Dana Simpson wins Comic Strip Superstar contest

Dana Simpson’s Girl has won the Andrews McMeel and Amazon.com Comic Strip Superstar contest. She wins a publishing contract with Andrews McMeel, a development contract with Universal Uclick and syndication on gocomics.com. You can see her samples on Amazon.com

116 thoughts on “Dana Simpson wins Comic Strip Superstar contest

  1. Congrats Dana! Of the ten finalists, there were 3 I really liked. I am glad that one of those won. I wish you the best of luck going forward and am looking forward to following your development. Hopefully John Glynn will cover it the same way he has with In The Sticks.

  2. Like Jesse, I’m also glad to see one of my faves win the crown. Looking forward to see the results of Dana’s awards down the road, and what the other finalists choose to do with their comics, to boot. Seems like the contest flew by!

  3. To be honest I was/am very wary of what went into this contest. They turned down some excellent stuff in favor of GIRL? I dont know. I am dissapointed by this.

  4. Hey, “Girl” was the strip I´d have bet would win. Cute kid + cute animals, that´s what people want to see 🙂

    Congrats and I hope that McMeel will try to promote the strip and the book better than they did with the contest.

  5. Well, I don’t know how big of an audience she has with her webcomic Ozy and Mille. But she definitely used them to help her get out the vote. http://www.ozyandmillie.org/

    I’m just curious as to how many of the other strips had an audience or an outlet where they could promote. And how many votes came from the readers of Ozy and Millie.

    I’m not faulting her mind you, I would do the same thing. I’m just curious as to whether having an established audience in some capacity increased her chances.

  6. Yeah, I agree that the public voting thing is kind of weird in this case. I don’t fault her either, but I would feel badly if someone lost just because they didn’t have all the connections. I do wish Amazon et al. would have advertised this competition better for that reason especially.

    Regardless, I do congratulate Dana in this. However she got there, it will be interesting to see how things go down in the future. I wonder if she’ll get syndicated? It will be really interesting to see if she ends up being happy to have won or if she will feel let down.

  7. Congrats Dana! I hope some of the other finalists keep up their good work as well. I really hope to see something big come out of Ryan Pagelow’s Buni. Pure comic genius!!!

  8. Congratulations, Dana! As one of the 50 semi-finalists, I was happy to see that the winner was not just any girl, but the “Girl” 🙂

    Best of luck with your book and strip development. Hope we see you in the funny papers one day!

  9. Congratulations to Dana! But seriously. Who cares about syndication anymore? Everyone here is so bent out of shape over this contest. (Check out the last thread that announced the top ten for proof of that.) There is no need for a syndicate anymore. With the internet everyone is syndicated!

    Syndication doesn’t equal success. In fact you could argue that syndication equals failure. Most strips that are syndicated are lousy! So, getting syndicated just might mean that your strip sucks.

  10. As I stated in an earlier post I really am very excited for Dana! But you know, my all time personal favorite in the final ten was Buni. I hope the finalists are given a second look.

  11. Dana,

    Consider journaling everything going forward. It could make a great story, or leverage if someone bares fangs. You don’t have to publish it until someday, if ever, and if might make a neat biographical artifact.

    I know I’d like to read it.

  12. No single strip will make everybody happy. It is the nature of the comics. Will this be the next big thing? Who knows? She is jumping into a pool that is warm with great success stories and big failures. Whatever you launch out with these days, it’s a tough, tough climb up. Almost insurmountable. Only the truly brave survive and even then you have to overcome so many obstacles, namely editors and readers. It is not for the weakhearted and I admire anyone who is willing to make the quest. I confess that this strip was not in my top ten, but I wish Dana the best of luck. The easy part was winning with 12 strips…now she has to deliver on the promise.

  13. @ Mark_Tatulli,
    Refreshing honesty, thanks. I’ve read a lot of books that kind of imply “Keep working at it, it’s hard but you can do it!”

    No, I really probably can’t. The combination of just the right strip with just the right humor at just the right time in front of just the right editor is intimidating, daunting and depressing.

    But maybe it should be, because without that intense of a filter, a whole lot of insipid work would be flooding the papers (kind of like it does the Internet).

    I’m glad to know the truth of how hard this, as it serves as a very real monitor to me of how bad I want this.

    And ‘Girl’ wasn’t my fave rave either, but I can only imagine how high Ms. Simpson’s spirits were when she won. Congrats to her and I hope it turns into a great thing for her down the road!

    BTW Mark, I read ‘Lio’ every day – fantastic geat strip, very imaginative and it must be a monster of a challenge to do that every day sans dialog, great work!

