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Time Magazine touts the coming age of Web comics

Girls & Sports co-creator Andrew Feinstein writes in to point me to a recent article in Time magazine about how the web is reinvigorating comics. I found the article to be a bit amateurish – it was clear that the writer didn’t know a great deal about which he was writing. While there are some cool things happening in the web comics space – I think this writer was fed a bunch of biased information and didn’t bother to get the perspective of the traditional route cartoonists.

Read it yourself. If another web comic v. newspaper comic war erupts on this blog – I only ask that you keep it civil.

Community Comments

#1 JM
March/28/2007
@ 2:30 pm

Actually, I think the “discussions” on this blog have had far more substance..I’d expect to read this kind of article in a high school paper, not Time.

#2 Danny Burleson
March/28/2007
@ 2:34 pm

First I want to say that every newspaper comic is freaking awesome! *cheesy grin*

But seriously, on the one hand it’s nice to see a mainstream publication like Time addressing the issue in general. Especially when, as I’ve learned from certain experiences, there are many in the industry who think the, um, ‘shifting of mediums’ is in the imaginations of people like me. Or at least don’t want to admit it.

On the other hand, as you said, Alan, that article was amateurish. I was clued into the article the other day and was excited to see a ‘professional journalist’s’ say on the issue. I was greeted with a rather shallow article filled with too many things I already knew.

Maybe it was informative to those NOT in the know, but how does it help the issue to make a damning statement like, “Comic strips in newspapers are dying. They’re starved for space, crushed down to a fraction of their original size. They’re choked creatively by ironfisted syndicates and the 1950s-era family values that newspapers impose,” and then not really back it up with any substance? It’s kind of sad seeing an article that sounds like something I could of just pieced together for a blog comment.

Plus, ‘iron-fisted’ is hyphenated and it’s, “Newspaper comics strips” not “Comic strips in newspapers”.

On a side note, I think one good issue that was addressed, but could’ve used more elaboration, was regarding space. Webcomics are only limited by what will fit on the screen (bigger even, but frankly, those ‘infinite-scrolling’ ones are obnoxious), which means that webcomics have the potential to be more beautiful than modern newspaper ones.

I say ‘modern’, because a Krazy Kat sized comic won’t work well on the web without the scrolling issue, plus, it loses the impact one big page has. But, with rare exception, I seldom see anyone utilize that potential.

#3 Norm Feuti
March/28/2007
@ 5:05 pm

It’s nice that Time is giving props and attention to some webcomics that truly deserve it … but I agree that the tone of the article was one sided and not very thoughtful.

Whenever I hear that newspaper comics are dying, I just think about F-Minus launching in over 70 papers and Lio launching in over 100. Calvin & Hobbes only launched in 35 newpapers back in 1985 when the industry was comparatively booming. Newspapers may die someday, but I don’t think their demise is quite as close as many people seem to think/hope.

Web comics deserve respect, but I don’t understand why it always seems to be at the expense of print comics.

If I were running my own successful webcomic with a zillion visits a day and merch and animation and all the other spoils that come with it, I don’t think I’d have a bad thing to say about anyone.

#4 rstevens
March/28/2007
@ 5:13 pm

I think that “graveyard” quote is a very, very old one from a panel at the San Diego Comicon. The whole discussion was “web vs. print,” so it’s not exactly Mike zeroing in to nuke print comics on purpose.

#5 Steve Mielczarek
March/28/2007
@ 6:55 pm

I don’t get it. Maybe that’s why I live in a Home Depot leaf raking bag. Under a bridge. It’s not a pretty bridge either…But, somebody, please tell me. If you can say fcuk to the syndicates,
how do you pay the bills with a web-only comic. Or, do these cartoonists have powerful friends. Or, did they do it with Anna Nicole? I don’t get it. Where does the money come from? What’s “The Secret?”

#6 Norm Feuti
March/28/2007
@ 7:37 pm

>>>>I think that â??graveyardâ? quote is a very, very old one from a panel at the San Diego Comicon. The whole discussion was â??web vs. print,â? so itâ??s not exactly Mike zeroing in to nuke print comics on purpose.>>> “I don’t know why you’d want to rush to get to that cemetery,” says Krahulik. “I guess everybody wants their dad to like them, right? They feel like they need that approval. I think we represent the exact opposite of that.”

#7 Norm Feuti
March/28/2007
@ 7:39 pm

I think that â??graveyardâ? quote is a very, very old one from a panel at the San Diego Comicon. The whole discussion was â??web vs. print,â? so itâ??s not exactly Mike zeroing in to nuke print comics on purpose.

“I don’t know why you’d want to rush to get to that cemetery,” says Krahulik. “I guess everybody wants their dad to like them, right? They feel like they need that approval. I think we represent the exact opposite of that.”

I didn’t intepret it as a “nuke”, but it’s definitely a dig at newspaper cartoonists used to glorify the image of web cartoonists.

To say that web cartoonists don’t want their creativity hindered and sanitized by newspaper and syndicate editors is fair, but to imply that anyone still going after the traditional route of print syndication must have a misplaced need for approval is not.

In a completely unrelated observation, the online version of the article didn’t bother to link or provide the URL to any of the web comics it mentioned. That’s sort of lame.

#8 rstevens
March/28/2007
@ 7:53 pm

“how do you pay the bills with a web-only comic.”

