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Universal launches talent search with Amazon

Andrews McMeel Universal, the parent company of Universal Uclick, has announced the launch of a talent search along with Amazon.com to find “the first Comic Strip Superstar.” The winner will receive a publishing contract from Andrews McMeel Publishing, a $5,000 advance from Universal Uclick and a monthly stipend for the development of 20 comic strips that will be considered for syndication.

The competition begins today and runs through September 12. Five thousand entries will be accepted and should consist of 10 daily strips and two Sunday comics along with a title and brief synopsis. Universal Uclick will narrow it down to 250, then editors John Glynn and Lee Salem will winnow the quarter finalists to 50 at which point Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury), Lynn Johnston (For Better or For Worse), Scott Hilburn (The Argyle Sweater) and Mark Tatulli (Lio, Heart of the City) will choose 10 finalists and post feedback for each on Amazon.com. Amazon.com customers will then have the opportunity to view the finalists’ submissions and vote for the grand prize winner.

The winner will be announced Nov. 9, 2009, and will receive a prize package from Andrews McMeel Universal which includes a publishing contract with Andrews McMeel Publishing and a newspaper syndication development deal and contract for distribution on GoComics.com desktop and mobile applications from Universal Uclick.

For more information on the Comic Strip Superstars competition, visit www.amazon.com/comicstripsuperstar.

Community Comments

#1 Steve Skelton
August/18/2009
@ 8:43 am

Well holy crap. I thought that was what I have been doing putting my comic strip on Sherpa and now on Uclick for the past 18 months.

#2 Samantha Wikan
August/18/2009
@ 8:58 am

It specifically says entries must be “unpublished”… does that eliminate webcomics? That is, comics who have ONLY appeared on the web on comic sites. Does that count as being ‘published’ under the rules?

#3 Rick Ellis
August/18/2009
@ 9:13 am

Wow. Another way to get rejected.
I’m all tingly.

#4 Steve Skelton
August/18/2009
@ 9:56 am

Actually, Rick, I think this is a rejection notice to all those who have strips on Sherpa and all those who have unsyndicated strips on Uclick. I think that might be about 200 or more cartoonists who are actually working regularly to offer their best work, many without missing a day in years. Oh, let’s have a contest.

#5 Mike Cope
August/18/2009
@ 10:06 am

** Cracks his knuckles **

#6 Jason Nocera
August/18/2009
@ 10:09 am

The grand prize is $5,000 for a MINIMUM of 200 comic strips. That’s $25.00 (at THE MOST) per comic strip.

Then you get $300.00 for 20 comic strips a month. That’s $15.00 per comic strip. (development period)

That does not include any royalties you might get from GoComics (don’t know the average figure) and it does not factor in taxes you might have to pay

#7 Corey Pandolph
August/18/2009
@ 10:10 am

Apparently, I have to set myself on fire to get noticed.

Next Superstar, indeed.

#8 Jesse Cline
August/18/2009
@ 10:12 am

this sounds like “Wanna be a VJ”…

#9 Lucas Turnbloom
August/18/2009
@ 10:16 am

Holy crap, indeed.

#10 Jesse Cline
August/18/2009
@ 10:25 am

“The grand prize is $5,000 for a MINIMUM of 200 comic strips. Thatâ??s $25.00 (at THE MOST) per comic strip.”

check out the rules…royalties are part of the publishing deal for the minimum of 200 comics. If it sells well, one could conceivably make more than $5k.

#11 frank white
August/18/2009
@ 10:40 am

How is this different to the normal submissions process?
around 5000 submissions a year…….
get a development deal, get syndicated and also you will only get published in books by the parent company if your work is in enough newspapers to warrant it

#12 Jason Nocera
August/18/2009
@ 10:42 am

You’re right, Jesse, there’s always that potential carrot dangling in front. I should have added that the figures don’t include any royalties you *might* receive after the first $5,000. I didn’t notice the percentage – did you? All I noticed was that the deal was non-negotiable.

“They Want a SuperStar, Not A Fake Rock Star” isn’t that a song by Avril Lavigne?

#13 Corey Pandolph
August/18/2009
@ 10:45 am

Suck it, Nocera. I was joking.

#14 Jesse Cline
August/18/2009
@ 11:13 am

Jason, notice I said one could conceivably make more, I didn’t say it was guaranteed or how much it is. I was just pointing out to anyone who might want to enter that you were mistaken when you said “at THE MOST”.

#15 Samantha Wikan
August/18/2009
@ 11:31 am

@Corey Pandolph After all the work you have put out there, maybe setting yourself on fire IS the next step! *I’m a Corey fangirl*

It reads as if you guys are discouraging participation in the contest?

I don’t know that the contest is a bad thing. Everyone making a comment in this thread is a creative-minded person. You can use the contest as an exercise to explore another comic idea. Put it out there in the world somewhere and see what happens. I remember reading somewhere that Charles Shultz once commented that he wished he had done something other than “Peanuts” all the time. If by some 1 in 5,000 chance you win the contest, (HOORAY for you!) I don’t see where you are REQUIRED to accept the prize if you find it disagreeable.

Or am I just too “out there” in my thinking?

#16 Steve Skelton
August/18/2009
@ 11:39 am

Well, it really is a PR move, and a good one at that. It certainly doesn’t harm the profession.

#17 Corey Pandolph
August/18/2009
@ 11:45 am

I think its a good idea.

#18 Rick Stromoski
August/18/2009
@ 11:57 am

>>> Amazon.com customers will then have the opportunity to view the finalistsâ?? submissions and vote for the grand prize winner.

What an utterly degrading way to chose a strip to launch. Degrading for the cartoonists, the syndicate and newspaper comics in general. This makes me profoundly sad and embarrassed.

#19 Mark_Tatulli
August/18/2009
@ 12:05 pm

I don’t know that Tony Carillo felt degraded when he won the MTV comic strip contest. He ended up getting a syndicate deal with United and has two books out and was nominated for the NCS best comic panel in 2007. Not bad for a kid fresh out of college. We should all be so degraded.

#20 Lucas Turnbloom
August/18/2009
@ 12:09 pm

I wish someone would degrade me like that!

#21 josh shalek
August/18/2009
@ 12:09 pm

Time to dust off my old “Blavin and Blobbes” concept.

#22 Rick Stromoski
August/18/2009
@ 12:09 pm

I am actually shocked that those named would participate in such a degrading excercise. It reminds me of Scott Adams’s call for entries for an artist for the appropriately named strip “unfit” a few years back. Web & print cartoonists alike jumped at the chance to publicly humiliate themselves…

I’m speechless that a major syndicate would choose to launch a strip in such a manner… disrespectfull of all of us who do what we do. Doesn’t anyone have any pride anymore? Is what we do relegated to a prize in a contest? Have we sunk so low as an industry that we treat our art form like F—ing bingo game?

This is so insulting on so many levels.

Milt Caniff is spinning in his grave.

#23 Rick Ellis
August/18/2009
@ 12:11 pm

There. While you all have been talking I’ve entered 5.000 times.
All the spots are taken.

#24 Jason Nocera
August/18/2009
@ 12:12 pm

I’m not trying to steer anyone in any one direction. I was just doing the math and breaking down the prize. Personally, it helps me put things into perspective.

Frank did ask how this is different than a normal submission process – I think the major difference is you only supply 10 dailies.

As for the Amazon voting – that’s just good marketing. Get Amazon book buyers interested in a book that’s not printed yet and hopefully boost pre-sales/sales for when it does come out.

#25 Mark_Tatulli
August/18/2009
@ 12:13 pm

From Tony (F-MINUS)Carillo’s Amazon page:

* In December 2004, the strip was named the winner of the 2004 mtvU Strips Contest, as chosen by judges Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, and David Rees, creator of Get Your War On, as well as more than 200,000 online voters.

Sheesh, pretty degrading stuff! It’s a wonder he can hold his head up!

#26 Charles Brubaker
August/18/2009
@ 12:15 pm

I don’t mind being degraded!

It’s not like I’m not used to it.

#27 A Jonathan Cox
August/18/2009
@ 12:19 pm

What nerve, people looking at a comic strip and deciding whether they like it or not. That’s degrading, sirs/ma’ams! Degrading through the nose!

#28 Corey Pandolph
August/18/2009
@ 12:22 pm

Once again, Rick Stromoski speaks before thinking.

Anyone wanna take bets on how long it takes him to apologize for his “mean-spirited” comment?

C’mon, Rick. Just stop.

#29 Rick Stromoski
August/18/2009
@ 1:08 pm

>>>Once again, Rick Stromoski speaks before thinking.

Anyone wanna take bets on how long it takes him to apologize for his â??mean-spiritedâ? comment?

Câ??mon, Rick. Just stop.

I unapologetically stand by everything I’ve written in this thread.

#30 Wiley Miller
August/18/2009
@ 1:19 pm

I can’t imagine if there was someone out there who would be the next “comic strip superstar” that they wouldn’t have already submitted their strip long ago, rather than seeing this contest and only then sit down to pen a feature on a whim. Such a talent should have, I would think, already been recognized.

On the other hand, perhaps this silly exercise might bring more attention of the importance and popularity of comics to editors and reach them on a business level, just as the Chicago Tribune has suddenly re-discovered the advantages of having a staff cartoonist.

#31 Scott Nickel
August/18/2009
@ 1:32 pm

Great idea for a contest!

I think they should pick syndicate editors the same way.

#32 Scott Nickel
August/18/2009
@ 1:33 pm

So everyone currently on GoComics (and Sherpa) is essentially eliminated from the competition?

wow

#33 Steve Skelton
August/18/2009
@ 1:43 pm

I guess they wanted to eliminate the ones with perseverance, dedication and the creative fuel to actually draw and post a comic strip everyday and focus on somebody who will be absolutely brilliant at it because the contest game him something to do other than play video games in their parent’s basement.

#34 Eric Millikin
August/18/2009
@ 1:48 pm

They’re going â??to find the first Comic Strip Superstarâ??

I can’t imagine the “winner” of this job application process is going to be a super star, let alone a bigger super star then about a hundred comics artists of the last century, let alone the first comics super star ever.

#35 Alan Gardner
August/18/2009
@ 2:05 pm

This is all marketing. Will they find the next Calvin and Hobbes, Far Side? Not likely. I think this might be indicative of 2 things – good submission talent is getting harder to find or they’re just trying something new – using Amazon to get more visibility to a potential comic in hopes of using it to help sell said comic when its ready to launch.

#36 Stephanie McMillan
August/18/2009
@ 2:22 pm

Of course it’s advance marketing for the book, and a way to build an audience and test their response before committing to a syndication deal. I imagine it would be very valuable to say to a newspaper editor, “This is the strip that won Amazon’s contest and got a bazillion fans to vote for it.”

#37 Samantha Wikan
August/18/2009
@ 2:28 pm

I don’t see that anyone on GoComics and Sherpa is eliminated. You can submit original strips from those comics can’t you? You just can’t publish THOSE strips until they are eliminated from the contest.

And you don’t have to win to get a publishing contract. Andrews McMeel or Universal uClick might decide they like your stuff and will negotiate contract terms with you. If you find a better deal elsewhere, they want the right to contract with you at that better deal (I believe that is what they mean by “last rights”)…if they can’t match it, you are free to take that other offer.

My eyes kinda glazed over near the middle there. Someone point out something else we should be aware of in those paragraphs.

At least two webcomickers have come out on twitter with sentiments similar to Rick Stromoski above. I have to say, I despise shows like “American Idol” and all that and putting the contest in that context makes it kind of repugnant. ( But at least we don’t have to see the first elimination rounds! )

On the other hand, I haven’t ever submitted anything to the syndicates and many many newer comic creators haven’t either. We began creating comics when newspapers had begun shrinking and “weeding out” the comics section and it seemed futile. And now they’re asking for submissions? It’s opened a door some of us newer folks thought forever closed to us.

I am someone totally new to the whole process. Would you experiences folk please point out the most objectionable things about the contest (aside from the fact that it IS a contest).

#38 Chris Fournier
August/18/2009
@ 2:47 pm

How is this any different than “America’s Got Talent” or “American Idol”.

Without “Idol” we wouldn’t have Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood.

#39 L Taylor
August/18/2009
@ 2:51 pm

I’m curious too – does unpublished mean it cannot have been published online as a webcomic, or does it just mean not published by some company?

#40 Henry Clausner
August/18/2009
@ 3:27 pm

:::::::standing from the top of the castle yelling::”release the hounds!…release the hounds..”

#41 David Willis
August/18/2009
@ 4:01 pm

“Iâ??m curious too â?? does unpublished mean it cannot have been published online as a webcomic, or does it just mean not published by some company?”

The terms of the deal specify that Amazon/Universal gets all rights to your work, win or lose, so if you do submit your previously-existing webcomic, prepare to permanently disown it.

#42 Samantha Wikan
August/18/2009
@ 4:22 pm

David Willis:

They get the rights to those sample strips you submitted to them, right? Not the WHOLE comic.

#43 Mike Cope
August/18/2009
@ 4:22 pm

The ideal comics page offers readers a diverse package of strips that cater to their different tastes. In essence, the comics page is already a popularity contest.

However, we are entering an increasingly “consumer-customized” world, and so, I don’t see the harm in giving readers an opportunity to participate in a taste selection, for they are the ones we hope will eventually contact their editors about and request.

They are also the ones who support our creative endeavors by purchasing comic strip collections.

Above all else, I think this is a great way to help re-KINDLE a love for the daily comic strip!

#44 Jesse Cline
August/18/2009
@ 4:23 pm

“The terms of the deal specify that Amazon/Universal gets all rights to your work, win or lose, so if you do submit your previously-existing webcomic, prepare to permanently disown it.”

Completely untrue…

“By submitting an Entry, each entrant grants to Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC exclusive first publication rights to the Entry and grants to Universal Uclick exclusive rights to syndication IF entrant is: (a) selected as a First Round Finalist, until such time that the First Round Finalist is eliminated from the Contest ; or (b) if entrant is selected as a Finalist, until December 31, 2009; and (c) if selected as Grand Prize Winner, pursuant to the obligations of Grand Prize Winner described in Section 8 below.”

