually lambasted as dead and dying? Is it because he wants to regain some sense of the magic of the Sunday Funnies he knew as a kid? Does he really hope to see growth again in a medium he mocks?

Or does he just want to see his comic next to Garfield?

If he truly wanted to see the comic industry grow, why would he not look into his own backyard for support? Scott’s own website carries no links to other webcomics, for example. He asks for Watterson and Amend to do “something” to help webcomics (him?) find the mainstream, while doing little to assist the very community he claims to be championing.

I think Scott’s frustrated, just like the rest of us, no matter the level of success we may have. I’m not convinced that middle America knows who Watterson or Amend are, at least to a point that it makes any difference to them that one or both would support a new comic venture. Comics aren’t Holywood. Gary Trudeau doesn’t have paparazzi following him to his car. Cathy Guisewite isn’t being interviewed by Mary Hart anytime soon.

Scott needs to look at what he’s accomplished and build on that. Polarizing himself by tearing down a part of the industry he wants to be a part of is foolish and contradictory.

#39 Danny Burleson
January/12/2007
@ 11:25 am

I want to apologize to those I have offended. I had a point to make regarding the state of the industry, and my words were delivered with more volatility than I’d really intended. And it only escalated by my over-reacting to personal attacks. Making an all-encompassing statment that [nearly all] the comics in the papers suck, was wrong.

I’m not really sure what a non-offensive way of saying, “Things could be better, business and non overly-restrictive format-wise, so cartoonists can breathe a little, and readers receive a more interesting product,” would be. But something of that essence is more what I intended.

I love comic strips, I truly believe–whether anyone sees it or not–that the industry’s current methodology is not suitable to today’s environment. I have a differing opinion on that issue than most of you apparently, and while I do respect those differing opinions, I have no tolerance for personal attacks on me just because one disagrees with my opinion.

There’s a huge difference between telling me my idea/opinion is wrong and/or why, and telling me basically my opinion doesn’t matter because of who I am or am not. Does that really matter? Does it matter if I were to have a Master’s in cartooning, or on the flip-side, have no idea who Calvin and Hobbes are? To put it simply, no. As much insight into the industry as I apparently lack, the average reader probably has less (ask five random people if they know what a ‘comics syndicate’ is), and would you rip them apart as violently? I would hope not. Did I rip anyone else apart directly? No.

And before anyone jumps on my statment as some kind of rude comment on the intelligence of the average reader, let me clarify that that comes out of (many times) having had the, “What is a comics syndicate?” conversation with my own relatives and friends, who know I’m a cartoonist and most of whom read the funnies themselves. Other average readers may vary.

If you were caught in the crossfire of my overly rude generalization, then for that, I do genuinely apologize. But, did I post the personal information of those I disagreed with just to make some snotty comparison to somehow prove my points? I certainly did not.

And I would like to clarify that none of my statments are in any way delivered out of jealousy. I don’t play that way. I want the industry to be as stong as possible, both for the good of other cartoonists, and I suppose, selfishly, so I have a good place to go to when/if I can truly break into the industry. I honestly don’t think it is a very good place right now, and would like that to change.

Maybe that’s too idealistic for others’ taste; it doesn’t neccessarily make it a bad idea.

#40 Frank White Castle
January/12/2007
@ 12:05 pm

I think Scott’s heart is in the right place, (he loves comics) but unfortunately his opinions and loud mouth just keep shooting himself in the foot in regards to the print side of things. It’s no wonder no syndicate wanted to touch PVP, but ol’ Kurtz will spin that into him saying he wanted to maintain control of his own blah blah blah. Yeah, right.

I don’t want to be harsh on Kurtz’s work, but it’s no glowing epitome. he calls these strips, even the legends of cartooning trite, but those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Unfortunately, it seems like someone dumped two tons of gravel on Kurtz’s lawn and he does this in his free time. Lame.

#41 Scott Kurtz
January/12/2007
@ 12:18 pm

It doesn’t matter if I understand the appeal of Family Circus, does it? Does it matter if I understand the appeal of any feature created in the 1960’s? Isn’t that somewhat looking backwards?

I appreciate Peanuts, Andy Capp, Popeye, Family Circus, Wizard of Id and BC. But these are the strips of my father’s generation.

I appreciate Garfield, Bloom County, Doonsbury, Calvin and Hobbes. But these are the strips of MY generation and we’re already beyond THOSE too.

We gotta start thinking about the NEXT generation. So I’m not sure how groking the mass appeal of Family Circus even matters at this point.

Unless I want to invent a time machine and sell papers in the 60’s.

That’s the problem here, guys. You think I’m insulting the people, but I’m not. I’m insulting the situation. And it’s a retarded one for us to be in.

We should already be reading the comic strips of the generation AFTER ME!

But we can’t because the spot for those kids are still being occupied by Family Circus.

#42 Danny Burleson
January/12/2007
@ 12:23 pm

“Thatâ??s the problem here, guys. You think Iâ??m insulting the people, but Iâ??m not. Iâ??m insulting the situation. And itâ??s a retarded one for us to be in.”

Exactly.

#43 Corey
January/12/2007
@ 12:46 pm

I think its interesting that Scott took the time to comment here before updated the comic on his site for today.

Jeez… Look what you guys did. Now I’M wasting time away form work to comment.

Back to work. Then beer. Then…. well, more beer.

#44 Rick Stromoski
January/12/2007
@ 1:05 pm

â?¥â?¥â?¥But we canâ??t because the spot for those kids are still being occupied by Family Circus.

I’ve seen this argument time and again by creators whose features fail to make a dent in the marketplace. they blame their own lack of success on features that have demonstrated they can still appeal to readership over an extended period of time. It demostrates a complete lack of understanding of the marketplace.

Your individual opinion of the merits of the Family Circus and whether it belongs on the comics page is irrelevant. The marketplace dictates what goes there. The fact that Bil Keanes feature is still in over 1600 newspapers isn’t an accident. Family circus is a gateway comic that appeals to kids who are just beginning to read the comics. They read it because they can understand it. It also appeals to parents and grandparents. That’s the reality. ..and a huge demographic. One would certainly expect that the Family Circus wouldn’t be found appealing by gamers or gen-xers etc. It’s not designed for that. It succeeds because it’s still relevent to an enormous block of newspaper readership. The same can be said for other features that have stood the test of time. They may not appeal to hip young readers but as a marketing commodity they still sell papers.

