Scott Kurtz in talks with Jimmy Johnson?

After posting an open letter inviting FoxTrot creator Bill Amend into saving the comic strip industry, it appears that Scott Kurtz has been talking at least one other cartoonistJimmy Johnson, creator of Arlo and Janis.

I’ve been having a conversation lately with a young cartoonist named Scott Kurtz. Scott is young (compared to me!) but not inexperienced. His PvP probably is the most successful Web comic out there. With hustle and talent, Scott has been able to do the difficult: make a living drawing a comic exclusively on the Worldwide Web. I like Scott’s work, but I’m going to point you to his site and let you judge. His strip is set in the office of a magazine, one that caters to digital gamers I believe. I suggest you familiarize yourself with the characters then delve back in the archive a couple of years. Scott and I have been talking about the future of the business, the sort of thing I hope we will be talking about soon. I hope our talks are helping Scott; they’re doing me a world of good.

I don’t wish to engage in rumor mongering on the Daily Cartoonist and I claim no inside information on the topic of these discussions, but I, for one, am glad that Scott is still walking the fence looking for the next big thing to revitalize the industry. He took a beating in the comment section the last time he was mentioned, which was unfortunate. Whatever it is that “revitalizes” the comic strip probably won’t come from a syndicated cartoonists – there are too few that even try to innovate. So, regardless of what you might think of Scott, you ought to acknowledge that he’s doing something.

15 thoughts on “Scott Kurtz in talks with Jimmy Johnson?

  1. I often wonder why the comic strip hasn’t been utilized as it has in the past (as was it’s earliest role) — to attract buyers to the newspaper and thus the newspaper’s content.

    For example, I voluntarily subscribed to a few daily e-mail updates from a handful of newspapers and other news-alert sites. I often wonder why these papers aren’t using comic strips to attract more subscribers in a similar fashion than newspapers featured certain comic strips to attract readership (all the way back to The Yellow Kid days).

    If one newspaper offered me headlines daily in my in-box and another one offered me headlines and the day’s “Dilbert” strip in my in-basked I would select the news source that included the comic strip.

    Comic strips have had the role of “adding value” to the newspaper. I don’t think most folks would admit they buy the paper for the comic strips but data shows the comics section has an important role in the paper.

    I can’t imagine why that concept hasn’t made the transition to the on-line environment in which we now exist.

    It’s basically the same tried and true business model — utilize popular strips to attract and retain readership.

    – Dominic

  2. I don’t have a problem with Scott’s efforts, its just that in my opinion he comes off being a bit abrasive. The old saying that you can get more flies with honey than vinegar comes to mind.

    But I hope Scott success in his endeavors. He clearly loves the art form and craft and I think he means well.

  3. I must admit, Alan does have a point. Scott does appear to be moving forward on this, and the fact that Jimmy Johnson is vouching for him does lend weight to his claims.

    I was rather rude to him in the last round of comments. Then again, past internet/industry rants he’s made have stained my opinion of him. Perhaps this will be different.

    I’m actually looking forward to seeing what comes from this.

  4. Scott took a “beating” in the comments section last time this was mentioned, not for his position that the future of comics needs to be addressed, but for his public condemnation of professional cartoonists work , and in particular, the 640 members of the National Cartoonists Society.

    Scott is a Will Eisner award winner. Will Eisner was a long standing member of the NCS and was well loved and respected by all in the Society. The NCS honored him and his work by making him only one of 3 individuals who recieved both A Reuben and it’s lietime acheivement Awrd, The Caniff. I knew Will Eisner and he would be appalled at Scotts public comments regarding fellow professionals work.

    There was probably some point in Scotts career where his concerns would have been embraced by most in the NCS,(personally I was the Standards and Practices chairman for NCS for several years and co-wrote the ethical guidelines in association with the Graphic Artists Guild, Bob Staake and Ted Goff). NCS has also joined the Illustrators Partnership Group that has initiated reprographic rights for artists led by Chris Payne and Brad Holland. NCS has presented business practice seminars at many of the Reuben weekends that dealt with syndication contracts, copyrights, the detrimental effect of stock art on the illustration industry, the trend of “Demographic” targeted strips in syndication and work for hire practices. It’s not all fun and games as some believe. We do have serious collective concerns about where our industry is heading but we’re certainly not motivated to include a personality that continually insults 99% of the membership.

