Amazon posts final 10 in Comic Strip Superstar contest

Amazon has posted the final 10 comic strips in their Comic Strip Superstar contest. I’ve listed the finalists below with a link to their samples. Voting begins to day and runs through November 6th with the winner announced on the 9th.

Good luck to the final 10.

251 thoughts on “Amazon posts final 10 in Comic Strip Superstar contest

  1. These 10 should easily knock out 10 current comics on the comics pages. Why not just do that? It’s what the comics page needs- a bunch of new ones, out with a bunch of old ones. In my opinion. Good work!

  2. @Jim Thomas

    Did you retain the rights to Doubting Thomas now that you’ve been eliminated? Can you pursue it as a property on your own?

    It’s at least as good as many that made it. Better than Joe 6 pack and Nutz n Doltz, IMO.

  3. They are all great, and I agree with Dan that some of these could certainly push out the legacy strips that plague most daily newspapers.

    If I had to pick, I’d say Büni is my favorite. I was also impressed by the art in both CounterCulture and Girl.

    Great stuff all around!

  4. Alan, where did you get the link for the comics? The Amazon site doesn’t have it–unless it’s hiding it–and there’s no link for the voting page either.

  5. But, Mark Tatulli. It IS that easy. Come on, these are better than a lot of strips in the paper today!

    Just because someone is syndicated doesn’t mean their work is any good.

  6. @ Michael

    everyone retains the rights. The finalists (those that don’t win) aren’t able to use these specific strips in anything until Dec 31, I believe. but after that it, it is all fair game.

    I agree that some of the choices were, interesting. Some of the strips that were not selected, not speaking of my own, were very solid from what I have seen.

  7. A. Benson, these comics can’t get into newspapers unless newspaper editors let them in. And newspaper editors are loath to makes changes because that angers readers, especially older readers. And that’s the big, big problem today for new strips. It is almost insurmountable.

  8. Actually, I did have another question I forgot to ask in my previous post.

    In one of the author profiles, it said they were ineligible for the voting round because the recently signed a syndication deal.

    Why include it in the top 10 then?

    Shouldn’t they include another finalist instead?

  9. It`s strange, one or two hours ago I could see all entries on the Amazon Comic Strip Superstar site. Now I can´t see them anymore, just the list of the judges…

    But the links here on dailycartoonist work 🙂

    I think that the only extraordinary and different work remaining in the contest is “nutz n’ doltz”. Congrats to the jury for picking at least one entry for the final 10 that isn´t the usual newspaper strip. I would really like to see how someone could do that kind of comic everyday for years 🙂

    And “Büni” is the second comic I like in there. Strip without words, starring a cute bunny, drawn in a naive simple childen book style while the content/the bunny`s adventures are not targeting mainly or just kids makes it really interesting.

  10. Yes! My pick for best title, Büni, made it into the Top 10! Feel the power of the umlaut! Just checked out the samples and it’s a good strip too.

    Thata Baby is freakin’ hilarious. Can’t wait to see how this all plays out.

    Congratulations to everyone who made it to the Top 10.

  11. Hi. I’m the finalist who signed with another syndicate. The reason I’m still on the list is because this syndication deal happened VERY recently.

    Because of my new development contract with another syndicate, I never signed the contracts that were sent to me by email. I was called today about the issue, and I explained my problem to those in charge of the contest. They called me back a couple of hours ago and told me that they would leave my work on the site, but users would not be able to vote for me.

    I’m guessing there wasn’t time to pick another finalist because everything happened so quickly. If you were a semi-finalist, you should not be mad at those in charge of the contest. Instead, your rage should be directed at me. I should have emailed them yesterday with my news, but (this sounds like a really lame excuse) I’m currently renting a room from a bed and breakfast that doesn’t have internet access, so I can only send emails when the town library is open (the school I work at blocks AOL, too).

    So again, don’t blame the contest people. Blame me. Hope that no papers pick up my strip and I end up living in a bed and breakfast forever.

  12. @ Kory

    As a semifinalist, let me be the first to say good luck with your syndicate venture! I don’t think you have anything to explain or apologize for.

    Best of Luck!

  13. Btw I was a semi-finalist too and no hard feelings on my part, neither 😉
    But I was sure that I would not win the contest, even if someone would`ve decided to let me into the final 10. Don´t know if other people had their hopes up and could be upset now, though…

    Good luck with the syndication, Cory 🙂

  14. Wow. After reading through the other submissions, I’m actually kinda relieved that I’m no longer in the competition. These strips are AMAZING. Suddenly I feel insecure.

    Anyways, this was a great contest. Thanks to those who put it together. Good luck to the remaining nine.

  15. #12@Mark Tatulli – You’ve hit it on the nose. My mom’s mountain newspaper in Colorado recently replaced Mark Trail with Pickles. I teased Brian that he was going to make a lot of gray-haired mountain ladies awfully angry (think Granny from Beverly Hillbillies). Sure enough, within a couple of weeks, Mark Trail was back. We definitely play to our own particular crowd. Like a stand-up comedian.

    #17@IOANNIS – I had the same problem but it’s working now. Just can’t figure out where to vote.

    #20@Kory – Getting a deal is the name of the game. Congratulations! Your talent is being recognized by two syndicates. I see great things in your future.

  16. A friend of Girl’s creator. Personally, Kory, I considered you the competition. CounterCulture has engaging characters, a delightful visual design, *and* enough flexibility to pursue both individual jokes and extended stories.You could do anything with it. Almost every joke was original (even in the final 10, waaaay too much cliche) and the ones that weren’t were an excuse to display how charming the characters were.

    I have to say, I didn’t see any of them that I didn’t think weren’t better than 90% of the newspaper comics. You certainly have what it takes to be a professional. Possibly to be a *great* professional. The jump in quality from the last cut to this one is clear. I’m glad they chose real comic strip writers to judge them.

  17. @Julie: Yep, works now again. There`s a list with a vote button now under the list of the finalist’s comics. Log in to your amazon account and vote. Easy 😉

    They should make a banner or link on the amazon front/homepage to promote the voting, though. I guees they will not get many votes of regular amazon customers if they don´t know that there`s a comic strip superstar voting going on and with the contest/voting being a bit hidden 😉

  18. Mark,

    You make good points, but wouldn’t you agree that newspapers (and editors) desperately need to change their old ways? The old readers may get angry, but they aren’t going to save their business, it is the new readers they have yet to earn that can do that… Fresh new comics offer a great opportunity to land new readers!

    Eh. Just my opinion.
    Personally, it was great to have made the first cut; it has inspired me to continue on and continue to improve.

    Good luck to the remaining Finalists!!


  19. Wow, the artwork is simply superb from all the finalists! I have to agree with ISAIAH MCALLISTER, Buni is the only one that made me laugh out loud.
    @JIM THOMAS, it has a little Perry Bible Fellowship in it, and a little LIO in it(maybe that is why Tatulli picked it, but I digress ;)), But I can honestly say, that Ryan Pagelow has added his own brilliant bent to comic strips with no dialogue!

  20. Mark,

    Don’t editors consider the future of the comics page? Readers of the legacy strips are dying off, literally.

    Four or five good comics among 100 antiquated ones is not enough to grow a new readership, which is why our generation (twenty-somethings and younger) are turning to webcomics- it’s the only comic venue that appeals to us.

    If editors did a census of who complains when they cancel a long-running strip, I’d put a million bucks on it that they are age 50 and up, on average.

    These 10 Finalist strips, while still family-friendly, are “hip” enough to attract new readers while not offending anyone. These strips should take over the comics page, running alongside yours, Pearls, and the other handful of good comics that are on the pages today.

    My $0.02, at least.

  21. Kory, obviously it’s bothersome to think there’s a dead 10th spot, but I understand your situation, and I certainly don’t have any hard feelings myself. In fact, congrats on getting an offer from another syndicate. I’m curious how that even happened, actually – did you send your work in to them as well or what?

    As for the top 10 selection, I think there is definitely some great work there. The art in several of them is just fantastic! I will say I’m a little disappointed with a couple of the selections though. Not to insult anyone’s work – but having seen some of the work by others in the top 50, I’m surprised with some of the choices. But that was probably inevitable. Of course, I also felt that way after seeing some of the content rejected from the top 50. There was some great work that didn’t even make it there. I’m actually kind of surprised I even made it to the top 50 seeing some of what didn’t.

    Anyway, so far Buni is the funniest to me (though I haven’t read through all of them yet), but I don’t really see it as a print comic. As a webcomic however, I bet it would absolutely flourish. Loving the art in Belle Plaine … really good stuff.

  22. Congrats to the finalists. They are all very strong as well as some of what I’ve seen of the semifinalists’ work. I do wish some of them were more edgy but syndication tends to veer toward family-friendly (not that that’s a bad thing). It’s just personal taste.

    And congrats to Kory for the syndication deal. I’ll say it’s one of the top of the top ten. It’ll be interesting to see where things go with the remaining nine.

    Hey, another opportunity for comic strip cartoonists can be found at

  23. A sincere thank you to all of the judges and editorial staff for their consideration.

    Congratulations to the 10 finalists … May the best stripper win 😉

  24. By the way, if anyone would like to check out the submission that got me to the top 50, here it is:

    Honestly, having seen some of the other work, I’m surprised I made it that far. Seeing some of the amazing art has really inspired me to push myself some more in that regard. This was really a great experience, and good luck to the finalists!

  25. Voted! Hooray!

    Agree with #26@RICHARD ROBERTS that, while the artwork was great, overall, in the top 10, much of the humor was cliche.

    I like humor that sticks to my ribs and makes me think. Sadly, the mainstream newsprint-reading-population likes humor that’s easy to ‘get’ and doesn’t make them think too hard.

    The final vote will out the general consensus of today’s comic reading population. I’m willing to bet it’ll be along the lines of DAN LONG’s observations.

    We need to get the ’30 and under’ crowd in on this. Their tastes are a lot different than my Mom’s. And mine. 😉

  26. Hmm, what is funny about the contest and it`s reception is that everyone talks about newspapers and syndication and even the jury seems to have chosen comics that are family friendly newspaper-material

    But the main prize is a book deal. Remember? A guaranteed book deal. Syndication is possible but was never claimed as being the prize. Just a possbile syndication and a development contract.

    Books don´t have to be as tame, harmless and family friendly as most of hte newspapers like to be. I bet there´s a big audience that would buy a book that contains comic strips that aren´t like the ones their parents or grandparents are reading in the newspapers.

    Still, everyone seems to think that being syndicated is the sole purpose of the contest and everything about it seems to be targeting the newspaper editors/readership. Strange 😉

    I bet a “Büni” book would`ve a better chance at becoming a successful print book (or as formentioned a webcomic) than getting in lots of papers. And perhaps there should`ve been more comics in the final round that would probably not fit well in todays newspapermarket but would be more edgy and different from traditional newspaperstrips and appeal to another target audience, say one that woud buy the book but not read the newspaper 😀

  27. These are all really fun strips! There needs to be some changes in the comic pages. I hope this can spark a new trend of some fresh material amongst newspapers.

    After all – comics were STARTED basically to get readers attention to the newspapers, and they really need to reinvent the wheel and start gaining momentum with material that’s appealing for broad audiences.

    But, hey – it’s just my opinion!

  28. Thanks a lot Dan – I appreciate it! I definitely want to work some more on my art with Seth and Buddy. I really should have taken some more time to make it a bit better looking, but it is what it is. :-/

  29. Les,

    I think anybody can learn to be a better cartoonist, so just work at it and practice. You’re off to a good start with the writing. Stay with it.

  30. ya know…

    The more I think about it, the more I don’t understand why the 10th space wasn’t recast with another strip. Sort of feels like laziness on somebody’s part, as they had all the information they needed to turn on any of the other 40 semifinalists strip. They waited until late afternoon as it was, surely they could have found a substitute… feels like it would have been the right thing to do to give another cartoonist a shot.

    Just seems weird to post the strip that was disqualified.

  31. The wait is over. The talent is all there; I’m curious as to how the voting will go. I’m not even sure who I’ll vote for.

    I posted my entry on my blog ( It took me as far as the top 50.

    Best of luck to the 9 contenders.

  32. My previous post was not a “why didn’t I get the last spot” post, but a genuine inquiry why SOMEONE, #11, whomever it was, didn’t get a shot. Not that it matters in the long run, just would have made for more competition, as we have seen a lot of the semifinalists put out great work.

  33. I think part of the deal with Seth and Buddy is that it’s actually a rather old comic – I created the characters over a decade ago. These characters are very personal to me – so changing things up can be difficult. I think the main thing I need to work on is making them a bit more flexible. I don’t want them to be too cartoony, if that makes sense, but they are definitely too rigid at this point. But as you say – we are all works in progress. There is always room to grow, and I suppose if I do indeed already have the writing down, working on the art is the easy part. 🙂

  34. By the way, I agree Jim … but what can ya do? I wonder if they’ll do this again next year? And I really wonder if they’ll ever say how many people submitted to begin with.

  35. While the artwork on all the finalists is great, there is something about the humor, I dunno, too safe, not thought provoking and dare are I say not funny? Is this what passes for newspaper worthy comic strips? The only finalist that at least put a smile on my face was Buni. But hey, maybe that is just me.
    @Steve Lowtwait: Thanks for the shameless plug 😉

  36. Here’s a great article on the state of newspaper comics. I suggest that everyone check it out. I have to agree with what it says. Here’s a quote:

    “What happened to the funny pages? They’re still there, of course, every day in the tabloidsâ??and in a big color wrap-around in Sundayâ??s Daily News. But have you tried to read them lately? None of them are funny. Not a single one. â??People loved comics the last 100 years, and theyâ??re dying,â? Breathed said. â??Nobody talks about it. Theyâ??re not even noticing.â?

  37. Here’s another couple of quotes from the above mentioned article.

    “Doonesbury hasnâ??t been relevant in about 30 years, but these days, like The Lockhorns, it reads like dispatches from a totally out-of-touch grandpa struggling to show off his with-it-ness. This Sundayâ??s strip was full of corny jokes about Twitter (hyuk hyuk!) and Contemporary Politics: says a tent-city franchisee, â??There were no TARP funds to buy tarps!â? That sh** wouldnâ??t fly in the Catskills. And this is the age of The Daily Show.”