It’s up to creators to produce a product that will replace well established and not so established features. It’s not up to cartoonists to just step aside because you don’t think their work is hip enough…thinking this is not only incredibly arrogant it’s demonstrates a warped sense of entitlement.

Making the claim that one doesn’t insult individuals by telling other cartoonists their work sucks their work is trite, mediocre, and that they should step aside is “insulting the situation” is transparently disingenuous.

#45 Scott Kurtz
January/12/2007
@ 1:13 pm

Rick, you’re WRONG. The marketplace does NOT dictate what goes into the newspaper. I know very little about how the business works and even I know that.

I’m not saying you should step aside, dude. I’m just saying you should STEP UP. That we should all STEP UP and rise to the occasion and make something better.

Or at least set up the framework to let in the kids that are coming next get their shot. Man if the marketplace dictated this stuff, we wouldn’t have a problem, man.

#46 Alan Gardner
January/12/2007
@ 1:30 pm

Actually Scott, Rick is very much right. When we talk of the marketplace – we’re talking about the actual space in the newspaper. The Family Circus, Dilbert, Cathy, et. al command a greater share of the markplace after years of battling for the limited space just like everyother feature. Lio is a great example of one who has recently launched – but because it’s a creative new feature it’s marketshare is climbing faster than many others. The system isn’t as broken as you think. You just have to be funnier and more creative than the next guy. If you are, you’ll bubble up to the top.

#47 Frank White Castle
January/12/2007
@ 1:52 pm

So what we have her really is Scott couldn’t cut it in papers or get signed by a syndicate (and likely now they’d NEVER touch him) , and now he just wants to rewrite the rules and say the old market is dead and pretend his opinion is the fact all over for the entire marketplace.

It’s all so clear now.

#48 Rick Stromoski
January/12/2007
@ 2:07 pm

Again, Scott every time you pontificate on matters you yourself just admitted you know very little about you demonstrate just how limited your grasp is of this particular aspect of cartooning.. If you wish to change an industry you first must understand it. You obviously don’t since your perception of it comes from a regurgitation of misinformed opinion circulated amongst your own little insulated synchophantic web-based community. You’ve done it for so long you believe everything that comes out of your head is gospel. You believe that by lashing out at cartoonists whose work you don’t particularly care for somehow will elevate your status and your feature.

You speak of “stepping up”..well what exactly does that entail? Right now all I’m hearing from your quarter is name calling, whining and insults and a nebulous call to arms from established cartoonists to somehow elevate your career all the while you’re throwing a drink in our faces and then demanding we buy you another beer.

The system isn’t broken, it’s SMALLER and far more competitive than it was 20 or 30 years ago and those days of developing a feature slowly over time are over. Cartoonists who understand this face reality and evolve with it. Your launch is it. New features like Pearls, Lio, Boondocks do take off and find success right away. Others linger in the hope that they grow but by and large they will eventually die. Personally i diversify my publishing options. I reccommend anyone attempting to get into this business to do the same.

Comics will always be around in one form or another. The cream will rise to the top. What you think is cream and what newspaper features editors think is cream may be two totally different things. But it’s the editors opinion that counts and contarry to what you believe, the marketplace will dictate that.

#49 brian
January/12/2007
@ 2:44 pm

Guess I should just quit my strip and make room the the new breed Scott is talking about. I’ll let my fans know that they don’t influence anything as they are not in control of the marketplace.

Anyway, I’m so tired of this argument. So I’ll leave it with a piece of advice from one of my fellow screenwriter: “If you want to sell a script, just right a f@#$ing great strip.” That is to say put everything you have into whatever you’re working on, wether it be screenplays, comics or books. If it’s good, it’ll go places. If you’re not worried about making a living at it, all the better. Then you don’t have to worry about any of it.

#50 Sean C
January/12/2007
@ 2:46 pm

Even though Scott’s post and “letter” to Amend is full of good intentions, they just might not be feasible. Rick is right that the webcomic and print worlds are too far apart. There isn’t currently much of a way to bring them together right now; the attitudes, approaches, and current readership are virtually polar opposites. (Generalizing things here, but it’s fair to say that, right?) Newspaper readers enjoy the comics, but can we really sell Perry Bible Fellowship to the 65+ crowd? Even if we took the fact that they may familiar with Cathy and Garfield and not much else out of the equation, that would still be a tough sell.

Which makes the idea of a magazine that collects the best of webcomics a fantastic idea. If that can get a good circulation, such an endevour could succeed beyond anyone’s dreams. Graphic novels are thriving in the marketplace, and the book-buying public only has a growing interest in comics in general. Giving a sampler of the best would bring in money and increased traffic for the featured cartoonists, and would raise awareness of the medium. Who knows, if the syndicates see those numbers, they just may start headhunting online for new talent…

If the print comic world is seen with such venom by the online comics world and generally written off by most webcomickers, then why fight so hard to get into the papers? Why not forge a new path? If you want to get the next generation of comics to the people, it may take some innovation in just HOW those strips get distributed to them. A magazine means our rules, being free from most forms of censorship. If the newspaper guys want to come along for the ride and be bold enough to try something like that, then they would be welcome. Things could eventually grow into something more, such as a cartoonists’ union, which would be able to operate free from the sydicates and get the best deals for the creators. That much may be a pipe dream, though. Let’s just see how a magazine would do first.

Is it the giant cooperative event Scott hopes for? No – not even close; but it would be a start, and it could be a great start. However, who would be willing to “step up” and help fund that?

#51 Owen
January/12/2007
@ 2:52 pm

Actually, Iâ??m inclined to believe the marketplace does dictate what we see. And no more proof of that is needed than to read the comments from Scottâ??s fans on his own blog. The ones that keep saying they donâ??t read newspapers anymore. Is having â??hipâ? webcomics in the funny papers going to make them start buying newspapers? I donâ??t think so. I betcha they still read their comics online.

Newspaper comics are like a comfort food. No matter what happens in the world, war, terrorism, death, people find relief in being able to open a newspaper and see the same characters from their childhood. The generation that buys newspapers sees a world very different than the one they grew up in, so Dagwood, Garfield, etc are a little shelter from all that. These are the people buying the paper. They are the marketplace. And thatâ??s why itâ??s so hard to break through.

I think Achewood and The Perry Bible Fellowship are hilarious. But would my dad? And who buys the newspaper every day? I donâ??t, but dad does.

Itâ??s not just comics. You could say the same thing about television. Why are there 300 reruns of Seinfeld and MASH on every day? Why not give somebody new a chance? Because they make money.

