Who are the top subscribed comics on GoComics.com?

While checking out the new features on Universal Press/uClick’s GoComcs.com, I noticed that in the A-Z list of features, when you mouse over the name of the feature, a little pop-up shows a brief description of the feature and how many people subscribe to it. Given that they offer that kind of information, the next logical question is who are the top comics (based on # of subscribers) on gocomics.com? Busting out my wget/grep/sort-fu skills I quickly got the top comics out of the 182 offerings. Of the top 20 features:

One feature is a webcomic
One feature take two of the 20 spots
Two are drawn by women
Two were features launched less than three years ago. The rest are 10+ years old
Five of the features are not found in newspapers anymore
Five features would be considered “legacy strip” where the original artist/creator/writer has retired/passed away
Five are the mega strips in newspapers seen in over a 1000 papers

# Subscribers Comic Strip Title Syndicated by
1   62,422 Calvin and Hobbes Universal Press
2   47,308 Non Sequitur Universal Press
3   45,659 Garfield Universal Press
4   44,453 For Better or For Worse Universal Press
5   41,599 Bloom County Washington Post
6   39,357 FoxTrot Universal Press
7   36,237 B.C. Creators
8   36,103 Shoe King Features
9   34,693 Pickles Washington Post
10  34,027 Wizard of Id Creators
11  33,083 Stone Soup Universal Press
12  33,038 Adam@Home Universal Press
13  32,210 FoxTrot Classics Universal Press
14  31,702 Doonesbury Universal Press
15  31,655 Lio Universal Press
16  30,236 We the Robots Webcomic
17  30,222 Ziggy Universal Press
18  29,556 Heathcliff Creators
19  28,903 Opus Washington Post
20  28,714 Broom Hilda Tribune Media Syndicate

What other characteristics can be gleaned from the list?

61 thoughts on “Who are the top subscribed comics on GoComics.com?

  1. Intriguing.

    Some things surprised me about this:

    1. 4 out of 20 are discontinued and some for a long time.

    2. 1 is essentially discontinued, really just a tweaked rerun. (FBOW).

    3. The WIzard of Id, Ziggy and Broom Hilda were on the list.

    4. The Duplex, Pooch Cafe and The Fusco Brothers were NOT on the list – those are some of the best strips going.

    5. That Lio wasn’t higher.

    6. That Stone Soup was on the list due to not being nearly as well known as many that weren’t on the list but were available.

    The above is just my opinion, but it makes you wonder about the demographics of those subscribers.

    I’m assuming GoComics is just reporting the # of subscribers, so that raw data is probably dead on.
    By comparison, that brings into question how valid newpaper polls are when they release their top strips and make everyone scratch their head. The above story about ‘Blondie’ (although from 2006) is a good example.

  2. For what it’s worth, these subscriber numbers only represent users who subscribe to the feature through their GoComics account. These numbers do not include RSS subscribers.

  3. Yeah. We the Robots is going on a hiatus. It was announced on June 2nd.

    He announced it on his site (not gocomics) at http://www.wetherobots.com/

    Shame really. If those 30k subscribers on gocomics were visiting him on his own site, then it would probably have been enough to provide him a living.

    Instead, only a couple thousand people were visiting his personal site.

  4. Surprised Cul de sac and pooch cafe weren’t on that list. Best strips going these days.

  5. An interesting note about the gocomics site redesign for the Sherpa creators. The tab for Sherpa has been relabeled simply as “New Artists.” Much easier for readers to understand rather than the obscure Sherpa label. Which, according to an email exchange I had with Sherpa editor David Stanford, has resulted in a surge in traffic for the Sherpa strips.

  6. One factor to consider is that, when you can have as many strips as you want, the “oh what the hell” factor kicks in. If the advantage of the web is the ability to create niches, the other side, in this case, is the ability to take all you want.

    There are several strips on my page that, if I were forced to choose a limited number, wouldn’t be in that group. Several old tried-and-true strips are among them, which adds to their overall numbers, but the loyalty factor is at “meh” level.

    Popular is still popular, but the ability to circumvent the features editor is not to be despised.

