What the Duck is renamed; to launch September 8

Aaron Johnson’s What the Duck has been renamed to W.T. Duck and has a launch date of September 8. W.T. Duck first began as filler on Aaron’s band’s web site, but quickly gained a following. In December of 2006, he created “Syndication Bingo” to document his attempt to syndicate the strip. Universal signed him up for a development contract in October of 2007.

Universal has posted samples and describes the feature in this way:

Take a duck who works as a photographer amongst human beings with crying babies, bridezilla complexes and clueless clients and we’ll show you a portrait of “W.T.Duck,” the comic strip that quickly exploded in popularity with camera aficionados and comics fans on the Web and is now in syndication.

You can see more of W.T. Duck on Aaron’s web site.

UPDATE: Aaron’s been documenting the launch of his strip with animations. Below is his video regarding the name change and announcing some of the papers that have picked him up.

32 thoughts on “What the Duck is renamed; to launch September 8

  1. Congrats! This is one of the best webcomics. Good luck Aaron. I hope WTD continues to do animation. Those animations are perfect.

  2. I loved this strip the minute I laid my baby blues on it, but the name change is weak on the syndicates part. I understand how weak kneed the papers are at offending anyone, but in a world where “Bitch” was a #1 single and an ass runs the country, a play on words like “what the duck” seems harmless…

    …congrats to Aaron, though. I love WTD! Fresh and funny with fun to look at character design.

  3. I don’t regard WTD as a web comic, it started out as a regular strip which the creator offered to the syndicates. Aaron then used the web as a play area whilst his strip went through the submission, review and acceptance process.

    It’s ridiculous to offer WTD a “development” contract, the strip was ready to go when I first clapped eyes on it. It certainly didn’t deserve to be waiting in the wings for a year.

    It’s testament to the arrogance of syndicates that they couldn’t accept that a fully formed feature arrived on their desk and all they had to do was photocopy it and stick it in their sales staff’s briefcases.

    Just hope the “development” process hasn’t knocked out the p*ss and vinegar that made the strip such a delight to read.

  4. “…a play on words like â??what the duckâ? seems harmlessâ?¦”

    To the average, normal person, yes. But that’s not who syndicates have to sell features to. It’s editors who buy comics and it’s more difficult to launch a new feature today than ever before, no matter how good the feature is. So when marketing the feature, any syndicate will try to take as many opportunities for editors to say “no” as they possibly can.

    Editors themselves would see this wordplay as being funny, but then they’d envision the phone calls from the humorless, self-righteous crowd (who, of course, isn’t the target readership for such a feature in the first place), and pass on it because they don’t want to have to deal with it. They see “no” as being safe and “yes” as being risk. And, to an editor, “risk” means more work. And they don’t want any more work, as they’re up to their eyeballs in problems now.

    So while is seems silly to the rest of us, if not downright stupid, there is a good reason for it, and that reason is marketing. The same goes for developing it. It’s not a matter of “syndicate arrogance”. It’s a matter of giving a new feature the best shot it possibly can in these nearly impossible times.

  5. I guess I’m thinking that, by making changes like this we’re not really helping things. We’re just buying into the complacency. There are so many complaints that newspaper audiences are a bunch of blue-haired old folks, yet there’s nothing done to stimulate a younger audience. It’s like the game between editor and syndicate is nothing more than a tail-chasing fest.

  6. I consider it a web comic. What’s a “regular strip?”

    It’ll be interesting to see how many papers this strip will actually need to be a success. If, as a webcomic, it’s popular and has a large fanbase already, I assume it’s generating decent income with merchandise. (I’m betting the photoshop shirt is doing well) Combine that with a bunch of steady income from newspapers, and it should be easy sailing, right?

  7. “Itâ??ll be interesting to see how many papers this strip will actually need to be a success.”

    I believe the success of a comic strip is subjective at best. What makes a strip a success? The number of papers it’s run in? It’s popularity? It’s writing and execution? The income it earns the author? All of thesenare completely seperate things.

  8. Jason, I’m sensing a little hostility from you towards WTD, and a desire to see it fail, but of course I could be mistaken.

    To me, WTD is a “regular” strip, designed in a newspaper format with print syndication in mind. It hasn’t deliberately chosen a web template to fit the screen, as some do, and by virtue of its style and flavour it takes aim at a mainstream print audience, not web geeks. Johnson flagged from the start that he sought print syndication, so his year long stint on the web, as I said, seems to have been taken up with merchandising and generally arsing about.
    He certainly doesn’t seem to be so enamoured and empowered by his web experience that he wishes to turn down print syndication, preferring to maintain sole control, and that may serve as a little pointer to online-only features everywhere, still waiting for their web Messiah.

  9. As for development of WTD by the syndicate, I invite all who have followed the strip from the start, as I have, to compare the strips they saw at the outset with any post-development examples.