Instead, I ask this – Why embrace newspapers and television when we all agree their audiences are dwindling? Where are they going? To the Internet, right? So even if we have 100-200,000 daily readers like Scott, there are still millions and millions of people who surf the web on a daily basis looking for new content. Those are the people all of us should be targeting.

I think someday weâ??ll respect each other enough to drop the â??webâ? or â??printâ? pre-fix and just call ourselves cartoonists. When that day of enlightenment comes, maybe some of these grand ideas will come to fruition.

Oh, and by the way, Brian, if youâ??re still reading this thread, I love your strip. It may say something about this argument that my paper, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, just dropped Tokyo Pop and added Brianâ??s strip.

Demographics, they said.

Market place.

#52 Scott Kurtz
January/12/2007
@ 3:36 pm

Man it’s so frustrating here.

First of all, I don’t need to do any of this. I don’t need to figure out a way to get into papers so that I can finally make something of myself. Talking about this and arguing with you guys is time spent not working on the daily business I’m already running.

You guys act as if my comic strip is this wanna-be production that I’m just wishing I could get off the ground.

I’m being approached by individual papers. There are PvP fans inside newspapers who talk to their features editors and generate interest and then I get a call. That’s what sparked this whole thing in the first place.

The problem is I don’t see how PvP can exist on the comics page without changing the strip into being something it’s not. And I’m not sure the return is worth the compromise.

It seems like my choices are stick with the web-only which despite what everyone says, is still limiting my potential audience, change the strip so it fits into the constraints of the existing system and try to get papers and syndicates to pick it up, which lessens my work, or try to come up with something new.

So listen. You guys can sit in here and grumble and shake your fist at me for not getting all fired up over ANOTHER comic strip about a baby and his dog.

And you can make fun of me being fat and talk about how egotistical and over-rated I am.

I’m still going to at least try to figure out something new and see if I can get other people interested in participating.

If you think I’m a dick or the wrong guy for the job, and you have a BETTER idea for improving things than PLEASE…I am BEGGING you to do it.

You can even lock me out and post a sign that reads NO KURTZ on the door.

Just do something.

#53 Mooncity
January/12/2007
@ 3:40 pm

Sean makes an excellent point here; both the print world and the web world are polar opposites at present although there is some overlap (some strip comics are online, some webcomics print book collections). Both sides envy one another; paper equals validation and legitimacy, the web offers the freedom to evolve without restrictions. And there is this [justified] fear in the paper world that the digital world will eventually gobble them up, and the web world feels the paper one is out of date, retrictive, and antiquarian.

But a weekly or monthly magazine would be a nice blend for both camps.

Maybe that isn’t what Scott wanted or intended, but maybe it’s something he could get behind. Any pressure brought to bear in favor of such a project by those on both sides of the fence who have any kind of professional clout would only be helpful for the profession of cartooning.

#54 Rick Stromoski
January/12/2007
@ 3:50 pm

>>> You guys can sit in here and grumble and shake your fist at me for not getting all fired up over ANOTHER comic strip about a baby and his dog.

Nobody’s asked you to do that. We’re asking you to stop denegrating other peoples work in public forums. Especially if you’re asking those same people for help.

#55 Scott Kurtz
January/12/2007
@ 4:16 pm

Scroll up, Stromoski. You’re the guy who came in here and derailed the thread.

Did I wrong you in a past life or something? Why do you hate me so much? Would it help if I met you at a con and just let you punch me in the face a couple times?

What do you need to move past this?

#56 Mike Wytrykus
January/12/2007
@ 5:13 pm

>>>”The problem is I donâ??t see how PvP can exist on the comics page without changing the strip into being something itâ??s not. And Iâ??m not sure the return is worth the compromise.”

I think one of the points Scott has been trying to make about the state of newspaper comics, is how restrictive they are in trying to appeal to everyone and not risk offending anyone.

Or to put it another way, there are things you can do and say, jokes you can make, on a prime time sitcom that is loved and watched by millions of people that you could never get away with in a newspaper comic strip. Things you can even say on the radio, that you could never say in a newspaper comic strip. But you can say and do these things with a webcomic.

Now, I’m not saying comic strips should be like an episode of Deadwood. I don’t want to see comics full of foul language and gratuitous sex. But it does limit you from tackling weightier subjects and issues. Although there is nothing wrong with a little casual “hell” “damn” or “ass”, because that’s how people talk.

So I think what it comes down to, is the idea of reaching a broader audience, without having to place on oneself silly creative restrictions or censorship or watering down the material.

And I also think that was one of the things that made Bill Watterson leave comics. He knew comics could, and should, be more than simple gag-a-day strips, and tackle bigger topics and longer storylines. But the majority of newspaper comics (and a healthy bunch online, as well) remain simple joke a day comics. And there is nothing wrong with that, but it is not for everyone, and the current situation allows for very little else on the comics page.

#57 Pat
January/12/2007
@ 6:19 pm

First, let me apologize for getting personal. When someone says they don’t care for my art, I respect that absolutely. When someone says my work is “bad”, or in this case, Rick’s, Brian’s and others’ by extension, I consider that a personal attack. When you say it “sucks”, that’s a step over the line.

But that notwithstanding, I was simply wrong to get personal. And I apologize.

Nobody “hates” you, Scott. After all, you’re just one of us, a creative spirit, trying to be seen and appreciated. I think at the end of the day everyone here understands that. And truly wishes you the best in your endeavours, because we all know how freaking tough it is.

However, in all your attacks, you’re engaging in a simple fallacy: which is that you believe that your taste is correct.

When in fact, if there WERE to be some standard of quality to be derived in any empirical way, it could only be that something that is liked by more people is “better” than something that is liked by fewer people. Anything else is either subjective, or puts one person’s taste as more important than another’s. Which may be a nice feeling at home on your couch criticizing the entire world, but which will not be much help in learning to survive and prosper in that industry.

To say otherwise is simply to demean the people whose taste is different than yours. This is what you’ve done here. You’ve demeaned Rick and Brian and all the many other creators because your taste is different than theirs.

If I hate Madonna’s music, I hate Madonna’s music. (And I do). But I would never in a million years say Madonna’s music is “bad”, because clearly to many, many millions of people, Madonna’s music serves some need and is “good” enough to warrant their hard-earned money. Sure, maybe a lot of them are young girls or whatever. But I’m not going to say my taste is “better” than theirs, just different. Especially if I want to sell something to them, I’d better darn well understand and appreciate their taste.

