Julie Larson: Syndicates are there for a reason

A couple of weeks ago, I reported that Julie Larson, creator of The Dinette Set, had signed with United Features Syndicate only after a few months of leaving Creators Syndicate to try self-syndication. I asked her why she’d return to a syndicate when she seemed so set on taking on the do-it-yourself route.

Her response:

I was asked to join UFS when they learned I was self syndicated.

As a self syndicated cartoonist, my first task was to notify my current papers that I was still drawing TDS, then waited for their responses, I learned there were contract with Creators that ended when I left them, so a few papers were lost. the mailing of comics was easy – it was the ‘billing’, which I am not the best at – that was tedious and time consuming.

I decided the old way is the best way, but I had to give it a shot.

Creating TDS and my other new job leaves me with 1 day off a week at this point.

There are many people working behind the scenes in syndicates that do tasks that fill a day every day. I have too many responsibilities right now as a single parent, a cartoonist, and now working partime in my old profession-architecture.

#1 priority is to continue creating TDS, holding the bar up high, and never letting myself lose my edge.

Syndicates are there for a reason. They take care of a lot of time consuming tasks and I have full faith that UFS is a strong, hardworking professional syndicate and makes things happen.

265 thoughts on “Julie Larson: Syndicates are there for a reason

  1. By my count, Creators has 50 comic strips, but I hardly ever see them in any newspapers. I know they have a few successes, but it really seems to me they just syndicate stuff and see what sticks……I think what needs to be said is that syndicates with good sales staffs are important. There is a saturation of comics in the market and selling is becoming more and more difficult. Add into the mix a deteriorating newspaper market and the result is many cartoonists with 12 papers each, splitting the proceeds with a syndicate. I still hope to crack this nut, but be careful what you wish for.

  2. I’m sure this post isn’t going to make me popular, and I do feel for Julie. I know that she’s struggling right now.

    But I have to say that I’m getting pretty sick of all the whining I’m hearing from cartoonists about what is probably the best job in the world.

    Listen, I’m SORRY that it’s not 1945 anymore and you can’t just make yourself a bloody mary at 9am, have your wife fetch the paper, crap out another gag about how bosses are overbearing and get paid for it.

    This is work. It’s hard work. Sometimes it’s unforgiving work. And if you want something in life, it usually means you have to sacrifice something else for it.

    The syndicate used to be there for a reason. Now it’s just there to siphon money from creatives. They do bare-bones-BS to keep the feature afloat.

    This job is hard. Whaaaa. Somebody get my a towel for all this blood my heart is bleeding into the floor. It’s supposed to be hard.

    And for the record, the issues with The Dinette Set isn’t accounting or billing or finding the time in the day. It’s the content. The content is sub-par. And that’s why the syndicate can’t even do anything with it.

  3. It is very hard to do everything yourself. Ask anybody who owns a small business. You not only have to work hard, you have to be creative. Gary Marshall described the secret to success as being able to work when you are very, very tired and do a good job.

    The number one bestselling author right now is Stieg Larsson (deservedly so) who was able to write three brilliant books before dropping dead at a young age. How did he find the time to write such great books and work for a magazine full time? He simply didn’t sleep.

    I listened to that on NPR yesterday and instantly took a nap. Instead of a syndicate, perhaps Julie needs robots. Giant, typing robots.

  4. Well, It looks like Julie gave it a go, but ultimately prefers the syndicate model. Which is fine. Being someone who does his best to squeeze cartooning between parenting and two very time intensive jobs, I can see how any help would be welcome help. And this syndicate may just be a nice upgrade. Which is very nice for her.

    So, I say Congrats to Julie! Best of luck to you in your new ventures!

  5. So I went to Comics.com and read the last eight strips of ?The Dinette Set?… and there?s just one word to describe it: ?Awful.?

    It says much about the state of the syndication business when a syndicated comic is worse than your average webcomic at DrunkDuck. I can tolerate ?The Family Circus?, but ?Marvin?, ?Marmaduke? and now ?The Dinette Set? cross the line of ?too bad to say anything nice about it?.

    Julie Larson is lucky to be in any paper at all.

  6. It’s amazing to see the rude comments from two untalented types criticizing a creator so ruthlessly. Their personal attacks are both unprofessional and unfounded, but their small brians are incapable of anything less than selfish, childish behavior. Disgusting.

  7. Stephen, that’s ridiculous.

    It’s not an either-or-proposition. Many people run successful small businesses without putting themselves into early graves. The idea that you have to either bow to a syndicate or give up your entire life to do the tasks required is simple ridiculous.

    If you business is so great that you can’t handle all the accounting and secretarial tasks involved you got a problem a lot of people would love to have.

    Dinette Set could not possibly be generating enough business to have already overwhelmed Julie.

    Her biggest problem is facing an industry that is unwilling to work outside the syndicate model and her inability to take action to adapt to this fact.

  8. I’m still trying to figure out who JW Wills is referring to regarding the two “untalented types” that have his ire up. Everyone who has posted up to this point has done some amazing work, in my opinion, better than the work in question. So, what’s up with that?

  9. @Scott – Agreed. Cartooning is really, really hard and at the end of the day if it’s done in hopes of being paid – then it’s a business. If a business, then hiring a third party to market to a desired audience and handle business tasks is a business decision. It may not be the decision you’d make, but if Julie wants to hand that all over to a syndicate and is okay with the business terms of the syndication contract, then nobody should tell her she’s doing it wrong.

  10. @Alan – I don’t think anyone is questioning whether Julie has the right to hand over some of her workload to a syndicate. But there remains the larger important question of what constitutes good business models for comic strip creators in this day and age, which is a discussion we’re all interested in.

    In this case, it’s definitely a worthwhile exercise to pick apart Julie’s choice and examine if it really is a good business decision.

  11. Hey Scott,

    I presented that badly. I was just whining about working long hours and overdoing it (all the while comparing myself to Stieg Larsson, which is pretty swift).

    I love small business. Know small business owners who talk about 16 hour days when starting up. Grandparents were farmers (talk about hard work) and lived into their 90s. They didn’t whine like me.

    I was agreeing with you in that a person who steps away from a syndicate is going to be slammed with work if they’re not prepared. It doesn’t surprise me that Julie took United up on their offer. It’s a completely different game on your own.

  12. Scott Kurtz is 110% RIGHT! The Dinette IS sub par AND cartooning IS the GREATEST job in the world! Scott is like Simon Cowell on American Idol…he TELLS IT LIKE IT IS…no mater what anyone thinks! PEOPLE…LISTEN to him & learn from a veteran!

  13. @Tony says:

    But there remains the larger important question of what constitutes good business models for comic strip creators in this day and age

    I fail to see that this post as a best practices/business model discussion for comics. It is simply what works for Julie and I’m defending her right to make that business decision without a bunch of armchair quarterbacks posting subjective comments as authority regarding the quality of her work or second guessing her decision. She owns this decision along with the pain and fortune that comes with it.

    I think the discussion regarding syndicate v. web business models has been thoroughly hashed ad nauseum here.

  14. Fact of the matter is, that you need to not only hook up w/ a syndicate – if the opportunity knocks on your door – but you also, in addition, absolutely have to kick into your business model mix, any and all alternative markets to make any serious money in today’s comic strip world.

    This would also include any merchandise based on the comic strip, that could be released into the public’s buying hands to further funnel into the cartoonists pockets extra cash.

    I commend Julie for having enough sense to return to a syndicate; now she also needs to put her thinking cap on and decide where else she can promote the strip, and gain added cha-ching from with her strip.

    Examples would be to approach the comic book publishers – perhaps approach some of the Saturday Morning cartoon producers to produce a few ‘early morning’ kiddie targeted ‘toon episodes…to see if it catches on with that up & coming crowd?! Maybe approach some of the smaller toy companies too; to produce a line based on the strips characters.

    The few examples are just the tip of the iceberg; and my whole comment here is directed not only towards Julie but also it’s directed to everyone posting.

    I published my own comic book series successfully & profitably back in the 1990’s and am about to relaunch it again in a much bigger way soon in the form of a graphic novel trilogy. I am also getting ready to submit my comic strip to the newspaper syndicates too. If the strip gets accepted; I will also be pounding it, as fast as possible, into the many alternative avenues too – you can bet on it.

    Point is – the cartoonist of today has to enter and take advantage of as many diverse cash avenues as they can, in order to become truly successful at cartooning comic strips. Those who say – “No way am I going totally commercialize my artwork…(like Charles Schultz did & that silly Garfield creator also did).” Can just remain “starving artists & of course, continue whining like a lot of strictly web-toonists seem to be doing these days.

    Just my humble opinion folks; from someone who’s made a good deal of money from his own cartooning and illustration work. You’re free to disagree with me.

    Good luck to you Julie; and see you in the funny papers!

  15. Wow, some of these threads seem to get so dang cannibalistic at times.

    I mean, if Jake Scott can get make peace with the Dolphins after nearly 40, than ANYONE oughta be able to be supportive of his work kin…

  16. Twas a little joke about folks getting along. Maybe it was because I left out the word ‘years’ after 40, or maybe ’cause you’d have to be old enough to know who Jake Scott is.

    But I did very much enjoy the way you stated your post, John. It sounded very much like something my 3rd Grade teacher would have written on a English essay answer I’d done…

  17. Before getting your M.B.A in preparation of launching your comic, I would also recommend drawing and writing about something you like. You know, kind of like Julie is doing.

    In rereading what Julie’s up to, I was trying to imagine being a single parent and dealing with newspaper billing. My day job is newspaper ads. Thank god I don’t have to deal with billing. I’ve heard a few horror stories from the accounting department that makes me back slowly away.

    @ John, it’s “Schulz”. No “t”. Sorry. Drives me crazy.

  18. Julie is not alone. Many, many cartoonists willingly hand over half their income to syndicates because they don’t like, want to, or feel they have time for, the billing and marketing stuff that syndicates can handle for them. I made this decision with my column many years ago; I had 44 clients and just didn’t feel like spending many hours a week chasing down deadbeats and managing a billing system.

    @Scott: People’s personalities differ. I would pay just about any amount of money to not be bothered with financial stuff. I hate the administrative stuff. All I want to do is draw cartoons. And read. And drink margaritas. And have sex.

    My aversion to the daily grind of administrative nonsense is why the T-shirt thing didn’t work for me. First, it’s almost impossible (for me) to score a hit. I did, once. I sold a box of 550 T-shirts (I can’t remember why the lot size was weird) out of my one-bedroom apartment. They all sold, and I made some money ($10 a shirt), but it was the hardest and most annoying $5,500 I ever earned. And for what? I could have spent that time drawing a graphic novel instead, earned at least as much money, and created something worthwhile and interesting that might earn me more money eventually (if it became a movie or TV show, for example).

    For those who don’t mind stuffing envelopes and dealing with customers who claim they didn’t get their merchandise, etc., good for them. They have a competitive advantage of sorts. But that ain’t me, and I suspect it ain’t Julie, either.

  19. I can totally understand Ted Rall. I would never want to care about shipping merchandising myself. I think Topatoco is a great option for popular webcartoonists who think alike. You only have to provide a design and they take care of anything else. However, you still have to come up with designs people would like to buy (on a t-shirt, a mug, whatever). This is something I don?t feel capable of. Our own try with selling Sandra and Woo merchandising at Zazzle was a spectacular failure. However, since Zazzle is also a print-on-demand service at least we didn?t lose money because of unsold stock.

  20. Cartoonists need to start Playing a much bigger game. It’s INSANE to accept $ and deals that haven’t changed since the early eighties! Although you have to be a little insane in the first place to do any of this, but I digress. If you don’t want to start playing a much bigger game, then you deserve whatever you get settling for mediocrity. If you don’t know what that statement means, maybe you should google it. Really.

  21. Considering that you don’t even appear to have a website, DJ, I don’t think you’re in a position to be firing automatic weapons in virtual houses.

    People like Scott don’t like to admit it, but syndicates do offer something going-it-alone can’t: the ability to sell a strip into a daily newspaper. There are exceptions, like Tundra. For the most part, however, daily editors don’t consider non-syndicated material.

    Being in a daily newspaper might not seem to pay much. $20 a week is pretty standard. Of course, that’s not so bad if you have 50 papers. But appearing in a daily newspaper still offers a ripple effect you can’t get anywhere else, including online.

    When I do a book signing in a city where my work appears in the local paper, there’s a guaranteed decent-to-great turnout.

    I get invited to speak in towns where my work appears in the local paper. That’s thousands of bucks a shot.

    Papers that run my stuff are more likely to review my books. I see more book sales from a review in a small paper than in a huge website like Bookslut.

    Papers that buy my stuff in syndication often approach me about freelance cartooning assignments that pay well.

    Syndication is a loss-leader–kind of like a website. It gives you exposure you just can’t get anywhere else.

    So it’s not insane or lame or stupid to decide that, for your business, print syndication is better for you than a Web-only strategy. Many, many cartoonists find the Web very frustrating and difficult to monetize…and it seems to be getting worse, not better, as the pie gets split between more and more competitors.

    All this said, I do think syndicates should reconsider the traditional 50-50 split. It’s excessive. Also, some syndicates deduct beyond the 50-50 for marketing and distribution expenses that really ought to be part of their cost of doing business. And of course no syndicate has modernized enough. Certainly, United sure didn’t when I was there–if they spent half as much time strategizing for the future as they did in useless meetings, well, they might have a future.

    Among the top changes I’d like to see happen at the big syndicates would be:

    1. More one-off sales. Many clients want to buy one cartoon rather than subscribe. Syndicates should not only make this easier, but should market one-offs aggressively.

    2. End the shotgun approach. Currently, a syndicate salesman visits a paper and sells as many features as he can. He doesn’t care which features he sells. The more, the better. No one looks at a given feature and analyzes its potential in various markets. “Why isn’t XYZ feature in ABC City? The cartoonist lives there!”

    3. Explore alternative venues. Syndicates make it hard for alt weeklies and small newsletters to set up accounts with them. That’s just silly, especially since the risk cost of electronic delivery is so low.

    4. Lobby Congress for an anti-trust exemption. Syndicates and newspapers are in trouble, partly because rates haven’t changed since 1940. The press is a public trust. Let them collude on pricing.

    5. Kill dead strips. All the big five syndicates should agree to discontinue legacy strips, those not drawn by their original creators, to open spaces for new and exciting work.

    6. Conduct their own reader polls. Newspaper reader polls are notoriously unreliable, being subject to out-of-town and repeat voting. Syndicates should conduct their own marketing studies and present the results to editors and publishers.

    7. Holistic marketing. Some strips may not sell to a lot of papers, but might do well with books or other licensing. Some syndicates do this, but many don’t.

  22. Ugh. Speaking of T-Shirts, I got sucked into T-Shirt design & selling twice.

    I think I’ve developed an outright hostility towards T-Shirts. If you’re a cartoonist selling a T-Shirt, I’m 100% not interested. They’re good for, what, a couple of washes and are eventually worn for cleaning the garage. I’ve held on to one extremely faded Bloom County T-Shirt from the 80s. I’m older than 15. Sell me a book instead.

    As far as making and selling T-Shirts, they’re as creatively satisfying as a garage sale. They’re much less satisfying than making an ad for a matress sale (or slightly less satisfying than being a cleanup artist, for you animation fans).

    Rant over. Carry on!

  23. @Stephen Beals – My apologies for spelling Schulz name with a “t” in it – I know there’s no “t”; my automatic spell checker did it by mistake; I have rectified the error in it and it won’t happen again.

    @Shane Davis – Glad you liked my answer post; I try to keep thing simple when I post; because some people; perhaps like you; need things kept on a “3 grade level” so they (you possibly) can comprehend what I was trying too say in my lengthy post. And btw, Shane, I’m 52 years old, so I think I am old enough to remember who and what’s important…guess I just don’t give a damn about the importance of Jake Scott to remember him. Guess that makes me an idiot, huh? Just my 3rd grade mentality acting up, phftt.

    @Ted Rall – I agree with everything you said in your post – especially your specific list of changes that the syndicates should – which was cool. Quite well said Mr Rall.

  24. @Ted – Ann Telnaes does an animated editorial cartoon at The Washington Post. It can’t really exist anywhere -except- on the web, at least in its original publication. But it’s also hosted at a newspaper site, so it’s in the legacy media chain.

    Since she’s not in print, does her exposure to alternate revenue streams suffer? If so, do you think the transition to iPad-like devices may eventually change that?

  25. @Alan, let’s be pragmatic here for a moment.

    Yyou posted an article with commenting on about a public statement Julie made regarding her stepping away from a syndicate, finding it too much work, and going back. It’s patently ridiculous to ask people in the same industry not to comment after inviting us to.


    Man, I agree with you on all points you posted about how the syndicates should change. I had a long talk with John Glynn about this at Pax East last year. Right now the syndicates are working to serve the existing model, not the creators (or their own survival even). The same thing is happening in comics-proper. All the major players are working to support the diamond/retailer model that’s currently dying right now. They’re taking very small moves away from it when bold action is required.

