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New free comic strip offered to newspapers

Ted Dawson (artist) and Max Weaver (writer) are offering a new comic to newspapers for free. The new comic, entitled Grubbs, is about an imaginative eight-year old boy, his imaginary friend Tyler and their exploits to torment his older siblings. The feature is offered for both daily and Sundays. The two plan on releasing comic book and trade paperbacks later this year. The promotional material states that “if newspaper response rates are postive, we plan to continue offering Grubbs free of charge thereafter.

Ted is the creator of the webcomic Spooner.

Community Comments

#1 Jason Nocera
October/6/2008
@ 6:57 am

My question. Will Ted, a former syndicated guy, get the same backlash as Kurtz did with his free experiment? This one puzzles me the most though, because he’s currently offering a free download of the comic book… DOH!

#2 Wiley Miller
October/6/2008
@ 7:21 am

There wasn’t any “backlash” against Scott Kurtz’s experiment, there was simply no response. In that regard, Ted will meet the same fate, and for the same reasons. At the risk of raising the ire of web cartoonists again, those reasons, which I tried desperately to explain during the Kurtz experiment, has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the strip. It has everything to do with editors being dependent on syndicates for what they see as pre-edited (safe) material that they can depend on being delivered on time. In other words, something they don’t have to think or worry about. This is compounded with today’s reality of massive cutbacks in personnel at newspapers across the country.

Theoretically, it should work. Theory, however, doesn’t trump reality of the market.

#3 Mike Witmer
October/6/2008
@ 7:29 am

It should be very interesting to see how this pans out. This feature is a much more newspaper oriented strip than PVP. I wonder if this will get any traction.

#4 Mike Lester
October/6/2008
@ 7:53 am

“Two editorial cartoonists retire” and “New free comic strip”…nothing like a little good news to get your Monday off to a roaring start.

#5 R Pyle
October/6/2008
@ 8:04 am

The downloadable comic book is nothing but gross-out humor. No wonder it’s being offered for free; no one would pay for this.

#6 Mike Lester
October/6/2008
@ 8:15 am

R.Pyle: I hadn’t actually read the “free comic” before my post. Owing to the variety of tastes and markets and expression, I usually don’t trash other people’s “work”. But you’re right, this is disingenuous and insulting to cartooning.

#7 Bill Holbrook
October/6/2008
@ 8:35 am

As most people know, I’ve been an enthusiastic supporter of webcomics since 1995. However, the strategy of offering material (no matter what the quality of the content) to newspapers for free is a negative one for all parties concerned.

#8 Norm Feuti
October/6/2008
@ 9:06 am

“However, the strategy of offering material (no matter what the quality of the content) to newspapers for free is a negative one for all parties concerned.”

Yeah, I have to wonder why one would go through the work of self syndicating, then not charge for it. Especially since the pittance that any newspapers would have to pay for it isn’t going to be the stumbling block in convincing them to add it.

I’m sure Chad Carpenter (Tundra) makes the bulk of his income from his books and merchandise, but the income from the 200+ papers he managed to get into is nothing to sneeze at.

Why turn that money down if you can get it?

#9 steve skelton
October/6/2008
@ 9:36 am

Perhaps they are hoping for a readership that will want the strip to stay in the papers they are in when the start to charge for the strip. I do think some editors are more willing to allow a non syndicated strip into their papers than they used to, but that is only an opinion. However, the bottom line is that you have to have a wonderfully innovative and funny strip that will transcend most of the 250 other strips that are syndicated and currently being offered in a safe and secure manner. Does this strip accomplish that? I am not offering an opinion one way or another, and I do wish them success.

#10 Dave Stephens
October/6/2008
@ 10:09 am

They’ll make if up with VOLUME, VOLUME, VOLUME!!!

Aren’t they clever?

LOL

#11 Wiley Miller
October/6/2008
@ 10:26 am

Clearly, Steve, you are attempting to apply logic in order to reach a conclusion that you would like to be true. This is placing ideology over reality. I’m guessing you don’t know or have worked with newspaper editors. All of what you put forth has nothing to do with their thought process.

#12 steve skelton
October/6/2008
@ 10:38 am

Wiley,

I self syndicated a strip called “Loose Nuts” for about 5 years, getting it into about a dozen papers, and was eventually was one of the final FineToon Fellowship recipients. I am currently producing a daily strip for my local paper, including full color Sundays, as a trial to see if I can get it anywhere, syndicated or not. I realize just how hard this is.