Further, by demeaning the quality of strips which have made it through the 1/6000 odds of getting syndicated, x1/4 of getting papers, x 1/4 of hanging in there long enough to make a living, you’ve demeaned not only the creators who clearly have considerable industry skill, but all the newspaper editors who’ve signed these strips, as well as every member of the the public who have supported them.

Could you really be the one who are “right”, and all these others are “wrong”?

It’s hard to take someone with such an opinion seriously in any debate about this industry.

So I hope we can learn to separate one’s own taste from the concept of quality.

#58 brian
January/12/2007
@ 6:28 pm

“So listen. You guys can sit in here and grumble and shake your fist at me for not getting all fired up over ANOTHER comic strip about a baby and his dog.”

I shall alert my readers that they are idiots for liking yet another strip about a baby and a dog.

My final piece of advice to Scott is this. You don’t need anyone else to make you a success. Just do it. Forget about newspapers. Sell millions of comic books, produce a TV series with Adult Swim or Comedy Central, get 10 million plus visitors to your site a month. The advertising revenue from that alone would let you start up your own online syndicate from which you could help out a ton of webcomicers.

Problem solved. But then again what do I know, I just draw another strip about a baby and a dog.

#59 Mooncity
January/12/2007
@ 7:00 pm

Interesting idea I saw elsewhere on this topic today; part of the big problem we have with this topic (aside from the personal element), is that we, as a group, don’t know so much about the cost and organizational details of setting up some kind of publication. Someone suggested contacting the big city, free alt weeklies, since they do this already (publish an independent paper once a week for free, and make their money from the adverts). If anyone has the info on that part of it, it’s the folks at “The Stranger” or “Seattle Weekly”, et al.

Further, there could be regional editions of this “Funny Paper” (the Toronto Edition, the Boston Edition, etc.).

Contacting those alt-weekly folks could help give us a better picture of what we’d face, cost and distribution-wise.

Your thoughts?

Scott? Pat?

#60 Pat
January/12/2007
@ 7:25 pm

Well, since I’m on the creative side, I have to admit that’s a long way out of my expertise. Probably guys like Scott have looked into this and may even have some real numbers.

I do know smaller, local papers are making a comeback though. I suppose it would be a question of what the advertisers thought (of course…)

#61 Corey
January/12/2007
@ 7:26 pm

This is why I’m always embarrassed to tell people I’m a cartoonist. You all should be ashamed of yourselves. I wouldn’t trust any of you to hand me an oxygen mask in a plane crash.

#62 Pat
January/12/2007
@ 7:42 pm

Corey said:

“This is why Iâ??m always embarrassed to tell people Iâ??m a cartoonist. You all should be ashamed of yourselves. I wouldnâ??t trust any of you to hand me an oxygen mask in a plane crash.”

So people can’t engage in a perhaps slightly overheated debate over something they’re very passionate about?

Something tells me this can’t REALLY be the reason you’re embarrassed to tell people you’re a cartoonist.

#63 Pat
January/12/2007
@ 7:53 pm

An oxygen mask wouldn’t be much use in a plane crash. They’re designed to facilitate breathing in a low air pressure environment, as when the cabin gets depressurized at altitude.

So if no one hands you one, I wouldn’t take it personally. ;-)

#64 Danny B.
January/12/2007
@ 8:13 pm

Would anybody care for some lemonade?

#65 Jonathan
January/12/2007
@ 8:22 pm

…somebody tell a joke!

#66 Cindermain
January/12/2007
@ 9:01 pm

Forgive me if I come come across as rude (not my intention), but after pouring over all these posts I think the situation sums up as;

Kurtz – “I want to improve the comics industry (Bill Watterson), which I think is currently (Bill Watterson) flawed. To do this, I will (Bill Watterson) try to enlist the aid of some top-notch creators (Bill Watterson!) by soliciting them (Bill Watterson) in my blog.”

Pros – “We think the industry is fine.”

Fans – “Kurtz is a genius!”

Sensitive Types – “Kurtz is crazy!”

Kurtz – “You all hate me, you dog-and-baby-loving stinkyheads!”

Or something to that effect. Was I close?

While the initial idea might arguably have merit, any good has been overshadowed by a serious lack of professionalism by almost all involved. The one thing that all professional cartoonists I have met stress is to *be professional*. If the people proposing and supporting this idea can’t act professionally, then how can anyone believe their ideas have merit?

Also, this is a solicitation, correct? Then why do we have yet to see any talk of *payment*? Kurtz *is* essentially trying to sell Amend on giving up some of his valuable time to work on what is essentially Kurtz’s project, right?

Time is a valuable commodity for a professional, especially time one could spend working on earning more money. While love of the medium is an admirable quality, it doesn’t pay the rent.

Mark Evanier has some articles about something like this, well worth reading; http://www.povonline.com/cols/COL209.htm
http://www.povonline.com/cols/COL210.htm
http://www.povonline.com/cols/COL224.htm

Also, Amend is a hot item right now, a newsmaker with his shift to weekends. His ‘going rate’ would have to be pretty high at this point. One has to wonder if Kurtz simply placed this in an attempt to get more hits/readers to his site…even bad press is still press…

Sorry, that was a bit rude/cynical/reactionary.

When all is said and done, this is between Kurtz and Amend, our input be damned. If anything good comes from this, let’s hope it is carried through with a bit more professionalism than what was displayed here.

#67 Cindermain
January/12/2007
@ 9:09 pm

A joke?

General McKenzie was in charge of the Navy, and he was visiting his colleague General Marshall, who was in charge of the Army. McKenzie arrives at the military camp and is greeted by Marshall. They both walk around the place, and McKensie asks: “So how are your men?”

“Very well trained, Gral. McKenzie.”

“I hope so. You see, my men over at the Navy are so well trained, you could see they’re the bravest men all over the country.” “Well, my men are very brave, too.”

“I’d like to see that.”

So Marshall calls private Cooper and says: “Private Johnson! I want you to stop that tank coming here with your body!”

“Are you crazy? It’d kill me, you idiot! I’m out of here!” As private Johnson ran away, Marshall turned to a bewildered McKenzie and said:

“You see? You have to be pretty brave to talk like that to a general.”