    Do you see any great improvement in the humour, drawing or character development after a year? Do we know, in fact, which were drawn in early 2008 and which were the 2007 versions?

    If anyone can prove to me there’s been a huge improvement in WTD due to syndicate “development”, I’ll come to New York and bare my arse in Macy’s window.

  10. Sometimes a strip in “development” isn’t necessarily awaiting its launch because it needs developing. Many times, strips are in “development” because syndicates only launch one or two strips per year. Often, strips are just waiting their turn (kinda like airplanes at an airport) to launch.

  11. Honesty, I still don’t like the name.
    Not because it contains a swear word. I was thinking they could have incorporated some technical photography lingo in with the word Duck.
    Maybe “Duck out of Frame” “Depth of Duck” “Shutter Speed Duck” “Stop bath off a Ducks Back”

    And my personal FAV… DARK ROOM DUCK!!!!!
    Tell me that wouldn’t be a better name.

    I think the strip is great though.

  12. I know there was an old cartoon called Dark Wing Duck, but that was long ago, and not very popular
    I’m for “Dark Room Duck” it makes more sense than W. T. Duck. The first thing a reader would ask is what the “W” and “T” stand for, and as soon as they figure it out, you’re back where you started.

  13. WTD’s a great strip! But I thunked up some new names anyway, just cuz I can’t resist wordplay:

    Mallard Stillmore

    Duck ‘n’ Shoot

    Quacked Lens



    What Th’ F-Stop?

  14. “Cluster Duck”…damn funny, Gary!

    And speaking to Mike’s post Re: cartoonist complacency, what if Aaron just said “No” to the name change? Would the syndicate risk losing a strip that they new was going to be good? Would they risk losing the strip to another syndicate or are we to assume that they knew other syndies would also ask for a name change.

    And I agree with Malky, WTD was ready to go from the minute it was linked to at Toon Talk. It’s just a quality toon. It’s like a high school basketball player that can skip college for the NBA. Not all can do it, but for a select few it’s the reality.

    Here’s hoping that the Boston Herald picks up WTD!

  15. If you’re working in the mass media, you have to learn the art of “plausible deniability” — a perfect example of which is the name “W.T. Duck.” Your hipster fans will get it and think you’re twice as clever for having slipped something past The Man, and meanwhile, it likely will go over the heads of those who would object most loudly. If I say “Smothers Brothers,” there are a lot of people who don’t think about their stand-up act so much as their ability to slip things past Standards and Practices.

    “I went to see that Russian ballet company.”
    “No, really!”

    Half the joke is in the fact that they said it.

    Mind you, the struggle finally ended up with them off the air, but they were doing 60 minutes a week of this stuff. If the only struggle is the name of a strip, just make the joke and get the thing into print. You’d be a damn fool to give up syndication for the sake of an adolescent pun.

  16. Malky – No hostility on my end. I wish the strip long legs. I like the humor. It’s a bit of a Niche strip with photography as an angle, so it will be interesting to me to see how well a niche strip does in a day-to-day environment and for how long.

    Garey – in this day and age of comic strips dropping quickly because the time put in is not equal to the income coming out to make it worthwhile for the creator to continue, that is the measurement of success I’m referring to.

    My point is – popular web comics make decent money (as many web creators pointed out), couple that with a few steady newspapers for income, this SHOULD be a good test to see that maybe new strips who can understand web marketing and use it to their advantage, won’t need a ton of newspapers to be a success* (*see my definition above to Garey)

  17. â??I went to see that Russian ballet company.â?
    â??No, really!â?

    “I used to live in Alaska.”


    “Yeah, free checking!”

    Heyyy hoooo!

    I like What the Duck. Best of luck to Aaron!

  18. “Editors themselves would see this wordplay as being funny, but then theyâ??d envision the phone calls from the humorless, self-righteous crowd (who, of course, isnâ??t the target readership for such a feature in the first place)”

    Why don’t they just ban the self-righteous crowd over there in the U.S and then you can can have real freedom of the press?
    Over here in the UK we are often subjected to many swear words within the first five minutes of opening any one of the major tabloids. Quite a few home grown strips get away with it here too.Are we offended? No you could just it’s water off a duck’s back!

    By the way , a name suggestion for W.T.Duck
    ……… ” Duck in Hell”

  19. ” know there was an old cartoon called Dark Wing Duck, but that was long ago, and not very popular”

    As a spin off of Duck Tales, it had it’s moments. (Sorry, off topic.)

    I still vote for Cluster Duck as the title W.T. Duck SHOULD have gone with. We use the term all the time here. I wonder if Aaron had to struggle just to keep the title close to the original as W.T. Duck?

  20. How about “Duck’em All”..or “Duck Them”?

    “Who Gives A Duck”? Probably to close to the original title…”W.T. Duck” reminds me too much of “W.B. Mason”.

    Who but W.B. Mason!

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