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Review: W.T. Duck by Aaron Johnson

Title: WT Duck
Creator: Aaron Johnson
Syndicate: Universal Press
Launch Date: September 8, 2008 January 2009
Rating (out of 5): Four Stars

Today marks the national launch of Aaron Johnson’s W.T. Duck for print syndication. I’ve been a fan of Aaron’s comic since he created the syndication bingo back in late 2006 (see here, here and here), and was excited to learn that Universal Press picked it up for a development deal and then for a national launch. In recent year’s niche comics have been the syndicate’s offering de jour – think features such as Retail, Lucky Cow and the more recent Daddy’s home. The inherent challenge with niche comics is expanding its readership to those not associated with the niche. Fortunately for Aaron, with the digital camera revolution, everyone fancies themselves as a photographer at some level so the humor is more universal and his audience encompasses just about everyone.

W.T. Duck is a based on the adventures of an unnamed white duck who has a no-nonsense attitude toward his work as a freelance wedding and part-time newspaper photographer. He can be brutally honest with the other characters and that heartless honesty is the power behind W.T. Duck’s humor. Great humor is based on the ability to get to the truth of any matter, and Aaron’s character delivers.

Aaron’s writing is worth studying for anyone up and coming. It’s quick and succinct. There’s no errant words to slow the reader down. He instantly sets up the gag, builds and then delivers the punch-line with a three panel efficiency bested perhaps only by Scott Adam’s Dilbert. The minimalist artwork also makes W.T. Duck a quick read.

In all, W.T. Duck should be one given strong consideration by editors. It has a large and devoted web community and with the addition of newspaper readers, W.T. Duck has the potential to overcome the gravitational pull of insufficient clientele that prevent other excellent strips from becoming more permanent features.

UPDATE: Universal Press has notified me to say that the WTD launch has been postponed until January 2009 citing soft market during the summer.

Community Comments

#1 Mike Witmer
September/8/2008
@ 9:35 am

I couldn’t agree more. WTD is consistently well-written. It has that Dilbert sarcasm without the Dilbert nerdiness (lol). Furthermore, Aaron makes it look really easy.

#2 frank white
September/8/2008
@ 10:13 am

Alan what does the term “soft market” mean? thanks – Frank

#3 Mark Buford
September/8/2008
@ 10:43 am

Well written strip. Very funny.
Aaron, use the time between now and January to get as far ahead as you can. It’ll afford you some vacation time if you want it (or if you just want to take a few days off to decompress from the daily grind).
Keep up the great work!

#4 Rich Diesslin
September/8/2008
@ 11:56 am

My guess is the “soft market” this summer means they did not meet their subscription goals yet but hope have more newspapers on-board for a January launch. I am guessing though.

#5 Norm Feuti
September/8/2008
@ 12:02 pm

Ditto on what Mark Buford said.

Best of luck to you in January, Aaron!

#6 anne hambrock
September/8/2008
@ 3:18 pm

Congrats and best of luck!

#7 Garey Mckee
September/8/2008
@ 4:05 pm

WTD has good art and great writing. I just wish it had kept it’s original full name as the title of the strip! LOL

#8 Alex Hallatt
September/8/2008
@ 4:07 pm

WTD is a great asset for Universal – Aaron has done all the ground work, developing the strip and building a community that reads it. I got into it because it was one of the first strips available as a widget in the Mac dashboard (though now I read it through Google Reader).

Aaron is tech-savy, smart and funny. WTD will continue to do well and it is going to be interesting to see if Aaron really needs Universal, or whether he’ll end up pulling a Rich Stevens on them…

#9 D.D.Degg
September/8/2008
@ 6:51 pm

Don’t know why, but the release date for “W.T.Duck” has been moved back to January 5, 2009 according to this page:
http://www.amuniversal.com/ups/newsrelease/?view=885

#10 Wiley Miller
September/9/2008
@ 6:34 am

Launching a new syndicated feature today in newspapers is nearly an impossible task simply because of the dire state of newspapers. Almost every day, you can read reports in Editor and Publisher of more newspapers making drastic cuts in personnel, which only adds more burdens on editors, as many newspapers today don’t even have a features editor anymore. Quite literally the last thing on their minds right now is making changes in their comics section, as they have so many other things to deal with on a daily crisis basis. And launching a strip, even in good times, in August is an iffy proposition, as editors aren’t paying attention to this stuff during summer. This, I would think, would have been compounded by the two political conventions happening back to back in August.

All of this has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the feature. This is why we try to explain to those who are trying to break in that there’s so much more to syndication than just creating a good feature. There have been many wonderful features that have failed due to circumstances beyond their control. One needs to learn about the business they want to work in if you want to be successful.

#11 Chris Laudermilk
September/9/2008
@ 8:10 am

Too bad on the release delay, but what’s a few more months after the long road to get to this point? I’ve been reading the strip since the beginning and always thought it was good enough to get here.

I’ve also always though it compared well with Dilbert. Same efficiency and same cutting humor. Both are daily reads.

#12 Alan Jones
September/9/2008
@ 5:13 pm

Wow, WTD is fabulous, I am a new fan and admirer of your work, Aaron! The writing is just great. Congrats and best of luck. If I can just find some good quality info specific to those in/outs of the biz as Wiley wrote, maybe one day I’ll be joining you!

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