  7. Well, it seems like the old classic strips still have a big audience, in spite of what some people want us to think. Sorry, but the legacy strips are classics for a reason.

  8. Word has it out on the street that the reason 2 Cows and a Chicken has 5671 subscribers is because it has only been on Gocomics since February. It is highly anticipated by several bands of groupies that it will transcend the 30K mark before the end of the Mayan calendar.

  9. Cedric,
    How, exactly, would the 30K subscribers reading We the Robots on GoComics “have been enough to provide [Chris Harding] with a living” by clicking on his site instead? (Chris Harding does make a living, by the way, just not from his We the Robots webcomic.) I ask, because I don’t think he was making any money from wetherobots.com.

  10. Well this doesn’t necessarily mean more people read the top subscribed features than the second. I read comics on gocomics without an account for about 5 months before I finally created an account. So if i didn’t create an account I couldn’t subscribe, I just scrolled through.

    ”Imagine This” is last on the list. Last? It’s one of the best strips on there. Really surprised at that.

  11. Can anyone explain to me how cartoonists profit by being on a site like gocomics? Does gocomics pay to syndicate them? is the ad money that good? Besides being grouped with other syndicated comics, other than extra word of mouth, I don’t understand why a cartoonist would want to be on this site instead of having a unique web address for their work and their fans. And no, I am not talking about becoming a webcomic, this is not my argument. And yes I understand that some strips do have their own sites, but for most (most) you cannot browse archives or even see current or archived strips, generally somewhere in between.

    I suppose my question is, while syndicates are the true blue way for cartoonist’s work to appear in newspapers around the world, can cartoonists find a better way to own their online content? R. Stevens (Diesel Sweeties) appears to be the first attempt at this working model in earnest, and although he chose to suspend his syndicate deal I don’t think this represents a failure in a newly tweaked business model for cartoonists.

    Is there a way to structure contracts so that syndicates control print syndication and large scale licensing and the cartoonist can operate his online content the way he sees fit? Some might choose to simply exist on gocomics, while others could look to see where web comics succeed and adopt some of those same principles to get the best out of both revenue streams. If cartoonists truly do retain the rights to their content, this should be an available option to them, correct?

    (Again, this is not a print v web debate, it is a how can a cartoonist maximize their success in both arenas question)

  12. “Is there a way to structure contracts so that syndicates control print syndication and large scale licensing and the cartoonist can operate his online content the way he sees fit? ”

    All terms in all contracts are negotiable and varies greatly depending on the feature and other circumstances.

  13. @ Wiley

    Is it to your knowledge whether or not the syndicates are receptive to such arrangements? From an outside perspective it does not appear that this option is being explored much by syndicated cartoonists but I am uncertain if that is because of the artists are comfortable with how the syndicates are handling the online business model, or if syndicates are discouraging cartoonists from this option.

  14. Like any business agreement, it’s complicated and there’s no simple answer to your question. There are many variables to such matters, but as I said, all terms are always negotiable.

  15. @ #11, John I’m making a generalization here. I just don’t know of any webcomics with 30k+ readers that are not making a living off their strips unless they’re not making an effort to monetize it or are too new (i.e. no collection of strips yet to sell as a trade paperback or other merch).

    He’s stated on his blog that he’s working on other projects. I just wonder if he would’ve stuck with We the Robots if it were more lucrative.

  16. I would be interested to know how many web cartoonists are actually able to make a living from their webcomics. I know of several syndicated cartoonists who are not able to depend on their strips as their sole source of income – they either freelance, work on staff for another cartoonist, or carry a non-cartooning job to make ends meet – and I get the impression that a vast majority of the people who create webcomics are doing it as (what amounts to) a hobby. That’s not to say I don’t think there are a lot of webcomics worth following out there, but I do wonder what the number of “successful” online-only strips is.