#45 L Taylor
August/18/2009
@ 4:26 pm

Here’s what the rules say – though I’d be glad to be correct if I missed some other part:

“By submitting an Entry, each entrant (and, if an Eligible Minor, his/her parent or legal guardian) grants to Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC exclusive first publication rights to the Entry and grants to Universal Uclick exclusive rights to syndication if entrant is: (a) selected as a First Round Finalist, until such time that the First Round Finalist is eliminated from the Contest ; or (b) if entrant is selected as a Finalist, until December 31, 2009; and (c) if selected as Grand Prize Winner, pursuant to the obligations of Grand Prize Winner described in Section 8…”

So my understanding is not that they get the rights to your comic forever – only to use things properly during the course of the contest, and even then only if you are selected to be a finalist.

#46 L Taylor
August/18/2009
@ 4:29 pm

Regardless that doesn’t really answer my question unfortunately. I still want to know what exactly “unpublished” means. I’d be surprised if it meant you could not send in comics from a personal webcomic, as that would lose a vast number of potential entries, but I’d like to make sure before worrying about entering anything.

#47 Jim Wilson
August/18/2009
@ 4:44 pm

Just do a ‘Far Side” rip-off, clone feature like Scott Hilburn’s (The Argyle Sweater) and yer GUARANTEED to be a WINNER because Salem & Glynn are so senile by now that they can’t discern a clone from an “original” idea.

#48 Steve Skelton
August/18/2009
@ 5:13 pm

“Above all else, I think this is a great way to help re-KINDLE a love for the daily comic strip!”

Mike, I totally agree with you. This could be fun. But what if Universal were to recognize all of the unsyndicated strips currently under their helm by making the contest with Amazon using these strips? There are lots of good strips right now on Uclick that are NOT syndicated and these could comprise the contest. Or at least be included. Basically, this contest undermines the whole Sherpa concept and is a bit of a slap in the face to those of us doing a non syndicated daily strip for Uclick.

#49 Steve Skelton
August/18/2009
@ 5:17 pm

…and at the end of it all, if you are not already passionate about the art form and currently working to hone your writing and your drawing, then you won’t probably be able to produce a good comic strip. I am sure there is an exception, but really, this is pretty much the way it is.

#50 L Taylor
August/18/2009
@ 5:19 pm

Steve, why can’t non-syndicated strips on Uclick enter? What’s the deal with Sherpa that makes this a problem? (I don’t know much about it)

#51 Steve Skelton
August/18/2009
@ 5:21 pm

Well, I just assume that means there are currently being published. And in my case, my strip appears in my local paper. Dang.

#52 Samantha Wikan
August/18/2009
@ 5:26 pm

I am guessing that published on web counts as previously published, so that DOES eliminate Sherpa/uComics/web comics– anything already shown on the web. Came to this conclusion when browsing this site, which is mainly for fiction writing.. but I imagine it applies:

“The first time a novel/article/story is published in any format first rights have been used. By this definition that includes self-publication to your own personal website. Technically you have used “first e-rights” and can no longer sell it as an unpublished story/article.”

#53 Steve Skelton
August/18/2009
@ 5:27 pm

Check out “Are we Dead Yet” on Sherpa. It’s really funny.

#54 L Taylor
August/18/2009
@ 5:33 pm

Thanks Samantha,

Would you take that to mean the comic as a whole is ineligible, or just any comics that have been posted. In other words, I do a webcomic (though I don’t really make profit) – could I make 12 fresh comics just for this and still be eligible?

I emailed people at Universal and the email address provided for the contest, so hopefully they’ll give something concrete. But I don’t really know if I should expect a response or not. If I don’t get one, I’ll probably just sign up anyway … worst result would be disqualification, I suppose.

#55 Phil Wohlrab
August/18/2009
@ 6:28 pm

I’m too lazy to come up with a new idea and make 10 drawings.
How will i know that my doodle that i drew when i was on the can won’t be stolen and sold for millions?

#56 Joe Swindler
August/18/2009
@ 8:52 pm

Wow what a great competition. Anyone have some ideas? I have a proposition to make, any cartoonist out there willing to enter into a partnership with me? You can come up with ideas, the writing and draw the cartoons, I will submit the entry. I am thinking twenty – eighty deal would be fair. Heck postage is expensive these days, and there is an art to submitting JPG images over the “internets”. So any interested parties, email me at jswindler@gmail.com. I patiently await your emails. Think of it, we could conquer the cartooning world together!

#57 Mike Cope
August/18/2009
@ 9:10 pm

@Joe Swindler … According to the official rules, partner/team submissions are not eligible, unless (according to Section 10) you qualify as a siamese-cartoonist … In which case, you can write gags and draw strips at the same time!

#58 Tad Martindale
August/18/2009
@ 9:16 pm

In the contest entry requirements it says that “each feature must be created by a single, individual creator.”
Does that mean the strip that my friend and I have written is ineligible? And if so why?

#59 Henry Clausner
August/18/2009
@ 9:43 pm

c’mon guys…just put the artwork together and go for it. what’s all the pussyfootin’ around?

#60 Henry Clausner
August/18/2009
@ 9:44 pm

<…..I'm not good enough to enter the contest, so I'll pass

#61 L Taylor
August/18/2009
@ 10:26 pm

I’m surprised they were not more specific about the inclusion of webcomics or comics on Sherpa. They have to know these groups will want to enter.

#62 Mark_Tatulli
August/18/2009
@ 11:19 pm

Rick…

Talent competitions/searches have been part of the arts for many, many years. Back in the ’30s, David O. Selznick conducted a nation-wide talent search to find an unknown to play young David Copperfield in a movie of the same name and the contest was so successful in promotion of the movie that he repeated it again in â??The search for Scarlettâ? for GONE WITH THE WIND, effectively bringing the unknown Vivien Leigh to American audiences, a role that she went on to win best actress for.
Frank Sinatra got his first big break after appearing on the show, Major Bowes Amateur Hour, where he got 40,000 votes and won the first prize â?? a six month contract to perform on stage and radio across the United States. The Jackson 5 got noticed by a Motown executive when they won a talent competition at the Apollo theater. STAR SEARCH produced a number of people that went onto bigger and better things including Justin Timberlake, Brad Garrett, Ray Romano, Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, etc, etc. Yeah, you can question their validity as real talent that changed the course of their chosen field, but you canâ??t deny their success. AMERICAN IDOL also has introduced America to a number of undiscovered talents, including those who did not win the big prize but went onto success anyway. Would you begrudge them that success?
Do you really think they were humiliated by getting involved in these contests? Were the movie and music industries denigrated by their success?

And I take exception to your suggestion that some cartoonists were â??publicly humiliatedâ? by the UNFIT/Scott Adams cartoonist search. I know two of the cartoonists that participated in that competition, Justin Thompson and Paul Jon, two really swell guys, and I daresay they did not feel humiliated by the experience and actively enjoyed participating in it and I know no one (except you) that feels the competition hurt the industry or the cartoonistsâ?? reputations. In fact, Paul Jon now has a strip in syndication through WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP and Justin enjoys a very strong following on gocomics, after graduating from Sherpa, another proving ground you piously sniff at. Why would you have a problem with cartoonists seeking to find any way possible to pursue their passion? What is it taking away from you? Why would you suggest that they should be embarrassed by their desire to obtain the same thing you have? Who are you to say what is humiliating and degrading?

This contest from Amazon and UPS is another talent search that reaches out to would-be professional cartoonists who otherwise might not send comics through the normal channels or might be motivated by the tight deadline. And you just never know where the next talent may come from. Is it a promotional stunt? Of course! Whatâ??s wrong with that? I think the main thing you have a problem with is the open-voting, but thatâ??s only part of the winnowing process. And it makes it interesting, exciting, interactive..and fun. But it not the endâ?¦itâ??s NOT a competition that goes right to a strip launch (as you misunderstood)â?¦the â??prizeâ? is a development deal, and the ultimately UPS editors will determine whether the strip is worthy of launching, just like a usual syndication deal.
And I can tell you Iâ??ve signed three syndication contracts and each would have been just as sweet if I had won them in a competition, especially when I was young. You yourself have also had three shots at syndicationâ?¦why would you begrudge that to someone else, contest or otherwise? How does this belittle your accomplishments? In the big picture, how does this affect you at all? Why would you crap on some kidâ??s dreams of glory, even if itâ??s just a dream?

Humiliating? Degrading? Disrespectful? Insulting? No pride? Sunk so low? Dead cartoonists spinning in their graves? Do you forget what we do for a living? Itâ??s comic strips, dude. Commercial art. Make no mistake. And I am thrilled to stand beside Garry and Lynn and Scott and participate in this processâ?¦and hopefully give some kid a break who has he same fire in his/her belly that I had (have). And shame on you, Mr. Stromoski, for your elitist attitude and for being perpetually so negative and close-minded. It does not raise our artform in any way.

#63 Paul Jon
August/18/2009
@ 11:33 pm

I love you, Mark Tattuli. You are truly a swell guy as well.

Rick: I owe you a spanking at the next Reubens.

#64 Steve Lowtwait
August/19/2009
@ 12:04 am

American Idol hits the comic strip industry. It’s fun, controversial and not a bad idea.

#65 Scott Metzger
August/19/2009
@ 12:24 am

Amen to Tatulli!

Steve Lowtwait beat me to it: this contest is essentially American Idol for comic strips. There’s nothing wrong with that. I think it’s great. It would be degrading if they made you eat a bowl full of grubs. This just seems like an interesting contest to me.

In fact, I’m entering! My entry is a strip about two roommates, a plucky broom and a slacker mop, titled “Broomy and Moppy.” Broomy and Moppy will sweep the nation (pun intended!) and the theme song has “first Comic Strip Superstar” written all over it.

http://www.metzgercartoons.com/3/category/broomy%20and%20moppy/1.html

For those who are sarcastically challenged…I’m kidding.

Best of luck to those who enter. I think this is a great idea. (I’m serious about that.)

#66 Tony Piro
August/19/2009
@ 12:39 am

If the marketing machine of Andrew McMeel Universal really had any value, they would be able to make profitable strips without having to resort to contests.

According to the Comic-con syndication panel, there are over 6,000 submission for syndication each year and from 1 to 2 are chosen each year to be launched. Out of this 1 or 2 per year, no strip has been popular enough to allow the artist to quit their day job in recent memory (can anyone correct me here?).

If this is the case, then what are you really hoping to win by entering this contest?

#67 Clayton Bigsby
August/19/2009
@ 12:54 am

@Tony Piro, if nothing else, just for the fun of it?
@Rick, the last time I checked, Simon Cowell is not judging the contest, so I don’t know what your are talking about
@Mark, you are my hero! BTW, any idea whether posting my strips on the “internets” qualifies as published???

#68 Tony Piro
August/19/2009
@ 1:32 am

@Clayton Bigsby I guess I’m confused about what the fun part is. Is it:

Using your hard word to provide free content to Universal to help give them publicity?

Drawing 480 comics over 2 years for a measly $25 per comic?

Getting a $5000 prize, which isn’t actually an award, but an advance that will be subtracted from your book sales?

Book and online deals in which you aren’t even able to negotiate the royalty rates?

Am I getting warm?

#69 Ken Yentzer
August/19/2009
@ 3:11 am

dig it, God may be listening, if he isn’t out creating another world, so watch what your saying. Personally I do see and say and my magazine money spends just fine. Why bother with a strip?

#70 Rick Stromoski
August/19/2009
@ 5:54 am

The Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts, The Caldecott & Newberry awards all have annual competitions that recognize creators for inclusion into their societies or for their awards. The work submitted is judged by Editors, Publishers and fellow artists of renown. Inclusion into the Society of Illustrators or Communication Arts Creative annual or any of the other competitions mentioned assures that you have reached a level of professionalism recognized by the peers in your industry.

The bar for all of these organizations is set so high that it is guaranteed that only the best are recognized. It used to be so for syndication.

I cannot imagine Gary Kelley, Elwood Smith, Chris Payne, Arnie Roth, Everett Peck, Steve Brodner or Ralph Steadman entering any contest whose primary purpose is a publicity stunt to sell books ,where the direction of their careers are steered by a public internet poll on a site that sells books.

As impassioned as Mark’s argument is, he’s missing my point.I am on the side of the creators here. I believe that any comics creator deserves the same high standards and consideration for their work as do the above mentioned competitions partake in choosing their candidates. I believe that what we do deserves more respect than that.

Contrary to Mark’s over the top public lambasting of me for being “close minded” and “elitist” …

…because I do not agree with his position doesn’t make me so.

#71 Rick Stromoski
August/19/2009
@ 6:13 am

In the early 90’s Jerry Scott needed a cartoonist to help him out with character design on a new feature he was considering to pitch to King Features. He asked his good friend Jim Borgman to help him out. Jim did such a phenomenal job Jerry asked him if he would partner with him on “Zits”. and a blockbuster strip was born.

If Jerry decided that the best way to find an artist was to have an internet contest tied to a commercial promotion for a third party and have the public vote on who was the best do you think that Jim would have even considered it? Of course not. Jerry needed an artist and trusted his own judgment as to what would work and what wouldn’t.

Jerry had more respect for his friend and the art form to do that.

I think all cartoonists, known and unknown, deserve that level of consideration and respect.

#72 Phil Wohlrab
August/19/2009
@ 6:25 am

I love the tight deadline; it had to be intentional. Some people need more time than this just to write their synopsis.

#73 Mike Cope
August/19/2009
@ 6:49 am

@Rick Stromoski … Based on how the selection process is set up, I think it’s fair to say that high standards and consideration for the cartoonists’ work will first be upheld by Lee and John, and then followed by the syndicated panel of judges.

When it comes to the final selection round, there’s no doubt that it’s a popularity contest. But as I wrote above, is that not what the comics page already is? Does each strip not compete with the others around it on a daily basis to attract the reader’s attention?

I know that the ideal comics page is one that caters to the different tastes (and age groups), but perhaps this contest will find a strip that can connect with a broader audience. The readers are the ones who cartoonists should be trying to connect with on a daily basis, by giving them something they look forward to reading each and every day.

Power to the people!

#74 Jason Nocera
August/19/2009
@ 6:51 am

@Tony wrote: Out of this 1 or 2 per year, no strip has been popular enough to allow the artist to quit their day job in recent memory (can anyone correct me here?).