    “The new comics are worse than the â??moribund franchisesâ? next to which they appear: The Argyle Sweater and Tundra (the worst of them all) bastardize The Far Sideâ??s legacy with watered-down imitation.”

    Again I have to agree. And two of these cartoonists (Gary Trudeau and Scott Hilburn) were judges in the contest.

    What does THAT tell you about the state of comics!

  38. The article on the state of newspaper comics was more whiney than educational. Any writer who believes that Doonesbury hasn’t been relevant in 30 years and that the Lockhorns has somehow become lazy by running the same gags they’ve always run loses me.

    Interestingly, the same articles appeard in the 1980s, when the WWII generation was retiring and newer comics were supposedly stale by comparison.

    Pick up some of the nicer books documenting the history of comics (Brian Walker’s book is currently a steal at Borders for 20 bucks) and I think you’ll find that comics have always had a number of strips that were decent, a few that were very lame, and a very few that were absolutely brilliant. That’s the ratio that has always existed in most fields (TV, Music, Movies, Books, etc.) and I strongly believe that is the case today.

    For instance (and this is only a for instance), I would put Cul de Sac up against any comic in the history of comics. And we have it now. There are others if you look around.

  39. I absolutely love the art and feel of Girl. SO nice. But I had to vote for Buni. It seems like it should feel like a bit of a rip off of Lio, but it really felt fresh and unique to me. Love it. Great strips. Attababy is also great. I wish there was a way to contact the creators to give them some much deserved praise. Can’t wait for the book for whoever wins.

    There was so much debate and bashing on this contest early on, but i think just being able to be introduced to some really neat, new strips makes it a success in itself.

  40. Wow. I’m humbled to be included among such an amazing group of cartoonists… humbled AND now depressed. Thoroughly.

    And since I have NO way of winning this thing on talent alone, I’m afraid I’ll have to resort to exploitative publicity-seeking stunts/devices.

    Fortunately my son has agreed to be launched in a homemade balloon I am constructing out of Jon and Kate’s divorce papers. Should get a mention on TMZ at the very least…

    Good luck to the other nine!

  41. As the resident meanie, I have a question for the above posters who claimed some variant of: “These strips are all great” or “These strips are all better than what’s in the newspaper”:

    Do you actually READ the strips that appear in the newspaper?

    If I were still at my old editor job, only two of these (one is Buni) would have even deemed worthy of discussion…actual syndication? Who knows.

    When this contest was announced, I kept my counsel. But I seriously doubted that there was more than one or two undiscovered comic strip talents out there. Turns out my hunch was right.

    Don’t get me wrong–a lot of newspaper strips are awful. But the vast majority of those who seek to replace them are even much, much worse.

    Turning out a daily comic strip is hard work, and those who have done it for years deserve our respect…so much for the “anyone could do better” argument. Obviously, except for a handful of people, it isn’t true.

  42. Ted, I’ve been reading the strips in the papers every day, because I love the craft, and there are a few existing gems. I read the others just out of dedication, I guess.

    In my opinion, 8 of the final 10 are much better than at least 20 existing strips in the papers. I don’t want to name names of comics, but in your old editing job, would you even consider a majority of the existing comics on the comics page? The legacy ones?

    We should do a comics page overhaul for variety’s sake, if nothing else. Take TV shows, for example. Wouldn’t it be disappointing if we still had “Friends,” “Seinfeld,” “ER,” “House,” “Three’s Company,” and other hit shows, running on fumes, outdated and overdone in the year 2075, simply because the older crowds complained when they were canceled?

  43. My strip, “Hemlock Heights” is, of course, the OTHER one that Ted likes.

    Kidding, obviously…

    But wanted to wish the other nine (or eight, now) good luck. There is an amazing pocket of talent here that is making me look just plain bad.

  44. I tend to agree with @ Ted Rall on this one, to a point. I think a lot of us (especially those that participated) thought the comic page was gonna ‘get a boost of young creative talent’ from this. There was something lacking in the final 9. I have been hesitant to say much of the issue because I don’t want it to be mistaken as loser’s anger or anything, but;

    I thought there was a lot left to be desired, my submission included. A lot of the finalists should be commended on their effort. I question the judges picks on some of the strips for various reasons.

    That being said, @ Ted….

    “When this contest was announced, I kept my counsel. But I seriously doubted that there was more than one or two undiscovered comic strip talents out there. Turns out my hunch was right.”

    I take serious issue with that. One, the supposes that everyone who draws comics submitted to this contest, that everyone who draws comics wants to be syndicated in newspapers and that the wealth of talent that is currently creating webcomics because they either don’t connect with newspaper strips or want more artistic liberties does not exist. There are a good deal of professionally drawn and updated comics that still have a relatively low following, that for a lot of the cartoon world could still be considered unknowns.

    I hope your choice of words were a matter of not typing exactly what you were thinking, and not just complete arrogance on your part to think there is no more talent to be found.

  45. That being said, it is hard to judge a comic on its merit in 12 strips. I wonder how well most syndicated strips and webcomics would hold up if they had only their first 12 strips to represent them as a whole. The sample is almost too small to really know what these guys can do.

    **Peanuts still holds up. 🙂

  46. Just my 2 cents, but let’s remember that comic humor is HIGHLY subjective. Any authoritative declarations of what is a better comic strip is really only authoritative to the one making the declaration. While there are many features (both young and old) that I deem boring and taking up space in the newspaper, I recognize they are someone else’s favorites.

    No comic strip will appeal to everyone.

  47. My strip “Hemlock Heights” just happens to be the OTHER one Ted likes.

    Kidding, obviously…

    Good luck to the Other Nine (or Eight, as it would be). You’ve all done a really nice job of making me look bad.

  48. I think there’s probably only two or three comics in the bunch that has the potential to be better than what’s already in the newspapers. That said, almost all the others have potential to at least match what’s in the comics pages right now – but that’s part of my problem: if you can only match what’s in the papers, why put something new in? If a comic is going to replace something, I want it to be worthy of the spot, not just living up to what was there before in different fashion.

    One thing that seems to be implied by various people here is that the comics need an overhaul in the type of comedy that is going on. Several people have suggested that much of the comedy is just too “safe” in newspaper comics today. I can understand that sentiment, but to me that’s not actually a problem. In fact, most of the comedy today that doesn’t play it in a way that appears “safe” is shallow. Look at Family Guy … it’s got funny stuff in it for sure, but anyone can make jokes that are risque and edgy. Most people do it on a daily basis. It takes a lot more talent in my opinion (whatever that’s worth), to come up with comics that are meaningful to people without crossing lines left and right. Everyone snickers at jokes about sex, pot shots at religion, and other similar topics. For that very reason, it seems to me like it’s a lot more “safe” to make jokes like those.

    So anyway, I guess I sort of halfway agree with Ted. But having seen some of the rejected samples from the quarter-finalists and the semi-finalists, I don’t think the finalists necessarily represent the best work out there. I mean, by the nature of it, comics are somewhat subjective, so as to why some of these comics made it in there while others were rejected, I don’t know. But I wouldn’t take these top 10 and decide that there really isn’t all that much talent out there. Besides, how many times has a syndicate opted to take a comic that tanked nearly as soon as it had started? And how many have been rejected that had a bright future elsewhere? As much as I respect the job of the editors (they’ve got an unenviable task, to be sure) they are humans and will make mistakes. But being as subjective a task as it is, there’s only so much you can do.

  49. I think I disagree with Ted’s â??anyone could do betterâ? comment holds false still. There are a lot of extremely talented cartoonists who wouldn’t walk within a mile of this contest, but would probably create great strips. Some work in other comic fields (comic books, children’s books) and don’t feel the desire to enter an “American Idol” contest to get in papers or get published. Or perhaps, some see the writing on the wall.

    It was cosmic irony that I read this quote the same day the top ten finalists were named: “Nobody can survive.”SAM ZELL, CEO of the Tribune Company, on newspapers’ future due to a crash in revenue.

    Yes, this contest is more about a book deal, but some cartoonists are already getting books made and don’t need to enter a contest that will choose a strip that will appeal to the dying demographic that reads papers. I’m not saying I’m more talented than the finalists, but I’ve had 3 books published this month and I felt no desire to enter this contest.

    So, there are more talented cartoonists out there who could do better than what’s on the newspaper page today, but they choose not to take that road.

  50. @Jim Thomas

    You mentioned Buni being like Perry Bible Fellowship, which is something I, too, immediately picked up on while reading the strip. In addition, I would say the characters look strangely similar to Angry Alien’s bunnies :

    Not saying, but I’m saying.

  51. @ Matt

    yeah. Someone wrote that Buni would make a great webcomic and my initial reaction was, “yeah, It already did when it was PBF.” ha. oh well. I don’t want to belabor the point, but I have heard the angry alien comment before too. Maybe he didn’t know…

  52. Chris, I think that brings up a good point- Newspapers are slowly dying, and as they die, so do the conventions of newspaper comics.

    I’d guess that in 10-15 years, all comics will be online, mostly self-published. Syndicates will serve the same purpose- licensing their comics out to news websites, but news websites might start giving more of a shot to non-syndicated comics than they currently do.

    I hope that leads to more comics being widely released, more variety, less space constraints, and a whole host of comics innovations, since we’ll no longer be limited to physical page constraints.

    Yes, what is a “good” comic is subjective, but if you took a poll of potential comic readers on which currently printed comics are “good,” I think you’d see great consistency. I hardly hear anybody talk fondly of the comics page, ever. Only how good it used to be, and how good it *could* be.

  53. For those of you who enjoy Girl I would suggest Dana Simpson’s webcomic Ozy and Millie since alot of the Girl strips they give as examples are the same as Ozy and Millie strips just without foxes. Not just exploring the same ideas and concepts either, like the exactly the same. I don’t think she even changed the dialogue on some of them.

    Here’s the link

  54. I want to congratulate everyone in the top ten. There is some very good work there. I didn’t expect so many really well refined and funny strips. Special congrats to Kory Merritt for getting a deal on that very good looking strip, Counter Culture. Congrats to my friend Todd Machen! Great strip!!! And to Ryan Pagelow, who I met at the Comics Seminar! Who knew you had such a fun concept going!!! Terrific work, everybody!

    In unrelated news and as a selfless plug, I have posted my 550th cartoon of 2 Cows and a Chicken over at Gocomics, which is quietly competing with lots of syndicated strips there.

  55. @ Dan

    One thing I think syndicates might do well is offering their services to otherwise self-publishing comics online. For me, I absolutely hate doing business. I don’t even really want to be involved in it, or have it affect the comic itself. Not only that, but I actually am not very business minded, so it only makes it harder. I just want to do the art and writing and enjoy that, and I don’t mind if that means splitting income as is the case when syndicates are involved. So if you had a syndicate willing to basically run the website and store and all that mess, while you just give the site its content, I think things could work really well.

  56. About Buni, having a little Perry Bible Fellowship. Heck, “Belle Plaine” has a little Peanuts in it (right down to the “Good ol’ Belle Plaine” line) aren’t all comic strips derivations of what has been done before. Classic example, Heathcliff, Garfield and Get Fuzzy. What is it they say about stories? There are only a few story lines in the world and they are all just being repeated. Same goes for jokes.

    So I don’t mind it at all, so long as the guys provide a unique FUNNY twist to their comic strips ;).

  57. @Chris, so true. I’ve heard the concept put very succinctly:

    “There are no new ideas.”

    Pointing out that something is similar to something else is just kind of pointing out the obvious.

  58. @Chris @Dan

    Sorry, but there was one thing that I couldn’t let slide, and that was Chris’ quote

    â??There are no new ideas.â?

    Having a unique and FUNNY perspective on things is something that all creators would be remissed to not strive for, however when similarities are so strong they cannot be ignored, you as a creator need to take a step back and do some introspection. Especially if “Pointing out that something is similar to something else is just kind of pointing out the obvious.”

    To say there are no new ideas is an easy way out for an unoriginal creator. When I first looked at Perry Bible Fellowship I didn’t think of the comics it reminded me of because, first, not even the non sequitur comics like Far Side could compare (in subject matter), and two I was too busy laughing to think of something that relates.

    Pulling character design from one aspect of popular culture, and gags from another aspect is not unique, nor creative. I guess I wouldn’t have noticed the similarities if Buni made me laugh the way Perry Bible Fellowship did. Snap! That would have been a similarity. (har har)

    Creators through time have added their own unique twist to an “old idea”, look to the Mona Lisa (just a portrait), Madame X (just a portrait), or the Arnolfini Portrait (just a portrait). Each were revolutionary for their time, and their influences aren’t overtly obvious. Originality does not necessarily mean devoid of influence, but it must be influence in the process, not in the product.

  59. There is a difference between variation on a theme and co-opting a theme.

    Garfield and Get Fuzzy: almost the same set up, guy lives with a dog and cat. But I never read Get Fuzzy and think “Man, this is just like Garfield,” because the execution of strip is vastly different. Perhaps if the cat in Get Fuzzy hated Tuesdays…

    The issue that I think people see with Buni and Perry Bible Fellowship is the theme feels the same. Both very often set up 3 panels to make the reader think one thing, then put a subversive twist in the last panel. If you read through the PBF archive then read these strips, it is hard not to see that. Why this feels more like a copy of an original is because PBF was such a phenomenon. Maybe it wasn’t the first to do it, but it was definitely the best. Coming this soon afterwards with a strip this similar in theme and execution is the issue.

    All comics, and movies, songs, etc can be said to “like” something you have seen or heard before. Most are this sounds like this song, BUT faster, slower darker lyrics, more polka, whatever. The probably with Buni is I can’t finish that sentence. This is like PBF but…

  60. @ Ted
    No disrespect, but I have yet to meet a syndicate editor who knows what the hell they are doing. And saying there’s maybe two of these strips would have even deemed worthy of discussion is a great example of that.

    Maybe this contest was a good thing after all. It put the decision of picking a “great” comic strip into the hands of the public.

  61. @Jim and @Matt: Well I could say, PBF reminds me of The Little King, Henry or Ferd’nand all pantomime strips, some with a penchant for dark humor. If you look hard enough at all strips, you will find some similarities with what has been done previously. I do agree though, that as creators, we should strive to distinguish our work from our peers/influences as much as possible.

    BTW Jim in reference to “Buni and Perry Bible Fellowship is the theme feels the same. Both very often set up 3 panels to make the reader think one thing, then put a subversive twist in the last panel”. I thought that is one of the classic formulas that most cartoonists employ in a comic strip ;).