  17. i think the more interesting point to come out of this list is that there are only about 63,000 subscribers(if every subscriber has subscribed to gocomics has Calvin and Hobbes among their other strips, this may not be the case)

    and gocomics is free now too.

    seems most people are still reading their comics in print

  18. @ #19. John, that number is very, very low. I’m one of those that fall into the “webcomic as a hobby” category. But I do know of people that are making a living with their webcomic/cartooning as their sole income and most have only started within the past decade. There’s a list over on wikipedia that is incomplete, but is a good place to start gathering info on the subject: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_self-sufficient_webcomics

    Webcomic income is a sliding scale, depending not only on the quality of the comic, but the ability of the artist to act as an independent business person. There are lots of quality webcomics out there not making a living for their creator, because their artist is not as proficient in the business side of things.

  19. Heathcliff and Ziggy are not owned by King Features.
    Heathcliff is owned by Creators
    Ziggy is owned by Universal Press

  20. What? My comic strip Joe Bullet: Homicide didn’t make the list?? Just kidding. Mine is on Sherpa: http://www.comicssherpa.com/site/feature?uc_comic=csszk&uc_full_date=20090329
    David Stanford,it would be nice to feature a Sherpa strip on the home page of Gocomics,too.
    Or at least feature some strips on the New Artists page (and not just the titles). Or at the very least design the New Artists(Sherpa)page using characters from the Sherpa strips. Liven up the boring Sherpa page.And drop all ended strips.

  21. Hey John, it would be great to have a regular feature in Stay Tooned featuring webtoonists who are doing it for a living. Maybe highlighting one or two creators each issue? It would certainly help boost your sales (I’m betting) – I’m sure the webtoonists would mention the interview/article in there blog which is read by thousands of fans.

    Just a business idea.

  22. @ #13: Jim, the question of profiting off of GoComics becomes a question of what you put into it, and what your expectations are.

    I did “The New Adventures of Queen Victoria” for absolutely nothing (at a loss, actually, paying for a Sherpa account in addition to the old feed through LiveJournal) for over a year before being signed to GoComics. Now I’m getting paid for what I was doing for free, so I can’t really complain.

    For ranking, I’ve found it more interesting to mark my progress via The Calvin Index. C&H has always been the #1 strip as long as I’ve been with GoComics. In April 2008 I had 274 subscribers to C&H’s 2877, giving me a Calvin Index of .095. Last July, right before my first convention appearance, I had 1171 subscribers to C&H’s 7465, for a Calvin Index of .157. Today I have 11,932 and C&H has 62,696, so my Calvin Index today is .190. Thus, I consider myself gaining in popularity.

    As for how the revenues are calculated, it’s a little bit of a mystery of me. I know in my case I’m getting paid about the same average (my most recent check was about 71 cents a strip) now at just under 12,000 subscribers as I was a year ago at around 500 subscribers. I guess that means that the “ad revenue share” is calculated based upon advertisers who specifically buy space on a given strip, not a percentage share of all ad revenues.

    Still, as I said, I’m now getting paid for something I used to do for free.

  23. So no one has an opinion on whether or not sites like gocomics offer a financial benefit to the cartoonist? I still don’t see the benefit besides exposure and even that is limited since the feature is grouped with 100+ other strips…

  24. Also, is it a bad sign that the highest subscribed comic is one that has been out of syndication for 14 years? For what it is worth, I think gocomics and sites like it are a great idea to show archives of classic strips, Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, Krazy Kat, Opus, etc… A content rich site on Peanuts, from strips, to biographical information to clips of tv shows, ephemeral product that came out during the strips run could be an excellent source of entertainment and also information for the more avid fans/historians. Also, if you have even 10 years of strips up from Peanuts, think of the click through ad rate the syndicate could receive.

  25. I don’t think it’s a ‘bad’ sign…really what strips today can complete with C&H? It was one of those one in generation great strips. Frankly, I’d have been surprised if it had NOT been #1.

    I think that’s why cartoon strip fans still mourn 1995, when Calving & HObbes, The Far Side and Bloom County (albeit as ‘Outland’) all retired. Really good strips like those don’t come around everyday.

    Having said that, I think in a several years we’ll probably look back and at Pearls, Get Fuzzy, Pooch Cafe etc. and realize that the strips out today are truly a follow up ‘golden age’ of cartoon strips.

    I just hope there is a medium around in 10-20 years for people to have something to compare great strips of the past to.