    Speaking of ‘Lio’, was I the only one that thought that ‘Buni’ strip was just a pale rip off of ‘Lio’?

    Truly, originality these days is a scarce commodity.

  14. @ Mark_Tatulli,

    “I confess that this strip was not in my top ten, but I wish Dana the best of luck. The easy part was winning with 12 stripsâ?¦now she has to deliver on the promise.”

    …good for you, man.

  15. @Mark — do you know who selected the first set of 250? They stated that Salem and Glynn would be the ones to pare that group down to 50, but who or what was the first screening? And have you any idea how big the intial pool was?

  16. D. Meyer: “With the internet everyone is syndicated!”

    Yes, in the same way that everyone who stands on the corner and passes out their cartoons to passersby is syndicated.

    It is amazing that so many cartoonists don’t know what syndicates are or how they work. Anyone can post their cartoons to a website, but syndicates hire salespeople who visit newspapers and convince them to buy your work.

    It’s the difference between vanity book publishing and a contract with Random House.

  17. I posted a similar comment to this on webcomics.com, but I would be interested in hearing your guys’ feedback as well.

    Does anyone look at this contest and just feel confused?

    When I first heard about the contest, I figured it was a big publicity stunt. But the only news I’ve heard about it has been on webcomics.com and the Daily Cartoonist. Am I just looking in the wrong places?

    It’s not even just that there was no major media coverage. The contest could have been structured in a way that created more audience involvement. In TV reality show contests, the judges take turns critiquing, and there are multiple votes. The audience feels more invested in the contestants and it generates more publicity. Instead, besides the final vote, almost everything felt like it was happening in secrecy.

    What was the point of having a contest in the first place?

    What was the reason behind Amazon and Universal joining forces on this? Initially I figured that by combining resources they could stage a more effective publicity campaign. But Amazon doesn’t even bother to link to the contest on it’s front page. Again, this just seems strange to me.

    I would love to know how many people actually voted on this. And how many votes were left after you subtract the webcomic crowd, the Daily Cartoonist readers, friends, and family. And was Dana able to win because she simply had an established webcomic site with readers to support her?

  18. I basically go along with everything you’re thinking Tony. I don’t really understand a lot of stuff about this contest. Especially, as you said, it seems like they put hardly any publicity into it. Perhaps they wanted to see how it went down before investing a lot of money or important space on the front pages of things. I don’t really know.

    I would likewise enjoy knowing how many people voted. Not just that, but how many comics were submitted to begin with as well. Like you said, usually the reality tv show contests are a lot more open – you see how things are going down. But in this, even the top 50 didn’t know for sure that they hadn’t made it to the top 10 until the top 10 were announced. There was very little contact from almost every angle – to the cartoonists and to the public. That doesn’t really bother me on a personal level or anything, but I admit I find it a bit odd, especially the public part. If you really want to find the next “superstar” of comics, it seems you’d want to get the word out to as many people as possible, both to cartoonists and to the public who would be voting. If it’s the case that a lot of her votes came from people who already knew about her or knew her personally, then the syndicate may be setting itself and her up for failure, though I hope that’s not the case.

  19. Maybe I missed it, but is there any mention anywhere that Dana got the most votes? From what I understand the public voting was taken into consideration but the contest wasn’t decided on votes alone. It’s possible that Dana didn’t even get the most votes – but the judges viewed her strip as the most marketable.

    I’d love to see the voting results.

    No matter how Dana won – she came out on top, and that must be a huge thrill. Best of luck to her.

  20. Ted Rall,

    Passing out your comics on a street corner is not the same as self publishing on the web. In the old days, you couldn’t GET published without the syndicates, now you CAN. The point is, no one should use a syndicate contract to validate their work. Just because someone is syndicated does NOT mean that they are good at what they do. Also, not being syndicated does NOT mean your work is great either. Great art is great art whether it is seen by millions of people or not.

    Do you honestly think that Bill Watterson would be any less of a genius if his work was never published? Even if every “Calvin and Hobbes” strip sat in a draw and was never seen by the public, “Calvin and Hobbes” would STILL be a great strip! And just beacuase “Cathy” has millions of readers and is syndicated doesn’t mean that it is a great strip. Cathy will always suck!

    Gee, I guess Garth Brooks is the most talented country artist ever because he has a recording contract and has sold the most records.

    Do you see the flaw in your logic?!!!!

  21. I congratulate her on the prize, but I don’t think I’m the audience for her strip. And that is not exactly a bad thing. Of the top 10, only one strip really spoke to me, and that was Buni. I think this comic is “cute” but it doesn’t really have the hard punchlines and off-the-wall kind of humor I like.