#13 Scott Lincoln
October/6/2008
@ 11:32 am

I remember “Spooner” and really enjoyed Ted’s work on that strip. I went to the “Grubs” website. What it actually said was “get free comics in your newspaper for a year”. I think that’s a little different than just “free comics”. Sounds to me like they want papers to try them out and hopefully hook some paying subscribers.

#14 Mike Lester
October/6/2008
@ 11:33 am

That this ‘give it away’ model is plausible or benefits the profession is a cloying, patronizing and less than honorable exercise and reflects badly on the profession.

This is not a personal attack on the creators but an attempt to protect the artform. My original argument is still: for the same reason that people who don’t know Sarah Palin from Sarah Lee should NOT be allowed to vote, (it’s NOT a right in the Constitution, look it up) neither do I think this kind of “cartooning” should be encouraged at the detriment and exclusion of real cartooning. Therefore, I do NOT “wish them success”.

#15 josh shalek
October/6/2008
@ 12:03 pm

Getting syndicated (or self-syndicated) is a long road, and I’m always interested in innovative ideas to get you there. I don’t think this particular idea will work, though, for many of the same reasons given here already.

Unless you’re ten, you shouldn’t be giving your work away for free. One thing I’ve noticed with newspaper editors is, if you don’t place a monetary value on your work, they won’t either. Also, like Wiley said above, I’ve only encountered one daily newspaper willing to take a risk on an “independent” comic strip. They only want to deal with the syndicates.

These creators seem to be applying a web comic approach to papers. Put your comics up for free and sell books and things to make a living. The problem is, newspaper readers are already paying customers. Someone surfing the web may be put off by having to pay for content, but you’ve already paid if you’re reading a newspaper.

All that said, I’ll be interested to see how this pans out.

#16 Rick Stromoski
October/6/2008
@ 2:07 pm

This so pathetically and unprofessionally sad it’s beyond comment.

#17 Bill Kellogg
October/6/2008
@ 2:39 pm

I don’t like it either. I think it sets a bad precedent. I don’t want to have to deal with editors saying “other self-syndicated cartoonists are letting us run their strips for free. Why do we have to pay for yours?”

#18 Matt Bors
October/6/2008
@ 2:46 pm

I’ve already had that problem. A few magazines and newspapers with decent budgets have asked me to work for free–er, I’m sorry–for exposure on the basis that other artists have had no problem with this in the past.

$0 is not the best place to start bargaining from when you are a freelancer. Giving away work to for-profit enterprises is non-sense.

#19 Art Turner
October/6/2008
@ 3:24 pm

I agree, this sets a bad precedent. How can self-syndicated cartoonists compete with FREE? Next thing you know, the syndicates will be giving away comics free online or something. I can’t imagine what effect that would have on the ability of cartoonists to make money.

Then there are the cartoonists who make a living by producing features for the syndicates’ comics package, a variety of second-tier comics that newspapers can buy for ten or fifteen dollars a month. Cartoonists who give away their work could hurt this practice.

Let’s face it, the only chance a cartoonist has is to get syndicated. The syndicates know what they’re doing. Nobody else has the sales power to get newspapers to pay five or six dollars a week for comic strips.

Newspapers are hurting and we don’t need them to think that just because of that, comics should be free. The company that owns the New Yorker only brought in a little over seven billion dollars last year and because of this slump, one of its papers, the New Jersey Star-Ledger, is in big trouble and might fold at the end of the year. We see it all around us. Big corporations just can’t afford to keep their newspapers running at top speed.

The fate of cartoonists is in the hands of the syndicates and media conglomerates, and thank goodness for the brave stewardship we see helming these companies. Leaving things in the hands of cartoonists will just further wash out the field, as activities like this comic strip give-way demonstrate.

#20 Alex Hallatt
October/6/2008
@ 3:46 pm

Anyone else notice that the central character has an imaginary friend and a name that is a truncated form of Bill Watterson (Billy Watson)? Take off the cap, Calvin, we know you are in there!

I like the drawing style, but by giving away stuff for free in an already low-valued market isn’t going to win these guys any friends professionally.

#21 Ted Dawson
October/6/2008
@ 4:00 pm

Guys, first off, in order for anything to sell, it has to have perceived value. Comics have little perceived value to American newspapers.

Secondly, the papers we’re approaching are primarily weekly newspapers. These papers usually don’t carry comics at all because 1) they can’t afford them and 2) the dailies have all the popular comics.