  26. Personally, I don’t think the gocomics site is really set up effectively to benefit the comic strip artist financially. Where’s a shop tab up on top? The advertisements are mostly generic/spammy (100,000th winner!, classmates.com, etc.) Why not enter into an affiliate program for more relevant ads?

    A few icons to book collections, but that’s about it.

  27. This gives the number of subscribers, but I wonder how many page views it really corresponds to. There’s a lower barrier of entry to be a subscriber. Once you have an account, what’s to prevent you from subscribing to everything, even if you don’t check it regularly? Is there really only about 100,000 people who visit these sites and account for all the subscribers?

    That said, someone asked whether 30,000 visitors a day would be enough to live on. If you had 30,000 page views a day, a CPM of $2.00 (spread over a couple ad spots) would get you $22,000 a year. Not enough to live on, but presumably quite a few of these readers would be interested in buying books and merchandise. And presumably this is MUCH more than these creators are making directly from the gocomics site (although I wouldn’t mind hearing numbers).

    Best of all, with your own site you can post your comics at a reasonable size that doesn’t require a magnifying glass to see, and you can turn off pop-up ads so that you don’t annoy your readers.

    It’s no wonder that people like Steven Cloud (of BOASAS) left comics.com

  28. Re: Sherpa

    My strip on Comics Sherpa, or whatever it’s now called, King Monkey, gets around 400 or more readers a day. I tried to build up an audience using Project Wonderful and other bits of advertising, and I thought I was doing fine. But considering the strip has been on a break since february, I have drawn the following conclusion:

    All the readers I have ever had were bots.

    I don’t trust these figures.

  29. Jason: “Hey John, it would be great to have a regular feature in Stay Tooned featuring webtoonists who are doing it for a living. Maybe highlighting one or two creators each issue?”

    I try to have a mixed bag of cartoonists working in a variety of fields every issue, with there being two or three well-known “names” and the rest not-yet famous. I certainly recognize that cartooning and the internet will become more and more intertwined as we go forward, but my editorial focus is on the working cartoonist, regardless of where their work appears. In the three issues I’ve published in the last year, several of the professional cartoonists featured are people who derive some or all of their living from the internet, and/or advertise their services on the internet. As for specifically “highlighting one or two” webtoonists in each issue, I’ve got an ongoing “wish list” of people I’d like to spotlight, including (right now) nine webtoonists, and I’ll mix them (and more to come) in as I go along. That wish list, by the way, is made up of people who do fun, interesting and/or important work in newspapers, magazines, comic books & graphic novels, animation, gaming, advertising, political, business, greeting cards,caricature – whatever, and wherever, cartoons are used. That said, I’ve been approached by someone (I “met” right here on TDC) who’s interested in doing a regular column devoted to online cartooning, so possibly that will turn into something regular.

  30. Re: King Monkey
    Alex,you mean to tell me you were still averaging 400 readers all the months you weren’t putting up anything new? Strange.I noticed you don’t sign your strip)
    My strip at Sherpa,Joe Bullet:Homicide, gets about 100 readers a day and has 7 subscribers.
    I also get some feedback.
    Do you have subscribers,and get feedback? Do you have to pay for ProjectWonderful? Do you think the bots are coming from ProjectWonderful? Gocomics does nothing to advertise Sherpa strips.

  31. I should also say, regarding who gets profiled in my “paean to the professional cartoonist,” that my mission is to celebrate cartooning. Neither people with bad attitudes (and I have, believe it not, come across a few in the last two years) nor people with axes to grind will be featured in Stay Tooned! Magazine. That leaves me with hundreds of other cartoonists I’m looking forward to sitting down with.

    Did you know, there are (at least) seven magazines on the stands devoted to tattoo artists? It is my dream to be able to continue offering at least one publication that celebrates the art, and yes, the business, of drawing funny pictures for a living.

  32. Now, what I’d REALLY like to know – getting back to the post – is 1) how much money is derived by each of the Top 20 whose comics are so favored on gocomics.com, and 2) whether they really think it helps their strips?