  62. @ Chris

    Most try to do that set up in new and creative ways. There is nothing subversive about Cathy. Or Hi and Lois, Blondie, Marmaduke, Stone Soup, etc, For Better of For Worse etc.

    A strip like Cul-de-sac is distinctly unique. Peanuts was distinctly unique when it came out, Calvin and Hobbes. The truly great strips were influenced by the past, but in ways not quite so blatantly apparent as some of the other strips.

    yes, There were/are other pantomime strips, but I can see a clear distinction between those and PBF. I just have a hard time seeing that in Bruni. Just my opinion.

  63. Actually, Cactus, to some extent you’re right. She decided to include, along with her completely new material, three (was it three? Blob man, bubbles, and string. Ah, no, the leaf grief strip.) strips redone from Ozy and Millie. Not because she was running out of jokes – lord knows Dana’s never had that problem – but because she thought they’d go well in the new format, wanted to see how they’d be better, now, since she’s a lot better than she was then, and because Girl is intended for an audience that has never seen Ozy and Millie. It was something she debated for a couple of days while she worked on the mini-story that makes up the majority of the submission, and decided to go with for the reasons above. I’m… going to go out on a limb and guess that some of the other artists dug up their favorite old jokes to submit, too. If you think that’s a sin, well, then okay, you’ve caught her.

    As for Buni, it seems to get strong positives and negatives. I rather liked it, but it’s based, pretty much entirely, on the idea that ‘bad things happening to adorable people is art’. That’s certainly one of my favorite artistic rules. The thing is, to people who weren’t expecting it, this makes Buni seem incredibly fresh and new and riveting. To people who’ve, oh, watched Happy Tree Friends, it only seems new to this medium.

    That said, Buni does it pretty well, and I see hints of more. That the artist is capable of taking this one joke, without dialogue, and making stories with it. Unfortunately, in 12 strips, pretty much all I can get are hints.

    And when I say that newspaper comics are lame and these submissions are better, do bear in mind, I’m not saying there aren’t still gems out there. I’m saying that on either side of the gem you’ll find something that’s either what a publisher thought was ‘edgy’, or something the publisher thought was ‘safe’, and mostly either is just a cliche.

  64. Oh, and I apologize. I’m an INCREDIBLY verbose person. I never seem to post anything short and succinct anywhere.

  65. @Jim, Well we will agree to disagree then. By the way great freudian slip on “Bruni”. Mmmmmmmm, Carla Bruni!

  66. @Chris

    Bringing up comics from the Golden Age when Lil’ Abner, the Yellow Kid, and Orphan Annie ruled the pages is great for nostalgic purpose, however I don’t think any of the comics you mentioned had any strong relationship at all to PBF. At least not in the way the relationships between PBF and Buni are being argued.

    Little King was more similar to the ways political cartoons are scripted, and closer to Annie in that same regard, just sans speech from the star. Silent characters are not the comparisons I am drawing between PBF and Buni, it is the similarity of the comedy and gags that are occurring. The timing, 3 panel gags, and the off-the-wall macabre punchlines are what is similar.

    Ferd’nand, I warily admit could be argued as having some sort of influence (albeit far-removed), but the inclusion of the minstrel show that is Henry is pretty ludicrous. Unless, it was just for history’s sake to enlighten.

  67. @ Chris

    Sounds good to me, unless you want the discussion to break down into rampant and indiscriminate cussing and bashing of mothers…

    this seems a bit to civil a resolution for forums.


  68. I really think my favorite so far is Belle Plaine. At first I thought the writing was a bit plain (no pun intended). But the more I consider it, the more I love it. It’s not really plain, just succinct, which is good. That is to say, it’s not so much a gag-oriented strip. It’s all got a bit of character magic in it – I really can connect with them, and see what’s going on in their world. It’s not too cartoony, but it’s not too realistic either. It’s got a mix of everything a great comic strip should have, imo.

    As for Buni, I basically agree with the idea that it’s already been done. That’s not to say Buni isn’t funny (it’s hilarious), nor that it couldn’t be very popular (it could be), but I feel like those types of strips are all over the place these days. I even started to do one myself in the past, but I quit for that very reason – it just didn’t seem unique to me. Though I think it probably could have become very popular, the comic kind of bored me. It was too easy and there wasn’t any character to really get into.

    That to me is what makes the great comics great – the ability of the reader (and the cartoonist) to get attached to their characters. If you’re not invested in what’s going on in the comic, it’s going to be easy to forget about.

  69. Jim T., I apologize if my snarkiness got in the way of a decent conversation.

    I take exception when someone dismisses hundreds, if not thousands, of contest entrants out of hand and I felt he needed to be called on it. I happen to agree with his remark that the current syndicated comics are in the paper for a reason and that you can’t just knock them out if you personally don’t like them.

    I’ve got my favorites among syndicated newspaper comics and I’ve got my favorites in this contest. I’m glad I had my shot and I wish the best for these finalists.

  70. @ Jim and Josh

    I see both your points. I’m not one for personal attacks either, but Ted did kind of invite some jabs, with his comment that he knew there would only be one or two good undiscovered comics. Pretty arrogant thing to say.

    As for the larger conversation about syndicated comics, I think artists like Watterson and Larson had it right: Shine for a decade, go out on top, and pass the torch to new artists.

    Legacy strips remind me of bad movie sequels- keep milking the franchise while offering nothing new, knowing the crowd will come back because of familiarity and comfort.

    Other businesses measure “success” as whether or not their numbers grow, not how many negative vs. postive letters they get. Why do newspapers form their comics page based on angry letters from readers of cancelled strips, and not what is likely to improve their readership?

    You’re not going to get angry letters from people who don’t like the selection of comics today; they simply won’t read.

  71. I’ve uploaded my semi-finalist submission, Above the Fold, if anyone would like to take a look.

    Constructive feedback is more than welcome … Please feel free to email me your comments.

    Thanks for your consideration!

  72. @Jim Thomas “There are a good deal of professionally drawn and updated comics that still have a relatively low following, that for a lot of the cartoon world could still be considered unknowns.”

    Professionally-drawn strips are a dime a dozen. But I spent years surfing webcomics looking for well-written ones. I only found about ten. Of those ten, only one or two would make it in daily newspapers as they’re currently constituted.

    Of course there’s lots of talented cartoonists who are unknown. There are hardly any talented unknown cartoonists who could be successfully syndicated to daily papers while working in the standard horizontal strip format 365 days a year.

    @Les Taylor “One thing I think syndicates might do well is offering their services to otherwise self-publishing comics online. For me, I absolutely hate doing business.”

    That idea was the last memo I sent to my boss at United before she fired me. Still think it’s a great idea, though.

    @Dan Long “…in your old editing job, would you even consider a majority of the existing comics on the comics page? The legacy ones?”

    Yes and no. There’s really no way to get rid of the ancient “legacy” strips. Syndicates like the cash and editors refuse to cancel them. But among the non-legacy ones, as lame as so many of them are, I can’t see a syndicate sales rep making a case that most of the ten finalists here could or should replace them.

    When I was an United, I came to believe that anything less than a spectacular chance doesn’t stand a chance at convincing frightened editors into making a change. These strips, except for two, are not spectacular.

    “Iâ??d guess that in 10-15 years… news websites might start giving more of a shot to non-syndicated comics than they currently do.”

    I don’t think so. Nothing stops editors from reading submissions of independently-produced strips. But they’re busy. So newspapers rely on syndicates as filters. If anything, websites are shorter-staffed than print. So those online editors will have even less time to consider cool new stuff.

    “Ted did kind of invite some jabs, with his comment that he knew there would only be one or two good undiscovered comics. Pretty arrogant thing to say.”

    I’m a big boy. I can deal with personal insults. Arrogant? I’ll take it. If I act like I know my stuff when it comes to comic strips, well, it’s because I do. I’m not going to act like everyone’s opinion is equally valid when it obviously isn’t.

    Anyone who claims that all ten of these strips deserves to be in daily papers doesn’t know what he or she is talking about.

    Also, I find it hard to believe that you wouldn’t have found strips like Rip Haywire, Diesel Sweeties, or editorial cartoonists like Matt Bors and Mike Lester, not worth reading.

    Oh, and Buni doesn’t look anything like PBF, which I repeatedly tried to sign for syndication because it would’ve been HUGE.

  73. @Daniel Boris: It doesn´t look like angryalien. They have both bunnies in it and that´s it, no more similarities.

    And it`s nothing like PBF, either. Büni looks like the creator likes PBF but anything else is different. How many comicstrips are out there that really try to be like Calvin & Hobbes or Peanuts or any other famous strip, either humor wise, content wise or even in drawing style. “Argyle Sweater” even looks like “The Far Side” and I haven´t seen many complaints about that…

    @Creative Jones: Well. technically “Nutz n’ Doltz” is a single panel comic, even if it is a strange variation and not a classic gag comic.

    Was I the only one with single panel gag comics in the top50? All other I`ve seen so far have been strips.

  74. Mine made it into the top 50 as a single pannel. It was 2Cups. Trying to get it on the web, May even do Sherpa just to get it out there. “Risable” is a single panel as well that hit the top 50, noticed it on Comics Sherpa

  75. Büni is great! I hope it wins. It does remind me of Perry Bible Fellowship with a dash of Liō, but with its own unique spin.

  76. Ioannis,

    I’m okay with seeing influences from one comic to another, but this is very different.

    Jim and Matt have already summed it up succinctly, so we’ll have to agree to disagree on Buni…


  77. @Daniel: Ok, let´s disagree on that but you, Jim and Matt should take a closer look on PBF, Büni and angryaliens 😉

    @Creative Jones: Thanks and in my hunble opinion you should`ve made it into the top250 at least.

    @Peter Lepine: Good to know there were more, now I don´t need to file in a single panel comic discrimination complaint 😀

    I checked out “Risible” on comicssherpa now and I have to say it`s really bad, at least for my taste, didn´t get even a smile out of me. Why anyone would pick that for the top50 and not Creative Jones` cartoons or the “Who`s perfect?” single panel comics is beyond me. But tastes are different and it`s the editors’ choice and not mine 🙂

  78. @ Mils. I enjoy PBF so I will flip through the collection again tonight, good suggestion. But I think buni should probably look at Pbf a little less, just sayin. 🙂

  79. I was thinking about this the last couple of days. About the first comments on this thread stating these strips could easily replace current syndicated strips.

    I agree with Ted’s professional assesment. He’s the one with the experience on that side of the fence and is only being honest. I don’t think he means it as arrogance or hostility.

    But also there’s another side of why stating these ten strips could replace current syndicated strips is a rather slippery slope. Everyone who produces a strip 365 days a year works hard, DAMN HARD, at producing marketable content. They have to be extremely dedicated to their work. A broad statement like the ones issued here about their replacment does those artists and writers a great disservice. I think a little forethought and sensibility is needed.

  80. Wow, have I stumbled into a dimension where mediocrity is the standard. There isn’t one funny strip in the 10. Not one. Bland, boring and trite. I’m shocked at just how bad these are.

  81. Professionally-drawn strips are a dime a dozen”
    Illustrators, I think sometimes try to draw things beautifully and forget to draw what looks funny. It’s something that needs to be in the forefront of your mind while creating a strip.. does it look funny?

    Anything can be illustrated in a million different styles it’s easy to forget to make it look funny. .. Yeah Buni has my vote.. it’s a shame cause old strip was about a bunny.. didn’t submit anything for this unfortunately.. not enough time to do something worth submitting.

  82. a lot of folks have chosen to bash Ted Rall for speaking his mind. Well, let me just say GOD BLESS AMERICA! We are all blessed with the RIGHT to voice our opinions! That having been said, let me add that I 100% totally agree with Ted, and John Sanford and a couple of others who spoke up and called a spade a spade….or in this case…a steaming pile of poo, a steaming pile of….well, you get the point. Most of these are a giant waste of time and energy. I thought and voiced the same opinion about most of the original 250 that were chosen. Of these 10, only Hemlock Heights made me laugh. The rest were either lacking in humor or artistic ability or both. Mostly it was humor. I’m an award-winning editorial cartoonist. It’s my job to try to find humor in stuff. Sadly, there’s none to be found in this drivel….and now, just like the putrid mess that is the curse called American Idol….’America will have the final vote’. GOD help us all.

  83. And GAREY hits the nail on the head, exactly what I came in here to say, but I’ll expand:

    To John Sanford and Mike Beckom, are “newspaper-style” comics your cup of tea anyway? That is, do you laugh at *any* newspaper comics? Not that it’s bad if you don’t, I’m just pointing out that these are better versions of what is in the newspaper comics today. Put any current “legacy” strip up against most of these finalists, and these are much better. But if you don’t like newspaper comics anyway, then I can see why you don’t like these as well. It’s its own genre.

    The point is to find the next *newspaper* Comic Strip Superstar- the most marketable (not only the funniest, but also the safest, also the one that hits the most demographics, etc). As Garey says, it’s marketability, not simply the one that makes you laugh the most. Cyanide and Happiness would be on the comics page if that were the case, but that’s not what this contest is looking for.

    That’s why I’ll stand by my original post, that these are easily better than 20+ of the current comics on the newspaper pages. I’m not saying they’re the greatest comics ever made. They’re good in quality, unlike most comics in newspapers today. These are better, but the ones on the newspapers are familiar, and the over-the-hill majority in this country complains when any of them go away, which is why nothing new ever comes out. I see Ted’s point there. I’m just saying these comics *are* better, not that they’d *sell* better. I realize the state of comics.

    That is, of course, assuming all these artists can produce 365 strips a day of similar quality to these here. If they could, I think it would be great to have a bunch of new comics. It would never happen, because of the aforementioned reasons, but it *should* happen, to bring some of the creativity back into the art form that only a few comics today display.

  84. @ Garey

    I agree, there is sensibility needed on both sides of this. I’d second what you said about those who do a comic 365 days a year. But just to share some thoughts from the other side of this: I can respect people who have professional experience in judging comics for syndication and such, but how many times have syndicates/editors missed something that was gold? Or how many times have they chosen something that tanked as soon as it was in circulation? My point isn’t to insult editors here, but I just think we need to be realistic – there is good stuff out there that editors are not going to like, and there is crap out there that editors *are* going to like.