    And you’re right, it’s a real balancing act. A friend of mine said recently that if you want to be “best of breed” at something it requires a sacrifice, and 90% of the time that’s your social life. I want to draw cartoons, read and have sex all the time too, but I can’t if I want to be the best at what I do. I think the good part is that you really only have to sacrifice that stuff for a short time while you ramp up. I have a handful of colleagues who started their own businesses in their homes and recruited friends and family to help get stuff out the door in their fledgling years. But after a ramp up, they were able to hire or outsource those duties to vendors.

    It’s called work for a reason. And that’s easier to deal with when you’re 20, I get that. But I don’t think it’s always a matter of stepping backwards. You don’t have to pretend you’re 20 again and eating ramen out of a bong in order to “start over” with your business model when it comes to cartooning. You can do it at 40,50, 60…it’s just harder and takes more planning. Cause when you get older and entrenched in a life and family it’s harder to start from scratch.

    I wish the syndicates (or someone) would create a separate business that provides services for independent creators, so that it’s not an either-or proposition.

  26. On your last point, Scott, someday someone is going to get rich–and make a lot of cartoonists happy–by setting up the kind of business you describe to help indie creators with administration and marketing. Sort of the virtual equivalent of those places that rent out mini-offices to individuals.

  27. @Scott said:

    Not sure how you’re interpreting my comments as trying to shut down anyone from commenting.

    The subject is A. Julie leaves Creators for self-syndication; B. after a brief stint trying to self-syndicate found it not working; C. she signs with another syndicate.

    Only the most callous would see that as an invitation for “people in the same industry” to tell her her work is “sub-par.”

    You’d have to have a heart before it could bleed.

  28. John,
    You really are such a dear. It’s rare on this board to find someone with a sweet a disposition as yours, a breath of fresh air, really.

    Are you sure you correctly divined the substance of my first post?

    It was about people getting along on this board. Not tearing each other up. You read that? You got it? Really?


  29. @Alan,

    It’s not called show-friends, it’s called show-business. I’ll grow a heart if you grow some balls.

    Although running a blog on the sidelines of comics while implying with “quotes” that I’m not “in the same industry” takes SOME balls. So there’s hope for you yet.

  30. We’re in show business? I don’t know about you, but I’m joining a union and gettting some benefits. Shoulder’s acting up again.

    Scott, why do you go off like this? Why pick a thread about Julie Larson going back to a syndicate, get mad, and post about the quality of her work?

    As somebody who likes you, I really want to know.

    There are many kinds of comics that don’t have you in mind for their audience. I would no more try and get your attention with Dinette Set than I would try to get certain groups into POV. But if I’m a businessman, and for the good of the world I’m not, I’m going to take on something with an established audience and sell it whether I like it or not.

    Creative people love crapping on other creative people because they don’t like their work. It’s one of the many reasons I ran far and away from animation. It gets old fast. Thanks to the internet, we now have that atmosphere in the former solitary world of comics.

  31. I’ll tell you why, Stephen

    I’ve read a couple articles about Julie and, in particular, her problems with The Dinette Set. And the crux of the articles are centered on how it’s the system failing her right now. How newspapers are hurting and nobody pays enough for comic strips and how sad it is that we might lose something as American as our cartoonists.

    But at no time does anyone address if it’s the feature that’s the problem. Or if it’s all current features in general that’s the problem. I mean, you read an article about television and it’s impossible to escape the fact that networks live and die by finding and putting on their airwaves, compelling new content that appeals to younger audiences.

    The problem with The Dinette Set is that it’s a bad comic strip. It’s crammed with unreadable text, horrible art and bland humor. So you can get pissy with me about that truth, or you can address it. We’re certainly not helping Julie out even a little bit by pretending her comic is good, when it’s barely legible. Where should Julie start first when it comes to addressing her problems with her feature? It’s not the business model. It’s her feature.

    But you know what? Why doesn’t everyone just keep pretending that it’s good. I mean, I’m sure Julie is a really nice person and, gosh, she’s trying SO hard. Right? I mean it’s not fair she’s struggling.

    And maybe if we all clap loud enough, the Dinette Set will be funny and compelling.

  32. Roxie: It’ll never work.
    Velma Kelly: Why not?
    Roxie: Because I hate you.
    Velma Kelly: There’s only one business where that’s no problem at all.


  33. @Scott

    Although running a blog on the sidelines of comics while implying with ?quotes? that I?m not ?in the same industry? takes SOME balls. So there?s hope for you yet.

    Those items in quotes (“people in the same industry” and “sub-par”) were actual language from your comments – hence the quotation marks.

    I do recognize that you are in the industry, I just think you’d benefit from thinking more and typing less.

  34. I appreciate the reply, Scott. Fair enough.

    I agree with your point and have been pretty much saying the same thing for over 25 years, but I don’t feel comfortable using Julie’s situation as a sounding board. The point is larger than her story.

    The comparison with TV is perfect. I remember watching Night Court back in the 80s and thinking “you’d never get away with this in the comics and that’s why they’re going to slowly go away”.

    But over the years I’ve become convinced that nobody understands what an audience wants. Ted Rall calls PVP bad, you call Dinette Set bad and I keep my mouth shut because over the years I keep seeing writers that I think are terrible, like Stephanie Meyer (who can withstand my criticism), become a huge phenomenon while somebody better goes virtually unnoticed.

    I’ve put stuff on my website that I really think is dumb. It might be a comic I did ten years ago, the equivalent of a fart joke. To my surprise it gets a few thousand hits. I put something I’ve worked hard on, something I think is good writing and much better and it gets … nothing.

    In the end, if Julie’s strip has an audience (and it sounds like it does), I can no more give you a reason than explain how Full House had a nice, rich run on TV. It’s obviously outside of my demographic, but the audience exists and there’s money to be made.

    I’m not sure that a different approach by newspapers and syndicates is going to prevent strips that you (or I) think is terrible from finding and maintaining an audience. That situation exists in TV, Movies, Books … whatever. I wouldn’t have said that 25 years ago, but I pretty much think that now.

    You might want to approach Fox about being the new judge on American Idol. You make a good Simon Cowell (I like him as well).

  35. I appreciate Scott’s honesty. If you publish your work for all to see, you have to expect criticism. Only in cartooning is it considered uncollegial or meanspirited to say you think one of your colleague’s work sucks?it’s commonplace in TV, film, literature, fine arts, poetry, you name it. And it’s healthy. I have been savaged over the years by a Certain Illustrator who I had the temerity to sue (and his friends)?and it actually did me a lot of good. I’ve made a lot of changes to my work as a result of some incredibly mean things they’ve said about it that, when I thought about it, was 100% right.

    (By the way, I don’t have problems with “The Dinette Set.” I’m merely defending Scott’s right to be mean.)

    Who knows? Scott may well be right that Julie’s work could be better. Hell, everybody’s work could be better. Mine sure could. And maybe that would make a difference. But I doubt it. I haven’t noticed much correlation between success and quality in webcomics, print comics, TV, music, or any other art form. Julie and many others are facing structural problems in the marketplace which have been magnified by the overall crappy state of the economy. That’s what we should really be discussing, not whether a particular strip is great or not.

    As @Stephen points out, taste is subjective. My favorite cartoonists in the whole world are Ruben Bolling, Matt Bors, Stephanie McMillan, Jen Sorensen, etc.?but many, many luminaries in the cartooning world don’t even know they’re alive…or worse, think they suck. Stephen is right–if a feature has an audience, it deserves to live, regardless of you and I think.

  36. Self syndication is very doable. I did it back in the 80’s – long before this internet stuff. Direct mail was the big “marketing” thing and so was print advertising. I concocted a feature that offered all types of different single panel gags on a “gag-a-day” basis. Since gag cartooning was my forte, and I had thousands of existing images, I went to a printer and had copies made of brochures that offered various samples of my work, along with explanatory descriptions on how my cartoons could add some vigor to an otherwise “bland” page layout or comics / editorial page. I bought mailing labels for newspapers across the country, enhanced that by also buying the annual E&P newspaper directory to pinpoint offbeat or hard to find papers in Canada and the Carribean. In fact I hand addressed hundreds of envelopes for those at that time I recall. Back in those days, the USPS allowed us to buy “Bulk Mailing” permits and all you had to do was bag all of your mailers for each state they were intended for, to acquire a big discount on overall mailing costs. I sent to all 6000 weekly newspapers in the U.S. (including many of the offbeat papers), I also was making cold calls and follow-ups to papers I know had received the brochure and samples. The elements involved at the time were:
    #1. Printing costs for having 6000 brochure samples made.
    #2. Mailing costs to send all of them out – yes, albeit bulk mail I did save substantially on mailing my project to “the masses”
    #3. Cost of mailing labels
    #4. Cost of annual directory to get hard copy print info on all papers to make follow ups, verify names/addresses etc.
    #5. Envelope costs
    #6. Phone bill expenses for making long distance follow up calls.

    Not to mention the actual time involved for packaging and preparing all of this up! The actual tedium of a one-man-band is overwhelming…I certainly would not try that now…I would certainly ask a syndicate to handle all of that for me.

    The other NEGATIVE aspect to all of this is so many “deadbeat” editors exist out there….you have to make call after call and literally “beg” them to pay you. I really don’t know if editors are deadbeats but they are definitely brain dead in a sense. Most newspapers (especially weeklies), consider cartoons no more than “filler / fluff” material and place a lesser regard on my kind of content, as opposed to what may be offered by the syndicates per se.
    There are a few nice editors you’ll stumble upon along the way who appreciate your intensity-effort-and feature, however, so many seem to have a disregard to actually dealing one-on-one and that’s why I infused cold-calling or follow ups to what I tried to do. If you’re a cartoonist, it is NOT work….a God-given talent, I consider, is more fun than work. It’s all of this other stuff I mentioned that’s really the hard (even tiring at times) work. I was in with the “syndicates” editor at E&P at the time also, and he was gracious enough to provide “free plugs” for my upcoming feature so those editors who did read E&P at that time would be aware of my cartoons. I guess most of you know David Astor. Not to forget PubAux or Publisher’s Auxiliary….who also ran ads for me. I cannot recall what all of this cost me….but it definitely wasn’t cheap. All of the elements involved to get my cartoons in front of editor’s eyes is very hard – even difficult to say the least – but cartooning and the actual creative process is so simple and fun. I certainly applaud her decision for taking the Dinette Set to the syndicates. Do I think letting them keep half is worth it? Don’t ask me, I honestly would like to hear it from “Super Novas” like Bill Watterson or Gary Larson . . I don’t expect them to chime in on my thoughts because they were on a whole different level that I whole-heartedly respect and understand and that talent is the type that doesn’t need to criticize other types out there who are in the same barrel as I am.

  37. Thank you to all of you for the education I’ve received reading this discussion.

    Years ago, I wanted to be a syndicated cartoonist, but didn’t like the feeling of being taken advantage of by the syndicates.
    Apparently, nothing has changed.

    One thing I noticed that was unsaid-if you cartoon to make money, you’re S.O.L But if you cartoon for the shear fun and pleasure of it (no matter what someone else may think of your style) then it’s really the best job you can have.

    Even if you can’t pay the rent with it.

    (Believe me, if there were enough people who enjoyed my cartoons to get me in a newspaper, I’d draw, thanking them every day. OK, maybe once a month.)

  38. Duane makes a point. With the exception of a comparative handfull of cartoonists, it’s very unlikely for a cartoonist, even a syndicated cartoonist, to earn enough income to support themselves let alone a family. In my opinion, thinking otherwise is irresponsible.

  39. Hey Duane:
    I don’t think syndicates are “taking advantage” of the talent anymore. Back in the golden age of comics and before cartoonists made a name for themselves I could imagine that was the way but I see the syndicate/cartoonist relationship as a true partnership, if and only if, each is holding up their end of the contract (cartoonist provides saleable content, syndicate successfully markets that content).

    Cartoonists provide talent, syndicate distributes, collects fees, and sells your product. Split is 50-50. It’s a business model, that to me, seems fair. I’m in recruiting, I land a client and one of my colleagues finds the talent we split it 50-50.

    The challenge syndicates are facing, this coming from an outsider looking in (I was chasing the “syndicate dream” for years), I see an existing business model either unwilling to change despite a dying market, or simply not knowing how to change. Syndicates are merely holding on to what real estate in the papers that they can without causing waves and offending readers or taking risks.

    They do typically look at other avenues to generate income (tee shirts, books, calendars etc) but we all know the newspaper market is shrinking drastically and syndicates are competing with ever-increasing competition from the Internet (which provides free content), television and their multiple-stations geared to all demographics, video games, etc.

    From my standpoint for a syndicate to survive they need to branch out and license their top properties again. Hey, like it or hate it but Marmaduke is hitting the big screen, another lucrative avenue. Follow Marvel’s lead and license properties out to television, movies, paid online content to select markets. Market that property for all it’s worth! Where would Marvel be if they only stuck to comic books? Has anyone compared their movie/ticket sales to comic books?

    To me King Features does this as well as anyone, if not better. Look at Betty Boop as a prime example. A legacy strip that still lives on in merchandising. Universal used to be huge on external markets back in the 90’s with Dilbert, Far Side, etc but not so much anymore.

    In order for cartoonists to make more money syndicates need to increase their efforts and tap into these alternate sources of revenue. If tv/internet/video games are competing for our entertainment time then syndicates need to look at these avenues and determine what licensable properties would sell in those areas. If syndicates can do this then they’re definitely worth the 50% revenue split!

    As for Dinette Set I don’t get the humour, I don’t find it funny, and the art is sub-par but that’s simply my take on it. I’m sure others would have thought my work wasn’t up to par either. In the end, if Julie has an audience and someone is willing to pay for her content then great for her, she’s one step above most of us.

    Would I be willing to give a syndicate half of my earnings for what they do? On a short term (5 year) negotiable contract I will if they’re licensing my properties outside of newspapers. To me it’s worth the time for someone else to handle sales, distribution, licensing, negotiating book deals, accounting etc so I can concentrate on creating the feature.

  40. Is there any ‘major’ cartoon strip being self syndicated today? The last one I think I heard about was Jim Toomey’s “Sherman’s Lagoon”, which I think has since gone to a syndicate.

    Just curious if today’s technology and the ‘net has made it easier to do and if anyone is doing it.

  41. @Ted, Thanks. I’ve also learned to keep my mouth shut if I’m deemed to be right about anything.

    @Dan, man, you brought back memories of a nerdy teenager (as opposed to this nerdy adult). When you’re 14 and have a subscription to Editor & Publisher, the girls just go crazy.

    @Shane I thought Tundra hit 300 newspapers. It’s a wonderful example of self syndication and competent salesmanship (salespersonship?)

    I really want the syndicates to succeed. I also want individuals to succeed. If the results are comics and columnists that I enjoy, that’s fine with me.

  42. “Not sure?how many papers is it in?”
    More than 100 the last I checked. That doesn’t count the international distribution (which is handled by King Features)

  43. Boy, Kurtz, you just love to stir it up, don’t you? You just felt compelled to comment on a subject that had NOTHING to do with you, right, just so you could insult someone’s work?

    Dumping on your fellow professionals is bad form — in any medium, whether it’s TV, movies, music, literature or comics. And insulting the host about his own site is downright rude.

    I’ve witnessed these attention-seeking diatribes of yours for years — first on Toon Talk and now here.

    Give it a rest. It’s tired. It’s old. It’s BORING.

    Why don’t you keep your mouth shut for once and just draw cartoons or sell T-shirts or whatever it is you do.

    But I guess being “controversial” is also what you do. See paragraph four.


  44. Hey Chris, Garey, everyone-

    I understand why syndicates are a necessary evil in this business, and if I didn’t already have the experience of having a freelance advertising graphic design business long ago and far away, I wouldn’t understand why it’s necessary.

    Creating and producing a strip IS work, for some it’s hard, for others it’s easy. Most of us fall somewhere in-between.
    Drawing a strip is one job, selling it is another job. Both of them are full time jobs if you want them to be done right and effectively.

    Scott, Stephen, Shane-thank you for your professional insight. It is greatly appreciated.

    For those who don’t like Julie’s drawing style, I’m sorry you can’t look at it with an open mind and appreciate it for being different. I like it. It works for me. It doesn’t have to be a knee-slapper for me to understand the point-funny or not. It communicates, which is what we are all trying to do in our own way (some more snarkily than others, but hey, that’s what some generations do).

    We are ‘graphic’ communicators, using a distinct and awesome style- drawing pictures with our words.

    It goes all the way back to the cave man drawing pictures on the walls. (Thank you, Johnny Hart!)

    As a business, it’s up to all of us to develop the product and MARKET it in as many and diverse ways as possible.

    Anyone want to buy a t-shirt with matching occasion cards and a background screensaver?

  45. Tundra is in 344 newspapers now. We run things In a similar way to the syndicates. I do the marketing, Chad does the strip and his wife does the accounting. She actually likes doing it too. Go figure.