I don’t know if this is true – but my recent memory seems to think Tony is right. I wish syndicates would invest more money into the artists that they signed on instead of contests and publicicty stunts. It takes time for some comic strips to find their groove and gain momentum. Why not have some faith in them and give them a bit more of a fighting chance? How many creators today are struggling with 10 – 20 papers and part-time jobs? Maybe all they need is a bit of a boost from the syndicate. Just a thought.

#75 L Taylor
August/19/2009
@ 6:54 am

Tony,

Right now I draw my comics for nothing, and that likely will remain so for several years at the very least, so $25 a comic seems pretty good, not to mention $5000.

Also, as interesting and useful as the webcomic model is, I hate doing business. I would much rather someone else take care of the business aspect for me. All I want to do is a draw a comic strip. Also, I think the webcomic model is often geared towards a much different crowd than traditional family-friendly comic strips. So for strips that like to keep it clean and not just look for a reason to make a strip that they can put on a t-shirt, it’s even harder on the web. Syndication seems much more feasible to me for that situation, which is one I find myself in, and I imagine I’m not the only one.

That’s why I at least think this is contest is fine. Although, I still do not know if a comic that is on the web on a personal site disqualifies it. I’m not sure what they’re meaning of “unpublished” is … and if being on the web disqualifies you, then that might change my mind about the contest as a whole (simply for disqualifying such a vast number of comics). But I still think it would be good for a number of people.

#76 Jeff Pert
August/19/2009
@ 7:02 am

I’m gonna submit a strip about cartoonists bickering on an internet bulletin board and call it “Wasting Time.” It’s gonna be huge!!!

#77 Phil Wohlrab
August/19/2009
@ 7:22 am

Rick, I entered the Communication Arts illustration competition last year, (no didn’t make it) I’d say most artists don’t even know Communication Arts exists.

But their prestigious award is the honor of being included on a page in their fat magazine. Big whoop.

Caldecott & Newberry are primarily children’s book awards and you have to have been published and already reached a level of professionalism to be considered for one of those.

The only thing that can hurt the newspaper comic strip industry is when the audience for it dies off and newer readers stop reading newsprint comics.

Whether or not this is happening, I don’t know, but anyone who can make a worthwhile comic strip, is probably making a real living in illustration, animation, graphic novels, etc.. I think pros know the the odds of getting syndicated are huge and the odds of making a living off of it are equally as huge. In short, it’s become a fools dream.

Contests like this just might save the comic strip industry.

#78 Henry Clausner
August/19/2009
@ 7:30 am

whatever brings attention to the industry is good…hey it’s like a “stimulus package” without the nonsense.

#79 Jesse Cline
August/19/2009
@ 7:38 am

“I guess Iâ??m confused about what the fun part is”

Competition is fun…If someone is lucky enough to make the top 50 or 10, then they can start worrying about the contract. Odds are most people will get nowhere near that anyway. In the meantime, let people have fun with this.

#80 Tony Piro
August/19/2009
@ 9:00 am

@L Taylor The $25 per comic includes the $5000 in the total.

Universal is a business with the primary goal of making profit. They are not going to pay someone $25 per comic unless the quality of the work is worth MUCH more than $25 per comic. If that’s the case, shouldn’t YOU be making that money and not Universal?

I ask again, if Universal does not have the power to manufacture popular comic strips anymore, why do you think the contest winner will magically have a popular comic strip?

#81 L Taylor
August/19/2009
@ 9:13 am

I should be making that money if I do all the work – but considering that a syndicate does a lot of work that I would absolutely hate doing, I think it’s fair to give them a share. Do I agree with the percentages? Maybe not. But it’s a trade off to me. Not only do I hate doing the business stuff, but I’m not very good at it. In fact, I tend to think the business stuff ruins potentially awesome comics – so the less I have to deal with it, the happier I am.

As far as universal having the power to manufacture popular comics, I don’t think they ever had the ability to do that. I mean, they play a big role obviously, but the cartoonist and market are at least equally to blame for the success or failure of a comic, from my viewpoint.

But I don’t think the contest winner will magically have a popular strip. The strip might be a total flop. Does that mean no one should take the chance? It’s not like your chances are drastically better on the web (if they even are better at all). For many comic artists right now, money is just getting sent down the tubes to pay for hosting and other things to try make it successful on the web. What could it possibly hurt if you win the contest? It’s not going to hurt your chances at being successful, and it might just help them.

#82 Henry Clausner
August/19/2009
@ 9:24 am

I think the syndicates are fair with their pricing..selling is costly. ( don’t i know it)

#83 Tony Piro
August/19/2009
@ 10:25 am

@L Taylor I don’t understand what a syndicate does that has any value to the winner. Given the viral power of the internet, IF you have quality material you will be able to reach people just as well as Universal can. The dearth of success for Universal’s recent strip launches is clear evidence of this.

Let me restate what I said before in a different way. Universal isn’t stupid. They aren’t going to pay $25 per comic unless it is worth WAY more to them. If you think you’re some how going to trick Universal into paying more than your work is really worth (or more than a tenth of what your work is really work), then you’re deluding yourself.

One thing no one has mentioned is the association with Amazon. I’m just speculating, but we have already seen other examples from DC Comic’s Zuda and Platinum Studios that these contests are just used as a loosely-veiled attempts to collect a large amount of intellectual property for next to nothing from unsuspecting, inexperienced creators. Since Amazon has the Kindle, I wonder if there are plans to use some of submitted work as cheap content for e-readers. If you read the contest rules, they are purposefully vague about differentiating print syndication from digital all throughout this agreement.

#84 Phil Wohlrab
August/19/2009
@ 11:44 am

hah!, Now that there is the slightest chance for some of you newbies to capitalize on your comic strips you’ve gone from rationalizing giving your work away for free to paranoid someone will steal it. incredible.

#85 Mike Peterson
August/19/2009
@ 11:58 am

“In the early 90â??s Jerry Scott needed a cartoonist to help him out with character design on a new feature he was considering to pitch to King Features. He asked his good friend Jim Borgman to help him out. Jim did such a phenomenal job Jerry asked him if he would partner with him on â??Zitsâ?. and a blockbuster strip was born.”

According to Jerry, he had met Jim at a cartoonist event — As I recall, they were both board members or on a planning committee and had sat together on the plane getting to a meeting — and they struck up a friendship and ended up vacationing at the same time in the same place. While there, they were talking over a couple of beers and Jerry said, “I’m working on this project …” and they kicked it around. Jerry was feeling a little stymied at the moment, Borgman came up with some character sketches of Jeremy and then Scott asked him if he wanted to be the artist. The rest, as you say, if comics history.

This would be nit-picking if you weren’t using the story in this particular context. Scott wasn’t desperately seeking help — he was just having a couple of beers with a colleague and brought up a thing he was mulling over.

I would agree that, if he held a contest for people to come have a beer with him, that would be kind of weird and inappropriate. But if Borgman hadn’t been around, he would have continued to puzzle it out on his own. He wasn’t desperately seeking the advice. (My source is an interview I did with Jerry about five years ago, with a follow-up interview with Jim that basically confirmed the story.)

There may be reasons to oppose a talent contest, but this example doesn’t apply.

#86 Clayton Bigsby
August/19/2009
@ 12:05 pm

In the immortal words of Nike….. Just do it!

#87 Bill Kellogg
August/19/2009
@ 12:48 pm

Whether you like this contest or not, it is a brilliant marketing idea. Universal will get to look at 5000 comic strips before any other syndicates get the chance. And, if they find another Calvin & Hobbes or Far Side out there, they will get the will have the syndication rights.

#88 Bill Kellogg
August/19/2009
@ 12:50 pm

OK, the last line should be – they will have the syndication rights.

#89 Rick Stromoski
August/19/2009
@ 1:14 pm

>Mike Peterson wrote:

“This would be nit-picking if you werenâ??t using the story in this particular context. Scott wasnâ??t desperately seeking help….”

” He wasnâ??t desperately seeking the advice.”

I’m curious as where you can point to in my post where I said Jerry was “desperately” seeking help.

My source was a weekend I pretty much spent in the company of the Scotts in Cancun on a Reuben weekend. Our Wives and daughters spent most of their rec time together. I recall my conversation with Jerry on how Zits came about and particularly his partnership with Jim Borgman since I was in the process of partnering up with Steve McGarry on Mullets.

I may have gotten the exact particulars as to their first conversation or the depth of their friendship at the time (it has been nearly 9 years since that particular conversation took place between Jerry and I) but I think the gist of what I posted is accurate.

Jerry was having difficulty with the character design. He asked Borgman for advice. Borgman designed his characters

#90 L Taylor
August/19/2009
@ 1:32 pm

Tony,

I don’t think I’m going to trick Universal into doing anything more than what they say they’re going to do. But I still contend that getting paid $25 is better than getting paid negative to spend the various money it takes to put my comic up online.

Also, as I mentioned before, the syndicate does all the business work for me. I don’t have to worry about making t-shirts or whatever else, because they handle that. They also handle the work for the books, etc. They do the work that I don’t want to do, and I get to stick to the art. I can understand why someone wouldn’t like the idea of giving a company money from things you worked hard to create, but surely you can see why someone would not want to do the business side of things. Besides that, there’s something traditional that I like about the idea of being in the newspaper. I know it’s totally a personal subjective thing, but that doesn’t mean it should just be ignored.

The viral aspect of the internet is certainly powerful. But again, I’m not sure how much this applies to old school comic strips. If a comic like Foxtrot, or even Calvin and Hobbes, had to start today as a webcomic, it would not surprise me to see them fail or at least take well over a decade to even begin to gain popularity. Not because the work is not good , but because the type of people with whom the viral effect is so useful just wouldn’t like the material. Those kinds of strips work best in papers or mediums of that type – ones that reach out well beyond the internet. Comics like PvP or Penny Arcade are much more geared towards the internet, but might have a harder time in the paper.

Finally, I agree with Phil that it seems a bit paranoid to think the syndicate is just looking to steal from people. I don’t think that is their desire or intention.

#91 Jim Thomas
August/19/2009
@ 1:52 pm

@ Phil Wohlrab The issue that the “newbies” are having with this contract is legit. Many aspects of the agreement are based on “as is” rates, yet, those rates are not stated clearly or, at all. The contract is worded very cleverly in so much that it interweaves the web syndication and print syndication with no guarantee that one would get both. If the offer is simply to be thrown into gocomics.com, then this is most definitely not a good option, for anyone. In that case, the artist has a much better chance with their own site.

My concerns with this contest are these:

How can this very small sample of strips show the breadth of of skills required of the cartoonist for a long run?

Is this actually a more limited agreement than a cartoonist would have the option to get if they applied through traditional means?

If gocomics.com is such a “prize” why are all the cartoonists that are exclusively on there not being moved into syndication deals?

Is this a way of declaring comics sherpa a failure?

I think these are important questions, ones in which I honestly don’t know the answer of (but would love to know)

#92 Samantha Wikan
August/19/2009
@ 2:07 pm

There is a great article and discussion on the official rules at webcomics.com. I had hoped someone with experience would do just as Brad Guigar did in that article: Comment on what each section means to the comic creator.

Some of us “newbies” just have a hard time finding the solid ground in these kinds of things. It’s hard to be analytical when you are so hopeful.

THANK YOU to those of you are actually trying to help without calling us idiots.

#93 Phil Wohlrab
August/19/2009
@ 3:39 pm

Forgive me i am jaded. I too was bright eyed once. But come on! we go from offering our stuff for free to combing small legal details in contracts? am i alone in recognizing the irony?

” In that case, the artist has a much better chance with their own site.”

I don’t know how many you could really say that for.
This is as legit of a contest as there’s gonna be. I only wish Graphic novels were accepted.

#94 Tony Piro
August/19/2009
@ 3:59 pm

@Phil There’s a big difference between offering your work for free on the web to let your fans do your marketing for you and giving a corporation exclusive web and print rights to your comic for non-negotiable, undisclosed conditions. It’s even worse giving a corporation exclusive rights to your content when they have a miserable recent track record of being able to properly market and monetize comic strips.

#95 Cyril Chong
August/19/2009
@ 5:13 pm

Since the competition is open to a number of nationalities, I wonder if the whole idea is to bring in international talents who might not have any idea of the existence of syndicates. I am sure there are artists from overseas who produce comics that are very different from American artists but could be very appealing to the readers here (think slumdog millionaire)

#96 Jim Thomas
August/19/2009
@ 5:34 pm

@ PHIL WOHLRAB

Again, there is a big difference between putting your comic online to garner a community that creates a sustainable and fluid market for your work in which you retain 100% profit and “giving it away for free.”

PLEASE, this is not about print vs. web, this is about whether or not this contest is a good thing for aspiring cartoonists.

@ Tony Piro, well said.

I suppose the way I feel about this competition is this:

1. Chances are you will be applying to a contest with hundreds if not thousands of other people for a contract that has financial terms that by most accounts are unclear at best.

2. The chances of winning this competition is about as good as landing a syndicate contract if you only apply to one syndicate, and not sending to any others. some 1/4 as good, maybe?

3. If a strip idea wasn’t good enough for a regular syndicate deal, why would the contest make it more worthy? If you aren’t submitting an already developed feature idea, will something thrown together quickly be better than the project you have been working on for a year +?

4. If you were to apply to this competition, and happened to get to the finalist stage, I would withdraw from the contest, finish the submission packet and send the strips out to all the major syndicates. If you can get into the top 25, you are probably close to being able to land your own contract with better options to set terms.

5. If you are one of those posting to comics sherpa, I would get off of it today because clearly they are looking for features elsewhere and you money would be better spend setting up your own website.

#97 Mark Tatulli
August/19/2009
@ 8:36 pm

“I cannot imagine Gary Kelley, Elwood Smith, Chris Payne, Arnie Roth, Everett Peck, Steve Brodner or Ralph Steadman entering any contest whose primary purpose is a publicity stunt to sell books ,where the direction of their careers are steered by a public internet poll on a site that sells books.”

You’re absolutely right, Rick. Those artists would never participate in a competition like this, any more than Justin Timberlake would compete in AMERICAN IDOL…because they are already established artists with a dedicated following. This competition is about finding new, young, undiscovered talent. I wish to God that something like this was around when I was younger. I would have jumped at the chance to do this despite the benefits to the syndicate and publishing company. And while I think this contest is fun and engaging, I would absolutely recommend all considering entering to read the fine print. Go in with your eyes open, and if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.