    I’ve always wondered why certain comics get picked for syndication over others. There are objective standards in this business for sure (wish I knew more about these), but there is a lot of subjectivity as well. This is even true in self-published webcomics. There are some out there that I personally wouldn’t give a second glance, and probably neither would a lot of editors, yet they manage to get a massive following – enough for the creator to make a good living. My point is, we shouldn’t disrespect those in the papers now, but neither should we disrespect the finalists here. They made it to the finalist period for a reason, and after all, there are only 12 comics to look at. Even 12 comics from some of the best ones might not catch my interest, but over time with good story lines, I’d become an avid fan.

  85. I do like newspaper strips. I enjoy Cul-De-Sac, Pearls Before Swine, Lio, and Get Fuzzy. The goal of a comic strip should be to entertain. Not one of these is entertaining. I don’t think you should reward a strip for being safe.
    Marketability? A strip is marketable if it entertains or makes people laugh, right?
    Not ONE of these strips is funny. Who is going to read a boring comic strip?
    A funny strip would be the most marketable, don’t you think?

  86. I thought Buni was funny. The last sunday panel even made me laugh out loud. See John, the problem is humor is highly subjective, and therefor mass appeal based soley on humor is not possible. Sustainability and potential for expansion based on strong characters is probably as much a factor. I’m not a comics editor though so I can’t say 100% for sure. And actually on a different note entirely, who says they have to be funny? A strip that’s poignant or didactic is often as entertaining.

  87. I don’t think it was that people disliked some of the entries that people have taken issue to, it was the way in which certain “professionals” are talking about them. Were all ten groundbreaking strips? of course not. maybe none of them will last a year in the newspaper, lots of strips don’t. Can we be critical of them, sure. But a little restraint would be nice.

    “or in this caseâ?¦a steaming pile of poo, a steaming pile ofâ?¦.well, you get the point. Most of these are a giant waste of time and energy.”

    we get it, you don’t like them. I suppose professional and diplomatic are two different things. I suppose being a professional also makes you the authority of what is funny: maybe someday I will be professional enough to know what to laugh at, currently it is just bold assertions of status in a discussion with mostly amateur cartoonists that I find laughable. You guys can have the back seat of the school bus if you want it. We won’t try to sit at the cool kids table at lunch either. We get it, you don’t like us.

    Or maybe, a little thought could be paid to the fact that these are just 12 strips. I would challenge the “professionals” to think back on their first 12 strips, not even the first twelve syndicated strips, but 12 from their sample packets. Though perhaps not as funny as the highly comical and polished gems such as Hi and Lois and Marmaduke, these are cartoonists still trying to find their voices. These cartoonists are probably most likely reading what you write about them, taking to heart your bullshit comments. If you don’t like the work, fine. Say that. There is no need to prove how great you “professionals” are here.

    That is just my opinion, but as Ted pointed out earlier, it is not worth as much as his. Now that, that is funny.

  88. For a lot of the finalists, this may be their 15 minutes, does it really make you feel better about yourself to take that away from them? It is just sad.

  89. @ Ted … Which strips were you responsible for launching at United and how many of those strips are still in newspapers?

    I do find some of these comic strips funny. There are a few stinkers in there, but there are some comic strips in those ten that are funnier to me than what I see in the newspaper.

  90. Wow. I was so happy to leave the animation world because I felt that the talent was the most gossipy, whiney, backstabbing know-it-alls that I ever worked around. It’s nice to know that some people here could (and do) have a nice career in animation by fulfilling those qualifications.

    I don’t know any successful artist (or writer) who spends their spare time belittling the accomplishments of others. If you feel that these ten cartoonists should not be recognized for their efforts, then by all means go out there and set the world on fire.

    I’ll be waiting to read your superior efforts.

  91. I don’t have a problem with the strips that were chosen, what I do have a problem with are the so called expert judges. Scott Hilburn for example has found success with a blatant rip off of Gary Larsen’s Far Side. It’s a complete bastardization.

    What exactly is Mr. Hilburn an expert in? Stealing other cartoonist’s ideas?

  92. Ok, I am done. This is starting to turn ugly. Congrats to the finalists. The idea for the contest was fun if nothing else. When kept in perspective, this contest was never going to change face of comics, it was never meant to. Nor should anyone expected the next Charles Schulz either. I thank the judges and the syndicate for trying something new.

  93. Because there is so much mystery about how comics are selected by syndicates, it would probably be a good idea for me to give a talk at Comicon or some similar venue about it. Now that I’m totally free, I can answer any and all questions freely…all we need is a forum.

    In the meantime:

    I was editor of acquisitions and development at United Media from June 2006 through April 2009–not exactly a boom time for the American newspaper industry, and not exactly a rocking time to launch new features. Comics pages were being brutally slashed, often by 50 percent or more.

    I searched for new strips as follows:

    1. I went to shows like SPX and APE to find cartoonists whose work might translate to daily comics.

    2. I surfed the Web for webcomics.

    3. I read submissions that arrived by mail.

    4. I recruited existing cartoonists. (This proved the most fruitful.)

    My portfolio was to find strips and one-panel gag features that could be so compelling that they would induce editors to cancel some ancient legacy strip.

    Here’s what I ended up signing. Bear in mind that, before the bust, the average survival rate for a syndicate launch was 1 out of 3 or 1 out of 2 by the end of the first year.

    Diesel Sweeties, by R. Stevens – It was always my favorite webcomic, and still is. Richard’s sense of humor works across party lines, both in the altie and mainstream world. Indeed, it did sell to a good number of large daily papers. It breaks my heart that this is no longer in papers. Not only is Richard drop dead hilarious, the fact that the first webcomic to successfully transition to print isn’t there anymore makes it harder for those who come next. But it’ll happen. And of course it would have modernized comics pages.

    Secret Asian Man, by Tak Toyoshima – I always admired SAM as a weekly strip, and I think Tak did a great job transitiioning to the daily form. I had hoped that the first Asian-themed strip by an Asian cartoonist would make a splash; sadly, few editors seemed to respond to issues and concerns that didn’t directly impact their middle-aged white selves. Who cares what readers think? No longer syndicated, but remains in dailies.

    Those were my two “failures.” These remain in papers:

    “Family Tree,” by Signe Wilkinson. Originally positioned as a possible replacement for the “sometimes I’m retiring, sometimes I’m not” Lynn Johnston, Signe took this environmentally-themed strip into its own territory with topics and jokes that parallel those of ordinary Americans. This one has grown nicely.

    “The Knight Life,” by Keith Knight. Possibly the funniest, certainly one of the funniest strips in syndication, and doing well. Keith has been around for a long time in weeklies, and took to the daily form like a fish to water. I think this one will be around for a long time and continue to get bigger and bigger.

    “Rip Haywire,” by Dan Thompson. I can’t wait for the book! Gorgeous artwork, hilarious writing, awesome characters. The adventure strip parody I had always dreamed of signing.

    Editorial cartoonists:

    Matt Bors: The youngest and one of the most brilliant syndicated editorial cartoonists in the country.

    Mike Lester: From the right, the not-so-enfant terrible of political cartooning, just awesome, always a pleasure to read.

    Overall, Stacy, that’s a batting record of 5 out of 7. And of course there were all the great strips that got away, either to other syndicates or who just decided to quit (like PBF).

    The question is, was there a great strip that crossed my desk but got ignored? Not by me. There were some that I brought up and didn’t catch the imagination of other execs at UM, but I did my best. And most of those ended up at other syndicates.

    It’s rare that a good strip doesn’t get syndicated. What is common is that a good strip gets picked up but doesn’t sell to papers.

  94. First off…I would like to say congrats to all of the talented artists who made the top ten. There are defienetly a lot of great new comics that I am glad to get the opportunity to read more.

    I am kinda mixed about the feelings some of you have towards alot of our current “syndicated” cartoonists. I am in Richmond VA and I rarely read the comics section of the local newspaper. The ones that are in there have been around for 20 plus years and seem stale and unfunny to me. I do believe it is a time for change in the comics page. There is so much unbelivable talent just waisting away because certain strips don’t want to fade away. But I don’t put all the blame on the editors or the syndicates. I think that if some of these artists really had respect for this medium they would realize there time is done and make room for another generation. It almost seems to me that they are just bastardizing their work in the goal of making money. Yeah…you have to respect them for their longevity…but I kinda get annoyed that they are taking part in killing such a wonderful art.

    Watterson and Larson knew their time was up and graciously stepped down for the next generation. Seriously….how many Garfield pencils and band-aids do I need to buy.

  95. Brian,
    It’s a lot easier to retire early after your strip has been a big hit. Unless you have a cocaine habit you can save a lot of money and live off the interest and residuals.
    Most cartoonists make a modest living or worse, and so don’t really have the luxury of walking away after ten or 15 years…where are they going to go? AIG?

  96. @ Ted,

    A sincere thanks for your informed, professional posts! They are pure GOLD.

    @ Brian,

    Personally, I look at comic strips as I do any other good story; it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The best novels, movies (whatever) eventually DO end!

    Why don’t some comic strips? It’s crazy.

    Again, good luck to all the Finalists!

  97. Let’s not forget that this contest was never about a syndication contract. It’s about a BOOK DEAL. Nothing was ever mentioned about syndication. The phrasing of the contest with the words, “next comic strip super star” is ambiguous enough to suggest that Universal’s priority is not newspaper syndication.

    In addition, if you look at the broader scope of Universal and Uclick’s recent actions and promotions, it seems to me that they are trying to expand their core competency AWAY from and BEYOND relying on newspaper syndication and move forward into new venues, of which this contest is one.

  98. I think it’s all a crap shoot.
    Syndicated editors use their experience to determine what’s going to stick, they put their money behind the strip and cross their fingers.

    It’s not a pure game of luck, but it’s not a science either.
    Otherwise we’d have more hits than misses.

    I also find it really hard to imagine that syndicate editors haven’t passed on a strip that would have been the next great one.

  99. @ Ted — Don’t think I’m questioning your credentials. I’m not. The work you did at United, getting alternative strips into newspapers, would have never gotten done if you hadn’t been there. You have a unique vision for comics and cartoons that others don’t bring to the table. It’s too bad that you’re not still there, you’d be a valuable asset to their syndicate.

  100. I never said a strip had to be funny to be entertaining, Gary. Notice, I differentiate between the two.
    None of these strips is remotely interesting.
    Subjectivity is a crock. Sometimes bad is bad. These are bad.

  101. to Jim Thomas:
    I don’t ‘dislike’ anybody….let alone any of the folks who chose to enter this contest. I have friends of mine who are talented but not quite professional cartoonists. 1-2 of them are REALLY talented! 1-2 others are only mildly talented. I try to be as honest with all of them as I can. I do not, nor will I ever heap praise on someone just for churning out a cartoon. It takes some degree of skill to even DRAW. Not everyone can. Still more, it takes some skill to be funny….again…not everyone can. As for your questions….yessir, I DO enjoy some toons. I am a huge fan of MOther Goose and Grimm, Non Sequitor, Overboard, Pearls before Swine and several others. I do not claim to be the ‘voice of knowledge’ about all things cartoony. However, it might surprise you to know that I have had several emails from fellow-inkslingers who said they agreed with me. That’s kinda what I do as an editorial cartoonist…I say in a toon what others are thinking but don’t want to be called politically incorrect for saying themselves. Your little jabs at me roll off like water off a duck’s back….this is what I do! If it hurt someone’s feelings because I called their efforts at tooning a ‘steaming pile of poo’….well, I’m sorry. I wouldn’t purposely ‘try’ to hurt someone….but I do not ‘blow sunshine up anyone’s hindparts’ either. If their work is good, I say so. If it stinks…I say so. No more, no less. If you’re looking for someone to be “P-C”….look somewhere else. If you’re looking for honesty…I’m your guy. I’d rather have someone be honest with me any day….at least you know where you stand.

  102. I don’t think they’re bad. At United, probably nine of these would have survived my initial culling of the herd. But comics are like tadpoles. Many are born, but only one or two makes it to launch before getting eaten by a bass.

    Please forgive my mixed metaphors.

  103. Lest anyone be confused, these are mostly OK strips. A couple are good. But neither OK nor good are good enough.

    And it’s ridiculous to call for them all to be launched into syndication.

  104. Just out of curiosity Ted, what do you think about the one that *did* get syndicated? I mean, would you have taken that one through to syndication?

  105. They are bad because they literally numb my brain with their plainess and predictability.
    If you think any of those are any good, then you have lowered your standards to a remarkable degree.
    Go back and read Bloom County, Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts (in ANY era), BC pre-1978, Broom Hilda in the 70’s, Doonesbury, or Cul-de-Sac and then go read these again.
    If these are contest finalists, these shouls literally jumbp off the page. These lay there like a dead fish.

  106. So far the only thing exciting about this entire article (including the submissions themselves) is Ted’s idea of syndicates offering their services to online cartoonists.

    Putting something like that together and working a business model around that would have been a smarter use of resources and time than this contest.

  107. This contest is a joke. Universal is using it as a publicity stunt. Since they haven’t got a clue as to what makes a great strip they are hoping they can utilize the contest to sell the winner to the newspapers. It’s a marketing ploy.

    As for the celebrity judges, there’s not a one of them, other than Trudeau, who is any good.

    Lio? Argyle Sweater? These strips would have never been published in the old days. They’re are utter crap!

    Now if Berke Breathed, Gary Larsen, Richard Thompson and Bill Wattereson were judging, the contest would have some credibility.

  108. @Anne – Please use your first and last name. It’s one of the rules.

    Secondly, this statement, “Since they haven’t got a clue as to what makes a great strip” is completely credibility deflating. Universal has a great track record in bringing best selling strips to the market. They may not be your cup of tea, but that does not mean they “suck.”

  109. Has everybody gone insane? Is this some Halloween curse? I feel like I’m peeking over a fence at a crime scene. It’s a little contest, people. I doubt the people voting will outnumber the web cartoonists who are taking an interest.

    Some of the people complaining produce comics that I have tried, sincerely, to get into but have never enjoyed. I’m not going to sit around and badmouth them. If you don’t like something just move on to something else. There’s over six billion people on the planet and I think one billion of them are making comics these days.