    I’m sure there are folks out there who can handle all of that on their own but I’m not one of them. Besides I have no artistic talent whatsoever.

  46. Hey guys,

    I usually don’t post here, just read, and I’m not sure why I’m posting to this thread to tell you the truth. But if anyone is offended by the thread, well, I don’t like to brag but anywhere I post I’m kind of a ‘thread-killer’ so if nothing else, the offneded can thank me for putting an end to this thread by the very nature of the fact most people on the internet find what I post exceedingly dul. 😀 😀 😀

    It seems like there are 2 issues here:

    1. Is Scott being ‘rude’. Since this isn’t a ‘celebratory’ thread (i.e. celebrating a milestone for the strip or something) and his commnets are based on the fact the feature may be at fault than syndication process, I’m going to say ‘no’.

    Is it ‘polite’…well, no, but that’s business. If you put something out to the public you’re going to get both positive and negative feedback.

    I post regualrly on ‘Comics Curmudgeon’. Some of the fans are kind to my work (one commentor called the strip ‘a 15 second, daily John Updyk novel’) others post things like ‘My Cage causes anal cancer’. 😀 😀 😀

    That’s all part of the job. But Scott and others here are right…it is a great job and that’s the trade off.

    Scott’s (and others) comments might not be positive towards Ms. Larson’s work itself, but at the end of the day she gets to do something she loves, and the comments…just like the hard work…are part of the trade-off.

    2. Are syndicates worth it to the creator?

    Depends on the creator.

    The truth is syndication and webcomics are 2 entirely different beasts and each have their pluses and minuses.

    Webcomcis are kind of like indepedant film, and far more true to the creator.

    Syndicates are more like TV networks and have to sell something to the public in as mass a quantity as possible.

    Which route is better depends only on what the creator wants. I like both indy film and 3 camera sitcoms, so to me if someones sells a pilot to CBS versus makes a documentary on something close to them, well as a consumer I’m just glad to be entertained.

    All of commercial art is a compromise between the artist and the consumers and how you enter into that depends on how much you are willing to compromise.

    But then, that’s the same with any job really.

    On the upside, syndicates do pay, and while it’s great to hope your webcomic can pay, it’s not easy to make a profit off it. Now before anyone left reading jumps on me, there are a lot of webcomics that do, but I beleive it’s been estimated there are 16,000 webcomics in the world. The chance your strip is going to be the next PvP isn’t great.

    I mean, neither is the chance ‘My Cage’ will be the next ‘Get Fuzzy’, but at least I get some cash while I wait it out. 🙂

    Again, pluses and minuses depedning on what you want and what your life allows for.

    Truth is there are some great comics out there, both sydicated and web based, probably more than at any other time, and as comic fans we should enjoy that…even while out shared industry is in flux and we try to figure out the new path.

    What does all the above mean? I dunno. But apparently Iw anted to say it. 😀

    You may commence crapping on ‘My Cage’ now. Or at least admitting you haven’t heard of it. 😉

    Props to all my fellow comics fans out there.


  47. “But if you cartoon for the shear fun and pleasure of it (no matter what someone else may think of your style) then it?s really the best job you can have.

    Even if you can?t pay the rent with it.”

    Why is it that when someone has a job in the arts – any arts, not just comic strips – the fact that it’s a great creative outlet is supposed to be its own reward. This reasoning makes me tired.

    Anyone who works a job 50+ hours a week – and is good at what they do – deserves to be properly compensated. Whether it’s drawing a comic strip, working at a bank, teaching or digging ditches.

    I didn’t choose to work in the arts for fulfillment, I did it because I had talent in that direction, could get a full scholarship to a college my parents couldn’t afford otherwise, and pretty much sucked at all the skills I would have needed to become something like a dentist.

    Don’t get me wrong – I don’t hate what I do, and I am good enough at it that my clients pay me what I am worth – but it’s a JOB not a hobby. Stop telling creative folks they should work their asses off “for the love of it”.

    Sorry – haven’t had my coffee today – very cranky!

  48. I don’t know if it’s ever “right” to be “mean,” but I agree that Mr. Kurtz “has-a-right” to any temperment or disposition that he wishes.

    I checked out Larson’s work and found the claims of its inepitude to be exaggerated. It doesn’t speak to my demographic, but it appears competent enough at what it wants to be to appeal to who it wants to appeal to.

    I’ve seen far worse. I’ve PUBLISHED far worse.


    On with the violence.

  49. I can’t say I’m a fan of Julie’s work, but it has its following.

    I think a lot of people are missing Kurtz’ point. He’s basically saying that its up to the artist to assess their own situation and rectify it instead of placing a blanket blame on the decline of the newspaper industry and the interest of the casual reader.

    People hate change – they get comfortable and complacent and think negatively and spend more time finding ways to complain and be miserable than to find ways to be profitable and happy.

    We’ve all grown really soft and have this huge sense of self-entitlement – whatever happened to doing the work and earning your keep? It’s fine to be rewarded and lauded for your efforts, but you should be rewarded if you maintain that high level of effort you put in – not half-ass it the minute the paycheck rolls in.

  50. @Anne, Well said. Coffee withdrawal or not, you’re right. I, too, received a scholarship because I definitely wasn’t going into accounting. I’m a one man show where I work and the level of misunderstanding at the time, skill and knowledge that it takes to “whip out a quick design” is amazing.

    @ Drezz, A great example is Dan Piraro. I think his stuff is better now than it ever was, which is astounding to me. I can’t imagine producing a panel cartoon every day for 25 years. I would easily burn out at year ten. Dan should be a millionaire for the kind of skill he displays, or he should at least be earning as much as a surgeon (who can also be a millionaire, now that I think about it).

    I tend to think that Americans have a way of devaluing art more than other countries. Maybe I’m just thinking that the grass is greener elsewhere. But Dan Piraro is compensated just the same as anybody who’s hacking it out. The rewards seem to go to the cartoonists who can come up with characters worthy of over-marketing (you know, toys, animal crackers, Bill Murray voiced movies, etc.) and not to those displaying true ingenuity and increased skill.

    Like Anne said we shouldn’t have to think of satisfying the artistic itch as its own reward.

  51. Drezz, while I agree with your points, I don’t think many illustrators, photographers, cartoonists or journalists today are soft with a sense of entitlement. And the change you speak of has been happening for over a decade now and continues to change. It is not at all easy to find your way in these professions at this time. I know I draw my strip on top of a 50 hour week, so if I am soft it is because I have so little time to hit the gym anymore. The sad part is these professions are both dying and developing in new directions at the same time, so one never knows if you should give up or keep trying.

  52. This week I watched a movie called Absence of Malice on Netflix. It’s a good movie, you guys should check it out. In the movie a newspaper editor tells one of his reporters the following and i think it applies here”

    “I know how to tell the truth, and I know how not to hurt people. I don’t know how to do both at the same time and neither do you.”

    Julie is working as a professional cartoonist and she’s struggling not to fail at it. She’s already been the subject of one article I read that blamed everything from newspapers dying to readers just not caring anymore. At no point has anyone suggested that maybe Julie’s comic just isn’t compelling, or well drawn, or good at all.

    You guys need to make a choice here, pretty soon if you want your industry to continue at all:

    Is being a cartoonist about being friends in a social club, or is being a cartoonist about producing compelling work in a viciously competitive entertainment market?

    I think it used to be about creating compelling work. But then the 60’s and 70s ended and everyone in the business was either rich or completely subsidized and it didn’t matter anymore.

    Julie can be a cartoonist, or she can sit and home and make comic strips for her friends and family and have nobody be mean.

    She can’t do both.

  53. Yeah, I saw Absence of Malice in the theater when it came out. It is a good movie, if my 10 year old brain remembers correctly.

    Scott, I agree that the previous articles were somewhat whiney. Since I whine myself, I have no room to talk. But I’ve never thought that Dinette Set was a bad comic that deserved to lose its audience. It still has an audience. She’s didn’t say anything more than she took her strip to United, so I’m not really sure what you’re talking about.

    I still say that your argument applies to every creative medium and there is no business model that will make critical successes financial successes.

    What attracts you isn’t necessarily going to attract a 25 year old single woman or a ten year old boy or a 35 year old mother of four or retired truck driver.

    It kills me that guys, it’s usually guys, sit around and wonder how a comic like Cathy can still be going. When Cathy started, a little before Absence of Malice came out, it hit a demographic that was almost completely untapped. My mother was single at the time. My sister is quite a bit older. They loved it. If you talk with women who grew up with Cathy, it was a big deal for them and is very near and dear to their hearts. But if you, and most other guys, had their way Cathy would be gone.

    That’s why the marketplace is so frustrating for many people. They just can’t figure out why some forms of entertainment fail and some succeed. Even the people and charge don’t really know.

  54. Wait a minute, the ten year old within me just remembered. Wasn’t the whole point of “Absence of Malice” that absence of malice is BS? In fact, the rubber band twirling guy who was proclaiming an absence of malice was the villain, right?

    Real lives get hurt by this crap, I think that was the point. And you get to cuddle with Sally Field.

  55. @Scott: It’s far from a given that Julie’s work sucks.

    You repeatedly talk about how bad her art is. But that’s your opinion. I know quite a few people who think the art in PvP is gawdawful: too slick, generic, Photoshop gone wild. However,you obviously have fans who love your style.

    My artwork tends to polarize readers as much as its content: people love it or hate it. Who’s right? Neither? I say both: if it sucks for you, it sucks. If you love it, it’s great.

    Many, many readers prefer a “naive” style like Julie’s. You can feel free to disagree with them. Bear in mind, however, that if she were to change her style to one you prefer, she might be doing worse than she is now.

    Even before the Web destroyed the economics of cartooning, this profession was a hard nut to crack. Breezing in and glibly advising someone that they’re hurting because their work isn’t your cup of tea isn’t right. If you spent some serious time and energy thinking about what Julie should do and you posted a thoughtful analysis that included a critique of her art, that would be different.

  56. Ted,

    I think her art is bad. I think your art is stylized. I can tell from your art that you have a clear grasp of design and that you can draw differently if you so choose. You know enough to make your strip readable and you make artistic choices.

    Julie crams every bit of negative space with illegible hand-written words. It’s bad. It’s bad empirically.

    Also, the web did not destroy the economics of cartooning. It destroyed the previous economic model of cartooning. Welcome to the future.

  57. Hey Scott Kurtz,

    I’m glad you got your moral compass from an early 80s Paul Newman movie (which, BTW, I saw in the theater when it was first released), but I don’t believe the issue in the film was critiquing a cartoonist’s work. It’s about solving a murder and leaking a false story in an attempt to get information from a character. Hardly apples to apples.

    You might not find this in a movie, but there actually is a way to tell the truth and not hurt someone. It’s called constructive
    criticism. It’s more challenging than trying to sound clever while trashing someone’s work and it does require an informed opinion and some actual analysis, but it can be done.

    But some people would rather just be “controversial.”

    You can’t do both.

  58. Oh, and one more thing, Julie IS a cartoonist. A professional syndicated cartoonist.

    You may not like her work and she may not like yours.

    To paraphrase Bert Cooper on MAD MEN, “Who cares, Mr. Kurtz?”

  59. I never said, nor did I intimate that one should ‘work their ass off for the love of it.’

    What I said, and what I meant, was this: You draw, paint, construct, sculpt, whatever, because you want to and because you enjoy it. Being avaricious mercenaries who will do anything for a buck, as I’ve learned, is what makes some ‘cartoonists’ insist that they are worth the big bucks when they aren’t. I’ve heard the same thing from wanna-be web designers who couldn’t build a decent basic web-site if their lives depended on it. Yet they get the gigs. Constantly. Why? Because they know how to BS a client into believing the crap they give them is great, even tho’ the client knows they’ve been had. They know how to sell. That’s why we use syndicates. That’s why Julie went back to a syndicate. She didn’t have the time nor the inclination for all of the BS that goes into selling.

    My point, succinctly said by Ben & Jerry on a 15-year-old bumper sticker on my pick-up is: “If it isn’t fun, why do it?”

  60. I love drawing. I love drawing for a living. I’m not making six figures, but some years I come closer than others. Maybe some day, but not just yet. But the tedious stuff, the boring stuff, the invoices, the re-do’s, the tax man, my accountant and all the little scraps of invoices and calendars and driving records – UGH. I’m happy for Julie – you GO girl! Draw how you wanna draw and let the syndicates juggle all the tedium!

  61. Scott, you criticize like an old man yelling at a bees nest.

    My design teacher at CalArts, a guy who influenced, oh, half of the big names in animation these days, thought Lynn Johnston’s art was bad design and very cluttered. But he would compare it to a Sergio Aragones piece to show how to design something well if you wanted to insert a multitude of images into a single panel.

    Lynn Johnston still did ok, though, didn’t she?

    Calling out Julie and her art as bad is not constructive for anyone, especially you.A little less anger and a little more insight might help if you want people to listen to what you’re trying to say.

  62. “Scott, you criticize like an old man yelling at a bees nest.”


    That’s funny because I’ve done that.

    #@$%*&@# bees.

  63. I’m sorry if my comments about Julie’s work has hurt her feelings or offended anyone reading these comments. I’m well aware that I’m not offering Julie constructive criticism in regards to improving her work. Frankly, it’s not my place. Julie has a whole team of experienced editors at her syndicate that are paid to provide her that very service and know better than I how to appeal to the people buying her strip.

    That’s the advice she wants to hear anyway. How to make her strip more appealing to the very editors that helped get her into this situation in the first place.

    I know my comments are harsh. I’m fed up. I’m fed up with a system that feeds newspaper audiences tenured artists, or worse, tenured features with dead creators. I’m fed up with newspapers who have subsidized crappy work to avoid getting letters. And I’m fed up with the guilty parties blaming me, my colleagues and our business practices for the situation they have gotten themselves into.

    I have no sympathy, because within this system I see no desire or intent to change things. All I do see is resentment towards those of us who have sidestepped this gigantic pile of crap the newspaper/syndicate model has left steaming on the carpet.

    So, hey, go ahead. Pretend that the Dinette Set is compelling material. Encourage Julie. Snap at me. And let that feature run in 30-40 papers for another year until it dies for good. Cause that’s going to really turn things around for everybody.

  64. Good luck to Julie.
    I remember seeing her cartoon about 20 years ago when it was just a single panel in a Cleveland Alt. I also remember being
    impressed when I discovered it had morphed into a syndicated comic strip running in a local daily.

    The sub-par comments are an ignorant cheap-shot. Tom Waits and Lenard Cohen don’t have the vocal range and pretty melodies of Paul McCartney. But I believe they are all in the same Rock Hall of Fame and no one else in it with them would call Waits and Cohen sub-par. Julie’s alty style probably does make it a harder sell to mainstream dailies but that doesn’t make it not worth selling.

    I’ve heard from more syndicated cartoonists who are unhappy with their syndicate than are happy- so I get why she left.
    But I also get why she went back. At daily papers it seems so many features are wrapped into one all-inclusive single contract it’s got to be hard for an independent strip to break-in. Papers are doing stuff like switching out a cartoon for a column for the same price under the same contract with a single phone call. They sometimes just don’t want to deal with the bookkeeping involved in picking up an independent and it has nothing to do with the quality of the work.
    Again- good luck Julie

  65. @Shane, Stupid bee was in the car just today. I didn’t yell, though.

    @Mike, Hey, I did catch that. Ultra cool!

    @Scott, You’re fed up with what? You’ve already told us that you’re from the future and you’ve simply come back to bitch at Julie and tell us all that that there’s money in them thar hills outside of Newspapertown. Got it. You never hurt my feelings or offended me. I just wonder what your motivation is, because you’re not telling anybody anything we haven’t heard a thousand times before. You don’t have a newspaper subscription or readers taken away from you by rabid Blondie fans. What’s your damage?

  66. I grew tired of Peanuts as I started getting older and now when I read through the current reruns, all I see is a strip that’s taking up precious space in the newspaper. Long after the creator is gone and he’s a world-wide cartooning icon. I think it has to do with making more money and has alot to do with marketing the characters….it doesn’t mean I think the work is no good but I always thought it should be given a rest so another’s work could be showcased.

  67. Hi all.
    I am new to tooning but I do have one client. A once a week editorial for a local newspaper, circ approx 50,000. That has also managed to get me a little bit of nice freelance work.
    About creativity in general. Ever notice how people absolutley love your work….until it comes time to get paid for it? If I had a nickel for everytime someone wanted a freebie, you know just whip it out. I would be fairly wealthy. I also play in a band. If one more person askes us to play for beer im going postal. First off, were working and driving, we can’t drink that much beer. Secondly, most people don’t realize that a simple little band gig is an 8 hour day. Travel,set-up, 4 sets, break down and drive home @ 2:30 in the morning.
    I’m not complaining so much as I am just frustrated with the misconception about how much time is devoted to this stuff. Noboby gives me free art supplies. The beer man doesn’t give the bar free beer, so on and so forth. I am happy to announce however that I finally feel like a real cartoonist now that my editor killed one of my toons. He was in agreement on principle but was scared to death at the advertising backblash. In a nut shell I called organized religion, specifically the Catholic church (only because of a local story that was running) a business. Too controversial apparenty.