    I think this is written more for a younger audience. Maybe an audience of young “Girls.”

    I think it won based on that fact alone. It’s marketable to a population that the comics haven’t hit dead-on. They have kid strips. They have animal strips. They have teengaers strips. They have edgy strips, but they don’t really have many strips that focus on young brunette girls with glasses that have imaginary animal friends and severe social anxiety disorder mixed in with possible schizophrenia.

  22. I think Comic Strip Superstar 2 should be a reality show on Bravo. Wiley, Ted Rall and Scott Kurtz could be the judges.

    “please pack your nibs and go”

  23. Despite what some people said intitially, I thought the contest was a good idea. If it was just a publicity vehicle I didn’t see a problem with that either. It would shine the light on comic strips, be somewhat fun and maybe introduce a new decent strip–with media attention on top of it which could bring more attention to that strip and other strips in general. All good things.

    As it went on I too noticed the things others are now posting about–nearly zero publicity–nothing on Amazon’s home page, nothing on Universal’s various sites–except for occaisional mentions on John Glynn’s site (although he put more “ooomph”, emphasis and promotion for the Lio-lookalike contest). Even those that entered were kept in the dark, as is also being mentioned (they will NOT release the numbers on how many entered for instance) So as people are now asking, what is the point?

    I’m really wondering if it wasn’t just a way to fast track the syndication process. They said they would take only up to 5,000 submissions. Why that magic number? Five thousand is always the number syndicates give as to how many submissions they receive a year. Instead of taking a full year to receive 5,000 samples, why not have a contest and get 5,000 submissions in a quick three week period? Ask for 12 samples instead of 28 to make it easier on the creators and thus potentially get a year’s worth of submissions flushed out of the wannabe’s systems.

    With only 12 strips the editors could breeze thru them quicker, weed out the rejects, not have to snail mail 4,900 rejection slips along with returning the strips. They were emailed, so just click “delete” and the “garbage” is gone forever. I know some rejects get personal letters from the editors saying, “Hey, sorry, we can’t use it now, it has potential though, why don’t you try this approach or that approach and work on it more. Keep trying and good luck. Thank you.” None of that. Normally a critique is helpful to a creator who didn’t make the grade. They won’t divulge how many strips they got,I’m sure it wasn’t 5,000, but say if it was,then potentially they just deleted 4,750 strips with no notice other than finding out that their strips weren’t part of the 250 quarterfinalists. No thank you, no regrets or encouragement–not even any interesting tidbits on the process. Nothing. (when it was pared down to 50 Glynn did say “Good luck to all and thank you to all the contributors!” Eleven words)

    (At the onset they said they’d be posting the judges reviews of the top ten for the voters to read. They didn’t even do that much)

    I think what it comes down to, it was just Universal’s way of expediting a year’s worth of clutter in two months. Now there’s X amount of strips they have to worry about receiving for a year, maybe, since the creators got what they might’ve normally developed over the next few months out of their systems. Maybe they have layoffs coming in January, who knows.

    Maybe none of what I’ve written isn’t true and maybe it’s unfair, but what else am I left to think?

  24. I would think that Amazon is involved because they are going to be a partner in promoting and selling this new book collection that Dana just won. Seems pretty straight forward.

    I think that Universal would be pretty remiss to let an online vote be the sole determining factor in which strip they decide to offer this prize to. This is a business after all.

  25. Congratulations to Dana. I like her strip. The art is well done and the writing is very cute. I can see this property going far in the future, and hopefully she can help make the “funnies” page actually funny again. Good for her!

  26. I agree, the lack of publicity was puzzling. But as anyone who has ever tried to get a buzz going for whatever knows, it’s entirely possible that Universal did their best and just couldn’t get media outlets interested.

    Amazon, on the other hand, simply has no excuse. Why wasn’t this contest advertised on the main page of their site? The lack of PR unfortunately made the results anticlimactic.

    Of course, no truly great strip (The Far Side, Calvin & Hobbes, etc.) would ever have survived a committee selection process, much less a public vote, before they were launched. The best stuff gets picked by one or two editors with good taste.

  27. Yeah, it was like this contest was almost held in secrecy. I would be very interested to know who actually kept up with it besides other cartoonists.

    A couple of friends work in publishing and are on Amazon all the time. They had no knowledge of the contest. Kind of weird.

    But, again, great job Dana!

  28. I’m interested in knowing the vote statistics of the top 10 (or 9 really). How far ahead did Dana win? Who was second? Was it close? Who was 9th? How did ‘Counter Culture’ fare before it was pulled?

    I have the feeling we’ll never know.