Lots and lots of legwork. You don’t need to sell a lot of merchandise to live middle-class using a web audience. I’ve done it for five years, PA and PVP have for much longer.

The difference between them and me is that I see syndication as a bonus, not a curse.

#9 anne
March/28/2007
@ 8:54 pm

i don’t think newspapers will ever really go away – the business model will just change drastically. Probably the larger papers that have subscribers all over the country will fold or go to web only versions of themselves. They already have to compete with USA Today which probably changed the face of the paper industry in the same way CNN changed the face of television news. But local papers will most likely survive. My local paper is a terrible source for national or international news but a terrific way for me to find out what my local politicians are up to, who’s giving a free concert at the library, what the grocery store sales are, why there were two fire trucks on the downtown square yesterday, etc. As a taxpayer with children who needs to know what is going on in my community, my daily newspaper is invaluable. The big question will be – will my local paper need to carry comic strips to keep me subscribing? In my case, yes – when I lived in the 2-paper town of Chicago I definately picked the paper that had the comics that I wanted, and comics will always be a really important part of my day. I read the comics all through my growing up years and even subscribed to the local paper in the town where I attended college just so I could read the comics. (I don’t really remember reading anything else in that paper actually) I expect that today’s college students have very little interest in actual papers and would rather get all their info and entertainment on the web but maybe when they settle down in a community they will be interested in the local paper, especially if the town is too small for a web presence. Only time will tell.

Oh, I forgot – I also really like the portability of my paper , it is a lot easier to read on the train than dealing with the laptop and I can actually write on my crossword puzzle. (yes I ‘m one of those people who does those too – go ahead – just call me a dinosaur and be done with it!)

#10 Danny Burleson
March/29/2007
@ 12:00 am

“Web comics deserve respect, but I donâ??t understand why it always seems to be at the expense of print comics.”

It certainly seems there’s a bitter war between print vs. web. While I think I come across as one of those on the ‘death to newspaper comics’ side, I’m really not. It’s not about webcomics directly REPLACING print comics, it’s simply about the future. And to be frank, newspapers as we know them simply will not last. They’re actively being eroded away by the emergence of online offerings. I predicted that the Internet itself was getting too big too fast and was going to leave a lot of people hurting, and what happened? The dot com bust.

I’m saying the same thing now about newspapers; except in reverse. I’ve noticed for a number of years that newspapers have continually gone downhill (heck, they’ve been doing so since before I was born.) It’s a simple matter of progress. Papers will get distilled to their bare essentials, to the point you’ll be paying $2+ for a smaller paper. And I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that they’ll probably drop comics before they get rid of say, the sports section.

I doubt it will happen anytime soon. But when it comes to making a comic you want to last 20, 30 or 50+ years, I think it’s a good idea to take a good hard look NOW at the reality that there may not be a viable print venue THEN if you don’t think about what it is you wish to ultimately accomplish.

I personally haven’t entirely given up on developing my comic for syndication, but honestly, even without the prestige of being a ‘legitimate cartoonist’, there’s a certain allure to doing a comic on my terms, ultimately making it my job to listen to the readers not a jaded editor (and I mean no offense to jaded editors, but the simple fact is if you do something like this so long you begin to get higher and higher humor expectations to the point the nothing is funny anymore. I’m not even an editor and I catch myself critiquing comics more than reading/enjoying them.)

#11 anne
March/29/2007
@ 5:56 am

Actually the root issue here shouldn’t be web comics vs newspaper comics, it should be free comics vs subscription comics. I don’t understand why even syndicates put their comics on the web for free. The folks who are succeeding to any point financially at web comics are those who use a subscription model. I think King Features is paving the way with thier Daily Ink service and I don’t understand why the other syndicates don’ t follow suit.

I always got the impression that syndicates were interested in making money as a primary goal. If all syndicates would follow this model an artist could once again look to syndication either on the web OR in print format as a great way to focus on their art and not spend all their time running the business of their own subscription service.

#12 anne
March/29/2007
@ 6:00 am

I also meant to add that if syndicates are currently making money from the web it is by offering ad space. I don’t believe the artist gets any part of that money. King’s artists get a cut , albeit probably a very small one, and there are no ads or pop ups with their service.

#13 r stevens
March/29/2007
@ 8:01 am

“Actually the root issue here shouldnâ??t be web comics vs newspaper comics, it should be free comics vs subscription comics. ”

If only that were the case! Almost every professional web cartoonist I know of has a free website and makes their money off of ads, merchandise and/or freelance garnered from the larger (tho still smaller than newspaper) audience that an open site allows them to grow.

Selling “bonus” subscriptions to fan clubs, email lists and the like are a very small fraction of things in my experience.

If anything, the debate might be better defined as “niche comics” vs. “comics with mass appeal”.

#14 Jeff Pert
March/29/2007
@ 12:18 pm

I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. Comics is comics, to my way of thinking, whether in newspapers or on the web. The only thing that makes a strip “legitimate” in my eyes is whether its creator is earning a living off it.

More good comics in any medium bodes well for the art form. Squabbling about the medium is useless.

#15 MJ
March/29/2007
@ 2:36 pm

I’ll agree with Jeff, Comics are comics in whatever form. I do both on the web and in print. My main purpose for doing the web is to offer those that don’t subscribe to the paper version a chance to see my comics. It’s all about promotion the way I see it.

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