  68. Well, duh, Dan.

    Like most of us I adore “Peanuts.” But its daily presence in the paper is slowly nibbling away at my affection for it. I feel the same way when I travel overseas, where many papers carry old “Calvin & Hobbes.” It’s a waste of space, an insult to living cartoonists struggling to eke out a living, and a slap in the face to readers who ought not to be paying for obsolete content.

    @Scott: I’m torn about what you’ve posted here. On the one hand, I 100% agree with you that cartoonists spend too much time whining and not enough time strategizing (well, none, actually) about how to improve their working conditions and increase their incomes. Certainly brain-dead editors and dated syndication practices have contributed to the problem.

    On the other hand, you shouldn’t just yell at Julie, me and the rest of us who are at a loss about how to respond to the current economic climate without offering concrete suggestions of stuff that we haven’t tried before, and that would probably work. If you know the way forward, for God’s sake, come down from the mountaintop and share! Otherwise just admit that you’re just like the rest of us: lost, and poor.

  69. @Kurtz- You do no justice to cartoonists in general. You’ve completely ripped Julie’s work without provocation. Leave her alone.

    Your problem is and always has been with syndicates. We get it. For years you’ve been saying the same things. What’s your solution? I think you get off on posting hateful things just to see the responses.

    If the “future” of comics is a big fat bitter guy who uses every bit of technology to produce a comic strip about gaming, then count me out.

  70. Alright, does every intense conversation with Scott have to devolve down to a comment about his weight? In America, we can assume weight problems aplenty. Nothing to do with anything.

    Scott, you always bring up good points. But it always feels like a conversation I would have with my friends at three in the morning in a bar. As a parent, believe me, I miss that, but it’s not taking us anywhere.

  71. “If the ?future? of comics is a big fat bitter guy who uses every bit of technology to produce a comic strip about gaming, then count me out.”

    How, exactly, is this any better or constructive than telling Julie Larson her comic sucks?

  72. I don’t get these debates, I really don’t. I thought it was pretty much accepted that most newspaper comics (not all, but most… especially legacy strips) are aimed at a dwindling demographic, with bland, inoffensive humour and settings that the under-30 crowd simply has no ability to relate to whatsoever. Julie’s strip is a prime example. Yes, I have no doubt that she has an audience of SOME size, and I don’t think her art quality is an issue (the sort of “scribbly” style of comic that she does is a long-standing favourite of newspaper comics, reminiscent of Far Side et al). But clearly, her audience is insufficient for her needs, and it seems unlikely that will change, with or without the Syndicates.

    If the problem faced by Julie and others is the drying-up of the market for her style of comic, then changing or expanding or improving her feature should be the primary focus. Whether or not she’s with a Syndicate isn’t the problem. I think Scott is being more harsh than is warranted (for example, I don’t consider Dinette Set to be illegible), but my take on what he’s saying is “Don’t blame the Syndicate or lack thereof, if the problem is that your feature doesn’t appeal to the audience you’d like to have… work on improving/changing the feature first and foremost”.

    And if that’s the case, then I completely agree with him.

  73. Ted:
    I think you stated it eloquently in regards to how I also feel about “old strips”….couldn’t be said any better.
    As for how cartoonists spend time strategizing, I think that would make for another great separate thread in itself….you brought up a good point in that too. Overall, you’re right on!
    As for criticizing or yelling at my fellow cartoonists, my time is better spent on . . . startegizing. I’m currently packaging a couple hundred gag panels of mine for a distributor in Italy that translates my cartoons into Italia for the magazine market there and he Western Union’s my payments that way.

  74. “So, hey, go ahead. Pretend that the Dinette Set is compelling material. Encourage Julie. Snap at me. And let that feature run in 30-40 papers for another year until it dies for good. Cause that?s going to really turn things around for everybody.”

    Scott, you’ve made similar comments like this in the past and whenever I read them I imagine a mad scientist cackling with lightning in the background screaming “they laughed at me, but I’ll show them! I’LL SHOW THEM ALL! MWAH HA HA HAAAAH!” I suppose you can look at that as either an insult or a compliment…

    The point being, to answer your original inquiry about how “popular” you’ll be with your comments, I think the part that grates some people about these “constructive comments” of yours is they ring incredibly hollow. It doesn’t help that when you do offer an idea, and people disagree with you, you often respond with the equivalent of “well fine, you suck and you’ll fail, don’t come crying to me.” Jeez, I remember you saying it to Alan once about this very site.

    There’s a difference between trying to get people to listen to you and scolding everyone about how they should have listened to you. There’s a different motive for each too.

  75. I’ve noticed how Ted has tweeked the drawing and lettering of
    his cartoons and still maintained it’s signature look. Maybe Julie can try doing the same with her feature and see if it gets her more clients. Even Doonesbury has been tweeked over the years.
    Like it our not I do think cartoonists like Julie and Ted deserve credit for having come up with signature styles. Doing that, can be more elusive and harder to accomplish then people think – at least in my end of the business.

  76. @Ted,

    yeah, you’re right. I should come off the mountain and share some concrete suggestions.

    Oh wait. I did that in 2008 when I co-authored a book on the subject. And when I recorded over 60 one-hour-plus podcasts on the subject. Oh! And when I co-founded webcomics.com to help promote and guide independent cartoonists along with Brad Guigar and Robert Khoo.

    Back to the mountain I guess.

  77. @Mike: I was in Time magazine for four years (until 9/11, when an editor called to inform me that they were eliminating all the cartoons because “humor is dead”).

    Aside from the money, which was pretty great, there was the joy of knowing my cartoon would sit in dentists offices for months.

    What were we saying?

  78. Mike didn’t have a comic in Time. He was IN TIME. Listed as one of the years most 100 influential people.

    He’s kind of a big deal.

  79. “The Daily Cartoonist” should be pitched as a reality TV series. I’d watch.

    I’d just like to say that up until very recently I was bitter like some of you over what’s happening in comics. From the snark to the endless discussion that leads nowhere.

    Then one day I just stopped worrying about what the other guy is, or isn’t doing and started writing and drawing again for me. For the last few months, it’s been about what I makes me feel good. A corny notion, perhaps, but I can’t tell how good it feels.

    Things change and sometimes there ain’t whole lot you can do about it but change yourself.

    If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch.



  80. @Mike- “Child’s Play” is an awesome program and has brought happiness to kids in some awful situations.

    Don’t diminish it by aligning yourself with Kurtz.

  81. Yeah, Mike was in Time. I subscribe. It was, indeed, cool. Ever notice how the cover of Time crinkles faster than you can read it? They must use extra bendy paper.

    You know who else was on that list? Ricky Gervais. I love that guy.

    Well, nothing more from this end.

  82. Did Scott Kurtz just honestly use the “I’ve written a book rrarrrr” response?

  83. > ?The Daily Cartoonist? should be pitched as a reality TV series. I?d watch.

    Except TV would ruin it. You know they would.

    …well, ok, maybe if you gave it to the editors on Hell’s Kitchen. THOSE guys know how to cut. And we’d need our own Gordon Ramsey…

    Ooo, I know: we could call it “Bad Cartoonist”

  84. Syndicates are there for a reason: because some cartoonists still don’t realize that smartphones can pull up your webcomic anywhere you go.

  85. Mike – Just wanted to say that I think the Child’s Play program is a wonderful idea and you guys are doing a great thing.

    It seems to me that we could do a lot to foster goodwill and cement relations between the online pioneers and the shortsighted dinosaurs by offering the help and services of the NCS, the NCS Foundation and the NCS membership … and help do something really worthwhile in the process. (As a two-term former NCS President who is still quite involved with the society, I think I can say that if there is any way that we can offer assistance, the NCS and NCSF would be keen to help. )

    In any event, it couldn’t hurt to make the intros. Feel free to drop me your contacts at mac@stevemcgarry.com and I’ll be happy to make all the relevant intros.

    Steve McGarry

  86. I think any cartoonist who isn’t prepared to take personal responsibility in their livelihood really needs to rethink their career choice.

    I don’t say this directed at Julie. I don’t know her work, and therefor can’t make judgements on it’s quality. I also don’t know how much time she devotes in her day to her comic (does she write & draw it in 2 hours, or does she spend every free hour devoting time to improving it and her business?) So my comments aren’t directed at her; I just use her as an example to address the general issue that a LOT of cartoonists have that are in her general position.

    I will say that I find it frustrating that so many people are attacking Scott for his opinions. Yes, he could have been more diplomatic about it, but that doesn’t cover the fact that he HAS a very good point.

    Cartooning is a job. You can make a living at it, and be very successful at doing so. And there are many ways to do this. However, in order to do so, you have to understand that:

    (a) You are delivering a product. No one is obligated to invest in that product. You have to make them want it. In order to do so, you have to make it the best it can possibly be. If you ever feel like it is Good Enough, you’ve failed yourself because you are no longer improving. You MUST welcome people saying “this isn’t very good, make it better” more than people saying “This is PERFECT!!”

    (b) No one cares about your success as much as you. Even if you work in the best syndicate in the world where they promote you and take care of you, they will never be as invested as you will. It is not an “either you have full control but no time, or have help and assistance but no control” situation. But if you care about your success, you will make the time to push it forward. If something’s not working, you have to try something else. Just hoping that someone else will fix it isn’t the answer.

    Honestly though, I DO wish Julie luck. However, I think she – and other people in her situation – need to be prepared to make changes. It is unfair, even insulting, to her to think that just offering blanket praise and encouragement is going to be helpful. If I were in her situation and that’s all I heard, I would be angry and frustrated. Sure, in the short term it’ll make someone feel nice, and that’s awesome. But the best help you can give someone who’s struggling isn’t “just keep doing what you’re doing” is to say “here, try doing this instead.”

    Do I know what SHOULD be done? No. I’m a relative newcomer to comics, and I’m still feeling out the business myself, so my perspective on what should be done matters very little. However, I think those cartoonists who ARE successful should be listened to… regardless on how irrelevant you think their business model may be, or how harsh their criticism of the current one is.

    Lastly: Congrats to Mike & Jerry on their Time Magazine spot. I can’t think of 2 guys in comics right now that are more deserving.

  87. “Did Scott Kurtz just honestly use the ?I?ve written a book rrarrrr? response?”

    “@bryy Why not? Rall does it all the time.”

    I don’t get either of these comments. Why would it not be relevant if you wrote a book about a subject you have knowledge of?

    I disagree with Scott on certain topics but i don’t refute that he’s a pioneer in the webcomics industry and has an incredibly successful webcomic. Ted’s been to Central Asia to study the local environment three times. I respectively acknowledge each of their abilities to write a book on the subject. You can read either/both and disagree with the content but to say they have no business writing it is… well… silly.

    Now if only we can get Ted and Scott to write a book together….

  88. I’m late to the party but I will try to sum up what I have seen so far (not that anyone asked for it)

    We all agree to never ever tell someone that their work sucks even if it does.

    We must also admit that the internet ruined the world and we would all be better off without it.

    Also- tee shirts suck. Everyone who wears one ever is automatically stupid.

    Oh yeah- Mike Krahulik is the most influential person of all time and shouldn’t stoop to the level of Scott Kurtz by doing anything stupid like sharing an office space with him or ever being his friend ever.

    Did I get it all right?

  89. The problem is that Scott has too big a heart. He cares about comics and that is why he is in here arguing with you guys day after day. I don’t care and that’s why I come in here and make stupid jokes. In reality I’m probably the bigger asshole. Scott loves comics and he wants to help. All you guys do is give him shit for it.

  90. @Mike: How much did TIME pay you? What’s the current dollar-to-ego exchange rate?

    @Scott: Back to substance.

    You’re right?you’ve written a book, and when you’ve gone to the trouble of writing a book, the least people can do is read it.

    So I bought your book. And read it. Slowly. Twice, since I thought I must have missed something the first time. Who knows, maybe I missed it twice. As far as I could tell, however, it is absolutely useless unless you’re someone who has never drawn comics in their life or is just barely dabbling in the artform. I’ve discussed this with other cartoonists whom I respect because, like most people, they’re much smarter than I am. They felt the same way.

    Nowhere in your book is there anything close to concrete suggestions as to how an actual cartoonist could use web-based distribution to earn anything near a minimum-wage salary. Which isn’t a slam. The book was nonfiction, after all.

    I’ve also listened to your podcasts. And checked out webcomics.com.

    Surprised? I also listen to Limbaugh.

    Anyway, I came away from those experiences feeling like I’d just survived an Amway pitch: lots of inspirational rhetoric. No substance. “Where’s the beef, Scott?” I kept wondering.

    Others agree. Many others. Smart others.

    I can’t comment on your heart, Scott, since I don’t know you. But your heart isn’t at issue here. And as I said above, I don’t mind or care that you’re a harsh critic.

    My problem is that you say you know The Answer but that you won’t tell us, nyah nyah nyah. Or that’s the message that you keep conveying. It’s bad enough trying to earn a living drawing funny pictures. No none needs to be made fun of, or derided as lazy, or mocked as old and out-of-touch, when in fact they’re doing the best they can.

    If you know The Answer, please stop being coy. We’re all ears, believe me!

  91. Sorry for the interruption, but I have a question regarding Julie’s decision to go with United …

    I understand that its parent company, E.W. Scripps, had announced a short time ago that it was considering selling off the syndicate (and/or its properties). It wasn’t long before Peanuts was sold to the Schulz family.

    It was also noted that Peanuts was responsible for the majority of the syndicate’s revenue — The number was +90% I believe.

    With all that in mind, I found it curious that United would actively seek out a “new” property like The Dinette Set — and this is nothing personally for (or against) Julie’s work. What I mean is, as a cartoonist, I had essentially written off United as an option for ANY business relationship because it seemed as though they were getting ready to close up shop.

    I can completely understand why Julie would personally prefer signing with a syndicate, but is United really still an option for other cartoonists?

  92. Woah. Real substance. I would be very interested in an answer to Ted’s questions.

    Of course Scott’s passionate. Of course he has a big heart. That’s why I like him. He and I have the same problem, only I do it with my family.

    If somebody does an injustice to, say, my daughter I make loud, dramatic and finger-pointing accusations. In the end, I can come across as the bad guy and people say, “Well, he loves his daughter”.

    But I’ve done pretty much what Ted has done (except listen to Limbaugh for more than a sound bite). Podcasts. Book. Webcomics.com Lovely stuff, all. But I don’t get the big revelation I’m supposed to be receiving, here.

    What I see are creators who work very hard obtaining an audience they deserve. What I don’t see is anything approaching what I can buy food with anytime soon (like, within five years).

    The people making good money, bless them. They deserve it and I’m very happy for them. I usually enjoy their work as well. But I don’t see why syndicates are suddenly evil and this is the only way to go. I thought comic books and syndicates settled the “work for hire” problem back in the 80s.

    If people don’t yell, this could be a very enlightening discussion.

  93. “I also listen to Limbaugh”

    Watch that subversive stuff there Ted…
    You know what rock n’ roll and Levis did the USSR after all…

  94. How to be a successful cartoonist:

    1. Have tons of talent

    2. Work really really hard

    3. Produce something unique that people want

    4. Be astoundingly lucky

    5. Continue to work really really hard

    6. Work even harder

    See? Easy Peazy!

  95. @ Scott Nickel,

    I’ve always assumed that’s it. That’s been the “business model” forever hasn’t it?

    I might add “Be willing to stand on stage in your underwear, or the equivalent thereof.”

    I’ve been lucky. I just wish I knew luck when I saw it.

  96. Oh Ted, what do you want me to say?

    Maybe you’re right. Maybe I don’t have the answers for everyone. Maybe I only have the answers for me. And maybe that means that you and your very smart cartoonist Illuminati get to enjoy discrediting me over beers, and shaking your head about how little substance there is to my book.

    All I’ve ever said…hell, all WE’VE ever said…is that cartooning takes a lot of hard work, a lot of luck and an very open mind. You gotta dance, and move and adapt and evolve and reinvent yourself every year.

    Just because that doesn’t work for you, or your unwilling to do it doesn’t mean I’m wrong or that my ideas lack substance. Maybe it just means that you’re not talented enough or bold enough to do things the way that we’re doing it.

    The truth is that even if I had some magic bullet, and I came off the mountain and offered it to you….you wouldn’t take it. You would just try to discredit me and call me a liar.

    So does it really matter if I do have any answers? Because the only answer you’re really looking for is to the question “How can I keep doing what I’m doing now but get paid for it anyway?”

  97. I just read the synopsis of Who Moved My Cheese? and it doesn’t even go so far as to answer the title question. All I learned was that both humans and mice had different methodologies for locating cheese, ways to find more cheese, how to plan ahead for the absence of cheese — literally everything except who moved it.

    The book is worthless.