    You know, between California and New York there’s a whole lot of land, and it’s filled with people who generally still have manners. They are your audience. If you think your audience is stupid and shouldn’t be reading For Better Or For Worse, or Lio, or whatever, then maybe you should try to do something else with your life.

    Having lived in the South and Midwest, I can tell you that these 10 finalists have produced material that would be read and enjoyed by the newspaper readers they are trying to entertain. A guy from California and another guy from New York can argue about what will sell to my community, but I don’t think you know us too well. The judges probably do, because they’re producing material that we actually read.

    Of course, I could be wrong. And so could everybody, no matter what pedestal they’re standing on.

  110. @Ted:

    These 10 are better than most of the existing strips. They wouldn’t sell better, but they are better. It’s not ridiculous to say they should be syndicated.

    I say they should be, simply because they are better than most syndicated comics. When you bring “business” into it, then yes, maybe they shouldn’t be syndicated, because editors are scared of complaint letters by old people.

    I would think it ridiculous to say that most comics in the papers today are good, or even OK. Maybe 5 are, and that’s it. The rest exist purely because of familiarity.

  111. I find it weird that Amazon is not promoting this on their home page.

    The only promos that I have seen are coming from Universal as an ad when I get my subscribed comic in my email and on the home page.

    They must only want regular comic readers to vote and not put it out for every amazon customer. I guess that makes sense.

  112. Ok my critq: (MY fav)Buni: I like how he made his ears and limbs black to give the character contrast and worked the same style into the title. The Female bunny on the other hand, while still cute, looks a bit too much like Hello Kitty with her bow. I didn’t get the one joke where he’s in the hot air balloon, otherwise this was the most entertaining of the group.

    Belle Plaine: is just a beautiful strip. If it goes no where the artist has a career in story boarding (if they haven’t got one already.) It’s not laugh out loud funny but it’s not trying to be, so I don’t mind it.

    CounterCulture.. Margo reminds me of a girl I know with the amount of pets. Margo looks older than I think she is. She looks too old to have a curfew. In fact, if she looks old enough to be a hip mother of some sort. I like the dynamic action and detailed scenery and that’s enough to make it fun to follow.

    Evil Twin: I liked the shaped heads and style but It would look a lot sleeker if it were done in Illustrator with crisper lines. Writing could be better.

    Girl : she reminds me of many girl artists I know. I almost want her black hair and glasses to look a little more trendy/edgy cause I feel like thats the direction it’s headed. It feels like little kid emo. Maybe make it look like manga emo. I like this style: In the very last Sunday panel her mouth is drawn awkwardly.

    Lil Wit, loved the first strip.. I think that bizarre humor like that has to carry it because the character of a little boy has been done to death, and the art, while good does not strike me as something new and trendy for the comics pages. Maybe I just want Tara McPherson to illustrate a comic strip.. if you don’t know who she is, you should.

    ThataBaby, great stylized drawings, not sure it’s that funny, would probably have broad appeal due to the baby factor. Same thing goes for Buni.. Bunnys and Babies.. who wouldn’t like those?

    Hemlock Heights: Art hurts my eyes and too many words packed together. Kudos to those that read it without getting a headache. Yes it’s stylized… it’s painfully stylized. Then again, I never liked Rose is Rose either.

    Joe six pack: No.. to many people generic comic strip art again. Needs an animal or nonhuman creature to break up monotony. And Joe 6 pack the character is generic by default.. I’d rather watch him yell at his kids because he’s losing money on sports gambling.

  113. Oh, and @ John Sanford, who has been ruthless without being specific.. just a 3 second glance at your site and I can see that your frogs are identical to Michigan J. Frog. I get the feeling I’ve seen all your characters somewhere else. At least these “dead fish” as you call them are original dead fish.

  114. @Brian Good point!

    What fraction of the Comic Strip Superstar’s site’s traffic comes from the Daily Cartoonist and Scott Kurtz’s twitter posts? I would love to see how much traffic that site is really getting.

    You would think that with all their resources and connections, Universal and Amazon could put together a stronger promotional push. It’s almost like they’re happy to sit back and let the creators and industry people drive all the traffic for them. This seems to remind me of another comic contest I’ve seen before…

  115. Yeah, I don’t get it. If you want to sell books later on wouldn’t you want as many people seeing the comics and as many people voting as possible. The psychology of voting for your favorite might also translate to voting with your money when the book comes out.

    I thought the Amazon promotion machine would be working overtime for this contest. Seems like the best promoted books with comics is those Wimpy kid books. They are everywhere.

    @Tony – love your site. I’ve been going there for the last year or so to steal ideas of what my site needs next.

  116. @Dan, You’re right that I am considering the business angle of this. Remember, the idea was to find a new (or more than one new) strip to be successfully syndicated. Therefore, whether or not a strip would get sold is not an academic question–it’s the whole point.

    Certainly, if one sets aside any consideration other than quality, these probably five or six of these are as good as some of the worst strips in your local paper.

    Even so, I would withhold judgment until I saw three to six months of these strips. It is not easy to draw 365 cartoons a year until the end of time–and that’s the standard. Comic strip cartooning is a marathon, not a sprint, and ten strips is nothing more than a stroll to the starting gate.

  117. Whew! This thread is exhausting! It’s a great conversation, and an important one. But I must confess, I’ll be glad when this contest is complete.

  118. Hey Phil.
    Wow! What a biting critique of my work! You certainly zinged me, sir!
    Eh, it’s a fair cop, I do wear my influences on my sleeve.
    However, if you take more than a 3 second glance and actually read my strip, you will find that I am doing something original. It may not be your thing, but I know I’ve never seen a strip like mine out there. That is why I do it. I’m drawing the strip I’ve always wanted to read. It ain’t family friendly, but I stand behind it, and I know it sure as hell isn’t boring.
    There is a lot of good drawing in the submissions,but original?
    No. Go study some comics and then come back and tell me these are original.
    Let’s not get too personal Phil. You don’t want to go down that road with me. I’m game if you are though. You want an honest critique of your online portfolio? Just let me know.

  119. I might not see eye to eye with John on his opinions about the 10 finalists here, but I wouldn’t cast such disparaging remarks on his strip. Chuck Jones’ character designs are all over his strip but who wouldn’t want to pay homage to Chuck Jones? Contrast that with the extreme adult playboy magazine style writing and it gets interesting. See it’s not my thing but I’m not going to trash it. Just as these ten finalists may not be YOUR thing, but you shouldn’t trash THEM either. Last time I checked, we were all working toward the same goal.

  120. @ John, It was a fair cop! I didn’t think i was being overly malicious. I didn’t say anything worse than whats been told to me about my own work. I was told in college about my cartoon characters “You’re drawing Charlie Brown” Everyone knows what Charlie Brown looks like, you’re not fooling anyone.

    Plus I get ripped everyday by my art director if something looks awkward. My art is very commercial and I could take you through my portfolio and point out sloppiness and mistakes if you’d like a head start.

    I didn’t say a word about the originality of your writing. If you noticed I really didn’t get into the writing of anyone’s strip because I’m not a writer! I’m a wannabe writer, but I’m not a pro. I am a working illustrator, however. You’re right they’re not all original looking. I see too much Watterson influence in Lil Wit, and Joe 6 pack. But in fairness to them, Frazz is the biggest Watterson look alike out there and I suppose it’s doing fairly well.


    (her links page is also cool.

    Here are some art samples I know I’m hard to please. I don’t even like my own stuff if it makes you feel better.
    I’d just like to see some art that’s screams NEW edgy hip not 1950 or Watterson influenced. It doesn’t necessarily have to BE original in the illustration world to be original looking for a comic strip.

  122. First, the idea that everything in the paper should appeal to you is silly. Granted, I’m an old fossil from before the days when cable TV allowed for entire channels geared to one specific taste, or websites which ditto. But there’s nothing mysterious in a medium that is geared to a geographic, rather than a demographic, group. The newspapers that continue to do well are the ones that anchor themselves in their local communities. As such, their comics pages need to have something for everyone, and, much as you despise your grandparents and wish them dead, successful newspapers cannot afford to feel that way, nor should they feel that way about little children, women, etc. etc.

    However shortsighted editors may be — and I think they are — the idea that every comic strip should be targetted to 26 year olds is beyond foolish. You don’t have to like every strip in the paper. It’s not all about you.

    Now as to sales versus creativity. There are strips that ought to be huge and aren’t, and I blame editors who don’t pay attention to the comics page because it’s on autopilot and not much else they do is. I also blame syndicate sales people who don’t try to educate themselves about what they have but merely whip out the latest rather than say, “Here’s one that would particularly suit your market” or “… your needs” or “…the shortcomings in your offerings.”

    As others have said, you have to have a reason to upset the apple cart. As Ted has said, it’s rare that a cartoon comes along and can’t be denied.

    And it takes a keg of dynamite. When Charles Schulz had his stroke, I went to my editor and told him to be ready. When Schulz died and the last strip ran, we were ready with a replacement. But we were among fewer than 10 percent of papers that made that decision. The rest chose reruns. I consider that shameful, but if you’re going to work in the business, it’s something you simply have to accept as reality.

  123. “The idea that every comic strip should be targetted to 26 year olds is beyond foolish. You donâ??t have to like every strip in the paper. Itâ??s not all about you.”

    That’s a fair and important point that I’m glad you mentioned Mike. There are a lot of comics that will never appeal to me, and wouldn’t bother me at all to see out of the newspapers. But so what? Editors have a lot of people to please, and honestly, if our age group was calling in to newspaper editors more than the older generation, perhaps we’d have more of a hearing. Instead, we tend to complain about it on the internet.

  124. Phil;
    I really don’t care whether you like the way I draw or not. I’ve been in the animation business for 16 years. Your critique is hardly the worst I’ve heard. I reacted to it purely because your tone was basically “stop saying these strips suck because YOU suck!” Your vitriol on behalf of the contestants is suprising.
    Maybe I’m coming across as malicious, but I really don’t mean to be. I just think the standards should be higher when it comes to newspaper comics. I’m being brutally honest when I say that I don’t think any of these entries are interesting, but I don’t think I’m being harsh. Just honest.
    And you should be judging these strips for their writing. So what if you’re not a writer. You’re a reader, right? That makes you qualified.
    Stacey! No I did not enter. I have a 45 hour a week job and do a webcomic, not to mention I didn’t think I had any ideas for strips that fit the criteria. After reading the 10, I see that I was right.
    Gary! Thanks for the props. If you want to trash my strip, go ahead. I’ve been online for 3 years. I’m sure there is nothing you could say that I haven’t already heard.
    Newspaper strips ARE my thing, man. I love ’em. I love everything from Pogo, Popeye, and Calvin and Hobbes to For Better or Worse and Mutts. I’m just a little dismayed at what these giants of the comic industry have chosen as the 10 best.
    Reading these strips, I wonder if we are indeed all working toward the same goal. My goal is to do a comic strip that I think is interesting and funny and maybe gather a few readers who think the same thing. Perhaps there will be enough readers to make the thing profitable. Perhaps not. We’ll see.
    Reading the 10, it seems that the goal of the entrants was to do a safe strip that everyone could enjoy. Okay, fine. I just don’t think that is anyway to create an intersting and unique comic strip.

  125. Thanks Les. I really like your drawing style, by the way. Very appealing.

    John, I think you were at CalArts after I left, so we probably never met, but the kind of honest critique that a group of animators employ always comes off as a bit harsh in this kind of forum. I think if people were talking to you in person it wouldn’t come across that way.

    I’ve learned the hard way that animation and comic strips are two different worlds. Maybe they shouldn’t be, but animation can succeed so well because it’s a group effort where honest critique is necessary to hammer out good ideas. If you have a talented group, the results can be outstanding.

    Comic strips tend to be an individual’s expression. I think of animation as an art form for an extrovert and a comic strip as an art form for an introvert. I also think the success of a comic strip can be tremendous on a local level, in a smaller community, than it can nationwide. That’s why some strips that would never appeal to a mass market do have a strong place in different areas of the world. You really can’t think that way with animation because the expense of production and distribution sort of demands a mass appeal. That’s just not the case with comics.

    Was I going somewhere with all of this? I don’t know. I’m just waiting on my boss to get out of a meeting ….

  126. “animation can succeed so well because itâ??s a group effort where honest critique is necessary to hammer out good ideas.”

    I think anyone who’s developing a strip to submit to syndicates would benefit from a group regularly critiquing their work.

    When I was developing my strip Tree, I joined a writers group. I figured Iâ??d get quality feedback on the writing–which I did–but I was surprised that I also got great, constructive criticism about my art and layout. Turns out two of the writers in the group were also artists â?? one was commercial artist and painter, and the other was an animation instructor at an art college.

    I was in the writers group for a year and a half and it was time well spent. Every time my work was critiqued, I got some honest and occasionally brutally honest feedback â?? but I found most of the critiques were spot-on. I also got the invaluable feedback of actual laughter when jokes hit the mark.

    The critiques helped me develop my strip, which….ended up getting rejected by all the syndicates. Anyway, the group was very helpful is what Iâ??m trying to say. Plus we went out drinking afterwards. If I didnâ??t have to read and critique poetry, I might still be in that group.

  127. Oh, I agree with that, Scott. I just think that comic strip writers and artists may not be as used to the group critique as animators. John Sanford’s comments may seem harsh, but it’s actually quite a bit more harsh when you’re honestly being critiqued with your stuff hung on the wall (or up on the screen)in a room filled with fellow artists and writers.

    Comments on your work usually aren’t qualified with “I think you’re a good person and are making a good attempt at this … BUT …” They just go right for the truth, or throat or whatever. And that’s what you need to improve. I just didn’t want any cartoonists showing their work for the first time to run for the hills after hearing one honest comment.

    My favorite critique was by my boss, who said a piece of art I produced (for an ad) would cause a seizure. Since my wife has epilepsy, I offered to show it to her. And he’s a big fan of my work. Imagine if he hated my stuff.

    By the way, I absoulutely love Tree.

  128. I think one of the issues as far as being exposed to a group dynamic for critiquing one’s work is that traditionally comic stripping has been looked on as a soley isolated and singular process. A picture in your mind’s eye starts to form of the lone cartoonist hunched over his drawing board. And this may have well been the case once upon a time. However, these days the comics page is a living, breathing community! Brought together by the technology of instant communication, self promotion and internet forums such as this one. In this new community oriented environment there is definately a place for critique and constructive criticism. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but I would caution awareness of the tone of your critique so it doesn’t sound like you’re totally bashing your subject.