    A syndicate taking a small step toward transparency (with the final vote) isn’t much of a step at all. It’s essentially the same secretive submission process as usual. If you’re going to innovate online, you gotta make a big deal about it. Comic fans are the ones who really needed to know about this.

  29. Steve brings up a good point. I’m disappointed in the lack of publicity this contest endured. Amazon fell short in delivering news of this contest to the general public. Only insiders and those already tuned in to the industry seemed to know about it, giving the contest more of a geeky sci-fi convention feel rather than delivering good public relations and rekindling interest in the comics to spur sales with new talent.

  30. “Itâ??s the difference between vanity book publishing and a contract with Random House.”

    I put my comics on the web for free and I have a deal with Random House.

    If your work is good it does not matter where you put it.

  31. “The best work will always make its way to the top.”

    I have files filled with brilliant comics by amazing talents that belie that statement.

    You need to work hard. And you need good luck. One without the other is worthless.

  32. On this I have to agree with Ted.
    That talent and producing something good will lead to success is an urban myth, a fairy tale. Hard work and and lots of luck is the key (and I count getting the right connections as part of both).
    Often you don´t need even talent or a good product…

  33. I shall clarify how I feel about that. I agree with you both.

    Part of being “the best” is working really hard at what you do, not just in perfecting your craft, but in getting your work out there. As for luck, I think you create luck by working hard.

    My comment did start from Mike’s comment about good work so it was easily misunderstood. Still, I consider “work” to be more than just the art, but the life skills it takes to be successful.

  34. Well, if cartoonists need syndicates to provide publicity and sell these strips, why were they so lousy at promoting this contest? I mean, isn’t that what they do? A syndicate’s JOB is promotion and sales and they did none of it with this contest. The only reason I even knew about the contest was because I read about it here.

    What was the end game then if it wasn’t publicity? They could have found these strips through the normal submission process.

    It’s become obvious to me that syndicates aren’t looking for great material, they are looking for a small window of non-offensive, bland material that they can market to the same core group of people still reading newspapers. Being a part of the comic book industry, we do the same thing as well. We market the same type of material to a core group, in essence, giving them what they want and not going out and bringing in new readers.

    It’s usually the material done independently that tends to be pushing the limits, whether that’s independent publishers or the web. There are markets out there that newspaper syndicate comics don’t reach, which are better reached elsewhere.

    But in the end, the argument that cartoonists need syndicates is hollow–they can’t even promote a contest with Amazon.

  35. @Mike Krahulik: One that comes to mind is Chris Kelly’s “Fried Society.” Another is Nina Paley’s “Nina’s Adventures.” But if you’ve been watching the industry for a while, you’ve seen them come…and go.

    @Eliopoulos: Your logic is strange. Syndicates CAN do a good job. That doesn’t mean they always do. Cartoonists always complain about syndicates, frequently with good cause.

    Cartoonists don’t need syndicates. They only need them to make serious money and/or to reach a large audience. If you don’t care about those things, and nobody says you should, then you don’t need a syndicate.

    …syndicates arenâ??t looking for great material, they are looking for a small window of non-offensive, bland material that they can market to the same core group of people still reading newspapers. Being a part of the comic book industry, we do the same thing as well. We market the same type of material to a core group, in essence, giving them what they want and not going out and bringing in new readers.

    What a lot of webcartoonists fail to understand is the difference in scale between the $37.85 billion newspaper industry and what they’re doing. Forty percent of Americans–120 million people–read a print newspaper every day. When you have 1000 loyal fans, no one shows up to your book signings. When you have 10 million not-so-loyal fans, you might have hundreds of people show up…in city after city after city. There’s just no comparison. The most successful webcomic in the world would be a minor C-list print comic in terms of income (yes, including the merchandise).

    Certainly, it’s true that ignoring the Web would be stupid. But if you’re trying to make a living selling comics and/or merchandise associated with your comics, it’s even stupider to ignore print…because that’s where the money is. That’s where the readers are.

    I do agree, BTW, that some of the biggest leaps forward take place in independent publishing and self-publishing, and that most print comics suck.

  36. @Mike Krahulik: I’m currently working on three different strips, staring countless original characters. I’ve been told I have “unmatched talent” and “what it takes” to be a success in comics. I have a comic in papers AND on the web. I’ve been with two different syndicates, had my own webcomics pages and signed development deals.

    I currently just took a 9 to 5 job to supplement my income.

    I believe I’m what they call a “successful failure”.

    Not ALL talent rises to the top. Not everyone makes it, even if they work as hard as they possibly can. The world doesn’t work like a Lifetime Network movie. Sometimes, the great ones never get to be great.

    Just thought I’d share.