  98. Hahahaha! Oh yeah, Kurtz, that’s IT! Rall isn’t talented enough to be compared to you!

    I love your posts, because you’re brutally honest and deliciously nasty and I hate some of the threads here, like the recent one kissing Mort Walker’s khaki kiester because Beetle Bailey, perhaps the worst comic strip of ALL TIME, hit its 250th anniversary.

    You’re right to call 90 percent of newspaper comix crap, because they are, but ya know, I don’t care much for your comix either, Scott.

    For such “A Pioneer,” I find your work derivative and safe and not particularly funny or interesting.

  99. @Scott: “And maybe that means that you and your very smart cartoonist Illuminati get to enjoy discrediting me over beers, and shaking your head about how little substance there is to my book.”

    1. I’d love it if this were actually true, but I’m pretty sure alternative cartoonists are as far from “Illuminati” as you can get. We’d be doing a _terrible_ job at secretly controlling the national media.

    2. I guess this is a response to Mike too, but just for the record, I obviously can’t speak for everyone here but personally almost every “offline” conversation I’ve had with other cartoonists about another cartoonist’s work isn’t about you or webcartoons in general but _other_ editorial cartoonists. I agree with Derf, and most of us do too- most syndicated cartoons, and most editorial cartoons, are awful. Not just awful, but embarrassing. Mike probably thinks that those Star Wars strips he just did are an insult, but those of us willing to comment here about others’ work he’s saying what we’re saying too. The only people who should feel hurt by those are the cartoonists who know they’re hacks. You should take a look at Matt Bors’ blog and see what he has to say about the crappiness of other cartoonists- and these are people he actually has to meet face to face at AAEC this month. The only thing that’s irritating about it is the blanket suggestion that those are really what “all” editorial/alternative cartoons look like. Imagine if your strip was only referred to, over and over, as “that video game strip, like that other one, Ctrl-Alt-Delete.”

    Both fields have people who are totally undeserving of their financial success. That doesn’t mean the entire model is flawed. I said earlier that it’s nonsensical to argue with you about success of a webcomics model- that’s a reality. But there’s also a reality that certain syndication models still succeed. When Ted was still at United, he managed to get two incredibly talented cartoonists- Matt Bors and Keith Knight- successful syndication deals. You came into this thread saying that “syndication is BS” and I personally know two people- not have numbers suggested, not have examples in a book, but actually have met and they are here on earth people- who prove that blanket statement wrong– or at the very least, flawed. That- and that alone, not your talent as a webcartoonist on your own end- is where I would challenge the “substance” of what you said.

    I would refute any suggestion that either of those two aren’t talented, or don’t deserve financial success for their work. Maybe that’s a better conversation point, instead of broad generalities. On specific people in a successful syndication format- do you think they aren’t successful, or do you have ideas for a web model that would make them more successful than they are now? It’s been said before but it’s a very incompatible model for political/social commentary cartoons, and I would really love a response more intellectual than “well those just suck.” That’s the substance I’m craving in this debate.

    Geez, there were some really good conversation about this earlier. I really don’t know where and at what point this thread totally went to hell but I’m pretty sure it was when the overtly dismissive comments started.

  100. @Derf,

    But I like both your stuff and Beetle Bailey. Now what?

    Actually, my brother and I have argued over Beetle Baily our whole lives. I like the 60s/70s Fawcett paperbacks, he doesn’t. But HE got the Beetle Baily cartoons when they came out on laserdisc (because, you know, they were a rare find at the time). Hypocrite.

    Plus, Mort Walker’s a cool guy.

  101. @Stephen

    That’s similar to someone having Rocket From the Tombs and Neil Diamond on the same iPod.

    Oh crap. They both ARE on my iPod!

  102. @Derf

    I think ipods could be used as a psychological tool. Want Ozzie, Gershwin, whatever my daughter recommended, the Pink Panther Theme? It’s all there. 80 gigs holds a lot.

  103. @Ted They paid me twenty billion dollars. They sent me a check but I lost it in a stack of money. Twenty billion is not a lot of money for me so I did not bother trying to find it.

  104. I looked at Julie Larson’s cartoons and I liked them. A couple of them made me do that snort laugh thing, which is the point behind a single paneled gag strip. I wish her the best of luck with United Features. Congrats to her for being able to make a living in this crazy business.

  105. @Ted Holy crap! It’s like Iraq is an oil spill and the US is trying to plug it with money…wait a second I think I just made a political cartoon. Hold on hold and… The dog represents stem cell research!

  106. I, too, have ‘snort-laughed’ at Julie Larson’s cartoons – I’ve also guffawed, chortled, hee-hawed and howled at her gag strips in various alt weeklies, and though she is not gifted with vast amounts of design and illustrative skills, those weakness DON’T MATTER – her work is honest and direct and has a charm that comes from really understanding middle America, warts and all. I know tons of folks who can out-draw her with both hands tied behind their backs, but NONE of ’em can “out-Julie” her, nor can any of ’em “out-Larson” or “out-Guisewite” other professional cartoonists with minimal drawing skills…

    And if you can’t “out-Julie” her, game over, punk. She wins.

    Works for me.

  107. Dave,

    Your sentiments are sweet, but Julie isn’t currently out-Julieing herself. Clearly nobody is buying her feature.

    All I said is that it’s up to the people in this industry to stop blaming everyone else when a feature fails, and maybe start looking at themselves.

    That’s the attitude that’s frustrating me. The idea that everyone is great. Everyone is equal. Everyone has merit. And it’s the world, not the artist, that’s at fault.

    That’s BS.

  108. Ted Rall’s insightful comments and common sense approach to this topic is almost enough to get me to hate him somewhat less.

  109. One thing I have to agree with is Scott’s implied observation that those cartoonists who make a living in print have every reason to be fearful for their futures. The syndicates are no longer the gatekeepers to success they once were, because now there are a million comics to choose from online. The supply of quality comics has now surpassed the demand, and newspapers continue to push bland, uncontroversial legacy strips to a continually aging and dwindling customer base.

    Scott and Mike/Jerry are showing us all the future of comics. Like it or not, that is just a fact. Some of you may hate them personally or don’t care for their work, but the content they are creating is the key to their success. It is accessible to EVERYONE and it is vastly different from the 30-year-old recycled jokes that newspaper readers are squinting at every day.

    Ted, you are a great cartoonist, but it is obvious that this scenario is frightening to you. You lash out and try to measure everyone’s wang and demand “substance” from those who, regardless of the books they’ve written or their number of appearances in irrelevant magazines, ARE SHOWING THE REST OF US EVERY DAY how it’s done and how it is going to be.

    Men and women with full-time jobs are creating better stuff during their nights and weekends than Mort Walker and Jim Davis have in the last 30 years. Those whose comics are supposed to be their LIVELIHOOD are being outshone by hobbyists who gladly do it for a dollar a day in their Project Wonderful accounts. How are the newspapers and the syndicates and the old-school creators strategizing to compete with them, Ted? Are they searching for new talent? Are they demanding that their artists and writers flex their creative muscles and become relevant? Or are they just handing strips like B.C. over to untalented morons and hoping nobody will notice? The strips are printed so small now, maybe nobody CAN notice.

    If newspapers and syndicates can’t even fathom the bare minimum changes I suggested in my last paragraph, how can they hope to find any grains of substance in How To Make Webcomics? If creators like Julie Larson can’t be bothered with something as “tedious” as CHARGING FOR THEIR OWN WORK, how can anyone expect them to up their game artistically?

    “Professional” cartoonists who regard all of us amateurs with contempt need to prove it to us that they can compete before spitting their disdain. Dagwood running into the mailman for the 30,000th time is not going to save them.

  110. I’m with Dave Landau… In fact this is the best I’ve read from Ted being both constructive and nice. I think once he got close to going for the jugular but refrained.

    Ted it looks to me like you are being a bit more opened minded. There is no Magic answer to making a salary to webcomics right away. It boils down to putting in time…even though it sucks to do so and cultivate an audience.

    Right now this is a Ted Rall I can stop and listen to….

  111. And to follow up what NICK said…

    Syndicates need to drop the bad stuff and start getting some AAA talent on board to start selling strips and quit worrying about being safe. Feed the audiences!

    Milt Caniff was hot $#!T in his day, he was the hot new talent. what are syndicates doing to attract eyeballs? they aren’t doing a damn thing. They aren’t making any deals or seeking out these talents. nope just sitting on their duffs waiting and playing it safe.

    I haven’t seen a good new strip in years….

  112. Suddenly this is Battlestar Galactica. “All of this has happened before and will happen again.”

    Scott isn’t saying anything more than what Walt Disney was saying decades ago. They thought Walt was crazy for making a feature length animated movie and spending every dime he had on it, and they thought he was nuts for starting a theme park that was nothing like any theme park that came before it. He was innovative and constantly changing. He embraced TV instead of running away from it like everyone else. So, there, Scott I’ve compared you to Walt Disney in that you embrace change instead of getting scared.

    Good artists and writers exist in print and on the web. Bypassing a publisher or a syndicate doesn’t automatically make you above the fold, innovative and on the cutting edge. No, the actual content of your work will make you all of that no matter how you distribute your comics.

    Most importantly, making money from your work is tricky any way you go and it always has been. Editors from syndicates were telling me that there was no good money in comic strips except for a few back in the 1980s.

    Artists and writers who know their stuff will be good whether their art contains all of the effects in the Photoshop rainbow, is made out of cutout paper, brushed and inked or whatever. Study the elements of design, study scriptwriting, educate yourself (or get educated) and it might be possible that these conversations will be fun instead of a bit ugly.

  113. Scott and Mike/Jerry are showing us all the future of comics. Like it or not, that is just a fact. Some of you may hate them personally or don?t care for their work, but the content they are creating is the key to their success. It is accessible to EVERYONE

    Actually, the opposite is true. The most prominent webcomics (and most of the others) are specifically NOT accessible to everyone. Topically, many are directed at niches: gamers, sci-fi fans, people under 25, etc.

    Until now, newspaper comic strips (like newspapers) have targeted general audiences. This has, of course, been a weakness: it has led to blandness that has driven away readers. Still, it’s important to bear in mind that the webcomics revolution is part of the ongoing fragmentation of pop culture that we have seen in everything from fine art to music to fiction: more and more products, each disseminated to fewer and fewer readers.

    In the future, there will be one webcomic per citizen.

    This cultural fragmentation is what worries me. Not from a cultural perspective: it is clearly an improvement from a consumer’s standpoint to have millions of comic strips to choose from instead of just 40.

    From an artist’s economic perspective, however, it’s a disaster.

    If 99.99% of comic artists can’t earn a substantial living, the most talented creators will go into other fields. What we’ll end up with will be millions of comics, but no truly great ones, and lots and lots of incredibly crappy ones.

    Like it or not, it’s hard to imagine any way a cartoonist can earn a living without many thousands, if not millions, of readers. As the number of cartoonists increases faster than the population, this becomes increasingly challenging.

    Finally, I agree that it’s admirable to see Scott and Mike and many others stake their futures on their belief: in this case, that the future is online. Bear in mind, however, that their belief remains nothing more than faith. Until there is quantifiable proof that this actually DOES work, this is nothing more than “Build it and they will come.”

    Usually, they don’t.

  114. Universal themes like ‘the need to be loved’ or ‘the need for meaning’ should be able to transcend genre. Give a character a desire that everybody can relate to, then deny it to him/her.

  115. I don’t see the problem.

    Julie did make a change, she found out it didn’t work for her, and she went back. Someone asked her the reasons and she gave them.

    What’s really the big deal, Scott? Why do you feel threatened that someone felt your way wasn’t their way?

    Everyone has to find out what works for them. We should applaud Julie for at least trying something different.

  116. @Ted,

    Your argument about broad vs. niche audiences is such crap. If my “niche” audience is larger in number than your “broad” audience, then I don’t have the niche audience anymore. You do.

    We’re in a thread talking about a woman who can’t keep her feature alive despite the fact that it appeals to the lowest common denominator possible. It’s a broad as she can make it any nobody cares.

    Here’s a clue….niche doesn’t mean less people. It just means identifying a group of people passionate about a subject. That group is niche compared to the number of people NOT passionate about the subject. But it’s GIGANTIC compared to the number of people who normally spend money on the average syndicated comic strip and related merchandise.

    My niche audience may never be larger than a Peanutes audience, but neither will 98% of all comic strips. All my niche audience has to do is beat your “broad” audience.



  117. We’re in a thread talking about a woman who can’t keep her feature alive despite the fact that it appeals to the lowest common denominator possible. It’s a broad as she can make it any nobody cares.

    This is what I hated about this thread from the very beginning – it’s not about Julie unable to keep her feature alive – nobody ever said it was dead or dying. You, Scott, probably don’t even know how many papers she appears in. I’ve never reported a number.

    The story is quite simple: she was not satisfied with the way Creators was marketing the strip, and thought she could do it herself only to find it taking more time than anticipated. She was offered a contract with another syndicate which she accepted.

    This story isn’t about business models, webcomics, sub-par comics, or her client list. It’s about a business decision she made for her feature.

  118. Ted,

    I think you are profoundly wrong about the ‘niche’ market. Those niches are exactly what allow web comics makers to be successful. Take http://www.templaraz.com for example. Charlie Trotman often says that her comic would never make it without the web because it has narrow appeal. It isn’t about video games or sci-fi, but it probably would qualify as niche because of its small audience. The same goes for dozens of webcomics. Scarygoround (now Bad Machinery), Rice Boy, Octopus Pie, Diesel Sweeties, Dead Winter, and Gunshow are a handful of extremely diverse comics that have only one thing in common- the creators of those comics are making a living off of their comics. Most of them are not doing it through tee-shirts and project wonderful either. Most of them make their sales through print collections. That seems to be the key here. Find an audience, build that audience, and when the time is right sell them a collection of your work. Sure, there are other paths, but that one seems the clearest.

    I’m not going to say that syndicates are an evil that must die. But the newspapers that support them ARE dying. No one can deny that.

    The web may not be THE FUTURE OF COMICS. But it certainly provides A future FOR comics.

  119. I hate to add even a tiny little bit of fuel to Scott’s fire here but, way back when Julie first complained about how her feature was being marketed, I got the impression that she was frustrated with Creator’s following the web comic model and giving her feature away for free online. For me her issue was never a lack of fans but a particular dissatisfaction with how that syndicate’s business model was not a good fit for her.

    By making the primary issue the ” don’t charge for content” business model, she opened the door for Scott to offer his opinion, the gist of which seems to be ” I don’t agree with blaming the business model, I prefer to blame the overall marketability of the strip.”

    Could he have made this point less bluntly and less personally? Probably, but I do think that, since his business model was called into question, he had a right to respond and to dissagree and he didn’t actually hijack the thread.

    Now I’m not sure that United is following a terribly different business model when it comes to the web from Creator’s so then it will come down to whether or not Julie is really saying she has more confidence in United’s overall sales team.

    If that is really the underlying issue here, well I have to give Scott the point that she is actually unhappy with how many papers she is in.

    Aagh, I’m writing this on my iPad and it doesn’t let Me scroll up to see what I’ve already written. I think I accidentally erased some text and none of this is going to make any sense!

  120. This is from an article about The Dinette Set back when Julie decided to leave Creators:

    “?The Internet is the monster that ate reason, a thief in the night that turned loyalty to a 150-year profession into a homeless shadow of itself,? she said. ?There needs to be a way to compensate cartoonists fairly or there will be no more comics.?”

    The truth is that there needs to be a way to compensate cartoonists on the only cartoonists left will be the ones who find a way to compensate themselves.

    And that’s what this is really all about. It’s about the boo-hooing of people unwilling to adapt.


  121. One thing I’ve learned is just because someone is successful, it doesn’t mean they have any clue as to how they became successful. But they do like to write books telling you how you, too, can become successful.

    I think Mr. Kurtz might be surprised to discover that Julie’s “dying” comic strip has far more readers than his, several times over.

    I read an interview with Julie a while back about her views on syndicates making comics available on the web for free. I agree with her 100% that it has hurt comics. The only effect of putting print comics on the web has been to devalue them. Except for The Doozies, of course.

  122. “I think Mr. Kurtz might be surprised to discover that Julie?s ?dying? comic strip has far more readers than his, several times over. ”

    By many more readers, do you mean actual, physical readers, or are you inferring to the circulation of the newspapers her feature appears in, assuming that every single person who picks up that paper is reading the Dinette Set?

  123. #119, August Pollack: “I agree with Derf, and most of us do too- most syndicated cartoons, and most editorial cartoons, are awful. Not just awful, but embarrassing.”

    And I disagree with you and Derf and whomever “most of us” might be, August. While there certainly are SOME awful syndicated comic strips and editorial cartoonists, I think it’s just dumb to say that MOST are awful. And who the heck are “most of us,” anyway?

  124. Scott tried to get syndicated and failed. When he failed at it, he turned to a different outlet. He now has a successful webcomic and controls all of his content. He has made a living out of it. It was his childhood dreamed and he fulfilled it. I just can’t figure out why he has to keep trying to prove himself. You did it, dude. You even got to be on Conan O’Brien holding up a doll of a character you created.