#98 L Taylor
August/19/2009
@ 8:50 pm

I still haven’t seen any firm answer to this – are webcomics considered unpublished works if it’s on a personally run site? Are other newbies who run webcomics submitting their comics to this contest?

#99 Phil Wohlrab
August/19/2009
@ 8:53 pm

I hear you Jim, I hear you. I wasn’t trying to stir the print vs web debate. I swear it. Maybe I saw some irony that wasn’t really there.

“3. If a strip idea wasnâ??t good enough for a regular syndicate deal, why would the contest make it more worthy? If you arenâ??t submitting an already developed feature idea, will something thrown together quickly be better than the project you have been working on for a year +?”

I think this contest is happening because of a submissions slump (as some others have speculated). A collective jadedness perhaps has turned professional artists away from comic strips and toward other mediums and industries?

I wouldn’t worry about them giving you a raw deal.. I’m sure it’ll be just as raw as the deal they would normally give.

BTW It’s funny how something you slap together quick can sometimes surpass something you’ve been slaving over for days. It has something to do with seeing the “big picture”.

” If you were to apply to this competition, and happened to get to the finalist stage, I would withdraw from the contest, finish the submission packet and send the strips out to all the major syndicates. If you can get into the top 25, you are probably close to being able to land your own contract with better options to set terms.”

That is an interesting battle plan but it is highly unlikely you’ll get offered a contract at all after pulling out of this contest.

Why risk snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?
Don’t get me wrong I think the pay for this is less than pitiful.
A Full time job for $300 a month? Yeah I’ll be sending in a scribble because that’s all I’ll be able to manage while working full time at a decent paying job. And if they don’t accept your strips what then?
For those of you who have never had to make multiple revisions, there are times when you just want to give the money back to make the endless revisions go away.

#100 Garey Mckee
August/19/2009
@ 9:44 pm

David Stanford, Sherpa editor over at Universal Uclick, sent an email today, part of which states;

“Sherpa features are eligible, with one caveat. The strips submitted must be unpublished — so while you can submit a feature thatâ??s on Sherpa, the individual strips/panels need to be new, not ones that have already been on the site.”

I would imagine the same goes for other webcomics. You can submit your webcomic but it can’t be strips from your feature previously published online.

#101 L Taylor
August/19/2009
@ 9:52 pm

Garey – thank you! much appreciated!

#102 Frank Zieglar
August/20/2009
@ 12:15 am

What you win is a book contract with a $5000 advance IF you finish 200 approved strips (so you can’t receive this $ in 2009 anyway). This is for ‘first rights’ of the 200 approved strips. However, if they cancel for whatever reason or don’t even bother to print the book, then you are up the creek. They still have ‘first rights’ of the 200. The non-negotiable contract probably has terms for the remaining rights for both the 200 and future work. It’s a guess what those are until the winner reads the contract.

You also win $300/month to submit 20 strips a month. They may reject all 20, but you still get $300 for submitting. This ends at 24 months, early launch of the feature, or them dropping you. This is also non-negotiable.

There is no guarantee of a syndication contract, other than them getting dibs with a shot of meeting another syndicate’s offer. This contract IS negotiable. I assume that this will probably be a pretty standard contract that’s given to any new strip. Once you reach an agreement, there is no guarantee of it getting into papers. Let alone enough papers to earn a living. I’m sure it will be on their website though.

The fact that you can offer it to other syndicates does indicate IMO, that it remains your IP. Universal still gets first shot at everything though.

Assuming you get syndicated, are they going to use the 200 strips you just finished? Won’t that give you 10 months off and violate the ‘first rights’ of the book? Would electronic distribution violate the ‘first rights’?

Here are the differences I see between the contest and a regular submission.
REGULAR:
Send in your submissions and hope TPTB offer you a contract based on your package. Any development work will occur while you are in syndication. A standard contract .

CONTEST:
Send in your strips and hope it wins votes.
Development contract. $300/month for 20 strips/month.
Book contract. $5000 after 200 approved strips. First rights.
Begin possible syndicate contract or shop it around. (See regular above.)

As for people asking about webcomics they are currently working on – send it in if you want. They will probably just reject it once they find out, but you are taking a gamble with what you KNOW is yours. Why risk it? Send in something new.

#103 mike witmer
August/20/2009
@ 6:15 am

There’s a simple solution to this…instead of bashing this contest and being a sour nay-sayer, just don’t enter. I mean, really! I don’t understand the mentality sometimes.

I understand the concern but the fact of the matter is that anyone entering this contest is more-than-likely not making a dime doing what they love. Exposure…a couple bucks…a leap frog move from obscurity…I don’t see the issue.

#104 Jason Nocera
August/20/2009
@ 6:32 am

Um, Mike, the comment section here typically encourages discussion. Otherwise, why have a comment section at all? If it bothers you, take your own advice and don’t read the comments.

It’s interesting that people think this contest was to encourage people to submit – that people have become jaded. i don’t see how this contest helps. The only way to encourage talented individuals to submit is to offer more money upfront and during the development period. Otherwise, artists will be stuck juggling too many jobs and will burn-out before they even start.

#105 L Taylor
August/20/2009
@ 6:57 am

I don’t think Mike was saying not to comment on it. He just was saying there is no need to be sour about it. Giving a reasoned argument against something is different than bashing it with a sour attitude.

I agree this contest is not for everyone. If you’ve already got a solid following or something of that nature with a webcomic you do now, then awesome! Good for you! But not everyone does, and honestly as I’ve said before, I don’t think everyone can, for two reasons. Firstly, not everyone is good enough at business to run a webcomic and make it successful. Secondly, the webcomic model, at least right now, is going to be successful for certain kinds of strips, and not so much for other kinds. I truly believe that many of the comics that many of us loved growing up (Foxtrot, Peanuts, even C&H) would not be successful right now if they had to start out as webcomics. The current webcomic market just doesn’t take as much interest in those types comics, for a variety of reasons. This contest is just another opportunity for someone to give their strip a chance. Are there some risks involved … sure. But there are risks involved just putting your comic up online, or anywhere else for that matter.

#106 Rick Stromoski
August/20/2009
@ 6:58 am

@Mike>>Thereâ??s a simple solution to thisâ?¦instead of bashing this contest and being a sour nay-sayer, just donâ??t enter. I mean, really! I donâ??t understand the mentality sometimes.”

When cartoon and illustration stock agencies started popping up and voices rose within the illustration community against it, the same argument was applied. If you don’t like it, don’t participate.

When work for hire clauses were being pushed into commissioned illustration contracts artists who protested were told “if you don’t like it then don’t participate.

When rates for commissioned Illustration work started to drop and rights grabs by clients were popping up more often in contracts and artists protested, the same argument was used. If you don’t like it don’t participate.

Now we see in the illustration and cartooning community more and more artists contributing their work to stock agencies, commissioned illustration has plummeted, work for hire is more the norm, artists rights to their own work must be forfeited in order to get paid for rates that mirror those from 20 to 30 years ago.

We are the caretakers of our industry and the standards and practices we abide by. If we don’t take care of it who will?

#107 Jason Nocera
August/20/2009
@ 7:34 am

Let’s just be a bit realistic. To the people who do webcomics. Most of you have settled into a Mon/Wed/Fri routine. Do you consistently make it? Have you used guest strips within the last year to ease the burden? Will you still keep up the same quality if you had to to a strip Sun/Mon/Tue/Wed/Thu/Fri/Sat? The $300.00 a month is not going to allow you the freedom to quit your day job – so think about your workload now – and think about how it will more than double. Can you really handle it?

#108 Jeff Pert
August/20/2009
@ 7:42 am

Um, Jason @ #102, I think Mike @ #101 was alluding to the prevalence of NEGATIVE comments in this discussion, and so many discussions here at The Daily Cartoonist. Why have a comment section if the majority of commenters piss and moan? I guess because it’s always easier to tear something down, and comment sections on the internet are for complainers like still water is for mosquitoes—it breeds them. It’s just really sad to see people whose job is providing laughs for people be so bitter and miserly. ANYTHING that raises the visibility of comics, be it the web, print, contests or personal tattoos, is good for the industry. Yeah, there are folks who are occasionally going to be taken advantage of, and y’know what? Sh*t happens, and people learn from it. It ain’t the end of the world, and there isn’t a constant conspiracy to screw cartoonists out of money or rights. I’m not so naive to believe that the whole world can live together in peace and harmony, or that there aren’t going to be differences of opinion, but when a profession as small as ours (and here I’d acknowledge that not all cartoonists are visible or represented on this site, and not all who are are negative) can’t find it within themselves to support and encourage their compatriots in the industry, and those interested in entering the industry, it drags us all down. (I don’t think I’ve ever written a longer sentence than the preceding one.)

#109 Phil Wohlrab
August/20/2009
@ 8:56 am

I didn’t know there was protest over microstock sites. I’ve really gotten into selling on shutterstock, with some 60 downloads this month alone. Shutterstock is mainly contibuted to and used by other designers, but when there is a specific illustration need, shutterstock falls short. You can’t get toy design, game design etc.. all from shutterstock for a quarter. I don’t think it hurts that much. We use it here and it hasn’t put me out of a job. It’s more of a tool than a replacement for artists.

#110 Wiley Miller
August/20/2009
@ 9:13 am

@ Jeff, #108-

Disagreeing with another’s opinion (and that’s all that’s ever being presented here) is not a “negative comment”. It’s simply presenting another view, hence the term, “discussion”.

#111 Mark_Tatulli
August/20/2009
@ 9:28 am

Here’s a place where a lot of your questions are answered, plus there’s a comments section where you can pose new questions directly to John Glynn:

http://gocomics.typepad.com/editors/2009/08/amazon-contest-questions-ive-seen-or-been-asked-or-heard-in-dreams.html

Again, if anything about this feels weird or expoitative to you, just don’t do it.

#112 Jason Nocera
August/20/2009
@ 10:17 am

Who can survive off of $300 a month? How many cartoonist had their features launched and then cancelled because of lack of money? Money is the issue – syndicates need to find a way to get more money into a creator’s hand in the beginning and that will attract quality artists.

I don’t see anyone getting much royalties on a book of comic strips that hasn’t been in any newspapers and that hasn’t been around for any amount of time. Royalties on books will only provide a good income if you get past the major hurdle of surviving the first one or two years to get a bunch of newspapers under your belt.

Personally, I can’t afford to win this contest. My family can’t live on the small amount they will pay..and I’m not fast enough of an artist/creator to be able to do a comic strip and maintain a full-time job. Currently I draw three comic strips a week and they earn more than what this deal is offering.

Here’s the only positive spin I can find – maybe since this is an International contest, a cartoonist from a country where $300.00 a month will provide a good life will win.

These comments, Jeff, that you view as negative are trying to help our art form. I want creators to be able to afford to create their comic strips – how is that negative?

#113 Phil Wohlrab
August/20/2009
@ 11:24 am

Ah Jason nailed it. no less than 40K a year with health/dental insurance and a 401K plan. That should be the prize if they think your work is that salable. Otherwise, don’t grant anyone the grand prize if none are good enough.

#114 Wiley Miller
August/20/2009
@ 11:34 am

“Money is the issue â?? syndicates need to find a way to get more money into a creatorâ??s hand in the beginning and that will attract quality artists.”

Of course, it would help a great deal if the syndicates stopped selling comics at the same rate as they were in 1972, which was the last time there was a raise in the basic rates, and that was only by about 25 cents a week. If those rates were adjusted to 2009 dollars, then we’d all be fine. In order to do this, however, the syndicates would have to get together and force the issue. That, however, is illegal, as it’s a violation of anti-trust laws. So that makes it incumbent on cartoonists getting organized and forcing the syndicates to all sell their features at the adjusted rate. But as we all know, “organized cartoonists” is an oxymoron.

#115 Cedric
August/20/2009
@ 12:19 pm

I’m just curious and have a question for those with syndicate contracts.

Is a development deal of $300 a month for 20 submitted strips fair for a starting cartoonist? What’s the standard rate?

Is a $5k advance on royalties for a first book fair?

#116 Mike Cope
August/20/2009
@ 12:38 pm

Cedric … The only one who can decide if it’s fair is you. That is, you have to decide whether or not you can afford (or are willing) to dedicate the time and effort for the amount being offered.

Some have decided no. Others think yes.

#117 Scott Kurtz
August/20/2009
@ 12:42 pm

Mark,

Can you really not see how a contest like this can come off as condescending and insulting to other cartoonists? We work really hard at this and nobody likes what they do being turned into a game-show.

You would never see “America’s next Doctor” or “America’s next Lawyer” on television. Why not? Because the general public is already aware that to become a doctor or a lawyer takes 5-10 years of incredibly hard work.

The problem is that the general public (understandably) has no concept of how creative people achieve their goals and success. They falsely assume there is some “secret” or “magic” when the truth is we’re no different from doctors or lawyers or accountants or any other professional in the real world. Our craft takes 5-10 years of intense work and practice in order for us to achieve our goals and successes.

I and others feel that by turning our profession into a prize that can be won in a contest, you’re belittling what it is we do and belittling the hard decades of work we put into achieving our goals.

PvP could never have been handed to me as a prize. It’s a ludicrous suggestion. The general public thinks that Kelly Clarkson can just be handed fame, but people in the music industry know better. And they’re still selling that lie because it benefits them financially.

You and John Glynn and Universal Press Syndicate know that a successful career in comics can not be handed to someone as a prize. Nor can respect as a professional. That’s earned and worked for.

Certainly you can understand that.

#118 Cedric
August/20/2009
@ 12:45 pm

I’m just curious as to what the industry standard was (if there is one).

Info on that seems scarce.

#119 Jeff Pert
August/20/2009
@ 12:53 pm

“But as we all know, ‘organized cartoonists’ is an oxymoron.”

Wiley, ain’t that the truth?

Jason @ #112: Of course it’s not negative to want people to earn a living from their work. My impression of the contest is that it’s primarily designed to attract newbies, not creators who are currently working and earning a living from their talent. Any creator who IS currently earning a living would be pretty desperate to enter, even if their biggest dream was always to have a syndicated strip.