  33. I know I’m pulling the thread off topic, but just a note to David and Alexander re Sherpa. I believe the hit count to be accurate. But it’s not about the hits. It’s about good consistent work. The rest falls into place on it’s own. Don’t sweat it.

  34. John, I believe the top 20 derive most of their income from print syndication. Which begs the question that has been posed several times here on TDC, why do syndicates whose income traditionally is generated from newspapers, offer their strips for free online? Which seems to be the same question you posed in your post. I can’t see how it helps

  35. David, I have 33 subscribers and I was getting feedback from a few readers a month.

    When I was advertising, the number of readers was going up to over 1000 a day, but now I don’t update it has fallen back to 400. It is difficult to reach absolute conclusions, but I think that the bots are mostly from the links that I put to the strip from forums and elsewhere.

    You have to pay per click for Project Wonderful, but you have a lot of control over the amount of money you wish to pay. It is worth advertising your strip wherever possible to try and build up readers, but now I have found that a lot of these readers are mythical, I am pretty disillusioned. King Monkey will continue from it’s own website when I get back to it.

    Maybe I should sign it in future….

  36. “All the readers I have ever had were bots.”

    I ran ads on Google for several months keyed to certain words, blah blah blah, and got hits but didn’t see growth. Now, maybe everyone who clicked through decided my stuff sucked, but that’s not really logical, since my stories have been successful elsewhere. I think you end up paying for a lot of hits from bots, which may be an inevitable part of the process but has to be figured into your budget.

    If 400 people show up every day month after month to read the same strip, then, yeah, I’d say they’re bots. Or they’re also signed up for some of those legacy strips which are more or less the same joke every day.

  37. Exactly.

    The thing is, it can give you false hope. I asked Mike Stanford, of Sherpa, about it, and he wasn’t particularly interested in the readership figures that you get on Sherpa, just good quality strips.

    Can these bot fellows actually register as subscribers if it’s a free service on gocomics, though? Probably not. I’d say that the number of discontinued strips on there and the absence of the brilliant, brilliant Cul De Sac and Lio is probably due to people not knowing how to update their subscriptions!

  38. Hate to have edit myself again. Yes, Lio is on the list.

    But no Cul de Sac? I honestly think that it will eventually be considered one of the greatest strips ever. Sublime artwork, great characters, wonderful writing. It really is that good.

  39. Alexander, I think it has to do with how long it has been on the site. Cul De Sac, which I consider to be about the best there is, is relatively new. A strip just doesn’t get 30,000 subscribers overnight. It takes a little time. (That’s why strips like Imagine This, Rabbits Against Magic, and 2 Cows and a Chicken are somewhat low in subscribers but growing). I think that might explain why Cul De Sac isn’t all the way at the top.

  40. Good point, Steve.

    I just thought I had the lowest amount of subscribers on GoComics because I sucked.

    Perhaps, it IS just because it’s newer. Yeah, that’s it!

  41. I think what is a little disappointing to me about the new Gocomics design is that the opening page has the top ten comics listed with a graphic. I know this must be for traffic reasons, and most people out there are probably looking for Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, Non Sequitur, etc. But since there are about 160 comics on the site, who will ever discover the little known newcomers like, say 2 Cows and a Chicken. There. I’ve mentioned 2CAAC 3 times in this thread. My monthly marketing campaign is now over.

  42. @Steve Skelton (48) – I noticed that too, but I assumed since those 10 features are also the top 10 subscribed features that they were dynamically written out based on subscriber numbers and less about an editorial decision.

  43. It’s time this list was updated, particularly since United comics have joined GoComics. Pearls Before Swine is really rocketing over there.