    In my opinion, a comic strip is either good or it is not. Doesn’t matter to me if it is on the web or in print. Sometimes it is in both. “PBF” was both, and that was an awesome strip. “Stuff Sucks” was a webcomic that was great, and to my knowledge was never in any papers.

    So Scott, I don’t doubt you love and care about comics. It just sucks when you come on this site and deliberately rip on someone’s work; especially when you weren’t provoked. You just like to complain. You might think this is North vs. South, but we are all one community, no matter how you view it. We all like to read and draw comics. Period.


  125. Yep, Julie definitely opened the door to all of this with her previous statements, but when everyone’s all whiney and pissy, it’s hard for rational thought to prevail.

    I’ve never liked cartoonists who claim the circulation of a paper as “their readership”. People still do that and it drives me crazy. But it is still technically possible that Julie has more readers than Scott, which would be totally hilarious if you were the type to laugh at things.

    I think there are more good syndicated comics now than there has been in the last 30 years. If syndicates learn how to market well on the internet (or ipad or whatever), things will get very interesting.

    But I almost like the idea of one webcomic per citizen. I want mine to be “Panic Attack Yak”.

  126. PBF is tossed out all the time as “the best”, and I did buy a book because I loved it. My wife took one look at it and said it was well drawn dick jokes and Jackass pranks.
    Then she read Derf’s Trashed and loved it. She doesn’t read my stuff.

    It made me think that there’s a certain type who reads webcomics and what’s regularly considered the best is still playing on a very small stage. My guess is that it’s still mostly young guys deciding on what gets read. For now.

  127. @Scott:

    My “argument” about the segmentation of pop culture isn’t an argument. It’s a fact.

    Look at your TV. It has hundreds of channels. I grew up with three networks, plus PBS, plus a few UHF stations.

    Consider the Beatles. There will never again be a band who, love them or hate them, everyone knows. You can have a Top 40 CD and remain unknown by most music fans.

    Comics are no different. The average newspaper had 45 strips and 4 panels. The Internet now offers tens of thousands of comic strips.

    Everyone is having trouble selling intellectual property because there is so much competition. The fact that much of the competition is bad, that there are the same number of good strips now as before, doesn’t change that. If there are a thousand terrible strips each with a thousand loyal fans, that’s a million readers lost to someone good.

  128. As someone who does not write cartoons, but simply consumes them, I am confused by the whole conversation. I read all my comics on the web, by subscription. The price I pay is ludicrously inexpensive (less than $25 per year for about 160 comics per day). So are these web comics? Or is a web comic simply one that does not appear in a newspaper?
    Over the past five years several of my favorite comics have gone away (Maintaining, Big Top, Bo Nanas, Unfit). In several, but not all cases, the cartoonists felt they were not worth the effort for the amount of money. Is it now harder to get into comics? I get the sense it is from this blog, but are there hard numbers that it is now more difficult as compared with say 1985?
    I don’t understand the economics of cartooning, but the syndicates could do a better job of allowing dedicated fans buy their products. I can think of a dozen strips I would buy in book form, but cannot do so. If the comics that appear only on the web are able to make it because they can sell print versions, more power to them. I wish the syndicates would follow their lead.

  129. It’s ironic that most webcomics make most of their income from printed collections. It’s doubly ironic considering that the move to paid digital versions is what is supposed to save the newspapers.

    The prognosticators are saying that we’ll end up with a two-tier system of journalism on the web – paid and free – similar to television. Quality original journalism/content will move behind a paywall of some sort, the rest will be free.

    So, in a few years when we’re reading that quality original content on a newspad, it seems likely that the syndicates will still be providing the same service that they do now – a first filter of quality control coupled with a professional distribution system.

    The idea being that some people will pay for the certainty of getting higher quality material, versus wading through an ocean of not so good.

  130. @Michael J. Patrick

    I was *not* referring to my fellow weekly cartoonists, but rather the dreadful selection of daily strips my local rag offers. Most of the weekly guys are self-syndicated anyways, myself included, so that doesn’t really fit in with the topic of this thread which is… uh… what was it again?

  131. I’m sorry- I was responding to an earlier post where John Read said:

    “And I disagree with you and Derf and whomever ?most of us? might be, August. While there certainly are SOME awful syndicated comic strips and editorial cartoonists, I think it?s just dumb to say that MOST are awful. And who the heck are ?most of us,? anyway?”

    So by your fellow weekly cartoonists I meant that was whom you meant by “Most of us”

  132. @Ted,

    “The fact that much of the competition is bad, that there are the same number of good strips now as before, doesn?t change that. If there are a thousand terrible strips each with a thousand loyal fans, that?s a million readers lost to someone good.”

    So wait. Are you saying that people can’t read more than one comic? You are not taking into account that someone could be a fan of multiple strips and support multiple strips with purchases and eyeballs on their advertising.

    You’re applying weird competition models to something that’s not always competitive in that way.

    People don’t choose a comic strip they way they choose a detergent. Where they choose one over the other.

  133. Ted: “Everyone is having trouble selling intellectual property because there is so much competition. The fact that much of the competition is bad, that there are the same number of good strips now as before, doesn?t change that. If there are a thousand terrible strips each with a thousand loyal fans, that?s a million readers lost to someone good.” It goes both ways though, Ted. There are also now a hundred strips that have 1000 fans that are good and never would have made it through the old filters. Could Achewood have been published in the old days? Absolutely not. And it has been found by quite a few fans. Same goes, per your example, for TV. The Wire, Mad Men, Curb Your Enthusiasm, even fun trash like Cake Boss would never have made it if they had to get the huge market shares crap like the Monkees got. The age of niche marketing is bad for the big boys, but good for niche creators and niche viewers/readers. And everyone belongs to some niche.

    Also the fact that most of the world thinks this niche stuff is crap is simply part of the fact that it is niche. If everyone saw its value, it would be mass market.

  134. The idea that “video games” are niche is a complete falsehood. The video game industry now generates more sales than the movie and music industries COMBINED.

  135. Yeah, EVERYBODY spends all their time on video games these days. Why, just the other day I was in my 14th straight hour of playing World of Warcraft online, and my grandmother logged on! And then her church pastor came on! And not two seconds later, Noam Chomsky and Ruth Bader Ginsburg logged on for a little Warcraft. It was crazy, I tell you…

  136. @Scott: Of course people can like–and support–more than one comic strip. The point is, there are more cartoonists. A lot more cartoonists. Think of it this way:

    No. of comics fans in 1990 = x

    No. of comics fans in 2010 = 2x (because the Web has created new readers)

    No. of syndicated comics in 1990 = 200 (a fairly good guess)

    No. of syndicated comics in 2010 = 100
    Plus webcomics in 2010 = 1000
    = Total comics = 1100


    Fans per comic in 1990 = x/200
    Fans per comic in 2010 = 2x/1100 = x/550

    Thus revenues available to each comic strip artist = down more than 60%

    Obviously these are ridiculously rough numbers. I’m just trying to illustrate that the number of strips is growing much faster than the number of fans and the money they’re willing to spend on them.

    @Dave: Given the ability to publish small print runs, it is astonishing that syndicates don’t publish collections of every single strip. When I was at United, I toiled for three years to try to get them to start a book imprint. I don’t know if they ever did it after I got fired.

    Syndicates leave a lot of money on the table.

  137. It should be added, however, that readers of comics in print newspapers are more likely to buy a book collection of their favorite comic than readers of webcomics, who are used to getting everything free. I learned this firsthand when I published ATTITUDE 3, which was devoted to webcomics.

    A3 was at least as good as A1 and A2, and the various artists were really good about promoting it on their sites, and in many cases this was the artist’s first appearance in print. But the sales were awful, so bad that they killed the Attitude series. A1 and A2 featured cartoonists who run in alt weeklies, whose readers were willing to shell out the big bucks.

  138. @Ted Rall “It should be added, however, that readers of comics in print newspapers are more likely to buy a book collection of their favorite comic than readers of webcomics, who are used to getting everything free.”

    I think you are very wrong there. The thing is that there are those who buy print collections of a webcomic because:

    A. they like and want to support the creator’s efforts
    B. They want to own the object. Having a book one one’s shelf is way more satisfying than reading a comic on the web, free or not.

    Those who are not willing to buy a webcomic collection because they don’t feel like paying for it and essentially don’t have to would not have bought it in the first place. It’s pretty similar to what is happening in music these days. Free music is easily obtainable, yet iTunes seems to be going strong.

  139. I know that webcomics artists have fans that will shell out big bucks for them. Not just Scott and Mike.

    My twitter is filled with lesser known web cartoonists whose biggest complaint is that they can’t keep their print collections in stock.

  140. Ted:”But the sales were awful, so bad that they killed the Attitude series. A1 and A2 featured cartoonists who run in alt weeklies, whose readers were willing to shell out the big bucks.” Or, perhaps, the Attitude series depended in part on knowing who Ted Rall is, and liking him, a very likely state in the alt weekly world, but not necessarily in the webcomic world. Right?

  141. Strip collections are a tough sell, especially topical or political strips without a storyline or characters. The ATTITUDE series was very well done (I was in the first one), but my experience is my graphic novels with storylines and characters far outsold my strip collection.

    Maybe that was just me, or the book market or maybe I marketed it wrong or maybe the strip just stinks, but the difference was stark enough that I haven’t bothered to put out a strip collection since and have just concentrated on GNs with new material.

  142. I’ve had the same experience as Derf. It’s much easier to sell graphic novels.

    It’s funny that people tout iTunes as a success. For musicians, it has been a disaster. Music royalties are off 50 to 70 percent overall over what they were in 1990. Don’t forget Radiohead’s experiment, where they let people pay what they wanted. What they wanted to pay was nothing, or very little?and that’s what people are doing across the board.

    The trouble with this discussion is that it’s one of facts vs. faith. Faith in the Internet vs. the hard cold financial fact that only a tiny number of creators is making real money online…and even they are making less than they would have pre-1990.

    It’s not about loving or hating the Internet. it’s about economics.

  143. Ted,

    I talk to people who think about this stuff a lot, and I’m going to freely admit that I don’t understand a lot of it. I want to and I’m learning, but that’s just it. I’m still learning. Following this stuff is a lot more complicated than the math you just gave us and doesn’t take a lot of stuff into consideration.

    And I think it’s ludicrous to claim that webcomics have a harder time selling collections than syndicated comic strips based on your sales of Attitude 3. There are so many other things that factor into bad sales of Attitude 3 that you’re not even touching on:

    1) Anthologies are harder to sell
    2) unknown names in the book
    4) Fans of known names in the book already bought the content in other books by those known names.
    3) Published by NBM in stores, right? How strong was their online push?
    5) Previous attitude books marketed as political cartoon collections.
    6) Horrible cover design.

    Until you survey other webcomic authors and talk to them about their book sales, you should probably not throw out statements like that.

  144. Fact vs. faith?

    Numbers vs. hope?

    I just moved my family to Seattle based on how well my business is expanding (and continues to expand), and you’re begging for donations.

    Now ask to see my numbers again.
    And I’ll tell you to go climb your thumb.
    And then you tell me you don’t believe me because I won’t show you.
    And then go back to begging for handouts.

  145. “No. of comics fans in 1990 = x

    No. of comics fans in 2010 = 2x (because the Web has created new readers)”

    Only 2x? I would argue a much, MUCH higher number. Viral webcomics like xkcd have built their entire audience out of internet users who would never have considered themselves comics fans prior to the discovery of that one viral strip that opens the doorway to comics fandom. You are either assuming that every newspaper subscription = 1 comics fan (and by “fan” I assume we mean “person willing to spend money on the comic”), or you’re vastly underestimating the size and spending habits of online webcomic audiences.

  146. …and wait a sec, Ted: Radiohead’s experiment showed that the average price fans chose to pay was very low, but that the ~100k online sales still made the band MORE money than the ENTIRE sales (2.3 million) of their previous album, because they had to share nothing with the record label (One of many news sites for reference: http://www.nme.com/news/radiohead/40444).

    In other words, by “giving it away for free” and giving the fans the opportunity to support them directly, and keeping 100% of earnings with no middle-man, they made MORE money with far fewer sales. Sounds pretty much exactly like the Webcomics business model we keep hearing so much about.

  147. But Layne, you forgot to include the fact that this is internet money that Radiohead was making, not real money.

  148. 1) Anthologies are harder to sell

    Um, A1 and A2 sold GREAT.

    2) unknown names in the book

    PBF? Daily Dinosaur? Dorothy Gambrell? All the biggest stars of webcomics were in there.

    4) Fans of known names in the book already bought the content in other books by those known names.

    Not actually true. They didn’t HAVE previous books. Nice attempt to make stuff up, though.

    3) Published by NBM in stores, right? How strong was their online push?

    All the artists pushed it on their websites. Just like you do.

    5) Previous attitude books marketed as political cartoon collections.

    Not actually true. A1 was politics; A2 was humor. Another nice attempt to make stuff up, though.

    6) Horrible cover design.

    Um, have you seen the covers of supposedly high-selling webcomics collections? Anyway, A1 and A2 had the same design and sold great.

    How is asking readers to buy your book different from asking for handouts? Just curious.

    Also, Scott, is your anecdotal story, which may or may not be true, about moving to Seattle supposed to impress us?

    What, Newark wasn’t available?

    Hint: Portland: A quarter of the price. The same amount of rain.

    OK. I’m ornery now. Scott, please step in and say something snarky and irrelevant. Last word: yours.

  149. From Scott’s Twitter page- “I have stricken The Daily Cartoonist from my bookmarks. F**k those losers. I am so done with that whole discussion.”

    Good Riddance, Scooter McGee. I hope to some day meet you, so I can tell you what a great person you are to your face. You know, like a man would.

    Apologies to Alan about this whole thing.

  150. Apologies to Alan about this whole thing.

    I’m not worried. Scott has sworn off The Daily Cartoonist before, yet he always comes back.

  151. Aannnnd, Ted ignores the debunking of his Radiohead comparison, as predicted. The key to pretending you’re always right is to ignore anyone who proves you wrong.

    Ted, you’re at LEAST as guilty as Scott for making stuff up, referencing anecdotal evidence, and being snarky and irrelevant.

    Pot, kettle, black.

  152. I’ve met Scott in person… he’s a pretty nice guy. This is the internet after all… were you expecting trolls to be real?

    He doesn’t like me all that much but setting that aside I think it’s a real shame if he steps away from this debate. To be honest I don’t know how much value the information here can be to people who aren’t plugged in like Scott and Ted without their discourse (rough as it sometimes gets). It will be a shame if he holds true to this.

    I’m a webcomic writer. I hope to be a webcomic mogul at some point. That’s that hope and faith stuff you were talking about Ted. But I’m not spreading pixie dust on my keyboard. I’m working hard, trying to deliver that compelling content and build my audience so they support me by buying my stuff. You know, fairly standard business stuff.

    What I find most interesting in all of this is that the folks on the print side of things have lots of reasons why the webcomic model won’t work for them; they talk about why syndicates are still viable (while acknowledging the slow death of print… to their credit) and try and diminish what webcomics success there has been with stories (real and embellished) of failures both personal and allegorical. They also spend a lot of time discussing what they aren’t willing to do to make comics or webcomics work for them… and they work hard on those things that they are willing to do.

    Webcomics creators are very similar actually. I have over 200 creators at my Webcomics Community site and I’ve gotten to know scores more in my short time in webcomics. Many of them simply are not willing to do certain things. They talk about failed ventures by people who they know and use those stories as reasons not to try new things. They go out and intentionally seek out advice and then spend a good deal of time picking that advice apart and dissecting it; often tossing most of it away and even more often taking what they consider useful and filing it under “someday.”

    Then there are the guys that have made it. Many of them commented in this thread. Some are running on talent, some got lucky, all worked extremely f—ing hard and; and this I think personally is the one thing that sets all successful people apart on BOTH sides of the argument; they were willing to do whatever the f— they had to to make it work.

    Everybody knows the small business failure statistics in this country. They aren’t hard to find. Most fail. Most fail almost immediately. Many more fail on the way down the road. Few make it big. That’s the natural selection of the business world and it hasn’t changed in a very long time.

    Most webcomics won’t ever even become small businesses. They will continue to be cherished hobbies or fall by the wayside when their creators get bored.

    But those people who are willing to do anything to make their business work. Those are the people who will make it. And they will make it because they have compelling content, or their art is amazing, or they have successful webcomic friends, or they just get lucky. That one universal thing though is the hard work and the willingness to do whatever they have to do.

    And that is what sets the print comics world apart from the webcomics world right now. There are a hell of a lot more of us willing to do whatever we have to do to make it work while the print guys continue to look for the best distribution deal, grouse about free on line versions of their comics, and expound on the drudgery of accounting and billing.

    It’s that fire… that hunger, that the print guys are missing. That “I’m going to be a success or die trying” attitude. Lay it all on the line and go for it.