  37. Corey, I could have written that post. The only difference is that I am working on one strip, Everyday. Everyday for almost three years now…..while it was nice to move from Comics Sherpa to GoComics, I have never received an ounce of promotion from either. I love the look of Dana’s strip, and I wish her the best. Still, I feel a bit of frustration over all the fanfare received from
    12 strips when I just posted my 600th or so. Makes ya wonder why we do it, doesn’t it?

  38. If you’re doing it just to find success and national recognition, you may want to find another career, like staring in a reality show.

    Seriously, the times that I do something only for selling/pitching, it almost never flies. It’s the crap that I do just for myself and then throw it there for fun that gets the most recognition.

    My point of my last post was that being great doesn’t automatically make you a success. Additionally, expecting that you “deserve” that success by leaning on nothing more than your talent/greatness will get you little more than a misplaced ego.

    Ted is right. In reality, it’s just as much luck as it is talent.

  39. “If youâ??re doing it just to find success and national recognition, you may want to find another career, like staring in a reality show.”

    I can’t imagine doing anything without wanting to be successful at it. And I don’t buy the “luck is just as important as whatever” idea at all. Sure, luck plays a part in most any successful endeavor. But I never expect it to come to the party, and that is why I work very hard at the craft. At this point, any success I might attain would be from just that. Even luck at this point would be more of “when preparation meets opportunity”.

    And I do think that Dana has a great looking strip and I wish her the best with it. I am not going to wish that “she gets lucky” with it.

  40. I don’t want to comment on anyone’s work specifically, but for anyone to hold themselves up as an example of a “successful failure” seems like hubris to me.

  41. I can’t recommend the book Outliers by Malcom Gladwell enough for everyone reading this thread. It really examines what contributes to success and it goes along with what Ted and Corey are saying.

    It’s not just raw talent. Or being at the right place at the right time. Or dumb luck. It’s a strange combination of it all. It’s the perfect storm.

    And I think the big argument everyone is trying to have here is which puts you closer to the eye of that storm: syndication or going it alone on the web. And the answer is neither. Nobody’s doing better than the other guy.

    If you want to get syndicated, talk to people involved. Buy a book on the matter. Do your due diligence and research and get as informed as possible so you can try to be ready to ride that storm when it passes you.

    If you want to do it yourself on the web, talk to people involved. Buy a book on the matter. Do your due diligence and research and get as informed as possible so you an try to be ready to ride the storm when it passes you.

    When I talk to people involved in comics (both independent and work for hires at Marvel/DC) every single one of them as a different story of how they got where they got. NOBODY takes the same path.

    The very best you can do is practice, be self critical, learn as much as you can, ask as many questions as you can and try to stay in the game as long as your sanity can allow it.

    That’s it. There is no quick way. There is no easy path. There is no magical land of milk and honey where riches are showered upon you for making comics. You start over every year and reinvent yourself and try to keep it going. that’s everyone. EVERYONE.

  42. You misunderstand, Steve.

    I’m not saying don’t work hard and have a goal, I’m simply pointing out it seems as though some that think success is forgone conclusion if you simply work hard. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it does take a little luck.

    Ted pointed out that there many who have done exactly what they’ve needed to find success in comics only to never reach it. This could easily be for reasons beyond their control, like, there is a feature too similar to theirs already in development, or sales doesn’t think it can be sold, for whatever reason, etc. Those are not necessarily reflections on the merit of the artist or the work, just the market at the time. I know this because it has happened to me, in almost identical circumstances.

    It’s a very difficult situation. The artist invests so much time into a feature, so many hours. So much hard work, yet the feature can be rejected for reasons having nothing to do with ability. That, in a sense, is luck. Bad luck.

    If you work hard for three years, like you’ve said and you happen to link to your strip while speaking on a forum, and someone like Ted likes it, mentions it to someone he knows in a syndicate and you find yourself suddenly on a road to print success, that’s a bit of luck, wouldn’t you say?

    Sure your hard work got you to the point of having a great strip, but luck helped out in making it a success.

    Wanna know how I got the Elderberries gig? I mentioned to an editor at Universal that I wanted to get back into print comics, after Barkeater Lake went entirely online. Sure, my hard work got me to the point that was able to have dialogue with a syndicate editor, but did I plan on having a great strip handed to me to take over? No. That was lucky.

    Working hard and honing your “craft” is definitely a step forward and in a perfect world, our successes would be measured only on the merit of our work. But a perfect world it ain’t. Sometimes things don’t work out for even the best talents.

    God himself would have trouble selling a feature in today’s world.

  43. @Scott: Exactly. I was going to post something similar. Outliers is an excellent book. I recommend it. It’s no Tipping Point, but it’s interesting and a good read.