  129. “A picture in your mindâ??s eye starts to form of the lone cartoonist hunched over his drawing board. And this may have well been the case once upon a time.”

    Ah, the good old days.

  130. The lone cartoonist was/is better off than the webcartoonist, whose 1500 diehard true fans repeatedly tell him he does no wrong–thus ensuring he will never have 15000 diehard true fans.

  131. Wait a minute, Ted. Wouldn’t a Ted Rall cartoon cease being a Ted Rall cartoon if we held each strip up to artistic debate? Do you want a unique comic or do you want the movie Cars? I mean, eventually you would be asked to introduce a talking monkey to increase readership.

    Charles Schulz got rid of the cat he briefly introduced on his own and kept in Franklin despite complaints at the time. Bill Watterson didn’t respond to feedback. Gary Larson was constantly receiving feedback, but he remained Gary Larson (thank god). One of my favorite modern cartoonists is Keith Knight. His stuff wouldn’t be the same at all if he had a round table discussion of each strip like he was working at Dreamworks.

    If somebody told you to change course would you even listen? Why would you want to, no matter how talented the person was who was giving the advice? You’ve done pretty well on your own.

  132. I wasn’t introducing the image of the lone cartoonist as an analogy to print vs web cartooning. I was stating the fact that every corner of the industry has been effected by new technology and the internet making cartoonists much more aware that they are not shut off from the world and their audience and critics. This is true across the board no matter what type of stripper you are.

    If this blows up into a big pring vs web thing again, for the record, Ted started it LOL.

  133. “I wasnâ??t introducing the image of the lone cartoonist as an analogy to print vs web cartooning.”

    Come on, Garey! EVERYTHING is an analogy to print vs. web cartooning.

    Haven’t you read the manual?

  134. Ted, I don’t know about anyone else, but I have fans who tell me when I screw up. They tell me in 2 ways: e-mails, and traffic.
    When I bore them, or do something that is bad, they write. If I don’t fix it right away, they vote with their feet and my traffic drops. Sometimes, it seems like you are going out of your way to bash webcomics.

  135. Sorry Mike, I forgot Chapter 1 Paragraph 5 of The Daily Cartoonist Poster’s Manual. That’s what I get for skipping ahead to the Quick Start section.

    Actually John, I’d say that Ted has gone out of his way to EMBRACE webcomics. At least, embrace them more than others have. As an editor he was responsible for brining to syndication both Diesel Sweeties and Secret Asian Man. Both of which were webcomics.

  136. Hey Gary! That’s cool.
    Must be a Love/Hate thing,though. All I hear from Ted on the subject is how successful webcartoonists are lying about their earnings and how they can’t possibly be as good as newspaper comics because there are no editors.

  137. Ted liked to “discover” successful webcomics and try to profit off of them in newspapers through the syndicate. That is different than supporting webcomics.

    There is nothing intrinsically “better” about webcomics or traditional print comics. Right now NEW cartoonists aren’t making good money in the traditional route and not enough webcartoonists are making the HUGE dollars that syndicated strips USED to be able to get to satisfy the veterans that are still benefitting from times long gone. However, the long running webcomics, most are hitting the ten year mark about now, are still relatively young in the grand scheme of things and what the web-model can really produce has yet to be seen.

    The internet produces no more or less, lets call them unsuccessful strips, than those that are trying to get into newspapers. The ones online are just more visible. I think the people that say webcomics are lacking compared to the more professional syndicated strips aren’t honestly separating what is clearly hobbyist work and that of the professional cartoonists making their primary income off of their online feature.

    To bring this back to the point of this forum, what is obvious in the finalists strips, syndicates have no interest in, or realize editors won’t buy features with the type of humor and writing that is popular with the online comics community. If cartoonists in their twenties want to make strips that even they can relate to, it won’t be in newspapers. And this is the dilemma, newspaper strips don’t attract young readers and the next generation of talent has less interest in creating them, yet webcomics aren’t the future because they don’t make the artist enough money? Yet, relatively new syndicated strips aren’t any better off than the professional webcomics, and only a handful get to even try each year. So is there a perfect model? no. is there one that makes more sense to buy into, I think so.

    Something, somewhere has to give. Graphic storytelling, through manga, graphic novels, and webcomics are finding their way and reaching the young market, one that newspapers haven’t interested since Calvin and Hobbes went away in 1995.

  138. Some webcomics are better than anything in the newspaper today. 99.999% of them are total crap. Call me conflicted.

    Print newspapers are like the mall: professionally produced products for the masses and therefore dull and bland. If you a shirt fast and you don’t need it to be particularly cool, there’s the Gap.

    The Internet is like a flea market: most of the time, you look at mind-numbing piles of garbage. But if you keep it up, every now and then you find an amazing gem that lands you and the actual shirt Elvis wore at his comeback concert that you bought for $5 on Antiques Roadshow.

    As Garey says, no one has done (or tried to do) as much as I have to promote webcomics. Crossing into the mainstream/print/actual cash-money earning of newspapers would have done more for webcomics than a thousand conferences about how you can make money as a webcartoonist (a statement that remains as baseless as the existence of WMDs in Iraq).

    John Sanford: I’m not going out of my way to do anything. I just call ’em as I see ’em. One thing I and many other cartoonists wonder about is why, given the extremely low quality of so many of the “top tier” webcomics, their creators are so smug about them. The only plausible explanation we’ve come up with is that they have so many online yes men.

    (For yes men, look at the top of this thread…)
    As you get older, you don’t have as much time to go to flea markets. Which is why old people dress badly.

  139. For the record, Secret Asian Man was an alt weekly comic, not a webcomic exclusively. Although, like all cartoons, it had a website.

  140. But 99% of newspaper strips are crap too. call me conflicted but I would rather read a funny comic with art that suffers like XCKD than any Hi and Lois, Marmaduke, Beetle Bailey, Cathy, Curtis, Red and Rover etc… Not to mention the thousands that never see the newspaper. In a world of percentages, 1% of webcomics is going to be a higher number than 1% of syndicated strips.

    On issues of fact, it is hard to argue that most of the new talent isn’t trending away from syndicates. It also is hard to argue that this is a bad thing, as the internet has allowed for wider ranges of themes (and smaller niches) for cartoonists to operate in, not to mention the size in which these comics can be viewed, as if the artwork is important again. Ownership rights are not an issue online and not splitting 50% of revenue is always a good thing. Newspaper revenue is drying up for young cartoonists and syndicates haven’t made the internet profitable for any of their strips, except perhaps Dilbert, which has truly embraced the web.

    No one way is right or wrong, but to so vehemently oppose a new way for cartoonists to create work they care about, while making their primary income seems to be a disservice to the field. Webcomics are not wrong or bad, the path to success is still be forged (some are farther along than others, and like all things, those not willing to work and adapt will never make it). Should we stop now because we are unsure of what awaits on the other side of the mountain? Should we tell young cartoonists to keep submitting strips to syndicates that are even more lost online than the independents?

  141. Where to start?

    In a world of percentages, 1% of webcomics is going to be a higher number than 1% of syndicated strips.

    Um, no. Probably 20% of newspaper strips are worth reading. At least 10%. Only 10 or 15 webcomics TOTAL are worth reading. The percentages aren’t anything alike.

    (I agree that a great strip like “Cat and Girl” is better than anything in my local newspaper.) “xkcd” isn’t consistent enough.

    On issues of fact, it is hard to argue that most of the new talent isnâ??t trending away from syndicates.

    The results of this contest prove that that’s not true. It simultaneously revealed that (a) webcartoonists want to be syndicated and (b) there aren’t many good ones who haven’t already submitted to syndicates.

    not splitting 50% of revenue is always a good thing.

    Except that a syndicate can easily double your income. In which case…

    Should we tell young cartoonists to keep submitting strips to syndicates that are even more lost online than the independents?

    Yes. Because (a) even in the current environment they can make more money in print, and (b) more people read comics in print than read them online.

    The web is essential as a promotional tool, but there is no evidence at this writing that anyone will ever be able to draw more than a pittance out of it financially. I’m not down on the medium, which is cool–I’m down on the dream.

    Hey, if you can make a real living online, God bless you! Then quit your strip and write a book.

    Because you’ll be the first one ever.

  142. So….

    Whether all 10 were webcomics or not, are they really, really the best that were submitted?

    Or are the remaining 10 just representative of what a large committee of folks have distilled down to be the 10 most inoffensive, innocuous and languid strips with enough touches of interesting art to make them hopefully ‘look worthy’?

    I’m not saying they are that, I think some are interesting. But there’s no way any of these 10 are the next ‘Pearls’,’Get Fuzzy’ or ‘Pooch Cafe’ at all. They’re not even the next ‘Rip Haywire’ or ‘Dogs of C Kennel.’

    It seems the Amazon contest doesn’t know what it wants. If you want to make a great webcomic, it seems you need some eye-popping, fantastic art with gripping writing that fuses strong characters with intense or gut busting funny storylines.

    If you want to make a great a syndicated strip, it also seems you need an intuitive sense that blends mainstream appeal, engaging and effervescent writing, pop culture sensitivity, cool art that can fit in a thimble and has great potential marketability. Edginess need not apply, but it needs to be unique enough that it grabs you…

    Frankly, the 10 finalists don’t seem to fit into either catagory to me.

    FULL DISCLOSURE: Yes, I submitted and made it into the 250 round. No, I don’t think I’m the next Berke Breathed or Bill Watterson. No I’m not sucking sour grapes – I’d love to have been blown away by seeing the best of the best kick my butt and trample the rest with a gang of 10 strips that rocked and rolled. It just didn’t seem to happen.

    Again, not in any spirit of whining or rejection, I just thought as a group they were a bit diffused and maybe anemic. Just IMHO.

  143. You say 10-20% of syndicated strips are worth reading, I disagree. That is not a debate either side can really win, as taste differ. I also disagree with the only 10 good webcomics.

    Syndicates have the potential to make one or two strips successes a year, at best. Cul-de-Sac is a gift of a strip for Universal Press, and very few people know about it. If they can’t make that strip a success, what hope do these finalists have? Syndicated features launched in the past five years do not make the artist the type of living you make it out to sound that most syndicated features enjoy. I just do not believe that.

    You also make it sound as if no web cartoonist is making their primary income from the feature and their feature’s merchandise. This is also just not true. As it has come out over and over again, it is possible to make a respectable living through online distribution only. You make the distinction that it is not the “strip” that makes the money, but the merchandise, but I don’t see that there is a difference. Peanuts doesn’t make 35 million a year still by its syndication list but by its endorsements like Met Life and its endless merchandising rights. Even Krazy Kat had toys and animated features. It is the way it has always been. While the dollar amount may not be as high as you would like, the amount of growth in the webcomic industry during the same time that newspaper space has been shrinking shows where the talent and interest is trending. Publishers are picking up web cartoonists left and right, notably Dark Horse, opening up yet another avenue for them.

  144. Hey, if you can make a real living online, God bless you! Then quit your strip and write a book.

    Because youâ??ll be the first one ever.

    Why? Why?

  145. Actually, Ted, some of us have had such bad experiences with syndicates, we stay away from them now and go it alone. I believe I could have been syndicated if I watered down my work to the point of uselessness.

    In fact, I worked with 2 syndicates on an old strip, the second one asking over and over to water it down, make it less edgy, less word–less, less, less. It got to the point that the editor said it was now boring and not at all interesting and ended the work. So, by following their advice, I worked myself out of a syndication deal.

    I write and draw comics for Marvel, so I have another career, and I feel that newspaper syndicates have lost their viability. That is the major reason I chose to do a webcomic and also not enter this contest.

    My feeling is that the future of comic strips is online and perhaps through e-readers. I know I’m not making tons of money right now, but I’m building up a fanbase and a presence online so that when things do move and there is a demand and a chance to have product to sell, I’m ready. It’s like putting money into your home, I’m building up collateral that I will sell one day.

  146. Jim Thomas:

    You also make it sound as if no web cartoonist is making their primary income from the feature and their featureâ??s merchandise. This is also just not true.

    Do you work in PR? “Primary income” means nothing. If you make $20 a year begging, that’s your primary income. I mean a real, serious, adult, living wage…comparable to what print cartoons earn.

    You make the distinction that it is not the â??stripâ? that makes the money, but the merchandise

    Where? Where have I made that distinction? Because I don’t think that distinction exists. If you can make $100K a year selling merch and give the strip away, that’s success. But no one is. No one does.

    Please reply to what I actually write, not what you make up.

  147. Congrats to everyone who entered and placed in this contest, good luck to you finalists.

    I think trying to duplicate the traditional newspaper ink-on-paper comic in a digital format is a doomed effort. Just as ink was a leap ahead of stone tablets, digital is a leap ahead of ink. The audience’s expectation is that digital media will include color, motion, sound, interaction, and portability. The comics that wrap all that together with great visual style and writing are the ones who will eventually prevail and meet the Rall challenge. IMO

  148. @ Ted

    On episode 29 “Print versus Web” on the Webcomics Weekly podcast there is a lengthy discussion on the issue. If I misunderstood your view on the matter then I apologize. From what you said, I understood you felt that comics online do not make money from the strip themselves, but from the merch and advertising. I didn’t feel as if I implied you thought that was good or bad, but just that you felt that way, based on the discussion of that podcast. I was simply stating that is how I understood it, I was definitely not “making things up.” At worst I misunderstood, and if that is the case I do apologize.

    I will amend though:

    (There is) a distinction that it is not the â??stripâ? that makes the money, but the merchandise, but I donâ??t see that there is a difference.

  149. Tom,
    Not sure I agree. While great art is a massive plus (C&H’s Sunday pages leap to mind), I’ve always thought it was the writing – I remember Charles Schultz once said that great writing can sustain mediocre drawing, but mediocre writing will never sustain great drawing.

    I think if Dilbert came out today, it would still be a hit and no one is arguing Scott Adams is Norman Rockwell.

    Stephan Pastis, by his own admission, draws so poorly he even makes it the point of jokes in his own strip. You have to have some pretty compelling writing to get away with that.

    If color, motion, sound, interaction, and portability were the keys, web comics would have already put strips out to pasture. The fact that newpaper strips are still around and are the dominant comics medium tells me that while they may not have Pulitzer Prize writing, they are still way ahead of most webcomics.