  5. Scott took a beating in the comments section, Rick, because you came in and started posting comments I had made on other blogs months ago.

    Those quotes were accurate but out of context and had nothing to do with the news article you were commenting on.

    And clearly not EVERYONE is insulted.

  6. Here again Scott Kurtz obfuscates when confronted with his own words. The following Scott Kurtz quotes are from the thread in question Not from months ago:

    “But if you want to blame a group for mediocrity in comic strips, you need only look at the current membership of the NCS or attend a Reubenâ??s award ceremony.

    How many times can we hear Cathy â??ACK!â? about being fat? How many Mondayâ??s must Garfield suffer through? Mediocrity lives and thrives. Lowered expectations breathe healthy, but not on the web. It lives in these newspapers and with these syndicatesâ?¦

    Newspaper comic strips are total crap. They have been for years. They are nothing but boring, unfunny, recycled, stale non-humor.

    If you ask someone my age or younger if they read any strips in the newspaper, youâ??ll probably hear them mention either Get Fuzzy or Foxtrot and both of those strips are, at best, the top of the mediocre pile.”

    I can’t see how anything here could be taken out of context other than in the mean spirit in which they were presented.

  7. Alan said: “Whatever it is that â??revitalizesâ? the comic strip probably wonâ??t come from a syndicated cartoonists – there are too few that even try to innovate”.

    That’s it. I’ve had it with this website.

    The money syndicated cartoonists generate is the only reason the web guys even have any prayer at all. Some of the greatest cartoon art in history has come from syndicated cartoonists. Some of the greatest cartoon characters in history have come from syndicated cartoonists.

    So how DARE you blame the cartoonists? Every syndicated cartoonist I know tries to innovate every single strip, but to do so in a way the keeps putting food on the table. No one blames you for not innovating in ways that will get YOU fired from YOUR job. If that happens not to be your definition of innovation, whose problem is that?

    And then, you say Scott Kurtz is doing something? I beg your pardon??? He’s doing NOTHING. He’s trying to get real cartoonists to do something and carry him along for the ride.

    Point me to something Scott has actually done to help the cartoon industry.

  8. Lurker, I guess I should qualify what I meant by innovate. I see a few cartoonist that try to shake things up. Wiley Miller is a good example. He’s the one that pioneered 4 color separation for Sunday comics – and the industry as a whole has benefitted. When I speak of innovation – I’m not talking about about characters, dialog or the creative process, I’m talking real change in the industry. I hate to be a doom and gloom kind of guy, but I see the newspaper industry dying and I don’t see a lot of syndicated cartoonists searching for the what’s next? If there are, I’d love to hear about it because I think it would be newsworthy and worth talking about.

    Will Scott do it? I don’t know. I agree whatever he’s trying to cook up, he’s going to need a more established name or syndicated to sell it. And I agree with Rick that he’s burned a far too many bridges in his criticsm of syndicated cartoonists. I’m just not going to fault him for trying.

  9. There’s this school of thought out there that mainstream cartoonists sit on their collective hands and Scotts thoughts on the state of the industry and where it’s future is heading is somehow unique. Individually and collectively cartoonists and illustrators have discussed and dealt with a myriad of issues that effect us for decades. Organizations like the Society of illustrators, Graphic Artists Guild, the Illustrators Partnership and the sadly defunct Newspaper Features Counsel have been addressing artist’s issues since before Scott was born.

    First and foremost artists should not be giving content away for free in the hope that licensing will be their holy grail. It’s not. Very few features have such wide mass appeal that makes licensing a lucrative venture. Syndicates as well as individual cartoonists dilute the value of their content by doing so. Many illustrators and cartoonists have created niche markets that afford them a significant income because they charge for what they offer. They do this on their own. Kurtz boasts a daily readership of 100 thousand yet ignores a significant source of income by giving his content away for free in the hopes that enough t-shirts, plushies and mugs will be sold in order to afford him an income. He’s got it backwards. Until he realizes this and creates a successful model for himself that charges readers for his content ($1 a year x 100,000 readers =$100K) he’ll continue to whine to established artists to find the answers for him all the while labeling what they do as mediocre crap.

  10. I’m not sure why you think the syndicated cartoonists should do the innovation you’re referring to. First of all most syndicated cartoonists barely have two minutes to rub together. But that’s a side issue. Let’s imagine in theory there was some syndicated cartoonist who had the time to really try something.