  44. What the two Scotts said.

    I work hard, but if I had a dime for every time I caught some lucky break…wait, I do.

    Of course, I can also cry rivers about my bad breaks too.

    What was I saying again?

  45. If you think that posting my viewpoint on these matters is crying rivers, then I have misrepresented myself. Goes to show why I should avoid these discussions.

  46. “Thereâ??s just no comparison. The most successful webcomic in the world would be a minor C-list print comic in terms of income (yes, including the merchandise).”

    Ted you have no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t like to talk about money, I think it’s rude. But I want you to understand how wrong you are. My income is 7 figures. 1000 people at a book signing? How about 60 thousand people at the penny arcade convention.

    You assume way too much about webcomics. I get so frustrated reading the crap you post here. You talk like you know anything about webcomics and you don’t. Come visit the Penny Arcade office some day. Talk to one of my ten employees. My guess is anyone of them makes more than the average syndicated cartoonist.

  47. Also when I say good I mean that your work needs to resonate with people. When you think of “good” you think of what syndicates want. That is not what readers want. Penny arcade could never be in a newspaper but online I have 4 million readers.

    The comics you mentioned might do well in a paper but they would never make it on the web.

  48. @Steve, My “crying rivers” comment was about me, not you. I meant that, even though I’ve had a lot of good luck, I’ve also had my share of bad luck. Like the time the head of a major publishing house died just before signing what would have been my first book contract, pushing back my publishing debut four years. Sorry for being unclear; I didn’t mean anything negative (about you).

  49. @Mike:

    I donâ??t like to talk about money, I think itâ??s rude. But I want you to understand how wrong you are. My income is 7 figures. 1000 people at a book signing? How about 60 thousand people at the penny arcade convention.

    But you guys are the ones who always bring up money.

    By income, do you mean net or gross?

    It is possible to have 6 million people attend a convention and lose money because of overhead. Attendance figures mean nothing.

    You assume way too much about webcomics. I get so frustrated reading the crap you post here. You talk like you know anything about webcomics and you donâ??t. Come visit the Penny Arcade office some day. Talk to one of my ten employees. My guess is anyone of them makes more than the average syndicated cartoonist.

    I just listen to what webcartoonists say. I’d be happy to drop by your office if I’m ever in [whatever place it is].

    Also when I say good I mean that your work needs to resonate with people. When you think of â??goodâ? you think of what syndicates want. That is not what readers want. Penny arcade could never be in a newspaper but online I have 4 million readers.

    You know what would be awesome? If you didn’t tell me what I think of as “good.” Because you don’t know me, and you haven’t read anything I’ve written, not even here. What I think of as “good” is well-known by others, and not worth mentioning here, but is not what you think.

    By newspaper standards, 4 million is tiny readership. I have at least 20 million readers daily, not including online, and as an editorial cartoonist my readership is nothing next to a major comic strip like Dilbert or Doonesbury. More importantly, print readers don’t expect product to be given to them for free. They buy lots and lots and lots of books and other merchandise.

    The comics you mentioned might do well in a paper but they would never make it on the web.

    I seriously doubt you’ve read both of them.

  50. I mean net, that is after taxes.

    Pax has made money every year since its inception

    you don’t have 20 million readers. 20 million people read the newspaper. Those are not your readers. How many even look at your comic? You have no idea. How many people visit your website?

    4 million people read PA. I’d wager I have more real readers. I’m curious how many people would show up to a Ted Rall convention.

  51. I would just like to brag that I made $15 twelve years ago by selling a panel to Sheep! magazine.

    It was all net, baby.

    Things have been kind of dry since.

  52. @Mike: 80-85% of newspaper readers read every editorial cartoon on the editorial page. They’re my readers.

    Conversely, you have no idea how many people actually read PA. Even if I were to believe the absolutely ludicrous claim that you have 4 million VIEWERS (je pense que non), you don’t know how many readers you have. A very high percentage of people click to a page and immediately navigate away. It is impossible to quantify readership on the web, which is why advertisers treat web ads like toxic assets–and pay accordingly.

    I store MY ego in a jewel-encrusted Ming Dynasty vase.

  53. Also, I don’t think people came to attend a PA convention. They came to attend a gaming convention which happened to be put on by PA.

  54. By the way, and it’s super belated, but congrats to Dana Simpson! I was always a fan of her previous strips–I interviewed her for “Attitude 3” and you can find a lot of stuff about her in the book–and I look forward to seeing how this one does.

  55. “Also, I donâ??t think people came to attend a PA convention. They came to attend a gaming convention which happened to be put on by PA.”