Where I think the negativity isn’t helping is by discouraging newcomers. Yeah, the terms aren’t ideal, and the work involved may be larger than the money initially offered, but how many people in how many jobs ever started at the perfect wage? Not that it hasn’t happened, but it’s rare. In the early 80’s I started cartooning by drawing editorial cartoons for the local paper at $25 a pop. This went on for a number of years. I kept my full time “job” job, made the time to keep drawing the cartoons, honed my craft and received invaluable feedback. Eventually I made decent money. Imagine if someone else in the field, with more experience and seniority and success, had said to me, “What?! They’re not offering you a full-time position at $40,000 w/ full benefits?! Tell them to shove it!!” I could have given up before I’d barely started.

(Today, I STILL have a full time job in addition to drawing my cartoons. Even though the cartoons bring in more money than the job, it isn’t enough for me to live on, so I need the extra cash, not to mention the health insurance. It’s far from an ideal situation, but I do it because that’s the reality. No one’s handing me a living on a silver platter just because I want to be a full-time cartoonist.)

If someone’s young and hungry and ambitious and talented, they’ll enter the contest. Maybe they’ll win, maybe not. Even if they do win, maybe the strip will sputter and fail. Maybe it will succeed and give them a good living. And even better, maybe it’ll rejuvenate the comics field, sparking a renaissance that benefits everyone in the industry. Is that likely to happen? Maybe, maybe not. But it DEFINITELY won’t happen if that person is discouraged from entering by naysayers, especially those who come from within the field.

Then again, anyone worth their salt doesn’t listen to naysayers, anyway. Here’s hoping the contest spurs some fresh comics output, and leads to more people making a full time living in the field..

#120 Jeff Pert
August/20/2009
@ 12:55 pm

Cedric @ #115: I don’t know the going advance for books of comics collections, but it’s my understanding that, with rare exceptions, $5000 is the going advance for first-time novelists.

#121 Mike Cope
August/20/2009
@ 1:01 pm

I completely understand what you’re getting at, Cedric.

Something to consider is this … If Bill Watterson decided to draw a new comic strip, how difficult would it be for Universal to sell it compared to one drawn by a guy like your or me?

What we have to keep in mind is that most of us are virtually “unknown” to the vast daily comic strip readership. What this contest is designed to do is give the top selected cartoonists a little boost, and get their property’s name and identity out into the public consciousness.

Does a contest like this make sense to (for example) an already popular editorial or successful web cartoonist? Probably not. If they have a great idea, they can probably sell it without winning a popularity contest open to any and all amateurs.

Then again, one can only hope that the top 10 selection will be so good that the syndicate will consider offering development contracts to more than just the winner.

#122 L Taylor
August/20/2009
@ 2:19 pm

“The only one who can decide if itâ??s fair is you. That is, you have to decide whether or not you can afford (or are willing) to dedicate the time and effort for the amount being offered.

Some have decided no. Others think yes.”

Mike, I appreciate the calm reason behind your comments. I think you’re right. If you don’t like the contest, I can certainly understand your reasoning, and by all means stay out of it. And of course it’s fair to even warn others and discuss your views. I think the big thing is just to recognize that people who might be interested in this have reasons too, and shouldn’t be viewed as ignorant newbies who know nothing about the business or success (though perhaps some are). Neither should should those who are against it be viewed as innately cynical (though perhaps some are). In the end, as Mike said, only each cartoonist can decide if it’s worth it. Everyone is in a different context here, and has to weigh the pros and cons of their own situation.

#123 Mike Cope
August/20/2009
@ 2:23 pm

L Taylor … I never wrote that I didn’t like the contest.

Please see comment #5.

#124 L Taylor
August/20/2009
@ 2:27 pm

Oh, yeah sorry, I didn’t mean “you” as in YOU … i just meant you in general. My apologies for the confusion.

#125 Mike Cope
August/20/2009
@ 2:35 pm

But yes, remaining calm and reasonable is probably a good idea for everyone right now.

Please note that I never called anyone “ignorant newbies” … If you read #120, I included myself in the example you’re responding to. We may recognize one another’s names around here, but I know that I can travel anywhere in the known universe and nobody is gonna ask me for an autograph :)

I highly recommend to anyone with questions to visit the link Mark mentioned earlier.

#126 Jeff Pert
August/20/2009
@ 2:44 pm

L,

My use of the term “newbie” in my post wasn’t meant as a negative. I was a newbie once, too. :)

#127 Justin Thompson
August/20/2009
@ 3:15 pm

I’m struggling to feel really good about this contest. Which means I can’t.
I talk to so many cartoonists on GoComics and Sherpa who work so freaking hard to keep their numbers up and increase their readership, myself included, and I can’t help but wonder: Why are we busting our asses out here in the farm leagues when the home team isn’t going to even look at us when it comes time to bring someone up to the bigs?
Hello?
Anybody there?
I’ve been showing up for the game already for years.
So excuse us if we feel a little bit sick.

#128 Steve Skelton
August/20/2009
@ 3:22 pm

Justin, see the first post here. I know how you feel!!

Good post.

#129 Justin Thompson
August/20/2009
@ 3:28 pm

Wow, so it’s a full-circle thing, huh?
Cool.

#130 Tony Piro
August/20/2009
@ 3:31 pm

@Mike Most people who are negative about the contest aren’t trying to be sour nay-sayers–they’re doing it because they care about this community of artists. At least that’s why I do it.

We’ve seen it again and again with Zuda and Platinum and now this. Corporations present themselves as the gatekeepers that are required to validate the legitimacy of any artist, when in fact these corporations don’t have this power anymore. And it’s even worse when the contract conditions are terribly unfair.

In these previous cases, many of these same warnings were raised by the community, and still, many artists went into these agreements blind, asking the community “why me?” when they realized how little they were truly getting back from these corporations.

At the end of the day, we’re all adults, and we have to decide for ourselves whether to submit or not. But it doesn’t hurt that some of us provide a contrary opinion to try to help out follow artists, and minimize the number of people that get into these things without realizing the full ramifications.

#131 Garey Mckee
August/20/2009
@ 3:42 pm

I believe this discussion is more about the larger picture and the state of the industry and syndicates in general, and less about the contest itself.

I believe I’ve said this before so here it goes again, feel free to take notes. Other than maybe a select handful, nobody is EVER going to be able to quit their day job or their night job or whatever job it may be. Those days are long gone. I believe thinking that syndication and book deals are the golden key to supporting yourself doing what you love is unrealistic and more and more unobtainable. That doesn’t mean it’s not an option to get your work out there. I’m all for it. But this isn’t the pipe dream you had when you were 5. This is the real world.

#132 L Taylor
August/20/2009
@ 3:53 pm

@Mike, yeah I didn’t mean that you had done any of that … actually I had read your earlier comment so I assumed you supported the contest. I just phrased things incorrectly. I only meant to back up what you were saying. Again, my apologies for any confusion.

@Jeff, I didn’t even remember your comment when I wrote that. :-) I was just thinking of something someone might think/say.

I definitely can see where you Sherpa guys are coming from and I’d say your frustration is valid. Has anyone from the Sherpa stuff ever been brought up to the “big leagues” as you say?

#133 Ted Rall
August/20/2009
@ 3:53 pm

According to the Comic-con syndication panel, there are over 6,000 submission for syndication each year and from 1 to 2 are chosen each year to be launched. Out of this 1 or 2 per year, no strip has been popular enough to allow the artist to quit their day job in recent memory (can anyone correct me here?).

I suppose it depends on your memory. Mine goes back a year or two, so by my standards of “recent memory,” yes, there have been new comic strips that yielded enough income for a person to live on.

#134 Tony Piro
August/20/2009
@ 3:58 pm

That’s great to know Ted. I am clearly not as familiar with this stuff as you. Can you provide any names? Thanks in advance.

#135 Jesse Cline
August/20/2009
@ 3:59 pm

“Has anyone from the Sherpa stuff ever been brought up to the â??big leaguesâ? as you say?”

Scott Hillburn, creator of the Argyle Sweater and one of the judges of this competition, did.

#136 Lucas Turnbloom
August/20/2009
@ 4:06 pm

As well as Brian Anderson of “Dog Eat Doug,” and a few others.

#137 Steve Skelton
August/20/2009
@ 4:06 pm

The other hilarious part about being on Sherpa or Ucomics for many many months is that none of the strips that you have posted in the time are eligible for this contest. Collectively, the unsigned cartoonists on Uclick and those on Sherpa have been helping to build traffic for the site, and now they appear to be showing their appreciation.

#138 Mike Grosvenor
August/20/2009
@ 4:45 pm

What I’m getting from this is that Universal will be swamped with entries (a year’s worth in two weeks) and WPWG’s Amy Lago will be preparing for a stack of them at the seminar in Las Vegas, so it’s going to be a good time to send a submission to one of the other syndicates.

#139 Alan Gardner
August/20/2009
@ 10:06 pm

Welcome back to The Daily Cartoonist, Scott.

#140 Stacy Curtis
August/20/2009
@ 10:23 pm

To those of you busting your butts on Comics Sherpa, GoComics, etc. have you given any thought to the idea that maybe the concept of your strip just doesn’t appeal to a syndicate?

Whether you draw 10 comics or 10,000 comics about a little boy who walks around explaining the antics of our world to his new alien friend, it just doesn’t appeal to syndicate editors.

Draw 25 comics about a boy and an alien.
REJECTED.
Draw 25 comics about a family who lives in a tree.
REJECTED.
Draw 25 comics about a single guy who’s a teacher at an elementary school.
MAYBE.
Draw 25 more and tighten up the writing.
SYNDICATE DEAL!

Initially, it’s not the quantity of comic strips you can draw, it’s the concept and how well syndicates think they can sell it to newspaper editors.

If you just can’t live your life without drawing a comic strip about a pig, a cow and an alien, then take it to the web and draw the hell out of it, but I wouldn’t spend my life drawing 10,000 comic strips using a concept a syndicate isn’t going to touch with a ten-foot pole.

#141 Mike Peterson
August/21/2009
@ 3:48 am

I missed the part in the press release that said this was the only way that Universal would be attempting to find new strips to develop.

#142 Ted Rall
August/21/2009
@ 5:58 am

I agree with what Stacy Curtis wrote above. Mostly, the template and concept of a strip causes it to be picked up or rejected for syndication. Everything has to come together in a credible way.

When I was reviewing comics at United, I asked myself the following questions:

Is this something I would want to read every day?

Is this idea sustainable–will the creator be able to come up with a new, good idea 365 days a year for years to come? Many ideas are too narrow.

Is this unlike other strips on the comics page?

Is it hard for an editor to reject–does it represent, say, a generation of potential readers currently ignored by the comics pages (Diesel Sweeties)? an ethnic group ignored by other comics (Secret Asian Man)? a long-overdue approach to humor (Rip Haywire)? a sharply individualistic, proven popular voice of humor (Knight Life)?

Other factors enter into it, too. If artwork is cold or bland, there isn’t much that can save it. If an artist doesn’t know how to build up to and deliver a punchline, or even boldface the right words (so common), you can’t do much there either.

(Maybe I should give a talk about this at SPX or APE. Well, if they invite me, I will. But I digress. Anyway…)

The REAL problem with Comics Sherpa and similar arrangements, in my view, is that they can’t work without a development editor frequently reviewing the stable of cartoonists. Those whose strips will never make the grade should be told that. As for others, the editor needs to take those artists under his or her wing, put them on roughs, and edit their template AND specific strips in order to try to get the work up to speed.

Putting strips on GoComics or Comics.com and expecting them to just get better isn’t going to work, not often. Cartoonists will just meet deadlines if they work in a vacuum. They need feedback and guidance.

I miss my job, obviously.

#143 Ted Rall
August/21/2009
@ 6:13 am

Also…

Talent is rare in the syndication business. Yes, the odds seem long. It’s true that there are thousands of submissions every year, and that only two or three get launched, and that of those only one is likely, like a tadpole dodging hungry bass, to survive the first year after launch.

But 99.9% of submissions are utter crap: unprofessional, amateur, grade-school level. Only perhaps one strip crossed my desk per month that had that Eureka! moment: it was drawn by a real cartoonist.

Usually, by the next day, however, I had concluded that it wouldn’t make it in syndication.

Only perhaps six strips a year rose to the level of being worthy of serious consideration by my then fellow executives. Strips that had magic. Sparkle. They were genuinely special. Two-thirds of those would get turned down, usually for reasons with which I agreed.

This is why I used to recruit cartoonists like Signe Wilkinson (Family Tree) to develop strips. Established pros are your best bet for new material.

So what of the Comics Sherpa people, etc.? I’d say there are maybe three or four that I could develop into syndicatable strips. The rest should either give up, or be OK with drawing for a tiny online audience. As for the three or four, I hope someone gives them the editing they need, because it really is a waste of time to let them just keep drawing without letting them achieve their potential.

#144 Wiley Miller
August/21/2009
@ 6:39 am

I honestly see no difference between this so-called contest and the idiotic comics polls that we all rail against.

Isn’t the usual business of people submitting their feature to syndicates in essence a contest? This is simply a manufactured gimmick, and gimmicks never work in the long run. They are not going to find a “comic strip superstar”. They are going to have to select the best of what is submitted. This is painting themselves into a corner. They’ll be stuck with something that they may have passed up on an ordinary basis.

The difference with the usual business of going through submitted material is that they don’t have to accept any of them.
By concocting this contest, they have to pick a winner and declare him or her a “superstar”, whether it’s appropriate or not. More likely, not. How many winners of American Idol are really idols today? This is the same and it’s an embarrassment.

#145 Jeff Pert
August/21/2009
@ 6:55 am

Garey @ #131 and Stacy @ #140: Amen!

Ted @ #142: Please don’t wait for SPX or ABE to invite you–bug THEM! Back in the day I’d have killed for the opportunity to hear an experienced syndicate editor talk.

#146 Scott Nickel
August/21/2009
@ 7:37 am

Stacy, I have to disagree with you about concepts that don’t appeal to syndicate editors and the public.

It’s not the concept as much as the writing. And if you did an engaging and funny strip about a boy and an alien, it might sell. LIO is not what one would call a traditionally marketable strip. Neither is BREWSTER ROCKIT or SCARY GARY or even PEARLS BEFORE SWINE.

