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Creators posts “In Development” strip online for feedback

Today, Creators Syndicate posted the first strip of a new feature that they have under development. The new feature is entitled The Dogs of C Kennel by Mick Mastroianni. The web site says:

Creators Syndicate receives thousands of submissions every year, of which we only select a few to work with. From time to time, we come across submissions that we think have the potential for syndication down the road. The process of refining a new strip, developing the characters, rewriting the gags, and doing a million other things necessary before a finished product is ready for your local newspaper can take several years.

A cartoonist’s job is frequently lonely and difficult, but at the same time extremely fulfilling. Coming up with something funny and unique 365 days a year is a daunting task. It is not surprising that most of the comic strips you read in your local paper took much longer to develop than most people realize.

As a reader, you might be interested in watching what we consider a new experiment here at Creators. We have a received a submission called “The Dogs of C Kennel” by Mick Mastroianni that we think has much potential. So we will post it on our website, with a new strip each day, while it is still in its earliest stages.

Please don’t be surprised if you see many changes along the way. The whole point is to give you an opportunity to see a new strip in development and watch it as it evolves. It’s new, rough, unedited … The gags will change, the characters will change, the storylines will change, the settings will change…and you can watch it all right here!

This experiment will provide insight into how a cartoonist works, and how we will be shepherding Mick in the creative process. We hope you enjoy this new experiment on our website.

According to his bio, Mick is the grandson of B.C. creator Johnny Hart and did work as a stunt performer before trying his hand at cartooning. He is currently attending Broome Community College pursuing a liberal arts degree.

I hope this is a trend that will catch on among other syndicates. What excites me is that Creators is helping foster a dialog with the comic community about a new future feature. Imagine a syndicate successfully building up a fan base for a feature before it is even marketed to the newspapers.

Community Comments

#1 Charles Brubaker
February/15/2007
@ 10:32 pm

It’s an interesting trend, Alan.

It helped “Pearls Before Swine,” which was originally test-runned for over a year on United’s comics.com website, have successful newspaper run, with over 400 newspapers so far.

#2 Norm Feuti
February/16/2007
@ 7:02 am

It’s an interesting concept. I hope it works for them and the artists involved.

That said, I would be concerned that such a practice would kill more ideas than it fostered. Having the general public “mold” a strip in steps could result in a very sanitized, uniteresting product … rather than a spontaneous, natural feature that reflects the artist’s personal voice and is allowed to grow in a more organic way over time.

The saying “Too many cooks, spoils the broth” comes to mind.

I’d also be concerned that the people who visit the syndicate websites don’t necessarily reflect the public at large. The average comic strip reader doesn’t over-intellectualize a feature the way a lot of aficionados who haunts every comic strip blog and forum do.

I’d hate to put the fate of a new feature in the hands of the same people who naysay every new strip before it even debuts.

I do agree with Alan that the thought of building an audience pre-launch is intriguing. I hope I’m wrong and I wish Mick Mastroianni success.

#3 Rob
February/16/2007
@ 7:34 am

Mick is the grandson of B.C. creator Johnny Hart?
You mean they are actually going to pick up a cartoonist who has blood ties to an existing well known cartoonist instead of a complete outsider? How unusual.
(note sarcastic typing)

This is not a new trend. Nepotism is an old well worn road in the syndication industry.

#4 r stevens
February/16/2007
@ 10:23 am

Whoa! They invented webcomics! (again)

#5 mark
February/16/2007
@ 2:19 pm

I’m not concerned about the showcasing of a strip in the beginning stages of its development. If there is an opportunity to give feedback, then I think it’s a good idea. I have more confidence in the school of public opinion than I do in the decision-making process at several of the major syndicates. In one case, a strip called “Calvin and Hobbes” which was under development by a major syndicate was rejected. In another case, a strip called “Todd the Dinosaur” which should never have seen the light of newsprint was launched with enthusiasm.
I’ve given up trying to second-guess the syndicates.

#6 cartoon jamie
February/16/2007
@ 5:24 pm

wow! another cartoon strip about pets! how original!!