If this could hurt the ability of cartoonists to earn a living any more than corporate newspaper ownership, JOAs, syndicate mergers and cartoonist inaction, I’d love to know how.

Papers in Latin America and Asia are booming, partly due to comics. Those Publishers know something we don’t, and something the FTC doesn’t, either.

Let’s imagine a scenario where Grubbs gets into a couple hundred papers, and comics develop a perceived value to weekly newspapers. Might they then consider paying for other comics?

If a paper isn’t willing to pay for comics, it’s because they aren’t perceived as relevant to the publishers. Comics are only perceived as money going out, and papers are concerned with what can bring money in. Comics can do that, through increased readership, but it has to be demonstrated. And because of what the industry has done (and not done) in the past two decades, it has to be demonstrated all over again.

#22 Wiley Miller
October/6/2008
@ 4:31 pm

“Comics have little perceived value to American newspapers.”

Really? Then why are comics the ONLY thing newspapers conduct reader polls on?

#23 J.G. Moore
October/6/2008
@ 4:40 pm

These guys will fail. They won’t be able to create good work WITHOUT getting paid. It seems like people try the whole “free cartoons” gimmick. It never works. They are much better off creating a website and growing that site. That, or keep at getting syndicated. Those are the only two ways to be a pro in the cartooning area.

#24 Tom Wood
October/6/2008
@ 4:53 pm

“Secondly, the papers weâ??re approaching are primarily weekly newspapers. These papers usually donâ??t carry comics at all because 1) they canâ??t afford them and 2) the dailies have all the popular comics.”

Since you mention those papers being in the same market as a daily, I assume you mean Alternative Weekly papers? Here it’s the Austin Chronicle. They’re down to four comics on one page, at the back mixed in with “those” ads. (The pages are news-magazine size remember.) None on their website.

Gonna be a tough nut to crack.

#25 J.G. Moore
October/6/2008
@ 4:54 pm

They can grow the site and sell comics, books, casual games and other things that will make way more money then creating content for “dead trees”. Dead trees don’t pay very well.

#26 Darrin Bell
October/6/2008
@ 5:02 pm

I’ll check back in a year to see if it’s worked.

#27 Jason Nocera
October/6/2008
@ 5:50 pm

Sorry, Ted, I don’t agree with your argument. I’ve approached weekly newspapers who don’t run comics and have gotten them to pay me for my strip. I’ve created paying markets, not pissed potential ones away.
You’re doing no one any favors, but on the contrary, you’re hurting the industry by setting a bad precedent for potential markets.

#28 frank white
October/6/2008
@ 6:24 pm

Alan why don’t you cut this thread? It’s appaling how these proffesional cartoonists are complaining in a very unproffessional manner about these two guys’ work . It is up to them how they go about distributing their comic strip. It’s their property!
You always say you expect people to act proffesional in these comment threads and I’ve seen very little evidence of it here. Why is it the proffesional creators are allowed to get away with these kind of comments but when an ordinary spectator mouths similar results the whole comment threa seems to get closed?

#29 Ted Dawson
October/6/2008
@ 6:42 pm

Well, it’s entirely possible that this is an awful comic, it is going to fail, it will further reduce the value of Comics, and that it will hurt the chances of other cartoonists. If I believed that, I wouldn’t do it.

Frankly, I feel like I’m seeing more than a little transference here. I’m not the one who’s hurting the comic strip industry, guys.

#30 Ted Dawson
October/6/2008
@ 6:47 pm

I have no problem with the thread remaining open. Most are just honest opinions, and no one takes the caustic ones seriously anyway. I certainly don’t take them personally. It’s a valid discussion as to whether giving away comics is a benefit or detriment.

#31 Ted Dawson
October/6/2008
@ 6:51 pm

Tom, not alternative weeklies but community weeklies.

Wiley, I believe newspapers poll comics so they don’t have to take responsibility for making decisions that affect the comics pages. But I don’t think that’s a viable argument for comics’ perceived value.

#32 Ted Rall
October/6/2008
@ 7:23 pm

If these creators live in New York, the famous big blow-up rat should be placed in front of their building. Scabbing is tacky.

#33 mike crachiolo
October/6/2008
@ 8:49 pm

i could not believe what i read a free comic to newspapers! these guys have lost it and not only that it sound like a total rip off of calvin and hobbs. hey guys quit whle you are behind

#34 Alan Gardner
October/6/2008
@ 8:59 pm

Comments closed. Ted, sorry the discussion came to this.

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