Was THE FAR SIDE a “marketable concept” when Gary Larson launched back in 1980? Conventional wisdom would say no.

It’s the cartoonist’s “voice” that’s important. The concept is secondary.

#147 Steve Skelton
August/21/2009
@ 8:34 am

“To those of you busting your butts on Comics Sherpa, GoComics, etc. have you given any thought to the idea that maybe the concept of your strip just doesnâ??t appeal to a syndicate?”

Yes, Stacy, I have thought about that. I just think it’s weird to set up an entire part of your site to feature work by cartoonists who are aspiring to become syndicated, and garner a stable of hundreds of hungry cartoonists who are willing to put their work out there and develop it on a daily basis and then decide to look for a superstar among the public.

I personally don’t think I will ever be syndicated, so all of this really doesn’t matter to me, even though my posts may seem like sour grapes. I hope they don’t come off that way. I do think this contest is a good marketing gimmick, but I agree with Wiley that it is not likely to uncover some hidden talent.

#148 Ted Dawson
August/21/2009
@ 8:41 am

It seems to me there are three problems with this contest.

One, it’s not enough money; it’s only going to attract the same people who are already submitting comics. Even Zuda comics pays much more than this, and that’s just for a weekly webcomic. As Lee Salem has pointed out, the most talented writers and artists are going where the money is.

Two, there will be only one winner.

Finding a successful comic strip has never been a matter of looking carefully and finding one good strip to syndicate. It’s been about syndicating lots of stuff and letting the law of averages find the one that connects with people.

Three, this contest will be conducted on the Web. It should take place in newspapers.

Let’s say there are three finalists. If voting takes place in newspapers, it might then be a little easier to sell each strip to the paper that made it a winner.

I suspect there’s more to this Amazon.com partnership.

#149 Wiley Miller
August/21/2009
@ 9:55 am

“I just think itâ??s weird to set up an entire part of your site to feature work by cartoonists who are aspiring to become syndicated, and garner a stable of hundreds of hungry cartoonists who are willing to put their work out there and develop it on a daily basis and then decide to look for a superstar among the public.”

Putting on my devil’s advocate hat here… you are still among that public. Being on Comics Sherpa doesn’t disqualify you. If anything, it’s a benefit, as you’ve gotten more of the feature developed over time.

“Three, this contest will be conducted on the Web. It should take place in newspapers.”

I think part of the real impetus behind this venture is to educate editors about the importance of comics in attracting new, young readers (which is why comics were created in the first place). If they tried doing this with newspapers, the editors would never go along with it, mainly because of the space needed to do it, as well as just not understanding it. So by going outside the newspaper, they might have a better chance of demonstrating how important it is to the newspaper’s survival to pay more attention to NEW comics instead or relying on those moronic and incredibly inaccurate comics polls that only pander to the oldest readers… readers they already have and are in no danger of losing.

#150 Corey Pandolph
August/21/2009
@ 9:57 am

Being a cartoonist is no more important than being a stand-up comedian. We work hard at comedy, but in the end, it’s still just a funny joke for a nanosecond in time.

We’re not curing cancer. We’re not making some huge difference in the world. It’s entertainment, pure and simple. Trying to raise cartooning to some lofty art form that demands great respect is a mistake.

Anyone who goes into this thinking they’re going to be a mover, shaker and honored with a life-sized bronze statue in the town square is making a mistake.

This is just a silly contest. Right or wrong, how does this impact any of you, save a brief bee in your bonnet? Whoever wins clearly deserves the contract and will be vetted no differently than anyone else trying to break in. It’s simply another avenue to find talent.

I’m always amazed at how sensitive everyone gets about anything that might “cheapen” the art form. For one thing, cartooning is a craft, not an art form. Secondly, we write JOKES for a cheap laugh.

Stop taking everything so serious and get to work. Where’s all the thick skin we’re always told we need to survive in this industry?

Work harder, write better. Contests like this won’t matter to you when you realize that.

#151 Wiley Miller
August/21/2009
@ 10:04 am

I forgot to mention that one thing I like about it is that you have to produce 200 comics. That should weed out a majority right off the bat, as it gives you some idea of just what you need to do get anywhere in this business.

And I have to disagree with you, Corey. It is an art form, not merely a craft.

#152 Corey Pandolph
August/21/2009
@ 10:07 am

How about we say it’s a “Crafty art form”. Our theme song could be the Beastie Boys’ “She’s Crafty”.

We can overdub Wiley yelling “ART FORM” after the refrain.

#153 Jason Nocera
August/21/2009
@ 10:25 am

@Steve – Comic Sherpa is a clever way to make money off of aspiring cartoonists. Sure, there’s a chance they might find some great talent – but at the end of the day – the syndicates are probably pretty happy to be getting $9.95 a month from aspiring cartoonists. And if there are 6,000 submissions out there – well, that’s a nice potential market. (Not to mention the traffic, advertising, etc….)

#154 Stacy Curtis
August/21/2009
@ 10:44 am

@ 146 Scott Nickel – The thing the cartoonists behind Pearls Before Swine, Lio, The Far Side, Brewster Rockit and Scary Gary has that no one else had was a good concept. Had any of them created a comic strip about a raisin who wears a cowboy hat and rides on the back of a poodle, they would be among the other 5,000 cartoonists trying to become “America’s Next Big Comic Strip Super Model Survivor Race Winner.”

They all had a unique voice, but their comics were something that hadn’t been seen at the time:
— A REALLY offbeat panel cartoon.
— A wordless comic strip.
— A space comic strip.
— A comic strip that shows Stephan Pastis smoking a cigarette.

Instead of working on one strip idea for 5 years and getting constant rejection from the syndicate, hit them with 20 diverse concepts and hope one sticks. And if it doesn’t, do 20 more.

What if Mark Tatuilli only drew “Heart of the City”?
What if Jerry Scott still drew “Nancy”?
What if Wiley still drew “Fenton”?
What if Bill Watterson only drew his bug comic strip or his space comic strip?

We wouldn’t have the awesome Baby Blues, Zits, Lio, Non Sequitur and Calvin & Hobbes.
That’s only a few examples of creators who went on to do more bigger and better strips.

I guarantee you, someone reading this post who has been plugging away at the same mediocre comic strip (either on the web or in a handful of newspapers) year after year has a better comic strip inside them that could win this contest.

#155 Scott Kurtz
August/21/2009
@ 10:47 am

@Corey,

I don’t think anyone’s claiming it’s a lofty artform. Just that it’s actual work .

Certainly you’ve run into people, including aspiring cartoonists, who think that what we do is always fun or even glamorous. it’s kind of the opposite 99% of the time. It’s lonely, and hard work and it takes years to perfect.

Some of us don’t like the idea of what we do being reduce to something you can win in a contest like a baggie full of water and a goldfish.

#156 Corey Pandolph
August/21/2009
@ 11:00 am

@Scott,

Oh, as someone who attempts 4 daily strips, I’m not disputing the work part. It’s hard work.

I love my work, as you do. I just have a hard time taking much of it very serious.

It just seems to me that taking this contest as a punch the face is over-reacting.

Honestly, it isn’t much different than submitting to a syndicate the old fashioned way. You essentially send in your work for a round of editors (judges) and hope you get picked. Whoever gets picked in this silly thing will have to go through all the same editorial ridicule that comes with a development contract.

#157 Anne Hambrock
August/21/2009
@ 11:05 am

“The problem is that the general public (understandably) has no concept of how creative people achieve their goals and success. They falsely assume there is some â??secretâ? or â??magicâ? when the truth is weâ??re no different from doctors or lawyers or accountants or any other professional in the real world. Our craft takes 5-10 years of intense work and practice in order for us to achieve our goals and successes.

I and others feel that by turning our profession into a prize that can be won in a contest, youâ??re belittling what it is we do and belittling the hard decades of work we put into achieving our goals.”

This is a problem faced by all professional artists. There is a belief among the general public that artists are such addicted exhibitionists that they will do anything for “exposure”. Forget the need to take them seriously as a “professional” with training (and in many cases a college degree) and absolutely forget the notion of paying them.

While the winner of this contest will be paid, it does not sound as though the pay scale is going to be very good and the folks running the contest get to capitalize on that “addiction to exposure” mentality.

I could definitely see how, in that frame of mind, the contest would be considered degrading.

#158 Corey Pandolph
August/21/2009
@ 11:15 am

@Anne,

Once again, how is what you described any different than submitting to a syndicate the regular way?

1. Newspaper cartooning doesn’t pay much to the majority syndicated. This is not breaking news.

2.The syndicates are your agent, who’s job it is to look for ways for you AND THEM to make money, probably through public exposure of some kind.

3. Artists are, in essence, exhibitionists.

#159 Stacy Curtis
August/21/2009
@ 11:20 am

There are a couple of issues with this contest:

*** $300 a month seems like extremely low pay from a company who is sincerely interested in developing your idea for their eventual profit. I highly doubt anyone working at Universal Press works for that kind of pocket change. Why should it be expected of the creator of the product that is suddenly shoved into the spotlight?

That being said, I imagine the low pay is Universal’s way of separating the people who would like to draw a comic strip from the people who are so damn desperate to follow their dream of drawing a comic strip that they’d rather work two full-time jobs than bail on this opportunity.

*** If you allow the public to pick the winner, as a syndicate, can never take a stand against newspaper editors holding a comics poll in their newspaper. I think the same goes for the creator of the winning comic strip.

*** There was just 24 days to come up with a decent concept write, edit, revise, draw and scan your original, unique comic strip entry.
I think this begs for half-baked ideas and concepts.
As I said before, Calvin and Hobbes, Non Sequitur weren’t created the first time around. Perhaps this gives anyone who has had a comic strip package brewing on the back burner a head start?

As someone mentioned before, I suspect now would be a great time to send your comic strip idea to the other syndicates while everyone is focused on sending their unique and original work to Universal’s contest.

Anyway, I’m not for or against this contest. It has it’s pro’s and con’s. There have been some great points made here, both positive and negative. It’s definitely something to give some thought to before jumping in head first. But hurry! There’s not much time!

Good luck to all who enter!

#160 Scott Kurtz
August/21/2009
@ 11:22 am

@Corey,

Man, I have to disagree with you that this is no different than submitting to the syndicates through normal channels.

One of the things John Glynn said on his editorial blog was that if we looked at things from his perspective we would understand that logic of making this book deal and stipend prize “Non-negotiable.” And believe me I do.

Because by making this contest such a spectacle, they can’t chance their newly dubbed “super-star” actually thinking he has the right to negotiate a fair price for his work and come to some impasse with the people who provided the budget for this farce.

It would be embarrassing if the next Comic Strip Superstar decided he didn’t like the deal and was going to go with somebody else.

You know that this isn’t the same thing.

#161 Anne Hambrock
August/21/2009
@ 11:37 am

@Corey

“Once again, how is what you described any different than submitting to a syndicate the regular way?”

Well, the obvious difference would be the public voting element.
Another difference that I’ve seen pointed out on a different forum has to do with contracts. With a traditional syndicate deal, not only can you hire an attorney to review the offered contract and try to improve it, that contractual review process can take quite a bit of time. As I understand this contest, the winner will have less than a week to sign all the contracts involved and no opportunity for negotiation of any kind. Personally, that sort of thing always makes me a little nervous.

As far as the pay scale goes, each syndicate structures their development deals and pay scale differently and I have no idea how this proposed pay range matches up with what Universal usually offers.

As far as being natural exhibitionists goes, every artist who agrees to work “on spec” or “for exposure” treads a risky path we’ve debated here frequently. I know you’re aware of that so I’m guessing that comment was tongue in cheek.

#162 Mike Cope
August/21/2009
@ 11:40 am

As a cartoonist, the last thing that I ever want to do is participate in something that will degrade the funnies.

As one who will be entering this contest, I’m not looking at this as a chance to “win” a prize. I’m hoping that my submission will be judged based on its merit, and will have the opportunity to “earn” the prize — in both the eyes of the judges and the readers.

I know that many people have already made up their minds, one way or the other, as to how they perceive this contest.

But please, out of respect for those who are going to step up to the plate and show what they’ve got, let’s save the talk about “degrading the art form” until after the first pitch has been thrown.

After you’ve seen our submissions, then you can tell us how much we stink and how bad we’ve made the rest of the team look.

I’ve been dreaming about being a syndicated cartoonist ever since I was a kid. Life’s thrown various opportunities and ups and downs, but I’m constantly striving to produce the best work I can.

I honestly have the deepest respect for every syndicated cartoonist out there. And I’m proud to say I’ve had the opportunity to work with a few on various projects. Even though several have offered to be a reference, I’ve held back applying to the NCS because I wanted to wait until the day I was fully comfortable with calling myself an established professional cartoonist.

When the day finally comes that I get to go to the Reubens, I would hate to just be known as the kid who “won a contest.”

I want to be known as a member who earned his way through the door.

I’m sorry, but I’ve got deadlines to meet. This will be my last response for a while.

Thanks for your consideration.

#163 Corey Pandolph
August/21/2009
@ 11:55 am

@Anne,

I doubt the public voting element will weigh that heavily in the end. As I said, the winner will have to run through the usual development hoops as any other submission.

John Glynn posted on the editor’s blog that the book and development contract is non-negotiable, but the long-term syndicate contract is. I received an advance from United to develop Barkeater years ago that was less than half of what Universal is offering. As I understand it, I was one of the last to be offered a development advance from UM. That may have changed, but in this climate, $5000 is a nice slice of pie.

I can’t speak for this contest, but in my dealings with Universal, they give ample time to negotiate. If they say the long-term contract is negotiable, I can only imagine they will be fair.

@Mike Cope,

“When the day finally comes that I get to go to the Reubens, I would hate to just be known as the kid who â??won a contest.â?

Apologies to Tony Carrillo, I hope.

#164 Anne Hambrock
August/21/2009
@ 12:10 pm

@Corey and Mike

I hope I haven’t given the impression that I find the contest degrading, I can just see where that sensibility comes from among some of the previous posters. I feel there are valid arguments on both sides.

And Corey – I didn’t mean to imply that the winner will be ripped off, I was outlining the differences I see between the contest and traditional development. Thank you for providing a context for the $ angle of Universal’s typical contract.

@Mike, I definitely believe syndication is still a great dream to pursue and understand your reasons for waiting on the NCS thing but I think you’re selling yourself a little short.