#68 Cindermain
January/12/2007
@ 9:11 pm

Okay, so it isn’t a particularly GOOD one…

#69 Scott Kurtz
January/12/2007
@ 9:50 pm

I’m going to duck out of this unless someone has a direct question for me. And if you do, just email me.

This isn’t about me wanting to be successful. I’ve been lucky enough to achieve more personal and financial success with PvP than I ever dreamed of. I would still love to see PvP in newspapers, and my first attempt failed. But failure is nothing but an opportunity to try again more intelligently.

And that’s not what my open letter was all about.

It was about people from the web and people from the papers working on what Watterson proposed in 1989. It doesn’t have to involve me. I would rather a ton of people get together, break off into groups and all try different things.

It was just a call to productive discourse towards what I feel to be a noble goal.

It’s not about me.

#70 Mike Wytrykus
January/12/2007
@ 10:11 pm

To fully understand and appreciate what Scott’s rant was really all about, might I recommend, if you haven’t already, checking out The Calvin & Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book. I’m sure you can still find a copy on Amazon or at your local book store. It contains some wonderful commentary from Watterson on a lot of the issues that I think Scott is concerned about. Definitely worth a read.

#71 Rich
January/13/2007
@ 12:55 am

>>It seems like my choices are stick with the web-only which despite what everyone says, is still limiting my potential audience, change the strip so it fits into the constraints of the existing system and try to get papers and syndicates to pick it up, which lessens my work, or try to come up with something new.. I’m just trying to say I think there’s some good ideas floating around in here … it will be interesting to see if any of them play out in the future.

#72 Rich
January/13/2007
@ 11:46 am

Disregard my post directly above … I used a character combo that messed up the whole post … makes no sense now. Not that it made much before. My bad.

#73 Joe
January/13/2007
@ 11:50 am

The greater issues are the changes in the existing publishing industry. The internet (craigslist, etc.) has eaten into the advertising money that is the life’s blood for newspapers. Now as the funding model for newspapers, magazines, and others change, they will morph into new forms or die. Cartoons started back in the â??Yellow Kidâ? era as tools to drive readership. Now with readership falling they are seen as something to cut to save money. â??Garfieldâ? and the like will stay because they are good brands not because they are â??good comicsâ?. Innovation in the mass market newspaper comic world is all but gone. The paradigm for comics will shift not by a blending of print and web cartoons, but by a shift in the methods of information distribution. When the newspapers and weekly new magazines evolve into a daily or weekly feed to your flexible digital paper reader, and the reader has ultimate control over what they see, the comics can come from any source, syndicated or independent. How the artists will be paid us unknown at this time. I donâ??t know if a good payment system has evolved yet.

#74 Andrew Ringnalda
January/13/2007
@ 2:19 pm

Wow.

Having just read through this thread, I’m emotionally exhausted. However, cutting through the emotional apects of many of the postings, some really good points were made. Anyone mind the contribution of a non-cartoonist? Someone who loves comic strips, who drew a weekly strip for two years for his local newspaper while he was in high school? Who worked for years at getting syndicated, but never did? And I promise I won’t call anyone names.

Scott Kurtze’s point was, I believe, that Bill Amend has before him an opportunity to help initiate positive changes withing the professional comic strip cartoonists’ industry. He is obviously angry and frustrated with what he sees as a problem, and is desperately trying to get someone, anyone, especially someone with the clout of a widely syndicated cartoonist such as Amend to help solve. While some have taken offense at his tone, as professionals, try to look past the emotion in this issue and look objectively at what he’s trying to accomplish. He’s not alone in his perspective. Bill Watterson documented his peeves with syndication in his 10-year anniversary book, as well as his recent collection of all his strips. And from the sometimes acrimonious tone of some of the other postings above, it’s obvious that there is a lot of widespread frustration about the current state of affairs in cartooning. But I think most would agree to several points:

1) the mainstream media are experiencing a severe falloff in readership. I won’t link articles here, but there have been articles posted on newspaper web sites and published in major news magazines documenting the fact that the MSM is itself aware of the problem in declining readership. This fact alone makes one question whether striving for newspaper syndication is a desirable thing.

2) There is a limited amount of “page real estate,” and much of this space is taken up by “legacy strips.” I don’t want to engage the debate surrounding why legacy strips take up so much space, or whether or not this is a good thing, etc. It is a fact that there is only so much space, that legacy strips take up much of this space, and that the amount of space available for new strips (and existing syndicated features) is shrinking as newspapers close, merge, or shrink the size of their comics pages. Bottom line: the opportunities for all cartoonists in print media are diminishing, and this is a function of economics and changing reader habits.

3) Syndication is a business, and it follows certain economic laws that exist whether one wants to admit it or not. It is easy to see the syndicates as the “evil enemy.” Certainly certain syndicate practices run contrary to cartoonists’ interests. But economic realities prevent syndicates from launching a dozen, a hundred, or a thousand new cartoonists each year. Even if legacy strips all disappeared, the opportunities are still severely limited. Would-be cartoonists lament this situation, eager for an opportunity to “prove themselves.” One does have to wonder how many “could-have-been” successes never got the chance because of the limited ability of the syndicates to launch new features. But this is the reality of syndication, and it’s not likely to change under its current model.

4) The Internet, for all its faults as a distribution medium for comic art, is rapidly displacing all MSM as a source of news, entertainment, and general information disemination. This is where the readers are going, for good or ill, so this is where the opportunities lie.

My take on it? Let the newspaper industry and syndication industries look to solve their own problems. Joe, above, is absolutely right about the current state of affairs in the newspaper industry. The only part of the reader-newspaper-syndicate-cartoonist economic equation that you can affect is the cartooning aspect. Given the above, I think that the answer to Scott’s frustration is right before you. Scott apparently has made a successful effort with his PvP strip online (sorry, Scott–I’m not familiar with your work, I’m only going by what I read in the thread above.) Another cartoonist you are undoubtedly familiar with, Michael Jantze, took his strip, the Norm, and made it a subscription-based success. And how do I define success? Well, Mike’s still at it, expanding the creative boundaries of comic strip cartooning, and must be making enough money at it for him to continue. Success is defined by the cartoonist receiving what he wants to continue his efforts. I think you (Scott) and Mike Jantze are examples who are pointing the way to the future of comic strip cartooning. And what is that? Taking one’s strip directly to the reader, bypassing the middle two elements of the economic equation I mentioned above. No newspaper. No syndicate. You and your reader. Pure capitalism.