    There’s loads of eyeballs on the internet. Plenty enough to go around. I bet if someone knew how to speak to the Chinese or Indian population with a really compelling webcomic they could make an absoulte killing right now. But the point is that there is so much audience to go around (in addition to making 3 webcomics I read about 25 of them weekly and have bought something from many of them) that webcomics don’t even really feel competitive with each other. The creators I’ve met are kind, generous, supportive people who go way out of their way to give a leg up to projects they find enjoyable.

    Scott for example just promoted the hell out of Karl Kerschl’s, Eisner nominated “Abominable Charles Christopher.” Is he getting a cut of the proceeds? Does Karl owe hims some erotic massage or something later? No, by all accounts Scott did it because he loves the guys work and wants to help him sell some books.

    And what do you think would get him more attention and sell more books? Winning that Eisner or having Scott present the work to his already huge fan base?

    Me? I’d run over a truckload of Eisner’s with a steamroller for that kind of exposure.

    When’s the last time a print comic creator found a way to share up and coming work with his/her audience? Does that sort of thing even happen? I don’t really read print comics much (once I realized “Garfield Without Garfield” was funnier than “Garfield” I sort of gave up on most print comics… I have fond memories of many of them but they simply do not speak to me anymore) so I wouldn’t know.

    You print guys work hard. No doubt. Nothing in this mix is easy or simple. But there seem to be a lot of things you aren’t willing to do.

    I’m willing to do almost anything. Most importantly, fail, adapt and try again. And that is why you guys are fading into the sunset. Scott’s just describing the pretty colors as it happens.

  153. The Radiohead example doesn’t matter ether way, in my view. It’s something only one of the most famous bands in the world could afford to do regardless of its success.

    Forget donations – the members of that band could decide they wanted to smoke pot all day for the rest of their lives and never work again and they’d have money left over at the end. I guess that means their model of pot smoking is a crazy success ad they are sticking it to the man… if you ignore everything prior to that point in their lives.

    My point is, they had fifteen years of label promotion, touring and critical acclaim to make that experiment even possible. Getting your music out to people through the net and without a label is great, but the “In Rainbows” experiment is not very applicable to musicians that aren’t already on top.

  154. This comments are more funnier than a lot of comics I read in my life,
    I wish someday I have all your troubles,

  155. The art of Dinette Set is not good.

    That is not a hard truth to realize.

    Anyone who has ever read a “how to draw book” should be able to tell that there is a about a galaxy of skill separating the art of Julie Larson and that of Scott Kurtz.

    That is an observable fact; the line work, the colour, the expression, the motion and the capture of moment and scene speak volumes.

    So don’t try to put the two artists actual drawing ability on par as a matter of personal taste, because that is bull—-. It just is.

    That is the only thing I want to comment on, you guys can continue to flog yourself for religious or sexual reasons now.

  156. @Ben Rankel
    Quality matters to me, drawing ability matters to me, talent matters to me and I love, love, LOVE seeing great artists do great work…




    it’s not the be-all, end-all of success. Or entertainment. It’s something I appreciate, but if it’s clearly not there and clearly never going to be there and it’s still pretty darn funny, I’m man enough to admit that person creating the strip is, in fact, successful in creating their strip.

    I wouldn’t try to “tear them a new one.” Nope. Instead, I’d give them kudos and praise for succeeding in an extremely difficult career – I KNOW it’s difficult because I’ve been making a living at for over 16 years. If that person asked me specifically for drawing advice, I’d even say, “It’s not broke – don’t fix it.”

  157. Ted made some interesting comments that I wanted to address.


    1) Anthologies are harder to sell

    Um, A1 and A2 sold GREAT.


    What is your definition of ‘selling great’? From the research I just did, the numbers you moved in stores were nothing to be pleased with.

    Unless you happened to move another 20,000 copies on your own, financially speaking, it wasn’t worth your time.


    2) unknown names in the book

    PBF? Daily Dinosaur? Dorothy Gambrell? All the biggest stars of webcomics were in there.


    These are the big names? Perry Bible is a name yes, but the others? Had to google them, as well the others in the book. Nowhere near the ‘biggest starts of webcomics’ if there internet traffic is a judge of that, which it is.


    3) Published by NBM in stores, right? How strong was their online push?

    All the artists pushed it on their websites. Just like you do.


    The difference there is that the artists you used, aside from PBF, have very small traffic. If you’d look at the top ten most read webcomics out there today, the smallest among them gets more unique visitors then everyone (aside from PBF) combined.

    I can back this back up with 3rd party statistics if you wish.


    6) Horrible cover design.

    Um, have you seen the covers of supposedly high-selling webcomics collections? Anyway, A1 and A2 had the same design and sold great.


    Art is subjective, and the covers don’t move me to make the purchase, personally. If you’d like, I can put together some covers for you of some top selling webcomic books, and we can critiuque them together

    Also, I find your passive aggressive ‘supposedly high-selling webcomics’ rather offensive. If you don’t know something, please don’t feel the need to cover it with snark.

    Again, I can round up a good list for you of webcomics that have outsold you by miles. Again, I can back that up with 3rd party reports.


    How is asking readers to buy your book different from asking for handouts? Just curious.


    Asking a reader to buy a book is promoting a product, plain and simple. You’re giving them something in return.

    Asking for handouts, is begging for money you weren’t able to raise on your own. Which surprises me, that you couldn’t raise 25k through a publisher to put together your next book.

    I’m more than happy to discuss the issue with you Ted, and offer you whatever proof you need to put your false assumptions to rest.

    But please, if you’re going to bash my peers, my friends and the up and coming webcomics industry, please do your research first.

  158. One thing in this discussion that eludes me is why so many people think it is wrong to tell someone that their comics suck.

    If I hate a tv show or a movie I can tear it to shreds for bad acting, writing or whatever. If I hate a band I can make fun, insult them or their fans all I want. Sure the fans of those endeavors may jump to their defense, but I wouldn’t be called a bastard by the entertainment community at large for saying that Nickelback or “Two and a Half Men” are terrible.

    But if a cartoonist is sub-par and someone points that out a ton of people will jump to their defense. Not to point out why that artist is actually good, but to say, “Hey, don’t be mean. She tries real hard!”

    Why is that?

  159. Why is it wrong to tell somebody their comics suck?

    That’s an interesting question that should be addressed at the high school level. In fact, I’m wrestling with it these days with a mouthy 15 year old.

    It’s not. Right and wrong vary from culture to culture. A friend telling me that something sucks is different than when a stranger says it.

    Telling someone “your work sucks”, in my opinion, is useless and unsupported information that provides nothing and only draws attention to the critic. If you’re a teacher at the Rhode Island School of Design and I’ve just sat through a semester of your class, know your knowledge and know you, I’ll give you a break.

    But to pop on a forum read by cartoonists of all flavors and declare something as “sucking” without any critique whatsoever is just plain juvenile. Why should I care? What’s your background? Telling me something sucks is hit and run pointlessness.

    “Julie’s art sucks. Anybody can see that.” Really? Have you cracked open an art history book? Do you know the difference between overly rendered objects and simple presentation? Do you know contour continuity and placing objects, with interest in a defined space? Do you know anything more than “it sucks”?

    If you do, please expand. Give a critique that’s not based in anger. I’ll take you and your comment more seriously and put thought into it. We can always assume, no matter how good something is, that there is somebody out there who thinks it sucks. And I’ve often seen two highly respected artists at different ends of opinion. They just know how to back up what they’re talking about and remain nice.

    I wasn’t going to post in this thread anymore, but that was a good question. I just wish people would examine the answer earlier in life.

  160. @DAVE STEPHENS Didn’t say it was the be all end all. Simply said her art wasn’t good in any skill based sense of the term.

    Perspective is awful, line weight is non-existent, colour is flat and boring, choice of scene is repetitive and static.

    My issue was with the people trying to say that having some skill when it comes to drawing is a matter of personal taste and perspective. It is not.

    If you can’t see the distinct difference you’re either not qualified to comment or are interested in taking a stand as some sort of flowering fellatio fetishist.

    There are skilled artists, and there are people who draw. They are not on the same level.

  161. Alan said: “The story is quite simple: she was not satisfied with the way Creators was marketing the strip, and thought she could do it herself only to find it taking more time than anticipated. She was offered a contract with another syndicate which she accepted.

    This story isn?t about business models, webcomics, sub-par comics, or her client list. It?s about a business decision she made for her feature.”

    Two points:

    1. I have freelanced for several years, and worked for newspapers for several more. I liked the freedom of freelancing but hated having to spend so much time marketing myself when I’d rather be writing. I really felt that, if I was going to devote that much time to sales, I should do it in real estate where the effort would pay off better, and write for free. And I found I’d rather write with the constraints of an employer than fit it around sales and uncertainty. Your mileage may vary, but it’s not a question of who is doing better work or a more noble pursuit.

    2. Talking about whose work “sucks” is juvenile and pointless, except in the middle-school sense of who gets to sit at the cool kids’ table at lunch. Any working artist who frets over someone else’s opinion is already a failure. A comic strip is a commercial product, and if you can squeeze in some artistry, that’s a bonus, not a requirement. Tom Clancy’s characters are not as complex as those of Henry James, nor are his plots as well-woven as those of Dumas, but he’s not trying to be a great dead author and what he does earns him a good living. And, honestly, anyone who is getting published is doing something right. Making the best seller list is a subset of the goal of getting paid.

    Okay, three points:

    3. I’m finding it very easy to treat this forum as a touch-and-go landing each morning, and that’s too bad, but that seems to be the way of the Internet. Every forum seems to eventually turn into a bar where one table of loud, obnoxious drunks clears out a whole lot of other patrons who were having a nice time there.

  162. @ Mike Peterson.

    You kidding me? Following Ted and Kurtz go at it is great fun! Far more interesting than, oh, “Little Orphan Annie heads to Broadway.” or “Over the Hedge Turns 15.” NO way a post about the Dinette Set gets nearly 200 comments otherwise.

    I don’t get this web vs. print thing. Why do you have to be one or the other? Who decides what you are? We’re all trying different things. I have a web comic. I have a newspaper comic. I do graphic novels. Hell, I’d do interpretative dances of my comix at train stops if I thought it would pay off somehow. So what am I, besides a douche, of course?

    I’m not aware of any other media that splits into camps like this. I never hear musicians, say, choosing between tradition methods for spreading their music and web methods.

  163. I’ve learned more about being a cartoonist in today’s economy and in general overall from these discussions than I’ve been able to pick up from any book I’ve read about trying to become a professional cartoonist.

    Thanks to Ted and Scott (who are wonderful cynics), Stephen (who is wise and helpful to newbies), Mike, Derf, Dave and Alan (for contributing great perspectives), and everyone else.

    I’ve always wanted to be able to walk into a bar and meet and talk with professional cartoonists (the ones who get paid) and those who don’t, and enjoy the camaraderie of shared interests and experience. (Obviously, I’d be buying-)
    I’ll take this virtual experience in it’s place.

    Thanks to all of you for your time and consideration.
    I appreciate being able to participate in these discussions, even tho’ I’m relatively new to this. My mother always said to send a thank you note to the hosts.

    Alan-great site. Thank you
    and my thanks to Michael Cavna for the link that brought me here.

    (Remember to use a bucket, folks. Peace-)

  164. “Hell, I?d do interpretative dances of my comix at train stops if I thought it would pay off somehow.”

    God, that is so 19th Century? I make $400,000 a year doing interpretative dance at airports. You can’t make jack dancing at train stations, and soon their won’t BE any “steel rail stations” left for you gandydancers to dance your little gandies at.

  165. @derf:

    The two camps aren’t print v. web. As everyone knows, most cartoonists work in both media.

    The camps are “You Too Can Make $Billions As a Webcartoonist!” v. “I Doubt It”.

    I love webcartoons. But a half-dozen fiscally viable features (maybe) do not a business model make. At least not one worth spending much time or money trying to imitate. That’s the point I’ve been trying to make.

  166. The camps seem to be “I’m making a living off webcomics” Vs “LALALALAICANTHEARYOU”.

  167. Ted and Scott mentioned a collaborative that would provide some basic business services to individual cartoonists.

    Another model might be something similar to indie movie making like the Roger Corman studio. It wouldn’t be individual artists doing their own comics, but a team producing a set of titles, like a studio produces movies. That obviously requires a lot more investment, but could provide a stable venue and production facility.

    Original programming for the web in form of webcomics. It could happen.

  168. Maybe we could sort this out with a rule that only those who are also making their living on line — not hoping to, not planning to, but actually doing so — would be allowed to agree with those who say it is possible.

    (Hell, anything is possible. Practical is on a whole other level)

  169. Rob T: “The camps seem to be ?I?m making a living off webcomics? Vs ?LALALALAICANTHEARYOU?.”

    Often it seems like its the camps are “I’m an artist pretending to be a small business man but I only have a tenuous grasp of basic business or economic principles” vs. “I’m an artist pretending to be a partner with or editor for a large(ish) corporation but I only have a tenuous grasp of basic business or economic principles.”

  170. The camps are ?You Too Can Make $Billions As a Webcartoonist!? v. ?I Doubt It?.

    Is anyone really saying you can make billions? Or even more than a reasonable modest income? I don’t think Scott Or Mike K. are attempting to imply that their success is entirely repeatable.

    One thing I do know for sure is that it is possible to make a living through comics on the web. But waiting for someone else to create a business model for the rest of us to follow like a paint by numbers set is futile.

  171. No, @Michael, no one is literally saying you can make billions.

    But yes, Scott and Mike K. repeatedly come on here and say that anyone can do what they’ve (self-reportedly) done. That is my one and only complaint about webcomics?that they’re selling a dream.

    Dreams are evil.

    Reality rules.

    How do you know “for sure” that it is possible [for someone just breaking in to the field now] to make a living through comics on the Web?

  172. I’ve heard Kurtz talk a number of times. He has never said success is guaranteed if you follow what he did. He (along with almost every single other webcomic panel I’ve seen) always says it takes hard work, perseverance and a lot of luck.

    Kinda like making it in syndication.

  173. Having just come back from the Ruebens, I can tell you that the prospect of making a living off your syndicated print comic has diminished considerably. So maybe there’s going to be a convergence of web vrs. print making-a-living-off-your-comic-potential soon. In the “not very likely for either”zone.

  174. He (along with almost every single other webcomic panel I?ve seen) always says it takes hard work, perseverance and a lot of luck.

    There ain’t enough luck in the universe to deliver what those guys promise.

  175. @ted rall

    “How do you know ?for sure? that it is possible [for someone just breaking in to the field now] to make a living through comics on the Web?”

    Because I know (and named earlier in this conversation) several others who have done it.

    Charlie Trotman, Evan Dahm, Meredtih Gran, R. Stevens, Dave Shabet. There are others as well, but those are some names that come right to mind. Names of people who no longer have a day job.

    Starting your own business is never a sure thing even with a great idea and a diligent work ethic, but it can be done. It is far far far from impossible. I’m not saying there is a one size fits all solution, but there are solutions.

  176. @Ted:

    “Dreams are evil.”

    It all starts with dreams. It doesn’t matter what it is, the dream, the nascent idea taking form, when you are idle and the lightning strikes, is where it all begins. It doesn’t matter what it is, whether it’s a comic, an invention, or a new way of doing things, but it all starts with a dream.

    As it has been said before, dreams don’t always come true, but they are worth the effort. I know it’s rather pedantic to say, but sometimes the seeking is more important than the finding, and the journey is more important than the destination. So, even if my comic fails, which in all likelihood it probably shall, I take from it the experience of producing something that a few people have really enjoyed.

    I wish there was a formula, a panacea for all our ills, but there isn’t. The trick is to work hard and do your best. That is all you can do.

    Which is just what the guys tell you at panels, along with a plethora of tips that may work for you, if you actually heed them, rather than raising your ire and patently dismissing their ideas.

    I would encourage you to get more specific, perhaps some dissection of what they have recommended that you have implemented and found that didn’t work. I am curious.

  177. I’ve had several conversations with Ted on this subject. I won’t speak for him 1. because he doesn’t need me to and 2. because he’s a lot smarter than I am. I agree with him that there’s a lot of baaaaaad webcomics out there. But the quality of syndicated newspaper comix is even WORSE, percentage wise, and has been for, what, 30 years? I couldn’t get in that door either, which is why I sold a strip to weekly papers in the first place. That worked great for 20 years and now doesn’t work so great.

    I don’t agree with Ted’s overall dismissal of webcomics as a business model, and we’ve debated this as well. I think there has to be a workable webcomic economic model, because if there ISN’T, then we’re all screwed. I don’t, however, think Kurtz has the answer. I’m in Ted’s camp there. Seems to me too much of Kurtz’s business involves getting others to pay to learn his great secrets of webcartooning. That’s called a pyramid scheme. Or maybe he just comes across as such an arrogant putz here that I don’t care what he says or writes. That’s a possibility. I’m petty enough to be swayed that way.