    Yeah, Mike. You loser. Next time you want to brag about the 60,000 people your convention drew, remember that it doesn’t count unless they came for the STRIP itself. The work is always the most important thing. For right now. Because it’s serves Ted’s argument.

    Ted, you need to close your mouth and stop talking because you know as little about our world as we know about yours. The difference is that we don’t NEED to know about yours because it’s dying. Which is why you’re unemployed with a shrinking readership. And yeah this is turning nasty, but I’ve never met a person who needs pop to the teeth more than you do.

    Just one of my advertising campaigns for October brought in $15,000. That’s gross, but since my expenses for the month of October weren’t $14,952.26 I did okay.

    So I’ll cop to your statement that not all webcomics make their creators a living. But at least have the balls to show a little respect to the few of us who have worked our A–ES off to make a living at this out of thin air without the help of newspaper subsidies, you arrogant a–hole.

    And with that, Alan will ban me from this manure pit of a website so it can return to the obscurity it exists in when we don’t come here to fight.

  56. @Ted
    ” It is impossible to quantify readership on the web, which is why advertisers treat web ads like toxic assetsâ??and pay accordingly.”

    It is not impossible to quantify readership on the web. It’s easy with the right software. Our advertisers pay very well as you can tell from what I said about my salary. In fact advertising is our number 1 revenue stream.

    When I say I take home 7 figures think about Jerry, the writer of PA who makes the same as me. Think about the ten employees who all live here in Seattle and make great livings. PA the comic brings in millions of dollars a year. It comes in via advertising, merchandise, paid projects like the comics we do for video games and our convention (soon to be conventions). All of those revenue streams are dependent on the free online comic.

    All I’m trying to say is that your statement about the most successful web comic being equal to a c-list print comic is wrong.

    I’m not saying anyone can have the same success. I’m not saying that success is common. Just that it does exist.

    You can choose not to believe any of the numbers I give you. It’s my assumption that you won’t. For you to keep being right I have to be lying. Ted, I have never heard of you. I have no idea who you are outside of the threads you post in here. I have no reason to lie to you. I’m not selling anything here. I’m just letting you know that you have underestimated the potential of webcomics.

  57. “But you guys are the ones who always bring up money.”

    Actually Ted, you brought it up first in post #69. But anyway…

    “Conversely, you have no idea how many people actually read PA.”

    Actually I’m sure they do, because PA is one of the few webcomics that doesn’t have the strip on the front page. You can track pretty effectively who comes to the PA front page to read the news post and then who clinks through to read the comic.


    Scott, I’ve seen you insult Alan more than once with that line. I know you’re upset with Ted, but really, what is your obsession with using your success as a cudgel against everyone? I swear to god, man, you get angrier at the people you see as failures than anyone who gets angry at you for being successful. I’ve never met you, which is a shame because I like your podcasts and you seem like someone I’d love to have an extended conversation about comics with, but on a personal assessment of your comments here I feel like you simply aren’t satisfied merely with being successful; you seem compelled to want others to fail. Look, I understand that you had to prove a sh– ton of people wrong and you deserve the success you worked for, but jesus, can you please stop rubbing sh– in an entire industry’s face because Wiley Miller pissed you off six years ago?

    Mike, on the same level, I’ve felt grated by some of your comments before but I really appreciated your last couple of comments. My main sticking point in the past has been pointing out that Penny Arcade – and I mean this as a compliment, is not like any other webcomic- and I’m glad you acknowledge that. My philosophy on this has honestly always reminded me of something that you guys wrote years ago on your own site about Scott McCloud and the myth of “anyone can be an internet millionaire.” I don’t think “anyone can be successful, just look at Penny Arcade” is a good argument from ANY side of the industry debate. Be content in being an incredibly lucrative outlier.

    Ted, lord knows you know how much I love you, but good god, this money/reader base stuff is just a bizarre choice of a hill to die on. This conversation was AWESOME through comment #81, and then it descended into THAT ARGUMENT again and it all went to hell. I wish it didn’t. You and Scott both have incredibly valid and important opinions about the comics industry and that fact that we managed to get TWO COMMENTS (!!!) where you EACH AGREED WITH EACH OTHER (!!!) nearly brought tears to my eyes.

  59. Also I’ve got to ask why Ted somehow doesn’t believe it’s possible to make a living with webcomics when he has first hand knowledge working with R. Stevens who ditched the syndicates (who would’ve helped him “make serious money and/or reach a large audience”) to go back to online only?