    So if Marmaduke, Andy Capp, Blondie, The Lockhorns, Family Circus, Beetle Baily, Hagar the Horrible and Momma are doing better than most webcomics, that says more about the webcomics than it does feeble newspaper strips.

    I’m not throwing grenades, I just think the market makes these decisions. If the web was THE WAY to go, well 10+ years of Internet ingenuity should have produced that model by now, shouldn’t it have? In an age where YouTube gets invented in 2005 and is all the rage by the end of that year, ten years is a friggin’ eternity.

    If webcomics were going to do it, I think it would have been done by now. The solution isn;t the web – it’s when newspapers join the 21st century.

    I think when editors start picking up comics in newspapers that more relevant to real life, not drippy, sappy, vanilla pablum that can’t possible offend anyone, then there will be a revitalization of the craft.

    But even as lame as so many print comics are, they are still ahead of the web. That’s how sad most web toons are, I’m afraid.

    Now I gotta duck and cover.

  150. @Ted wrote:

    “If you can make $100K a year selling merch and give the strip away, thatâ??s success. But no one is. No one does.”

    Man, now I gotta make $100k a year to be considered a success? Jesus, Ted. Really? Now it’s 100k? That’s it? and if it’s less then that you’re just a piker I guess?

  151. Okay everyone. Let’s seriously NOT get another flame war going. If we want to talk business models – let’s talk business models but please don’t go throwing chum into the water.

  152. @Tom Wood: I agree. Something comics-y will earn money online someday, but it will be something very different–as you describe.

    @Jim: It is true that online strips make whatever pennies they make from merch, not the strip itself. But I don’t care HOW a cartoonist makes their money–I care how MUCH they make. (However, I do have a problem with the model that expects cartoonists to come up with what is essentially a second discrete line of business, such as T-shirts whose designs don’t relate to the strip…simply because it’s too much to expect from most people. For example, me.)

    The reason I am passionate about this subject is that I hate to see cartoonists misled. It’s bad enough that it’s so hard to make money through syndication and freelancing–why compound the problem by implying that the Internet is better, when it pays even worse?

    Moreover, as long as so many cartoonists are willing to work online for nothing or very little, there will be no upward pressure on wages. The key from a labor-management perspective is for talented people to chase the money while starving cheap outlets of their genius.

    People like Rupert Murdoch are finally starting to figure this out by putting their websites behind pay walls. Tri-City News, an alt weekly in Central NJ, made big news by forcing its advertisers to pay higher (print) rates and eliminating news content online. They’re making a nice profit during tough times. If every decent cartoonist in America shut down their websites tomorrow, they would go through a very tough couple of years. But then the cash would start rolling in–from magazines, newspapers and, yes, online. The new online ventures will be well-capitalized outfits like The Politico, whose model is to provide high-quality content–which requires paying competitive salaries.

    And yet, check this out: The Politico makes 80% of its revenues from its print edition, which has a circ of 34,000 in DC. The website has 3 million uniques per month. Still wonder why print is king?

    @Scott: I thought it had already been established in a previous discussion that you don’t even earn $30K. (Remember when you refused to put up or shut up?)

    And anyway, yeah, $100K a year isn’t anything close to wild over-the-top success. Not for someone with kids, a mortgage, ancient student loan payments, etc. Not for an adult.

  153. @Shane

    You raise some good points. Ten years is a long time in internet time. Still, while the newspaper has had a 600 year head start, it’s still managed to find the edge of ruin within those ten years. And with 200 years to embed itself in the cultural norm, it’s no surprise that the traditional newsprint comic would endure and prevail, for a while.

    Digital is a disruptive technology, still finding its way. The next ten years is where a lot of foundation-laying for payment models and delivery methods will occur. Is saying that a copout (pun intended) to your argument? Yeah. But I still think it’s true.

    I know I keep harping on it, but I do thinkYves Bigerel has hit on a winning format, particularly see frames 19-42. Add some sound effects, format it to play on an iPhone, add some easter eggs or splinters in the storyline…

    To that effect, this looks promising too:

    Adobe Labs – Flash Applications for the iPhone

    While I don’t care much for manga either, mainly because the stories are too silly, I think there’s a format that is a hybrid of manga and anime that could work for webcomics. A lot of anime depends on using still images with sound and implied motion added for effect. So a reduced form of anime, or enhanced manga, maybe mangime, might be a way to go.

  154. If it’s newspaper survival that is the real discussion here, the people who need to chime in are those who sell – or try to sell – print advertising space. That is the vital revenue stream that is shrinking and has yet to find its level. Once the shakeout/consolidation of newspapers ends or at least plateaus and realistic overhead budgets are established, we’ll see what it takes to sustain a newspaper — and then maybe content (i.e. comics) will become circulation builders again. If they don’t do that, they are just another expense to a paper and not held in very high regard by those tryng to keep their publication afloat.

  155. And anyway, yeah, $100K a year isnâ??t anything close to wild over-the-top success. Not for someone with kids, a mortgage, ancient student loan payments, etc. Not for an adult.

    I can see from you perspective, living in NYC, that $100K would be difficult to sustain, but in Utah, that’s a nice, livable wage.

    I think, Ted, you and I aren’t that far apart on the prospect of print success, but sometimes it’s hard to discuss the topic because the target tends to move. First it’s a living wage – then a $100K living wage – but then that isn’t quite enough because it’s not “wild over-the-top success.”

    Success means different things to different people. Running one’s own business (a webcomic operation) independently and being able to put food on the table and a roof over one’s head might be success to one individual and abject poverty/failure for another.

    So for the sake of future discussion can you define what you mean by success. If YOU were to launch a web OR print comic feature – how would you measure success?

  156. @Jim

    Motion comics, I knew I’d read about them before but I forgot about them. The current implementations by Marvel aren’t very appealing, I admit. Those are definitely more like short animations than comics, so I see your point. No, there’s a better way…

  157. Alan makes a good point. Success means different things to different people. For me, if I were able to quit my job in animation and ONLY work on the strip and all the ancillary business from the strip, I would consider that a success. However, I’d have my earnings would have to be equal or better than my current earnings in animation.
    @Ted, how did we establish that @Scott didn’t even make 30k? I’m reasonably certain that he easily makes more than that. I don’t think 30K would even cover his travel expenses for last year.
    Also, I know for a fact that many “successful” syndicated cartoonists have to maintain a day job in addition to doing their strips 7 days a week. That doesn’t sound like print is king to me.

  158. The discussion with Scott is archived . Recapping it here would serve little positive purpose.

    Without a doubt, John and Alan, success is totally arbitrary.

    When I was starting out, I thought that the ability to support myself without a day job was success. In many ways, that’s still my personal yardstick for success. (Bear in mind, I didn’t get any help from rich parents or a trust fund…unlike many cartoonists. This was just me. Just from cartoons.)

    Of course, as one gets older, what it takes to support yourself increases. So that has increased for me too.

    For the purpose of the web. vs. print discussion, however, I can think of some baseline measures of success. Bear in mind, that these are back of the envelope numbers. Your mileage may vary, some settling may occur during shipment.

    1. A new strip with a reasonably decent launch should be able to generate $20-40K out of the gate (the creator’s share). Numbers should increase, eventually, from there, before leveling off in the high five and low six figures.

    2. Your average editorial cartoonist on staff at a newspaper makes anywhere from $40K to $600K, with the median range somewhere between $80K and $150K.

    3. One of the top 30-40 strips in the country should reasonably be able to generate income of $400K and up. I can think of a solid dozen whose annual income exceeds $1 million. Not Schulzian, but damned…successful.

    (1) is OK, as long as it’s a start. But it’s not what I would call “success.”

    You can see, by looking at these numbers, why I remain singularly unimpressed by webcartoonists who claim to make their “primary income” from webcartooning. Big deal! By that standard, 10% of the country makes their primary income from the unemployment office. So unemployment is a success for them, I guess.

    If webcartoonists want to argue that there’s a bright financial future online, all I want to ask them is, as the Lyres song goes: How do you know? Things don’t become true just because you want them to be.

  159. @Ted: It`s hard to believe that Scott would earn only 30k a year.

    Howard Tayler (who`s Schlock Mercenary hasn´t as many readers as pvp as far as I know) stated last year at the UTOSC that he`s selling about 2000 books which alone grants him a profit of 27k. Now add other merchandising and the income of advertising on his site to that and he should be way over 30k.

    Scott with more readers should be able to sell more books, more merch and get paid more for the ads on his website.

    Questionable Content gets through the Project Wonderful advertising alone about 3k a month (that´s 36k a year) and there are at least two other ads by other companies. QC sells no books but t-shirts and other merchandise. So the income should be somewhere in the lines of that of your “average editorial cartoonist”.

    And let´s not forget the Penny Arcade guys.

    (Btw I know a lot of people who work everyday hard and don´t make 30k a year and still manage to feed their families. Heck, I even know many engineers who don´t make more than 40k to 60k a year.)

    So, yes, it`s possible to make a living out of webcomics and even make millions of dollars – it`s very unlikely but possible.
    But same goes for newspaper catooning. It`s unlikely but possible to make a living out of it and even become a garfieldian success.

    I think your chances of earning lots of money are even higher as tv or moviestar or popstar or sportsstar or lawyer or manager of a big company or president of the U.S. and not by being a cartoonist (whether it`s print or web).

    And in my book it`s always a success if you make a living out of what you like to do – and if you can support your family with it, that´s even better. No matter how much that money is.

  160. I think the point Ted is trying to make (or at least I hope it is) is that yes, there are many webcartoonists who can tout what they call “financial success” but in the context of the better years of print cartooning it’s minuscule in comparison.

    In earlier threads there were webcartoonists who rightly noted defensively about how hard they work and everything they do to get their money, and I think the point here is, at least for the top-tier webcartoonists, they deserve more.

    There are/were a multitude of print cartoonists who reached seven figure incomes because of the value the print industry placed on their strip. Save maybe Penny Arcade I don’t think that can be said about any webcomic. I don’t see how anyone can dispute the simple fact that regardless of anyone’s opinion of quality, deservedness, etc., the most popular and financially successful webcomic still makes a fraction of the money and has a fraction of the readership of a cartoon that appears in dozens of newspapers. Pointing out that, for example, Scott Kurtz on a FINANCIAL level is nowhere near the success level of Jim Davis isn’t an attack on either cartoonist; it’s just a statement of fact.

    Now, saying that it’s not just about the money and it’s about loving what you do and being happy with your fans and your income level is a perfectly acceptable response to that- but not in the context of money-making ability, which I think Ted is focusing on here.

    I think in the current economy and the nature of the freelance artist market a lot of webcartoonists have, on a financial level, lowered their standards as to what success is. I’m hopeful this is correcting as of late with really good webcomics like Goats and Girls With Slingshots getting better publishing deals that a decade ago no one would have dreamed of for online artists.

    I guess ultimately the difference we’re arguing here is there was a time when print cartooning was a millionaire-producing profession. This time has likely since passed. However, save for a much smaller handful of people, webcomics appears to be a profession that will never even reach that point. While new webcartoonists may be happy with that I’d hope they’d understand why that decline of value for the art form might upset older artists.

  161. I think ted is throwing out some ridiculous numbers here. And I think he knows it. To pull out some outlier editorial cartoonist making 600k a year to prove a point is as silly as me saying “look at Penny-Arcade.” Of course there are outliers.

    Ted refuses to believe I make over 30k unless I whip out my tax form and compare it to his. He’s safe to issue that challenge because he knows I’ll never do it because I’m an adult and adults don’t share their tax returns with strangers. Especially strangers who want to hold it up for ridicule.

    Alan wants us all to remember that success is subjective and different for different people. Which it is, but I think everyone here wants the same thing, to be able to do what we love without having to worry about money. And that’s what everyone’s chasing.

    In 1998, PvP started and it generated $500 a month. Then in 2000 it generated $3,000 a month thanks to a great contract and the dot-com boom. And I quit my day job that year. it’s been 9 years since and PvP has been MY primary income since.

    Back in 2000, when I was 9 years younger $36,000 a year was enough living for me. I’m 38 years old now and have different responsibilities and it would not be. Luckily I make more now. But I would never crap on someone who earns $36,000 a year and is at that point in their life when it’s enough and tell them it doesn’t count.

    Pay your bills, put money into a savings account, afford health insurance, contribute to your retirement fund, have extra money for fun, put your kids through school and keep them fed and happy too.

    If you can earn enough from your comic strip to do that, don’t worry about it meeting any arbitrary salary minimum requirement set by Ted Rall. And don’t worry so much about being successful.

    Just worry about being happy. And being healthy.

  162. For someone as liberal as Ted Rall he sure seems to be obssessed with making “F— You!” money. That is to him success in cartooning is only if you’re making ridiculous amounts of money like Davis or Larson. I’d bet dollars to dougnuts though that those two made much more from licensing out to external merchandisers then they ever got paid by newspapers for their actual strips.

    If you’re someone who’s only making a pitiful $50 000 – $75 000 a year from your comic and it’s related DIY merchandising (whether it’s using your strip or original material) then you might as well stop drawing because buddy you’re a complete and utter failure. You’re paying your mortgage and your kids aren’t going to sleep hungry? Too bad, on the Rall Scale(tm) (to Ted Rall of course), you haven’t crossed over the poverty line yet.

  163. Scott, thanks for your last response, I honestly appreciate getting a little bit more insight from you on your perspective of the financial aspect of the market. My one nitpick honestly is in your first graf though: “as silly as me saying â??look at Penny-Arcade.â? Of course there are outliers.” The problem from my perspective is that I have yet to see a single “success of webcomics” conversation that does NOT include this line. What I was trying to say was that yes, Penny Arcade is an outlier, but in context of what Ted was saying about high-paying print cartoonists, they were not the outliers Penny Arcade is.

    If you think about what you said just now, I think you’d understand why some veteran print guys are frustrated with the new model- as you said, your concept of financial “success” increased as you progressed both in life and work. For a lot of people, that progression has happened and being told that they should be happy and stop whining about at best, facing the model you touted as great for yourself nine years ago is unpalatable. As you alluded to as well, I don’t see a potential like there was ten years ago for really lucrative web offers to newer cartoonists. There isn’t a dot-com boom anymore.