Let’s think about this for a moment. Let’s say that Bill Watterson, in his fight with his syndicate, decided to do what Mike Jantze did. Bill could have said, “You know what? I’m tired of this fight. I’m going to take my strip online, and make it subscription-based.” Let’s say he charged $10 a year for access to his site, containing new work, which was not in any way limited by newspaper size and format restrictions. Nor more battles with the syndicates regarding licensing. Just Bill, his strip, his readership. Do you think 10,000 Calvin and Hobbes fans would pay $10/year to read new strips? If so, Bill could have brought in $100,000 a year. While that’s probably chump change for Watterson, I think 10,000 readers is very conservative in this hypothetical model. I’ll bet Bill could have gotten over a million subscribers over a few short years.

So, what should Bill Amend do to help cartooning? How about doing just what Mike Jantze is doing? From the sale of his collections, and the widespread success he had in syndication, it would seem that there is a substantial fan base for Amend’s FoxTrot. Could FoxTrot online draw 10,000 subscribers? 100,000? It would be interesting to find out. If he was successful, would it lure other syndicated cartoonists to eventually do the same thing? I think, from what Scott has written, that he envisions a more centralized solution. But the Internet is the world’s largest niche-marketing environment. It encourages a decentralized approach, as Jantze is demonstrating, marketing his strip (in what I would call a very limited fashion) directly to his readers. I see the future of comic strip cartooning centering on individual cartoonists marketing their strips to readership niches that are willing to pay for that cartoonist’s unique voice.

Magazines, as mentioned above, might be a workable idea, but I can see them as being just as limiting as syndication. How many new features can a magazine launch? Not many, if the example of the Comics Revue mentioned above is any indication. So this doesn’t solve the opportunity problem for new cartoonists. In fact, if indeed Comics Revue depended on legacy reprints, the idea of a magazine becomes even more difficult for one substantial reason: many comics readers are a lot more conservative that the MSM in general, and many cartoonists in particular. To compile a collection that contains “hip” strips with overt violence, sex, and “rough” language along with ‘kid-friendly” strips and then to attempt to sell this to the general public is a recipe for disaster. The marketplace is a fragmented place, and this supports the niche argument made above for migrating existing strips to the Internet. I don’t think anyone could publish such a collection successfully, because different niches within the marketplace will object to the inclusion of certain types of content in the magazine. You would have to publish different editions; “cutting edge, ” “left-leaning,” “right-leaning,” “kid-friendly,” etc. which would increase the cost of such a venture. Most people would not pay for such a publication if a significant amount of its content were “offensive” for some reason or another. This is exactly why I think Jantze’s model, if you’ll allow me to call it that, works so well–readers pay for one cartoonists vision, the cartoonist interacts with his readers, and everyone is happy. What’s needed is for a big-name cartoonist to apply the Jantze model, for millions of people to become aware of it, and slowly (well, hopefully not too slowly) public acceptance of the model results in economic rewards for cartoonists using the model.

Someone above obliquely touched on this, and noted that “what it comes down to, is the idea of reaching a broader audience, without having to place on oneself silly creative restrictions or censorship or watering down the material.” But the point is, to reach a broad audience, you HAVE TO apply creative restriction and water down your material. This is exactly why comics tend to be somewhat homogenized. You can’t push the envelope too far in the newspapers, or there will be a backlash from some segment of the market. The Internet eliminates this. Your subscribers should know exactly what they’re getting, and you, the cartoonist will have to interact with your audience directly. Are you cutting edge? Do your characters “talk the way people talk?” Market your strip to an audience that wants this, and you will avoid headaches. Want to do a kid strip? Market it to kids and families. Action? Adventure? Soap-opera? Politics? Find your niche and market to those readers who will support your unique vision. You CAN’T appeal to everyone, and this is why, in large part, many of the posts above are so critical of newspaper comics today. They seek cutting-edge, if not bleeding-edge, in a medium (newspaper) that by its nature has to try to appeal to as broad a market as possible.

As others have said, “pixels are free.” Let your imaginations expand in limitess space. Opportunity abounds. If Bill Amend wants to make an effort to help the comic strip industry, I think this would be his best chance of doing so. Invite him, and others, with welcoming tones, and try to keep the dialogue on a professional level. That will work best to achieve your aims. Scott touched on the proposal above in his invitation to Bill. Got forward with it. Forget the newspapers and syndicates; let them solve their own problems. If they want to work with you, fine. Otherwise, move forward to preserve the comic strip art form yourselves, and work together to accomplish this, “print” cartoonists and “web” cartoonists alike. Don’t bite each other’s heads off. That will accomplish nothing.

That’s my two cents worth.

Andrew Ringnalda

#75 Mike Wytrykus
January/13/2007
@ 2:57 pm

>>> Someone above obliquely touched on this, and noted that â??what it comes down to, is the idea of reaching a broader audience, without having to place on oneself silly creative restrictions or censorship or watering down the material.â?

You know, actually, I meant to say to reach a LARGER audience. I don’t know why I said broader. Yes, broader means reaching more diverse people who are going to like different things, and that will take compromise and creative restrictions. But not neccessarilly if you want to simply reach a larger audience, or more people of the demographic that you are already reaching. Or maybe Scott does want a more diverse audience. I don’t know for sure.

Otherwise, I totally get what you are saying.

#76 Andrew Ringnalda
January/13/2007
@ 4:01 pm

Mike,

Thanks. And with that clarification, you have affirmed the point that I was making. The diversity of interests in the marketplace allows for creative cartoonists to target specific niche audiences, and deliver a strip that speaks to that audience. Given the attitudes, values, and interests of a specific niche, you are free to exercise as much creative freedom as the audience allows. And if you violate those boundaries, you will hear from your readers about it, whether you are following the Jantze model, or if you are in newsprint.

Unless one is willing to cartoon in a vacuum, and doesn’t care audience or the economic aspects of cartooning as a profession, you must limit your creativity in some ways to conform to what your audience will allow.

When I was in college, an art teacher in a cartooning class I took was trying to get another student to understand that all creativity has limits if you want to interact with an audience. This student had drawn a futuristic space epic, (which I envied because of his rendering ability,) but had included graphic violence, nudity, and language in panel after panel. The student thought everyone would love his strip; the instructor disagreed, stating that there would be only a few readers that the strip would speak to. The student in question didn’t get it. (I don’t know what ever happened to him; I’ve never found his name in web searches.) Nevertheless, I believe that all cartoonists (and authors, painters, etc.) who are trying to interconnect with an audience must exercise some level of self-censorship (ugh–that may be a dirty word for some of you) if they want any kind of economic success. It doesn’t mean everyone has to do a mom-dad-kids-dog kind of family strip, but most sizable audiences have limits to what they will accept from a given medium. So in this respect, self-censorship (let’s call it self-editing) will have some effect on the size of your audience, but that effect is probably small compared with the general content and direction a strip is taking.