    Well, creative innovation can’t exist without some medium. Many of us can come up with a dozen innovative ideas, but until the medium exists, it’s a waste of effort. Now in theory, those like you and Scott, who criticize the syndicated cartoonists could come back and say “well, come up with the creative product and the medium will come”. In theory, I suppose that’s possible. But that’s a heck of a lot to ask.

    Maybe Scott will do something, who knows. Anything’s possible.

  11. Lurker, I think if you re-read my post and any other post on this blog, you’ll be hard press to find me criticizing syndicated cartoonist at all. In fact, often I’m worried of looking like a syndicated cartoonist cheerleader, so I’m confused by how you feel like I’m being critical. My original post was in regard to whatever medium/channel that Scott (or anyone else) might come up with to that keeps comics alive as the newspapers industry continues to dwindle – not an critique on the state of quality of the comics today. I’ve defended the current state of quality before as being fine the way it is.

    Iâ??m not sure why you think the syndicated cartoonists should do the innovation

    I think that was my point. I DON’T expect it to come from within the ranks as too many are, as you describe, working a day job and their strip is a moonlighting project OR they’re so big that they don’t have to look for more channels as their licensing deals are so lucrative that they don’t have to look elsewhere.

    But there are a few. I’ve also thought of Over the Hedge writer Michael Fry who is using his Hollywood connections to create RingTales – a company created to push animated shorts (not just from big studios – but any cartoonists – syndicated included) on to mobile phones. I’m not sure where that ended up, but again, there are a few in the syndicated community who are “innovating.”

    I guess lastly, let me say one more thing. Please don’t construe my support of Scott to mean that I agree with everything that he says, how he says it, etc. At the end of the day – I’m still in a cloud about what medium/product he’s searching for. I’m merely cheering him on hoping that something good will come of it. I certainly don’t share his assessment of the current state of the art. So, Lurker, I’m sorry if you felt I was being critical of the syndicated folks – that was not my intent. I remain a devoted fan of the art and will continue to enjoy my favs.

  12. Rick, your latest post was really an eye opener for me. You’re operating under false assumptions about myself, my business and the scope of my comic strip and website.

    I’m not trying to trick “real” cartoonists into helping me achieve some elusive success. I’m not in some “fix” that I need rescue from. There is no Machiavellian plot at work here.

    I don’t think you really have any grasp on who I am or what I do. You don’t really know the facts about my work or my business.

    And yet you’re the first to pop up at any mention of my name to testify as some diviner of my true motivations.

    Did I wrong you in a past life? Why do you even care? Was this article on daily cartoonist not innocuous enough for you? Was it such a threat to your sensibilities? Jimmy posted at that he talked to me. Sound the alarms?

    My email is Drop me a note and I’ll give you my phone number. You can finally tell me off and get it all out of your system or off your chest.

    You can let the healing begin, Rick.

  13. If I see a good comic, whether it’s in print form or on the web, I read it. No one needs to “save” the comics. The medium will survive no matter what.

  14. I just feel; in my humble, probably worthless opinion, that if the newspapers want to take advantage of their comic strips in generating more circulation revenue then they need to do just 2 things, basically, to start off with.

    Those being 1: raise the actual print sizes of the strips back at least close to where they were, say, back in the 1960’s. And number 2: Add more strip pages; with inclusions of some well drawn – consistently mass appeal funny gagged – comic strips.

    There’s actually a few web exclusive comic strips being produced at the moment. Off the top of my head Myth Tickle comes to mind as a good candidate; there are a few others I’m sure the people here could also suggest…

    My point is, is that the newspapers could really delay their so called impending demise by readopting a selling model that completely worked for them from their own past – that of using comic strips to help sell newspapers. Even if the paper gods, did what I’m suggesting on just their Sunday editions it would go a long way in helping increase circulation.

    I feel putting forth new blood infusions of yet un-newspapered comic strips would help do the trick for newspapers.

    They could even start a new strips try-out page and let the public decide which strips would and should grace the comic strips regular pages. Run each try-out strip for a month and then have at the end of each year long period hold a vote in the paper(s) to determine which lucky strip(s) become newly syndicated. (It could be limited to just an actual total of 1 or 2 new winners each year, too). Just a suggestion, off the top of my head. *Shrugs*

    At the very least it would provide more exposure for those try-out cartoonist(s) work. *Double Shrugs*

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