  60. I apologize immediately for my previous outburst. Not because I reject what I said but because in retrospect the outburst was incredibly insulting to Dana Simpson, who is the true subject of this post and whose moment to shine I’ve now helped diminish. If anyone wants to yell at me feel free to e-mail. I don’t wish to help derail any further.

  61. First, congrats to Dana. = )

    Though this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of the contest, it is the first time I have had to actually sit down and read one of the entries. There’s some good stuff right there.

    Again, congrats on the win and keep up the good work! = )

  62. So if Ted has 20 million readers, and he has about 1000 people coming to his site each day (according to Project Wonderful), that means a fraction of 0.00005 actually visit his site from his comic. Wow, those are some dedicated readers!

    Ted, what do you mean that you can’t tell if people are actually reading the comic on a website? Have you heard of Google Analytics? It tells you how many of the visitors have been to the your site before. It tells you how many people have come directly to your site rather than through a link. And this is a free service. There is software you can get with much more sophisticated information.

  63. Put another way, if Ted has 20 million readers, then 1 in 15 people should know about his comic.

    Go ask 15 people you know if they’ve read Ted Rall, and see what they say.

  64. It’s handy that the name of the commenter is in big red capital letters. It makes it far easier to scroll right past the print/web dirge, without wasting the time needed to read the subsequent essay. Very efficient!

    Congratulations Dana!

  65. While Mike and Ted are arguing whoâ??s making more millions (which is quite funny to read), I would already be happy if Sandra and Woo would break even for me. (I have significant expenses since Iâ??m paying my artist.)

  66. Frankly, I think the whole conversation is sterile. Newspaper-type comic strips very seldom are succesful on the web. Webcomics by their very nature are quite hard to put on papers.

    They are separate worlds. They have different readerships, different demographics, and different methods of making moolah from it.

    But in terms of pure convenience, it is simply not worth it to work on a career on newspaper comic strips. Simply because they’re going the way of the dinosaur. FAST.

    In a few years, we’re going to laugh at this argument ever been made.


    Congrats to Dana Simpson. Read your samples and many of them actually made me chuckle. I can’t wait to see what else trickles out of your brain.

  68. Congrats to Dana.

    Also, just wanted to say that I’m totally for the debate – I always like following these things.

    @everybody writing long paragraphs: Dudes, even if you disagree with Ted, please learn something from him and use blockquotes or some other formatting on your opinions for easier reading.

  69. Ted subscribes to the “if you aren’t syndicated, you don’t matter” theory of the comic art industry, which is obviously at odds with the numerous successful web based comic artists out there (Scott and Mike being 2 examples). This debate is highly relevant for one simple reason: newspapers are dying.

    Newspaper ad revenue has been in an accelerating nose dive since about ’06, while newspaper circulation has been on a continuous downslide from a peak in ’93. The only conclusion to draw from these lasting trends is that the newspaper industry is in decline and headed for death. Even the most optimistic estimates would have the newspaper industry a shadow of its former self in the near future, a more sane analysis would put the industry at 10-3% of its current size within a decade. Meanwhile, internet ad revenue will likely match and then surpass total newspaper ad revenue within the next 1-2 years (possibly even this year), even with very conservative estimates.

    Rall is luring young artists to the world of print syndication with the siren song of the days of a $50 billion a year industry, but it is not that anymore (it’s not even a $37 billion a year industry as he erroneously quotes), it is not even a $30 billion a year industry today, and shrinking fast. Regardless of whether anyone likes it or not, the days of the financially successful syndicated newspaper cartoonist are coming to an end, and soon. Within the next 10-20 years this will be a dry well.

    Meanwhile, financially successful web comics are booming. As the internet continues to grow and mature and as more and more people learn the techniques for maximizing revenue from their web comics an increasing percentage of comic artists will be making their living on the web.

    By all appearances, Rall wants people to join him on his sinking ship out of some sick, perverted need for validation of his life’s worth and his career choices. But it would be a mistake of the highest order to ignore the strong trends of recent history and follow his lead on a path toward artistic mediocrity, financial oblivion, and irrelevancy.

  70. I was a way for the day and just reviewing the comments here. First, if you didn’t use a first and last name, I’ve thrown your comments in moderation. I have two big rules: 1. use your full name and don’t swear.

    If you want your comment out of moderation, email me your first and last name and I’ll reinstate it. Cuss words have been modified or deleted.

    Secondly, for the love of Pete – can we discuss the topic without getting personal? Apparently not. I have several feelings about the topic and many of you have participated on this thread. The difference is I don’t trash talk them, even when they speak negatively toward my work here on this blog. Quite frankly, if you don’t like the conversation here, please feel free to not visit.

    And with that, thanks for killing yet another discussion on a topic not even related to the flame war.

Comments are closed.