#165 Corey Pandolph
August/21/2009
@ 12:13 pm

@Anne,

We’re cool. I get what you were trying to say. Just wanted to clarify why I feel the way I do about it.

I think the bottom line is if you don’t like the contest avenue, no one’s stopping you from submitting on your own.

#166 Wiley Miller
August/21/2009
@ 12:15 pm

“It just seems to me that taking this contest as a punch the face is over-reacting.”

Agreed.

#167 scott hilburn
August/21/2009
@ 12:15 pm

I agree with dang near everything Corey said.
@Stacy:�*** $300 a month seems like extremely low pay from a company who is sincerely interested in developing your idea for their eventual profit. I highly doubt anyone working at Universal Press works for that kind of pocket change. Why should it be expected of the creator of the product that is suddenly shoved into the spotlight?�

$300 a month is for the development period only. After the feature launches, (if it launches) earnings would be no different than that of any other syndicated cartoonist and would depend entirely upon the number of markets he/she is in and the size of those markets â?? and would be subject to the standard creator/syndicate 50/50 split. And I canâ??t speak for the other syndicates, but $300 a month is pretty much Universalâ??s standard rate for development periods. So, whether picked through this contest or through the traditional submission method, those terms arenâ??t likely to change much. Fortunately, work produced during that time can be used in future licensing opportunities if presented with such.

â??That being said, I imagine the low pay is Universalâ??s way of separating the people who would like to draw a comic strip from the people who are so damn desperate to follow their dream of drawing a comic strip that theyâ??d rather work two full-time jobs than bail on this opportunity.â?

Nope. Itâ??s the syndicates way of minimizing their risk and keeping their business a lucrative one. It wouldnâ??t make financial sense to pay exorbitant salaries to creators of unproven features that have yet to earn the syndicate or themselves money and may not ever actually become syndicated.

â??*** There was just 24 days to come up with a decent concept write, edit, revise, draw and scan your original, unique comic strip entry.
I think this begs for half-baked ideas and concepts.
As I said before, Calvin and Hobbes, Non Sequitur werenâ??t created the first time around. Perhaps this gives anyone who has had a comic strip package brewing on the back burner a head start?
As someone mentioned before, I suspect now would be a great time to send your comic strip idea to the other syndicates while everyone is focused on sending their unique and original work to Universalâ??s contest.â?

Yes, thereâ??s not much lead time for the submission, but itâ??s also not the standard 4-6 weeks of work usually requested either. The deadlineâ??s September 12th. Thatâ??s 3 weeks to come up with less than 2 weekâ??s worth of material. And really, to get a definitive â??yesâ? or â??noâ? in under than 2 months from any syndicate is quite an accomplishment. I got my “yes” 4 months after my initial submission (well worth the wait)so, I think this actually a pretty good opportunity.

And for those worried about the degradation of the artform – as with any development deal, thereâ??s no guarantee of syndication. If after the development period ends, the quality of the winning submission isnâ??t at a level that Universal deems professional quality there is no obligation to syndicate.

#168 Christina Lane
August/21/2009
@ 12:27 pm

Typical abuse of power and undermining of an important commercial art form.

#169 Corey Pandolph
August/21/2009
@ 12:30 pm

We were actually having an adult conversation, then the Internet showed up.

Thanks, @Christina Lane.

#170 Jesse Cline
August/21/2009
@ 12:55 pm

thank you, Mike

#171 Garey Mckee
August/21/2009
@ 2:03 pm

Did Corey Pandolph ever know that he’s my heeeeeeeeeeeeerrrroooooo. He is the wiiind beneath my wiiiiiings.

#172 Cedric
August/21/2009
@ 2:17 pm

@#167 Thanks for the post Scott.

That was the only thing nagging me, on whether or not universal’s development deal was below market rate.

After having spoken to others, it seems that the book advance is decent for a first time author.

I agree with those who think that the end result is not remarkably different if you had gone through a regular syndicate submission.

Also, someone correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the terms of the contest rules imply that they’re not restricted to offering only the grand prize winner a syndicate deal? If they find eight good strips through this, they can offer all if them a contract?

Only the grand prize winner is guaranteed a book deal and defined development stipend.

#173 Corey Pandolph
August/21/2009
@ 2:31 pm

Take it easy Garey. People will talk.

#174 Ted Rall
August/21/2009
@ 3:31 pm

@Gary @145, Well, you seem to be about alone. I’m not one to push myself on anyone, but if SPX or APE or Comicon or that thing in Vegas next month wants to invite me to spill the beans about how comics *really* get syndicated and what makes a good comic strip salable, I’m easy to track down.

#175 Ted Rall
August/21/2009
@ 3:38 pm

One random observation: It wouldn’t have been a bad idea, from a PR standpoint, for Universal to reach out to its own creators, including web-only cartoonists, to communicate with them about the contest and how they could participate or not (and if not, why not), before they released the news to the general public.

One thing I noticed in my own insider experience is the difficulty for non-cartoonists to see things from the cartoonists’ perspective.

#176 Garey Mckee
August/21/2009
@ 3:46 pm

Psst…Ted, #145 was Jeff Pert.

#177 Ted Rall
August/21/2009
@ 3:49 pm

Oops…quite right. Sorry ’bout that.

#178 Christina Lane
August/21/2009
@ 3:49 pm

That’s a personal attack, Bonoâ?? I gave my professional opinion about contests I general in a convoluted market. You’re not helping yourself if what you want is an honest conversation. Everybody knows it’s a ripoff tactic. They always are.

#179 Christina Lane
August/21/2009
@ 3:53 pm

And so far as making allusions as to my status or level of intelligence for seeing through thisâ?? I’m only saying what everybody here is thinking. And they wouldn’t be here if the industry hadn’t been swindled by “The Internet” to begin with. What *you* need to explain is why the sudden interest in promoting new comics talent?! Seems like a bad business decision in this market.

#180 Corey Pandolph
August/21/2009
@ 4:02 pm

@Scott Kurtz

“Because by making this contest such a spectacle, they canâ??t chance their newly dubbed â??super-starâ? actually thinking he has the right to negotiate a fair price for his work and come to some impasse with the people who provided the budget for this farce.”

You’re basing this on speculation and personal opinion, Scott. Unless you heard that directly from U/U, it’s only speculation.

The only thing not negotiable is the book deal and development. Even in a regular syndicate contract, these type of deals are rarely negotiable.

I agree, after rereading the rules, that it’s not entirely like submitting to the syndicate, but the out come will no doubt be the same. Like Scott Hilburn said, there is no guarantee the winner will win a long-term contract.

You may not agree with the “spectacle” aspect of the contest, but the end game is the same and the quality of strip launched will be of no less quality than what may get launched under normal circumstances.

I totally get where you’re coming from and I understand how you may feel that this is an insult to your hard work, but try not to speculate on the reasons for the rules based only on your personal feelings. I think that’s why these discussions can get out of hand.

#181 Garey Mckee
August/21/2009
@ 4:03 pm

LOL @ Bono. Wait that’s not the REAL Bono. Why, that’s a FAKE Rockstar?!?!?!

#182 Christina Lane
August/21/2009
@ 4:07 pm

@Gareyâ?? the real ones are difficult enough to manage, the last thing we need are high-fallutin’ comic geeks posing as fake ones.

#183 Corey Pandolph
August/21/2009
@ 4:10 pm

@Christina

HA!

How awesome is it that Scott Kurtz and I are being the civil ones in this conversation?

Take your hate to another forum, sister. We’ve all been down the snark road before and I think we’ve all had enough of it.

I know I have.

#184 Christina Lane
August/21/2009
@ 5:42 pm

Yes, you keep telling us you’re the voice of reason in all this. We *really* want to believe you.

#185 Steve Skelton
August/21/2009
@ 6:12 pm

I apologize and will never do it again. This is what happens when you start things off with, “well holy crap”.

#186 Frank Zieglar
August/21/2009
@ 6:14 pm

There are 3 separate contracts here. Two of them are non-negotiable (book and development) and the 3rd is negotiable (syndication).

If the winner reads the contracts for the book and development and finds them unsuitable -then DON’T SIGN. End of problems. Submit your strip for syndication instead of winning the contest.

It’s all a publicity stunt, but somebody MIGHT get syndicated from it.

IMO, the big concerns seem to be that the contracts might be screwing the winner; and it’s degrading to the art and to cartoonists; and it’s not alot of money. I think none of these are valid.

This isn’t some fly-by-night company trying to scam as many as possible. Even if they scam the winner what will they get? Maybe a couple hundred strips from a nobody. Are they going to turn around and sell those laughing at their winner? I don’t think so.

As for degrading… I think it’s a bit of sour milk that some nobody MIGHT get syndicated without paying their dues. I could imagine singers feeling that way about American Idol.

The money isn’t enough? Let’s be honest – this isn’t really a contest for pros who already make a living cartooning. This is a contest for a hopeful. A wanna-be like me. And from this side of the bench $300 a month to help me develop the strip sounds fair. A part-time job on the weekends is going to pay about the same. They are NOT offering to support somebody who has potential. They ARE offering to help somebody who has potential.

And the book? Fugedabouit – $5000 for a nobody. That’s a pretty big deal to me. How many people in this thread could spend the next two years working on 200 strips (of an unproven strip) and send that to publishers? We would lose money on postage.

#187 Christina Lane
August/21/2009
@ 6:38 pm

First of all, licensing of mainstream commercial cartoon characters runs to the billions of dollars per year. 5 grand is an insult for anything worth publishing in the mainstream press. It’s piddly pocket change. Not even enough to keep an artist in supplies these days.

Secondly, the contest format is degrading because it creates the impression to the general public that the field is open to amateurs. It’s a great excuse to underpay people; if you downgrade the level of skill and learning that precludes a successful strip. But it’s a shoddy business strategy if it ruins the public’s perception of the field, and the morale of the people who work in it.

The field is ready to implode, anyhow, because people have got so greedy they no longer teach the skills necessary to really pull off top quality material because they don’t want the competition. This is why we have so much third-rate artwork in cartoons these days. People are depressed and under-appreciated, or else they are hacks who just mirror whatever t.v. formula they think will sell to the general public. The secondary problem, of course, being the effect this has on the morale of the public to be immersed in material that’s created by compromised talent.

Amazon is running a business that, IMHO, undermines the very business of book publishing. It controls it’s own output volume, sales and marketing, and this is too much power in the hands of a company that has yet to outline it’s interests in literacy promotionâ?? and this does not add to my warm & fuzzy feelings on the subject. The impression I get is that it’s all about control and profit, with no regard for quality.

But then again, I am just full of “hate”, so what do I know. Clearly, the “rockstars” of the world know far better. LOL.

#188 Christina Lane
August/21/2009
@ 6:55 pm

Anyhow, I am off nowâ?? I’m going to put an ad in the paper for a plumbing contest because my kitchen sink is broken. I figure someone out there ought to be willing to do the work at a cut rate if I am willing to associate with them. I get off on humiliating all the contestants and if I really embarrass them, they get all flustered and leave their tools behind. So I get more out of the deal that way. ;-)

#189 Scott Kurtz
August/22/2009
@ 11:52 am

I just want to remind everyone here that there’s a reason emotions get flared and tensions strained about these types of things.

We all have experienced the very brutal truth that a career in cartooning does not have a straight and clear a path as becoming a doctor or accountant or a plumber.

Creative careers are like snowflakes, each one is unique and each one is formed differently through thousands of little steps, experiences and opportunities.

It’s easy for people outside of what we do to think that there is one magical event that catapults us from being an amateur to being a professional. More importantly, it’s easy for people INSIDE of what we do to fall into this belief.

I can’t tell you how many aspiring cartoonists I meet who are waiting for that ONE MOMENT to come that will carry them to fame and fortune.

When I visited SCAD to lecture there with Dave Kellett, the students kept asking questions that started with “So when you’re offered a deal….”

There is no deal. There is no magical patron sitting and waiting for that diamond in the rough to come along so they can scoop them up and make all their dreams come true.

When we wrote How To Make Webcomics we were so terrified that our book was going to give any impression other than “Be prepared to work at this for years and even then it may not pay off.”

But contests like these, perpetuate the idea that…yeah…it’s true. There’s someone out there with the power to make you famous. To make you a superstar. All you have to do is prove to them that you’re that diamond in the rough…

John Glynn, the editors of Universal Press Syndicate, Gary Trudeau, and especially Lynn Johnston all know better.

#190 Nathan Cooper
August/22/2009
@ 8:24 pm

Who knows? The winner “could” be a superstar like Watteson or Larson.
My strip has been in development for a very long time and the strip from the winner of this
contest will probably be in development for several months, due at least in part by the current state of newspaper sales. That said, whoever wins this contest will have the opportunity to get regular feedback from some very good editors which is invaluable in becoming syndicated. And, from what I gather, the winner has to submit only 20 roughs per month, which should be focused on creating some really great dialog, i.e. focusing on writing and not inking.
But the winner could be a “superstar of cartooning,” getting into hundreds of papers and getting a greeting card deal like Scott Hilburn, who came from Gocomics.com, which is basically starting from nowhere like the “undiscovered” winner of this contest could be.

#191 Frank Zieglar
August/22/2009
@ 9:07 pm

@Scott kurtz #189

That was well said. But I gotta disagree on the contest perpetrating this false idea.

Myself (and I assume any rational person) knows that this contest is not a way to instant success, fame, fortune, and happily ever after.

It’s only a foot in the door that may set the winner down that yellow brick road if they continue with it and work at it just like you did with PVP.

As you say it’s different for every cartoonist. This contest is only a door. To any rational person. John Glynn, the editors of Universal Press Syndicate, Gary Trudeau, and especially Lynn Johnston all know this as well.

“Comic Strip Opportunity” just doesn’t have the same ring to it though.

PS: I’m zieglarf from the stream on Friday night.

#192 L Taylor
August/22/2009
@ 10:49 pm

Good way of stating it Zieglar. It’s a chance to get your foot in the door, and that’s all some people are looking for. I do hope no one thinks that it’s an instant success opportunity. But if they do, I sort of think it’s their own fault.

#193 Ted Rall
August/23/2009
@ 7:35 am

Wow, I agree with Scott Kurtz about something. For a cartoonist, I should like hyperbole, but not when it sparks false hopes (which, of course, I’ve accused Scott of doing, but that’s another discussion which we’ve already had).