Thanks for reading my post.

Andrew Ringnalda

#77 Andrew Ringnalda
January/13/2007
@ 4:05 pm

Excuse me, the second paragraph of my last post should have read:

Unless one is willing to cartoon in a vacuum, and doesnâ??t care about his audience or the economic aspects of cartooning as a profession, you must limit your creativity in some ways to conform to what your audience will allow.

Andrew Ringnalda

#78 Rich
January/14/2007
@ 1:04 am

Seems to me that if you want to rally the troops it helps to do it in an optimistic and positive way. It’s one thing to point out the problem (or opportunity) and another to be part of the solution. I believe enough in capitalism and creativity to think that a solution will come along. I appreciate that this thread is challenging us to think outside of the box, but there is no reason to hate the box nor quit thinking inside it also. It is good to define the problem and brainstorm solutions … and I think this was a good session for that.

I believe one aspect of creative expression is discretion. Sometimes we are smart enough to figure it out for ourselves and sometimes it is imposed on us by others. While I gather that most in the thread feel that there are too many limits for print comic strips, I feel that limits aren’t necessarily the killer of creativity nor entirely a bad thing. I’m not saying the limits don’t need some changing, but I really see little value in strips full of swearing and raunch. Freaking out over use of some words like *crap* though is ridiculous for sure (although it lead to some good cartoon strips pointing out some issues with reader complaints).

Anyway, thanks to all for the robust discussion.

#79 Ray Dillinger
January/14/2007
@ 12:34 pm

I’m a webcomic creator. To me, the state of comics right now is more or less a result of the laws of the market, and while some particulars may change, comics as an industry (web and print) face some constraints right now that simply won’t go away.

It’s easy to point at the World Wide Web and blame it for the decline of newspapers, and especially newspaper comics. But you don’t need the WWW to fully explain what’s happening.

Newspaper comics are getting less space in papers, I believe, because newspapers are facing less competition from other newspapers in their home markets today. Back in the day, comics were a reason why Homer and Harriet Housekeeper would buy one local newspaper instead of another (or even possibly, gasp, buy both of the local papers!). Well, today, in most markets, there’s only one newspaper to buy – so the papers don’t have to work nearly as hard to distinguish themselves, and the first cuts come to “bonus” features like comics.

This monopolism, I believe, is also the cause of lowered standards of journalism, stagnation in newspaper readership and editorship, and the consequent decline of total newspaper circulation. If you want comics to thrive again in newspapers, you must first correct the monopoly problem, both so that newspapers as an institution can thrive again and so that they have a need for product distinction for comics to fulfill.

Because I believe that correcting that kind of structural problem is out of the scope of comics creators, I’m not seeing a rosy future for comics in newspapers.

Also, I have to point out that whatever different people may feel about “quality” in comics, the criteria for success are different in newspaper and web comics.

First, because of the web, comics no longer have to be successful in order to exist. There’s very little expense involved in webpublishing, and people with regular jobs (like me) can do it out-of-pocket as a hobby.

That means thousands and thousands of strips become available to the entire web-using audience for free, simply because people like me enjoy cartooning. And even though we don’t expect to make any money, any comics author who does, has to compete with us. As Microsoft is learning in its dealings with Linux, competing with free is hard.

So if you’re going to make money in comics you have to be really good – regardless of whether you’re syndicated or not – because us ‘indie’ comics creators are making our stuff available free and if people don’t think you’re better enough to pay for, then you’re not going to make money. And that’s the hard truth of trying to make money in any creative enterprise – you have to compete with amateurs who are doing it because we love doing it.

Next you have the differences in market dynamics. There’s a fundamental distinction between the way people get comics in newspapers and the way they get comics on the web. For a comic on the web, there’s a voluntary act required on the part of the reader before that comic will ever come up under his or her eyeballs. Conversely, newspaper readers read a whole collection of comics selected by someone else.

This means webcomics are nearly incapable of offending their audiences, because of audience self-selection. The sort of people who are capable of being offended by whatever a particular webcomic does simply don’t go look at that webcomic. But in a newspaper, the audience is everybody regardless of what they are offended by (see earlier note about there being only one local newspaper now, and think about the corollary).

So excellence is different for the different kinds of market; If the market is people who selected your comic, specifically, like the market for print collections, graphic novels, and web comics, you can pull out all the stops and go for the kill. In a newspaper strip or collection magazine strip, where the audience selected only a collection that happens to include your strip, you have to be compatible, in terms of not offending people, with the demographic that’s purchasing that collection. In a newspaper, where the demographic is everybody, it’s an extreme case – excellence lies in a very gentle kind of humor with no sharp edges or free-swinging hooks.

But in any collection you’re going to have to decide what is and isn’t offensive to your demographic, and therefore what is allowed, and market accordingly. People learn the tenor of your collection and buy it or not, depending on whether they are offended. You trade off your purchaser demographic against the range of humor that’s allowed, with the monopoly-newspaper market at one extreme, and the completely self-selected web market at the other. One one end, you get Garfield; at the other, you get Ghastly’s Ghastly comic and Sexy Losers.

Finally we get to Watterson’s problem. The syndicates want format restrictions, so that they can offer the strips to newspapers who print comics in a several specific formats. There’s a sort of cookie cutter that they have to be able to apply to your sunday strip, rearranging the panels in a variety of standard ways or even leaving out particular panels, while still having what’s left
make sense.

Watterson cried foul and rebelled against this, and managed to make his rebellion stick. Go him. But it hasn’t made the practice of requiring the cookie cutter any less common for other artists, has it? But if you’re printing your own collection, this problem goes away.

Anyway, unless we see some competition in local newspapers, I think that the market for newspaper comics is firstly too uniform, and secondly fading away. The good news is that the market for graphic novels seems to be expanding. Comics creators are going to have to place their work wherever they can – newspapers being one market among many, and the web being another. The creative continuum between simply hasn’t been explored yet.

Simply because of the diversity of new media and opportunities, I don’t think it’s wise at this point to give up your characters and copyrights to a syndicate deal if you want to continue to be successful in the future.