  44. TOP 50 / as of 10/03/2011

    1. 178,724 Calvin and Hobbes
    2. 120,639 B.C.
    3. 97,222 Wizard of Id
    4. 90,634 Get Fuzzy
    5. 86,489 Pearls Before Swine
    6. 84,032 Pickles
    7. 81,992 Garfield
    8. 80,057 FoxTrot
    9. 79,851 Non Sequitur
    10. 77,630 For Better or For Worse
    11. 75,912 Andy Capp
    12. 71,236 Peanuts
    13. 68,475 LuAnn
    14. 66,738 Doonesbury
    15. 60,571 Frank and Ernest
    16. 51,809 Cathy
    17. 50,313 Rose Is Rose
    18. 49,415 Speed Bump
    19. 48,760 9 Chickweed Lane
    20. 48,333 Fred Basset
    21. 47,678 Bloom County
    22. 47,098 The Born Loser
    23. 46,766 Shoe
    24. 44,797 Adam@Home
    25. 43,050 Broom Hilda
    26. 42,693 Frazz
    27. 42,065 Strange Brew
    28. 41,966 Arlo and Janis
    29. 41,017 Ziggy
    30. 39,295 Close to Home
    31. 36,814 Stone Soup
    32. 36,479 One Big Happy
    33. 36,337 Ballard Street
    34. 36,017 Drabble
    35. 35,946 F-
    36. 35,849 Agnes
    37. 35,299 The Argyle Sweater
    38. 35,159 Herman
    39. 34,963 Over the Hedge
    40. 34,309 Frog Applause
    41. 34,278 Lio
    42. 33,963 The Boondocks
    43. 33,605 Doug Eat Dog
    44. 33,607 Rubes / 33,607 9 to 5
    45. 33,382 Red and Rover
    46. 30,622 Dick Tracy
    47. 30,065 Baldo
    48. 31,789 Marmaduke
    49. 31,760 The Fusco Brothers
    50. 29,014 Candorville

    (Be sure to check out the unlikely subscriber number for Dilbert – 2.)

  45. Man if they offered me a big gulp and some nachos, I would go for it. I just want more readers to discover my strip. I am finding that being on Comics Sherpa is like being in a dark alley… in the rain…. No one will come out and see you….

    …Then again, maybe my strip just stinks! More than likely that’s the real story here….. Bwa ha ha ha ha ha….

    But seriously, just offer me the nachos and a Big Gulp guys…..

  46. Before this gets out of hand, I need to admit that I really don’t know anything about Gocomics or what there compensation to creators may be. Just wanted to set that straight. I really don’t have any inside information. Just putting that out there. The pack of smokes could be absolutely incorrect.

    It may be a Big Gulp and nachos after all.

  47. I remember on one of the Comics coast to coast podcasts Justin Thompson of Mythtickle said he got a check of $29 for his first month and I remember he had figures of about 7000. Just wondered if that was the norm or if it differed from comic to comic.

  48. Updating. FYI

    Rank/Subscribers as of 10/13/12/Comic
    1 203344 Calvin and Hobbes
    2 127634 B.C.
    3 104046 Wizard of Id
    4 99343 Pearls Before Swine
    5 97426 Get Fuzzy
    6 97357 Garfield
    7 93304 Non Sequitur
    8 91612 Pickles
    9 90414 FoxTrot
    10 88446 For Better or For Worse
    11 85028 Peanuts
    12 78906 Andy Capp
    13 78237 Luann
    14 76236 Doonesbury
    15 63127 Frank & Ernest
    16 57015 Rose is Rose
    17 56728 FoxTrot Classics
    18 53809 9 Chickweed Lane
    19 52457 Shoe
    20 51857 Speed Bump
    21 51778 Bloom County
    22 51622 Cathy
    23 51199 The Born Loser
    24 49075 Fred Basset
    25 47905 Adam@Home
    26 46887 Ziggy
    27 46827 Frazz
    28 45727 Arlo and Janis
    29 44912 Broom Hilda
    30 44200 Close to Home
    31 43616 Strange Brew
    32 42798 Stone Soup
    33 41871 The Argyle Sweater
    34 40312 F Minus
    35 39472 Drabble
    36 39154 Herman
    37 38415 One Big Happy
    38 38102 Lio
    39 37466 Over the Hedge
    40 37420 Ballard Street
    41 36721 Marmaduke
    42 36077 Agnes
    43 36045 Red and Rover
    44 35666 9 to 5
    45 35354 Rubes
    46 34468 The Boondocks
    47 34338 Dog Eat Doug
    48 32344 Frog Applause
    49 32302 Baldo
    50 31869 Ripley’s Believe It or Not

Comments are closed.