However, the odds may be long but it is far from impossible for a comics creator to sign a “deal” (syndicate contract) and become a superstar virtually overnight. It’s happened to many, many cartoonists. Examples that come to mind include Jim Borgman, who sent in, if memory serves, about a dozen college newspaper strips to the Cincinnati Enquirer and got hired as staff editorial cartoonist. Big money, big recognition, at age 21. Jack Ohman’s rise was similarly meteoric. There’s also Aaron McGruder, who launched in, what was it, 275? newspapers with “Boondocks” in his low 20s. That’s overnight success, superstardom, all the good stuff.

Of course, the biz is in turmoil because the main source of income–print–is in turmoil. But that will change–I’m betting sooner rather than later. And for someone with a great idea, there is no better time than bad times to break in. During good times, after all, stuff is all locked up.

#194 Christina Lane
August/23/2009
@ 9:03 am

Nice try, but why bend over and take it any more? I am in the process of being muscled for ownership of my property by people who seem to think rape and child torture is in fashion these days! Should I bend over and take it, and allow the standard to dip that much lower for my kids?!! They’re quite literally waiting for me to die from the stress so they can squeeze the I.P. out of my under-aged kids when I am dead, and force them into acting and modeling against my will. They have no confines on what behavior is acceptable. They break the laws left, right and center. It’s HORRIFYING!!!!

I am FED UP of being ripped off and literally worked like a slave in an industry that makes BILLIONS from my work. The noose has been pulled tighter and tighter the bigger the profits have grownâ?? every mentally-ill loser has been published at the expense of diluting the cultural impact of the medium itselfâ?? and all of it supporting non-creative types who wouldn’t know quality if they tripped over it because they’re only in it for the money. We’re just cattle to them. We’re like that cattle that people feed ground up chicken poop and rotting grain and then antibiotics so the poop won’t make us sick before they slaughter us. The “standard” is everywhere in industry, but most pronounced in cultural media.

If the ones who are established want to promote the current system in order to keep the competition at bay, then they can go *down* with it. People who climbed aboard the TITANIC had regrets too, you knowâ?¦

#195 Christina Lane
August/23/2009
@ 9:06 am

And it’s NOT the business model that’s the problem. It’s the CRIMINALS who run it! The Web is the only place to escape their clutches.

#196 Christina Lane
August/23/2009
@ 9:16 am

Here’s $5,000.00 Bonoâ?? go buy your family medical insurance and groceries and a mortgage and annual vacation with it. Oh yeahâ?? why would you want those? Artists are all drug addicted losersâ?? it’s what we taught you to be on M.T.V. so you’d be easier to take advantage of. Tell you whatâ?? we’ll cut you in a piddly 2¢ per book on 5% of the books we sell and you’ll never know a thing about it because it’s easy to hide your sales volume from your “partners” on the Internet. When you reach the pinnacle of success, we’ll leak your stuff to the Asian underground market in exchange for political favors, and pretend it was an accident. We’ll only cut you slack if you’re willing to come in on one of our black-market side projects exploiting underage girlsâ?? and even thenâ?? we’ll milk you ’till you drop.

It’s the new cash grabâ?? “revenge of the nerds” and all, remember? We’ve got to get back at all those non-programmers for giving us wedgies in high-school, and our Moms for turning a blind eye to us being assaulted in the locker rooms all those years. And because we’re afraid that if you take root, you’ll put our sorry, talentless clued-out hack selves out of business, we’ll kill you for making us rich.

Sorryâ?? You can argue the merits all you want. I’m *out* of here. This industry is DEAD IN THE WATER.

#197 Wiley Miller
August/23/2009
@ 10:21 am

Wow… someone woke up on the wrong side of the comics page today…

#198 Christina Lane
August/23/2009
@ 11:19 am

â??He reminds me of the man who murdered both his parents, and then when sentence was about to be pronounced pleaded for mercy on the grounds that he was an orphanâ?¦â?
~Abraham Lincoln

#199 Christina Lane
August/23/2009
@ 12:00 pm

You all think you’re in purgatory now?! It’s going to get worse every day until I get PAID for my work. That’s the ***only*** discussion on the table right now. I want 60 million dollars for all the intellectual property that was stolen from me, and all the stress you people put my family through. THERE’S NOTHING MORE TO TALK ABOUT.

#200 Corey Pandolph
August/23/2009
@ 12:34 pm

“You all think youâ??re in purgatory now?! Itâ??s going to get worse every day until I get PAID for my work. Thatâ??s the ***only*** discussion on the table right now. I want 60 million dollars for all the intellectual property that was stolen from me, and all the stress you people put my family through. THEREâ??S NOTHING MORE TO TALK ABOUT.”

I, uh… Huh?

#201 Jim Lavery
August/23/2009
@ 1:47 pm

holy frickin cow

I’m begining to get scared

#202 Mike Wytrykus
August/23/2009
@ 2:22 pm

Wow…just…wow.

Am I at the right website? Isn’t this where you go to talk about comic strips and cartooning?

I think I’ll just duck back into the shadows now.

#203 Scott Kurtz
August/23/2009
@ 3:24 pm

two questions:

1) Who is Christina Lane.

and

2) MY comments are moderated and HER’S aren’t???

#204 Bill Kellogg
August/23/2009
@ 3:47 pm

Up till recently I thought it was a good idea. This seems like a good chance for unknown cartoonists to get noticed. Even if the winner doesn’t get a syndication deal, they are getting $300 a month for their development period for which they are currently getting paid nothing. They also get the benefit of working with a syndication editor to help them develop their strip into something marketable. I have absolutely no artistic talent myself, but I would think that would be very valuable.

From what I know of book deals, a $5000 advance is very good for a complete unknown. Weâ??re not talking about Dilbert here. It takes a lot of years to build up a following big enough to sell books in a national market.

Sure itâ??s a marketing gimmick and maybe it is a bit cheesy, but if they find the next syndicated cartoonist(s) it will be well worth it for Universal and for the winner.

I know some of this has been said before but this thread took a bizarre twist recently so I thought it might be worth saying again.

Now I must go an hide. Is there room for one more in the shadows Mike?

#205 Wiley Miller
August/23/2009
@ 3:48 pm

You heard the lady, Pandolph… pay up!

#206 Mike Wytrykus
August/23/2009
@ 3:53 pm

“I know some of this has been said before but this thread took a bizarre twist recently so I thought it might be worth saying again.

Now I must go an hide. Is there room for one more in the shadows Mike?”

The shadows are quite immense. All are welcome. All are welcome.

#207 Mike Wytrykus
August/23/2009
@ 4:22 pm

This contest reminds me somewhat of a similar contest Andrews McMeel Universal ran about 10 years ago called Strip Search. It was only open to college students (which I was at the time) and they picked one grand prize winner and winners in three categories: strip, panel and other.

I don’t recall what the exact prizes were, I think a bit of cash, and the winners and some runner-ups got their strips published together in a book collection. (So not as ambitious a contest, but along the same lines.) I remember finding the book collection a while after the contest ended in a bargain book store.

I was wondering whatever became of some of the winners of that contest, so I decided to dig out my copy of the book. Flipping through it, I came across only two cartoonists I recognized: Tony Morris, who use to do the Keenspot comic Frankenstudent, and, surprisingly, one David J. Kellet of Sheldon fame.

Anyone else remember this contest or perhaps entered it?

#208 Shane Davis
August/23/2009
@ 5:46 pm

I bow to Ms. Lane. I have been terminally out ‘screed-ed.’

I am now a born again short post-er.

(BTW Wiley, that Post-It note I put up with ‘screed’ on it finally came in handy. Thanks!)

#209 Bill Kellogg
August/23/2009
@ 6:28 pm

I guess I should clarify my “Up till recently I thought it was a good idea” comment since I got a couple e-mails asking why I no longer think it is a good idea. That was an attempt at humor – which is why I will never be a cartoonist.

#210 Scott Kurtz
August/23/2009
@ 8:05 pm

Mike,

I think one of the winners might have been Frank Cho of Liberty Meadows fame. I know that he got his start in syndication from a college-based contest.

Frank got fed up with newspapers, left the industry for comic books and there’s probably a good reason that you don’t see a lot of new Liberty Meadows stuff.

#211 Mike Wytrykus
August/23/2009
@ 11:05 pm

@Scott,

I double-checked the book, but I didn’t see Frank Cho in there. Maybe it was a different contest that he was in. That’s interesting, nonetheless.

I am quite familiar with Frank’s work, especially Liberty Meadows. Papers around here never carried it, so I use to get the Image comic book when it was out. While Cho’s artwork for Marvel has been top notch, I miss Liberty Meadows. I hope he comes back to it sometime. Have you ever tried to convince him to make it a webcomic?

#212 Scott Kurtz
August/23/2009
@ 11:32 pm

I don’t want to speak for Frank.

I know a lot of it has to do with time. He’s got a lot of Marvel work coming in and it’s fun stuff for him. Plus he did Liberty Meadows for 10 years. I think he wanted to work on other stuff.

#213 Wiley Miller
August/24/2009
@ 6:02 am

Comic strips are not the be-all and end-all of cartooning. Far from it. And not every cartoonist is cut out for it, just not every writer is cut out to be a columnist or a novelist. You have to find the venue that suits you best. Frank Cho is obviously a very talented guy, but he is more cut out for comic book work than comic strips, just as most comic strip cartoonists would fail miserably at doing comic books. The trick is finding your niche, not just pursuing what you think is most popular. That’s where you’ll find real happiness, and a decent living, as a cartoonist.

#214 L Taylor
August/24/2009
@ 8:33 am

“Comic strips are not the be-all and end-all of cartooning.”

LIES!!

#215 mil
August/24/2009
@ 11:13 am

@Wiley Miller: While I agree about your opinion of Cho and though I liked Liberty Meadows I always felt that sometimes it was focused too much on the art than the comedy and that Frank Cho wanted to do more than just comicstrips. He had shown in the strip that he was able to draw well but I stilI was suprised seeing him that he could so easily adjust to superhero (and other sort of) comic books and make them look that good as well.
Most comicstrip cartoonists would probably fail in doing superhero (or other kind of more realistic drawn) comic books but I think many of them could do still well with funny comic books. Sunday strips are often like a short comicstory so the leap isn´t that big.

At least I know that I couldn´t do a superhero comicbook – well, that is not without turning it into a parody ;)

#216 Wiley Miller
August/24/2009
@ 11:45 am

You just reiterated my point.

And apparently you didn’t read Alan’s rules on posting here, “Mil”.

#217 mil
August/24/2009
@ 12:40 pm

Oh, I read them but usually no one gets my first name right (except greeks) and I always have to explain how it`s pronounced. So I´m kinda hoping that in the long run the easy and self-explanatory “mil” will stick and work for me like Madonna, Cher or Prince did for other people…

#218 Maddie Ciccone
August/24/2009
@ 1:09 pm

Oh, no, Alan makes us all play by his rules.

#219 T AB
August/24/2009
@ 1:24 pm

So eine Schweinerei.

#220 Alan Gardner
August/24/2009
@ 1:49 pm

@mil – I’d prefer you use your full name. Mil might be all you need in your native land, but here, it would be well if you did. Love your artwork. Wish I understood German so I could get your jokes.

@maddie – when I catch individuals using fake names, they usually get flagged to be moderated. I hate doing it – mostly because it creates more work for me – so I’m going to assume using the “Maddie” name is a joke about the rules. :) Right, Mike?

@Tab – I’ve turned a blind eye to your use of your pen name. Not a cool time to chime in. Now I’ve got to give you the same lecture as I did Mil. Please use your full name.

Eine Schweinerei indeed.

#221 Ioannis Milionis
August/24/2009
@ 2:10 pm

@Alan Gardner: Ok, if you prefer the full name, it`s your site. Luckily nobody hear has to speak my name out loud so I guess won`t have to do any explaining.

Oh, and thanks I`m happy if someone likes my artwork. I`m currently translating the cartoons into english and greek. Haven´t had the time to translate many cartoons (only 20 or so) but if you want I can send you some in english.

#222 Scott Kurtz
August/24/2009
@ 5:20 pm

@Wiley,

I think Frank would agree with you. But I think he also suffered from the fact that Liberty Meadows would have worked better as a comic strip in PLAYBOY rather than the papers.

I would disagree that Liberty Meadows focused too much on art. Sometimes that’s all I want. I know that there are two reasons I love the Price Valiant comic strip still to this day. Some Sunday’s I just want to sit and stare at it. I don’t even care what’s happening in the story.

#223 Frank Zieglar
August/24/2009
@ 6:52 pm

On Sundays Scott stares at Prince Valiant… gaaaay.

#224 Brian Fies
August/24/2009
@ 7:59 pm

If staring at Prince Valiant is gay, I don’t wanna be straight.

Chiming in after 223 posts, my take is:

1. If someone wants to try for the Universal contest, vaya con dios with my blessing. There was a time in my life I would’ve eagerly been first in line.

2. That time is past. I am older and wiser, and would never sign any non-negotiable contract on principle.

3. I realize that’s easy for me to say.

4. Nothing about the contest prevents anyone from submitting the old-fashioned way. I’d guess your odds of getting noticed by a syndicate editor are about the same. If your work is worthy, it’ll eventually stand out no matter how it sneaks over the transom.

5. I think American Idol is a good analogy. And just like American Idol, the contest doesn’t guarantee success–just a shot at it. Sometimes you get Kelly Clarkson, sometimes you get Taylor Hicks.

6. I’m not proud I know the name “Taylor Hicks.”

7. Whoever wins and whatever the result, it’ll still ultimately be judged by newspaper editors deciding if they want to buy it and readers deciding if they want to look at it every day. If it’s good, no one will hold its origin against it. If it’s bad, it’ll be gone soon enough.

#225 Brian Fies
August/24/2009
@ 8:03 pm

8. Oh, one more. I don’t see how adding a shot of excitement to the process and getting a few people who don’t normally think about comic strips to pay a little attention to them is a bad thing.

#226 bill millar
July/17/2011
@ 1:52 pm

Does anybody know if there is going to be another Amazon comic strip superstar contest again this year? It is nearly two years ago since the last one.

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