#80 Danny Burleson
January/14/2007
@ 2:03 pm

This may be a completely crazy and infeasible idea, but, what about a new syndicate? One built from the ground up with the task of fitting into today’s market in web and print.

The music industry had to shift gears due to downloading, the movie industry is just now coming to some kind of terms with web piracy (albeit slowly.) Even comic books had a depression of sorts in the mid-90’s to earlier this decade. They have yet to regain their former glory, but they didn’t sit back and say, “Things are fine,” and die slowly. They acknowledged the lack of readership and took steps to gain them back, by putting out a better product.

Why are syndicated comic strips so special that they are allowed to operate pretty much the same as they have for the last 60+ years? Any other company that didn’t change with the times for that long of a time would be gone now, or at least on the ledge. Especially one that has been so severly affected by the emergence of the Internet.

I don’t think it’s out of line to say something’s gotta change; besides making comics even smaller. Go comics, Comics.com and DailyINK subscriptions are steps in the right direction, but in the long term I don’t see them working as-is. And there’s still the ‘specialness’ (i.e. nostalgia, plus, easier on the eyes) of reading comics in print.

Some kind of hybrid would be nice. And the key word here is “distribution”. Something made available online, that can be purchased in a print-version, or that can be inserted into the paper, weekly or maybe even daily, for the general population (and any other methods anyone can come up with.)

The logistics of doing this are probabaly harder than I’d like to know. And I’m sure this just screams of the magazines that other companies are trying. But just think about a syndicate representative going into a newspaper and instead of begging for one, single feature to be squeezed into their paper, they present an all-in-one package that they simply have to insert into their paper like any other ad.

Those who don’t get the paper can read it online in either a subscription or pay-as-you-go or other more proper format.

And for those who don’t like to read comics online, but don’t get the paper, it can be made available in the magazine section, or even, *gasp*, in place of one of the tabloids in the store checkout lane. Or even direct subscriptions for the people who get the paper, but only for the comics, and would like to save some money.

Though, I’m sure if that plan worked, papers would complain about the further declination in readership; assuming they acknowledge there’s a problem. Maybe forget the save money part and charge as much for it as the average paper and that can be used an incentive by the papers for readers to decide if they want a whole paper for the same price or not.

#81 Charles Brubaker
January/14/2007
@ 6:16 pm

It could be possible. There’s a syndicate dedicated to distributing editorial cartoons (Cagle Cartoons Syndicate) and they’re doing pretty good.

Although I think one of the advantage Cagle has is that editorial cartoons are easier to distribute.

But in order for a new syndicate to happen, they’ll have to focus mostly print. The web version should have two weeks delay, so it will encourage readers to actually pick up newspapers to read their favorite strips.

#82 Matt Gill
January/15/2007
@ 12:16 am

A few things are lost in all this: For one, web comics and newspaper comics are ultimately two different mediums. They have a different form, different rules, and, really, different audiences. Like stage and film actors, being successful in one medium does not necessarily guarantee success in the other.

Also, while I am not saying that one medium is inherently better than the other, newspaper comics do tend to be more professionally executed and edited than web comics. Even a dull, creatively bankrupt legacy strip like Blondie is more consistent and fundamentally sound than 99.9% of self-published web comics.

In all web publishing (comics, music, video, blogs, etc) there seems to be a misconception that editorial guidance is the same as censorship, that any suggestion or criticism on the part of a publisher somehow contaminates the art. This is not true. F Scott Fitzgerald needed Maxwell Perkins, The Beatles needed George Martin, and, er, The Game needed Dr. Dre.

What is really desired here by the web comics crowd is legitimacy. They seem to feel (and maybe not say it out loud) that publication by a syndicate somehow legitimizes their work. A web cartoonist may be extremely successful in his work, earning a living with a devoted fan base, but still feels he is missing something without the “legitimization” of newspaper syndication. This is silly. If you are successful, you are successful.

For web comics to be truly taken seriously, the community itself must take itself seriously. Cartoonists and readers must demand excellence. Cartoonists must not bristle at any criticism that may float their way. Readers and critics need to read intelligently and not engage in fan-boy-like this sucks/this rocks behavior. The web comics community must develop its own standards of legitimacy and not look for approval from a different medium that really doesn’t give a rat’s ass about them.

#83 Ray Dillinger
January/15/2007
@ 9:13 am

It would be easier to take editorial control seriously if the market for editorially controlled works were less uniform.

As matters stand “Editorial control” is largely a codephrase for “advice on how to make your comic more palatable to the newspaper market.” If you’re doing something else, Editorial advice of that kind ranges between irrelevant and harmful.

If a comics editor were willing to work with me in the same way my novel editors works with me – helping develop the characters and keep the plotline consistent and making me aware of literary sources and helping with techniques to develop suspense or horror or technical consistency or giving hints on how to make sex scenes meaningful in the context of story or resolve dangling storylines as I bring the work to its climax and through its denouement – then huzzah for editorial control, I’d adore it and use it.

But I haven’t been able to find the market where that kind of editor works and, when the editor is working at cross purposes to the author, editorial control really is just a buzzword for censorship. There may be a few editors of the kind I’d like to work with working at Image and Vertigo, but personally I haven’t seen ’em and my art skills aren’t yet good enough to even attempt to sell into those markets.

The medium of comics as a “serious” literary form is young, and mostly (exclusively?) growing up outside of newspaper comics. It’s got a lot of immature prima donnas, true. But it’s vibrant and alive and growing. Give it a few decades and see what happens.

#84 mitch
April/23/2007
@ 6:25 pm

what are the hours of a average cartoonist.and what is the salary per year.will the career effect my family

#85 Charly Burleson
September/10/2007
@ 3:20 pm

Are you all completely clueless? No wonder the industry is suffering! (And I think there is plenty of evidence to support this) Someone tries to get you talking about ideas to make it better and all you can do (not all of you of course) is fight about stupid nit-picky crap! You all obviously love comics and want the best for them, but a few of you are more in love with yourselves and your own “right” ideas.

There have been a lot of good ideas here so why don’t you all get off your couches and do something with it! Who needs a big name, that’s just a convenient excuse. Who was Bill Watterson or Scott Adams before they were syndicated?

Best of luck to you all.

By the way Pat…

“Can anybody say â??Simpsons Comic Book Guyâ??”

I don’t allow “Simpsons” in my house, and don’t ever attack my husband like that again! People might start to see you for who you truly are.

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