    In other words, my worry is that yes, there are going to be more and more “successful” webcartoonists, but each one is going to start lowering their standard of “success” and the industry is going to go along with that because hey, less money to give these guys. Not to insult the quality of anyone’s work with the analogy, but I guess I’m worried overall about the potential for a gradual “Walmart-ization” of the business.

  164. Or, if all catoonists would go to the internet and stop working for syndicates and newspapers because they want more artistic freedom and control over their work and can make a living out of it, then the newspapers would value comics and their creators more, give the comics more space, don´t cut comics down for ad space, pay more, try new things out etc. 😀

    I don´t think that cartoonists are lowering their standards of “success”. I highly doubt that there are no cartoonists who started drawing because they thought “Hey, one day I will make as much money as Jim Davis with my art.”

    No, success was always just a bonus. The goal for most -if not all- cartoonists always was to earn enough money with their comics to make a living for themselves and their families.

    And I´m quite sure it`s not because of people putting their work online that does lead to declining sales of comics and newspapers and decreasing wages everywhere.

    There were superhero comic books titles 10 years ago that were selling millions of copies each month. Even 5 years ago there were many that`d still sell 500k. I think even 2 or 3 years ago there were some reaching 300k. Nowadays there are only few that sell 100k copies.
    The circulation of the majority of newspapers and magazines has declined to.
    An in contrast to that most of the popular websites and webcomics have gained more and more readers. There were even some new webcomics that came out of nowhere and became successfull in the last few years.

    And this in a quite new medium like the internet that has just started to become popular in the last 5 years or so and still hasn´t reached it`s peak.

    Don´t get me wrong, I`m not trying to be pro web or anti print or something, I just can´t understand why someone would be trying to bash on webcomics and what some of them have already accomplished and don´t want see that there could be a future for many cartoonists -and comics in general- in the web or perhaps in any other digital form and not only in papers and print.

    At the moment it very looks like there`s an expanding market online and a shrinking market in print. Especially for people who don´t want to limit themselves to family friendly entertainment there seems to be no future in syndication and newspapers.

  165. @ Jon, I apologize for the vitriol on behalf of the contestants (I did like buni) you could’ve at least given a few specifics as to what was good /bad, and i do respect your extensive career in animation. I know how grueling that must be… I only had a brief taste of being a story board artist. Listened to your interview on Comics coast to coast.. Pixar must have demanded blood… animation in general demands a ton of hours… there was no down time… at least where i worked. i hated being packed in close quarters it was claustrophobic. … but pixar does have an opening for a story artist..maybe i’ll try making a comeback.

    .. and i hated Manga but now i respect it. why? because it sells. Little girls love it. That’s all they draw on deviant art. The guy who draws Amelia Rulz had nice things to say about the story lines in Manga.. again listen to comics Coast to coast.

  166. @Scott: “In 1998, PvP started and it generated $500 a month. Then in 2000 it generated $3,000 a month”

    God, I LOVE Scott’s ability to torture the English language. Not since the last president left office have we seen such mad spin skillz.

    What does “generated” mean? I strongly suspect it means “gross income,” which means revenues prior to business expenses.

    In the adult world, we don’t talk about “generation.” We talk about net income, as declared on your taxes. That’s what banks look at when they decide whether you can afford a mortgage.

    As to the remark that a liberal like me shouldn’t care about money:

    (a) I’m not liberal
    (b) Liberals DO care about money (Al Gore isn’t poor…)
    (c) Webcartoonists keep claiming they make lots of money, more than print cartoonists…and IT ISN’T TRUE.

    When they stop lying, I’ll stop calling them out.

  167. “Webcartoonists keep claiming they make lots of money, more than print cartoonistsâ?¦and IT ISNâ??T TRUE.”

    It’s not true because no webcartoonist has made this remark. The ONLY claim I’ve seen Kurtz has make is that he’s making ENOUGH and that unlike print cartoonists who are being dropped by papers and syndicates left and right he seems to be making more every year.

  168. “God, I LOVE Scottâ??s ability to torture the English language. Not since the last president left office have we seen such mad spin skillz.”

    Yeah your claim that Kurtz must be making less than 30K because he refuses to pulicly release his income tax forms. Totally not spin. Totally not disingenuous.

  169. Ted, picking at Scott’s choice of words is a method of deflection that I find remarkably immature and petty. Come on, you know what he meant. We all knew what he meant. You will not win your argument, nor will you convince people that you are right. I find it interesting that Scott was the one that was banned here a few months back.
    I’ve never seen a webcartoonist claim that they made a lot of money. The folks that are making money merely claim that their revenue stream (oh, are you going to pick on that term too?) is currently more dependable then the one that the “print cartoonists” are depending on.
    Hey Phil! No harm done. I’m on deadline, so I don’t have time to go through and critique them all. I will say that I find Joe Six-Pack to be banal, unfunny and expected, Buni to be a poorly drawn not funny version of PBF, and Belle Plaine is laconic to the point of being comatose. These are the ones I remember.
    If you really want to read some good manga, read “PLuto”. It’s incredible. Better than anything on TV.

  170. Things I’ve learned from this thread:

    1. Public appreciation of contest finalists is unappreciated.

    2. Like all talent contests, supposedly uninterested observers are expecting the winner to display a level of genius not currently seen (in reality, the winner might fit snugly into the existing profession … in this case, comic strips).

    3. Joe 6-Pack is the weakest comic strip out of the ten, but everybody remembers its name.

    4. Perry Bible Fellowship was a brilliant comic that was never syndicated, so it’s bad if another strip reminds you of it.

    5. In order to be deemed successful, I will have to make as much money as a heart surgeon.

    6. As always, debate on the Internet is a pointless exercise.

    Got it.

  171. Hah haha! Stephen!
    Here are a few unwanted comments

    1. I merely expressed dismay at effusive praise heaped upon the final 10. At final count, I think I was the only one who piped up and said they all were terrible. You could come away with the lesson “Total honesty is unnappreciated”.

    4. I think that if Buni were actually funny, people would use “Reminds me of PBF” as praise, but since the strip isn’t at all funny, this phrase is used in the pejoritive sense.

    6. Debate on the internet isn’t always an exercise in futility. I learned that I can be honest without the brutal. See? I learned something. Debate on the internet isn’t always futile..Unless you are debating engaging Ted Rall in the Print vs Web Debate.
    but I would add..

    7. At some point, every comment thread will on the debate will turn into a Print vs Web debate, usually by Ted Rall.

  172. Oops!! I meant to say “every comment thread on “The Daily Cartoonist” will turn into a Print vs Web Debate.
    whew! Got that in under the wire before Ted made fun of me! I didn’t mention the extra “debating” I forgot to delete.
    Have at it, Ted!

  173. I’m just an amateur enthusiast here, so I’m sure my opinion isn’t worth much, but I’m going to toss it in there anyway on this print vs. web thing.

    It seems to me that neither print nor web, singularly, are the future of comics.

    There are some great webcomics out there. But it’s going to be hard to make lots of money on the web, even if you’ve got a great comic, because a lot of people on the internet are freeloaders. Many are technically thieves, downloading music and applications illegally, so of course if they’re not even willing to pay for that stuff, it’s unlikely they’ll be all that willing to pay for comics. Even if they like reading them. Unless of course they have to, and even then I’m not sure many wouldn’t just say “screw you” to cartoonists and quit reading.

    There are also some great print comics out there. But it’s going to be hard to get your foot in and start making a good living like people once were able to. Papers are dying. Whether they truly die off or just stabilize at a much lower level than the past, I suppose we’ll have to see. But either way, selling papers is going to be harder and harder, and there will be less money in it. And especially because there are good comics online that people like to read, where they can read them for free, they’re more likely to go there, rather than buy a newspaper every day. All of this is only affected more with the economy the way it is currently.

    So while print alone can’t do what it used to, I don’t think the web can live up to what print once could. Maybe in the future once the internet has really matured and stabilized, but not right now.

    The future, imho, is in a mix between print and web. I’m not sure what all that entails, but my point is that it seems kind of weird to argue over print vs. web in the first place. For comic strips in particular to succeed monetarily in the future as they have in the past, there needs to be some kind of alliance between the two. Something that works print and web together, rather than sets them at odds with each other. I’m sure there are already good ideas of how to do this, but it seems to me someone, a syndicate I suppose, is going to have to invest the money into trying it out in a major way. Not just making websites for print comics, but actually trying to make them just as serious on both sides of the spectrum. Scott Adams I think has the right idea with it – he obviously is successful in print, but his website is pretty darn successful as well. I’m not sure how much money he generates from his website alone, but I’m sure it’s a sizable amount.

    Are there any news websites, like websites for local newspapers, that have a comics section on their website, with daily updated comics just like in their print version? Perhaps this discussion has been gone through before, but I do wonder how that would work for both the paper’s website and the cartoonists.

    Anyway, again, I don’t see any reason to bash either side in this. The future of comic strips relies upon both sides working together here. I’m not even sure why there are “sides” in this to be honest.

  174. But John, I did find Buni funny (Funny Buni?) Saying that something is not funny only means so much.

    What’s truly funny to me is that you’re partly saying Ryan Pagelow did exactly what you and Ted Rall are doing, artistically at least. He took an artistic/narrative style and tried to make a strip out of it.

    Both you and Ted Rall wear your artistic influences on your sleeve, but in Ted’s case it’s from underground cartoonists who weren’t all that interested (or weren’t that good with) money. He took that underground style and commercialized it. So of course, when Ted was at United Media he tried to get different styles into the paper. It was the smart thing to do.

    If Ted couldn’t sign PBF he might’ve tried to copy it. Imagine if Coke produced a soft drink that everybody loved and they didn’t want to sell it. They just gave it away at state fairs. Of course Pepsi would make a knock off. If they’re in it for money, that’s what they’re going to do. You’re either going to be a business person or an artist, and at some point one is going to make you lousy at the other.

    In your case, you’re doing a different strip with a familiar drawing style. I really like it. But it doesn’t surprise me that none of these finalists would be your cup of tea (or Ted’s). I don’t think you’re out to discover the next Mutts. And I don’t think Ted, as effective as he was at United Media, would discover the next Mutts either. Because that’s not what he wants to see (or thinks he can sell) in the newspaper.

    But it is what I want to see in the newspaper. And I’m willing to bet there’s a lot of people with my tastes and you’re not going to read their opinions here. Just a guess, though.

    If I was interested in money I would’ve stayed in California, but sometimes it’s fun to just do what you want, regardless of the money. That’s what progresses an artform. Artists and writers have left paying gigs for centuries because they just wanted to do stuff they liked. That’s why there was an underground style to influence Ted.

    I think you get that, though. Your posts did influence me. Ted can come off as being provocative just for the sake of being provocative. That’s passive agressive, you know. Instead of slamming people and their creations, why not just shout what you really mean: “Hey! Look at me! I know everything!” But cartooning isn’t math and it’s guesswork even for the most successful people.

    It winds up looking like you’re mad at cartoonists getting recognition out of a little contest. This isn’t American Idol. Not even close. Almost all of the world isn’t watching.

  175. @Ted I think it’s becoming pretty clear to everyone on this board that you’re reaching now. First the income doesn’t count unless you’re selling the work. Then everything counts. Then only net revenue counts. Then it only matters if you make 100k.

    Why don’t you take a nap, put pencil to paper, and then come back with a definitive metric by which we can all compare our dick sizes.

  176. All that need happen now is for someone to invoke Hitler and/or the Nazis and this thread is done. I think it already is.
    Can I get a ruling, Alan?

  177. @217: Ted – I’m curious. You syndicated a few strips. How long until they reach the high five or low six income? A few years? If they don’t make it, will you tell them they should consider themselves failures and to hang it up?

    Editorial cartoonists on staff? Are there any left?

    You can think of a dozen cartoonists making a ton of money. Wow, so can I. I think they’re all what we call “legacy” strips. Can you think of five times as many strips that aren’t making that kind of money? I bet you can.

    There are a lot of rock stars in the music business. But does that mean if you’re not one, but making a living playing an instrument, you’re a failure?

  178. @Jason:

    @217: Ted â?? Iâ??m curious. You syndicated a few strips. How long until they reach the high five or low six income? A few years? If they donâ??t make it, will you tell them they should consider themselves failures and to hang it up?

    It all depends. No two cases are the same. However, check this out: What amounts to wild financial success for a webcartoonist is considered abysmal cancellable failure in print syndication.

    Editorial cartoonists on staff? Are there any left?

    You betcha. In fact, their numbers are finally increasing again.

    You can think of a dozen cartoonists making a ton of money. Wow, so can I. I think theyâ??re all what we call â??legacyâ? strips.

    I wasn’t thinking of legacy strips.

    There are a lot of rock stars in the music business. But does that mean if youâ??re not one, but making a living playing an instrument, youâ??re a failure?

    The point is: the webcartoonists who claim to be making a living “playing an instrument,” to use your analogy, aren’t.

    And the corollary is: they shouldn’t claim that they are.

  179. Make up your mind, Ted. Either your income is your income or the income doesn’t count unless you sell the cartoon itself.

    And for the record, I talk to a lot of syndicated cartoonists who disagree with you that my “wild financial success” is considered “abysmal cancelable failure.”

    I’m sorry that life in syndication isn’t working out for you that great right now, but it’s pathetic for you to take on some imaginary crusade against other cartoonists for claiming that we’re making a living. When obviously we are.

    The only person making outrageous claims around here is you. And I think everyone’s finally wising up to it.

  180. “The point is: the webcartoonists who claim to be making a living â??playing an instrument,â? to use your analogy, arenâ??t.”

    So are we going back to the case that if you aren’t being paid solely for your art, you can’t claim to be making money from your cartoon?

  181. How about we all agree that you aren’t a success to Ted Rall unless you get sanctioned as a success by Ted Rall and then let’s all decide nobody cares and move on.

  182. Scott and Greg: “So are we going back to the case that if you arenâ??t being paid solely for your art, you canâ??t claim to be making money from your cartoon?”

    If whoever made that claim were to step forward, that would be great. It wasn’t me.

    No wonder Scott’s strip is written so poorly. He doesn’t understand English.

  183. Scott: “When obviously we are.”

    “Obviously”? There’s nothing obvious about it.

    People can claim to see the Virgin Mary in a taco, but until they let us see the taco in question, it means nothing.

    Webcomics economics simply don’t add up.

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