#7 Alex Hallatt
February/17/2007
@ 1:48 pm

Is this exercise really to aid development, or is it a marketing tool? It has got us interested and talking about the feature…

#8 Jon
February/19/2007
@ 11:59 am

I dont think its as bad of an idea as many have stated. From what I know, Creators Syndicate isn’t “editing” the comic. They are just hosting it on their site in hopes of getting his name out there, because they think it has great potential (and so do I from the ones I’ve seen so far). They seem to be “aiding” him in the process of getting it ready for publication.

This comic is different from many others because it seems to be geared to todaysyouths, with both its subject matter and the different types of dog “characters”.

#9 Rob
February/19/2007
@ 12:22 pm

Jon, do you work for Creators Syndicate? “This comic is different from many others because it seems to be geared to todays youths, with both its subject matter and the different types of dog â??charactersâ? sounds like a stock promo for the strip.

This “experiment” sound very similar to what is suppose to be happening over at Comics Sherpa (comicsshperpa.com). The only difference is the blood ties.

#10 steve s
February/19/2007
@ 3:40 pm

The best of luck to him. Though when I read his bio, it made me laugh more than the strips.

“He graduated twice from Kim Kahanaâ??s Stunt School, which helped him to land several principle stunt roles in television.”

“In 2005, after living his dream of being a stunt man, and seeing the lack of job security of stunt work, Mick was content to return home to be closer to his family. ”

How do you graduate twice from stunt school? Is that a cartoon idea or what??

All same, best of luck with the strip, Mick!

#11 Jon
February/20/2007
@ 7:48 am

Rob, no I do not work for Creators Syndicate. I did manage to look through their site and find the whole folder full of the Dogs of C-Kennel comic images, so I managed to look at the future ones that will be posted. There are over 50 uploaded online already.

#12 liz frye
February/20/2007
@ 8:52 am

I have to agree with Norm. I can’t imagine a quicker way to kill a strip than to submit it to the intensity of internet skepticism. From what I have seen in the majority of postings on sites like these, everyone laments the lack of new talent and new strips and blames old strips for taking up valuable real estate on the comics page with one hand, and then slams all the new stuff with the other. It is foolish to judge the merits of a comic from 1 week’s or sometimes even 1 month’s worth of strips. A good comic can take a very long time to really find its feet and reach it’s “golden era”. Look
at strips like “Bloom County” or “Dilbert” – their first stuff was not necessarily their best but they were allowed to grow and mature into great strips.
One of the disadvantages of trying to succeed in television is that one’s show needs to be practically and instant hit to remain on the air. One reason for this is the all powerful “Nielson” rating which has now been replaced by instant call-in data and internet polling. It used to be that comics and papers were different from TV and that a feature could have that development time. My fear is that the internet will send comics into the same need to prove themselves instantly and that a move like this one from creaters hastens that time.
I would also like to remind folks that comic writers need 365 jokes a year.
With most syndicates locking a feature into a 10 year contract immediately following development, that translates into 36,500 jokes
sent to public scrutiny – now add to that another 300-500 “development” jokes that will be wasted because they’ve already been put on public view. Those jokes cannot now be reworked for later release in the feature after the “tweaking” phase. I realize that doing a feature requires a very thick skin to criticism
but I feel that the development period is a very vulnerable time for an artist anyway and to expose him/her to floods of critcism right out of the box may not be the best way to grow an artist with confidence and vision.

#13 liz frye
February/20/2007
@ 9:09 am

ammendment:

Of course 10 years of jokes is only 3,650 not 36,500. It’s still an awful lot of jokes.

#14 JM
February/20/2007
@ 11:23 am

The web is a fantastic way to test drive a new feature, both for the creator and the audience. Only by producing on a regular basis can a new comic get better and only with an audience can a comic come to life. Feedback, good or bad sure beats none at all. This is a very tough industry and sooner or later you have to put your stuff out there and see if it floats.

#15 The Daily Cartoonist | News and blog about comic strips, editorial cartoons, cartoons
November/7/2007
@ 6:46 am

[…] Mick and Mason Mastroianni share writing responsibilities and Mason does the drawing. Mick has a strip in development with Creators entitled The Dogs of C […]

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