    The guy *I* look up to like a drooling moron is Bill Griffith, who has an incredible business going. His Zippy the Pinhead webstore is unbelievable… check it out if you haven’t yet… and it’s not a bunch of print-on-demand, overpriced crap either. Zippy is traditionally syndicated and in a small number of papers, probably dwindling in number, and few enough that Kurtz could lump him in with other syndicated “failures.” But, of course, Zippy is brilliantly done and I read in a recent interview that the bulk of Bill’s income comes off his webstore.

    And he’s been using this business model since the 70s, when he had a store in the back pages of Zippy comic books! Far before Kurtz and Co. “invented” everything. Bill is always two steps ahead of the pack. Always has been.

    Of course, the key there is you have to concoct a character like Zippy. Drat. Always a roadblock.

    @Rob T. This isn’t a forum where anonymous posters lob cheap shots at each other. If you’re going to stupidly call a Pulitzer finalist “illiterate” at least have the kahones to use your real name (I thought you insisted on that, Alan?). I don’t think “illiterate” is the word you meant to use anyways, which makes your use of it pretty funny.

  178. To Scott’s credit he does have a post at webcomics.com that warns against setting up a cargo cult. Their by-the-numbers approach does have the feel of a cargo cult, but they also warn that it’s usually a three year effort before you can even start to see results. And that assumes you’ve got a product that is good enough to attract an audience.

    “Build it, and keep building for three years, and they will come.” is an extremely risky proposition. At least with the syndicates you only have to do a month’s worth (or so) of samples to determine if there is any interest. So the difference might be, do you shotgun the syndicates with a lot of ideas, or do you rifle one idea for three years and hope it hits the target?

  179. Ted, unless you’re willing to actually discuss the matter, based on fact, nothing you say on the matter is valid.

    I’m willing to have this discussion with you, right here, and provide the proof you constantly ask for in the form of government documents, notarized corporate documents, 3rd party statistics and bank balances and activity.

    I can prove not only can success be had with webcomics to the extreme extent, but also that there is plenty of success with the model in the low to mid ranks as well. I’m talking in terms of monetary success, as that seems to be what you’re hung up on.

    Success is not guaranteed, nor is it in syndication, but the business model and the audience is there.

    Let’s either discuss this, or simply stop spewing whatever nonsense you find fitting at the moment to your argument.

    Your call.

  180. Ryan, you need to roll in here with a LOT more hyperbole and unfounded chest-beating if you want to get Ted to engage you in any kind of dialogue. What you’re saying is really hard to make strawman arguments out of.

  181. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m looking very forward to Dave Kellett’s talk about webcomics at OSU’s Festival of Cartoon Art.

  182. @Aaron

    There is nothing more normal that Ted and Scott duking it out like drunken sailors, expertly shadow boxing various offenses both real and imagined while their supporters and detractors hammer home the intractability of either side…

    Egos get overheated and break down in the normal course of use (and abuse), followed by overreaching hubris, attacking the person and not the point, refusal to back down on obviously foolish statements, general refusal to be constructive or remotely genial and especially willful refusal to acknowledge the massively obvious success of some webcomics and daily strips…

  183. Actually, as much as I like to see Scott argue I’d really like to see Ted engage with Ryan. I’ve known Ryan for a couple years now and I honestly can’t think of anyone in webcomics who could handle Ted better.

    Certainly not me as evidenced by the last time I locked horns with Ted. I can’t argue with bad logic, closed eyes and crazy. It appears to be my kryptonite. But if anyone can provide the concrete, dyed in the wool, etched in stone proof that Ted is looking for that it is the owner of the 3,207th (Least I Could Do according to Alexa.com) ranked site in the United States and the 4,207th (Looking For Group according to Alexa.com) ranked site in the United States: Ryan.

    So far you’ve been ducking him Ted. I DARE you to take him up on his offer.

  184. Re: Ryan, Somewhere 50 threads back he said something so obnoxious that made me promise myself not to deal with him. But it’s been a while.

    Re: His offer to cough up financials, it’s an intriguing prospect and perhaps one I should take up. I would obviously promise to keep the basics confidential, as in, not blabbing the details here. However, I’m curious as to why he doesn’t simply post the stuff on his website?

    More to my point, it isn’t Ryan who goes around all Amway-ey and promising a road to riches to anyone who’s willing to work hard. It’s Scott and his buddies. So they’re the ones, it seems to me, who ought to show what they’ve got.

    Last but not least: many, many times people post lists of names of webcartoonists who are supposedly making a good living as evidence of the business model’s success. Included on such lists are inevitably people who actually do have day jobs, and actually don’t make any money as webcartoonists. It’s not up to me to out them, but I don’t understand why these fictional success stories don’t fess up rather than allow themselves to be used to raise false hopes–and increase their own competition!

  185. Actually, Dave Stephens, this has been a heated debate, to be sure, but an interesting one, with very little of what you complain of here. Yeah, there are some strong opinions and some wicked digs, but is that a surprise, given what most of us do for a living?

  186. Hey Derf – I went to the Zippy the Pinhead store – the mugs, t-shirts, greeting cards, etc is all powered by Zazzle – a print on demand company.

    When you said this: “His Zippy the Pinhead webstore is unbelievable? check it out if you haven?t yet? and it?s not a bunch of print-on-demand, overpriced crap either” – are you just referring to his book/comic collections?

  187. Re: Ted

    Obnoxious is taking cheap shots at an industry you know nothing about, without making an effort to learn.

    I joined the NCS so I could both learn and inform, and thus far, it’s been an incredible experience. I hope to do that again here, with you.

    The reason I don’t post this information on my own site is because no one there has ever questioned the legitimacy of what I do.

    I’ll keep this private, or make it public here, no matter to me. Tell me how you want to proceed, what the best way to have this discussion is for you.

  188. @ Jason.

    Yeah, Griffith has a Zazzle store too! But I was specifically lauding his own on-site store. The books…. and did you see how he set up his original art for sale? Woof.

  189. @Ryan: As I said, I’m far more interested in Scott “You Too Can Make $Zillions” Kurtz’s finances. I also wanna know whatever happened to Scott’s pledge to arrange a debate in San Diego between us. Maybe Comicon doesn’t return his calls? (Which would put he and I on an equal footing.)

    What *would* be instructive and not necessarily intrusive, would be to see one webcartoonist describe and explain, in some detail, how much he or she makes from each type of sale and how it works.

  190. I think we should all guess how much Ryan makes, and then whoever gets closest gets to keep it.

  191. Ted you’re deflecting. If you’re looking for evidence that Ryan promotes the webcomics business model how about the fact that he gave away a bunch of Webcomics.com memberships for free, that he paid for, through his site. That would be the same Webcomics.com site that Scott helps run. This is a double whammy of promoting the webcomics business model to others as well as showing him as a friend and supporter of Scott’s.

    There. Now he fits into that tightly defined prerequisite you appear to have for acknowledgement.

    It’s starting to look more and more like you are afraid of being proven wrong. Don’t chicken out Ted.

    If not for yourself, do it for all the print guys who foolishly believe/agree with you when you tell them that they can’t make any serious money with a web business model. Do it for them Ted!

  192. The gulf is flooded with oil, Sarah Palin is hotter than your wife, and the black kid from Webster died two weeks ago.

    With so much to feel bad about, who cares if Julie Larson belongs to a syndicate?

  193. Tony,

    With the caveat that it is just one data point, that’s a wonderful example of the data points that syndicate guys are constantly referencing to break webcomics apart into a huge sham.

    Yes, it’s an interestingly presented, but I instantly see two things that render it irrelevant: “income so far this year” under $7k and “donation derbies.” Those make it useless as evidence of anything as far as this hallowed debate is concerned, no offense to Cat and Girl which I think is wonderful. Unless it’s from the first month of the year, or unless it’s $90k+, no one wants to even look at it around here. Hell, no one wants to look at the $90k+ stuff either, unless it’s a newspaper success story.

  194. Actually, Kris, those figures are pretty damn depressing no matter how you look at them.

    Cat and Girl is a great comic, has gotten loads of press and acclaim, well established and only pulls in $21k a year? For three cartoons a week and running a big webstore to boot? Ugh.

    How is that any different than being a deadline slave in 40 or so papers for one of the syndicates?

  195. Good points Kris.

    Sorry, I didn’t want to muddy the debate. I just thought it was interesting data presented in an interesting way.

    Although Cat & Girl is one of my favorites, it has a very modest readership in comparison to many other webcomics. It wouldn’t be that hard to extrapolate from her numbers to see that a great deal of webcomics should be earning from $50-100k and greater. But again, maybe that’s just muddying the issue. Never mind!

  196. As cute as Cat and Girl is… and I’m sure it’s a great comic.

    1)There’s no apparent advertising on the site at all. That’s lost revenue.

    2) The strip is in black and white and full color strips tend to do a bit better.

    3) According to Alexa.com Cat and Girl don’t even crack the top 100k sites in the US. The traffic simply isn’t there to make it a full time job.

    By comparison, Sister Claire:


    A comic that updates one a week, maybe, is ranked 88,251 in the US.

    Cat and Girl updates three times a week and seems consistent.

    And I wouldn’t say that Cat and Girl has received loads of press and acclaim Derf. I’d never heard of it before I caught a story in Fleen about Ms. Gambrell doing this very thing.


    The comic is cute. Not enough to get me to add it to my regular thing thought. Philosophical navel gazing isn’t really my thing. I like comics that make me laugh or tell a good story. I don;t generally read them because I want to think. Now if a comic can make me laugh and make me think (XKCD) or can tell me a story and make me think (there’s fewer of these in my opinion but Goblins comes to mind) then I’m there. Cat and girl just makes me think.

    And I realize that’s a personal taste thing. There is no denying the comic is well done. But there is also no denying that, despite Ms. Gambrell’s very generous sharing of her financials Cat and Girl cannot be held up as the typical, successful comic.

  197. @Wanderlei Silva, Sarah Palin is not hotter than my wife. But I’m biased. And Emmanuel Lewis is very much alive. Wrong TV show, but right sentiment.

    Don’t you see? The world don’t move to the beat of just one drum.. What might be right for you, might not be right for some. It takes Different Strokes to move the world.

    Thus endeth the lesson.

  198. Bearing in mind, of course that Alexa and Google Analytics, like Bookscan, are about as useful as a BP oil flow analysis.

    In the real world, Cat and Girl is a monster of a webcomic, one of the top three in terms of quality. As a newspaper strip, even in this environment, it would earn a lot more than $21K. With a lot less work for Dorothy.

  199. Stephen: I’m pretty sure Wanderlei Silva’s comment about the “black kid from Webster” was tongue in cheek. It made me laugh.

    Ted: please just take Ryan Sohmer up on his offer. It would be interesting to read a real substantive discussion on this topic. Ryan seems to have some answers you’re looking for. So why not discuss it with him?

  200. Something else to keep in mind is that chart only tracks January through April… the doldrums of convention season. Now, with the season in full swing, and assuming Ms. Gambrell attends any, I imagine greater revenues.

    But Ted… Alexa isn’t quite that useless. Sure I concede there is now way to really figure out how much traffic a site actually has these tracking systems do serve a purpose as baselines in comparison to themselves (in the past when looking for trending changes) and other sites. It may be pretty spotty but it is of some use. Since BP has a vested interest in diminishing the reported numbers in the oil spill I can’t agree with the analogy.

    And once again Ted.. I appreciate you may THINK that Cat and Girl is one of the top three webcomics but that’s just your opinion. Traffic, which drives revenue, is made up of everyone’s opinion. At least, everyone exposed to the content anyway. And I personally believe the cream always rises to the top.

  201. “I just wanted an excuse to type out the lyrics to the Different Strokes theme.”

    Hey, I can’t blame you. It’s a classic. Right up there with the theme to “Silver Spoons” and “The Golden Girls.”

  202. i don’t think there’s a magic business model for webcomics, other than that it takes a lot of readers to generate revenue, and only a tiny minority of cartoonists will ever have those kind of numbers.

    that said, $21K would be a lot of money to Gary Coleman, were he still alive, and that seems sad to me. so it goes.

  203. “And I personally believe the cream always rises to the top.”

    Whenever someone says that, I always wonder if they live in that parallel universe where Spock has a beard.

    Hey! I have a beard now!

    It’s itchy.

  204. @Mike Krahulik,

    In addition to your being in Time magazine, it’s important to remember that your pal Jerry Holkins looks just like White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs — if Robert Gibbs got a Brazilian wax on his head.

    I don’t want to get all Scott Kurtz on you, but I really don’t find Penny Arcade and its accompanying commentary all that entertaining. Strangely, though, I’m a big fan of PATV (Penny Arcade’s reality TV show). You guys are much funnier “in person” than through your comic. In a perfect world there would be more episodes of PATV and less comics and commentary.

    One more thing:

    It seems Robert Khoo does a great job running your company but I have to ask: how do you stand being around him so much? His expression is always the same, like he’s giving the cut-eye to some fellow across the room who doesn’t meet his approval. I don’t think I could carry a conversation with him for very long because I’d be afraid that if I said the wrong thing, he’d stick me with the ninja dagger he keeps hidden in his sock.

    Anyways, congratulations on the Time magazine spot. Hopefully next year you’ll win a reward from a reputable magazine.

  205. “Bearing in mind, of course that Alexa and Google Analytics, like Bookscan, are about as useful as a BP oil flow analysis.”

    And with that statement, I remember why I vowed not to listen to anything Ted has to say.

  206. I’ve read and kept up quietly with the postings on this thread. I find it interesting that the successful as well as the (so far?) not so successful cartoonists assembled here have tossed, and fired sometimes cruel bullets at each other, as to that its so hard to make a living drawing comic strips.

    It’s not that hard and it’s not impossible to do so. And the syndicates aren’t devils to be avoided. Gods so much whining, when the answer is not all that inescapable to fathom.

    1st. let’s define the actual question we’d all like to know the answer too; (as well as cement whether Julie was correct or not too return to syndication, after not being able to do the self-syndication thing to her liking).

    Let’s look to Frank Cho; and his Liberty Meadows strip, as a good example. Frank started his strip in college and it ran in the college newspaper; (where he worked out the bugs in the strip); it ran until he graduated; he then pitched it too the syndicates and got it accepted. It was accepted not only because it was drawn well & it was funny – with well defined characters; but it was also accepted bc it had a proven ability to sustain readership. It had a following ( or at least proved it COULD have a following) – in short it was marketable! And so after running for a few years in syndication successfully, a problem developed between Frank and the syndicate editors – they kept censoring him and the strip’s humor in ridiculous ways – until Frank, had his fill of it. He then proceeded to publish the comic strip in comic book form / self published it at 1st; then wanting more readership along w/ having to not do all the work of accounting, dealing w/ the printer, and so on and so on, he took his comic strip comic book to Image Comics. (A giant selling publishing comp. at that time). The Image logo on Cho’s comic book gained him much more readership and the comic book sold even better than it was – which was already quite good. (Plus he was no longer dealing w/ irrational stupid syndicate censorship). The comic book ran for several more issues before Cho himself canceled it…(wanting to draw other things like Shanna, etc). He also put his Liberty Meadows strips reprints / and the strips that had been turned down by the syndicate editors, as not printable, into books – which also continue to sell well. (you can also collect the reprints thru comics.com by paying a modest, overall subscription fee to the site).

    So-o-o, what I’m basically saying w/ the above long-winded paragraph is simply this: A cartoonist who has developed his cartooning / drawing skills / craft, along with his strip writing / gag writing abilities can make a good living, a paid living off his work; by simply having a thought out plan of execution – that also is flexible enough to take advantage of all the different avenues that are available to the cartoonist.

    Doing the syndicate route is a good thing; if it’s coupled w/ also finding an avenue(s); PAID avenues, over the web. Along w/ making the comic strip marketable / drawn well enough / written well enough, for selling in the comic book market – from its initial development beginnings!

    But the key here / the binding thing to keep in mind IS that the comic strip needs to be developed very well; in its drawing, in its writing (gag-ness) quality. The reason that a lot of comic strips out there today, especially within the webcomics genre is that the cartoonist didn’t fully (from its inception stage), spend the time to develop the strip; mashing out the ‘bugs’ before approaching the syndicates w/ samples; and or isn’t even doing so as an ongoing process while they publish the strip over the web. I’m sorry; but it’s true. And I was a publisher of comic books from 1996-2002…so I know what its like to be on the editorial side too. A publishing company / or syndicate must be able to make money off the intended strip. That’s just the way it is! And if the strip isn’t developed enough, too, make them believe that will happen, then the publisher / syndicate is right minded in turning down the strip.

    If your samples are rejected by syndicate; its doesn’t have to be a sad, bitter thing. When you send them your sample package; put a note it it addressed to the editor (s) that you’d appreciate a short paragraph back / included with the possible rejection letter / as too what needs to be fixed with the strip – so that you could further develop the strip properly and resubmit it again sometime in the future, w/ the suggested needed improvements done to it. [Editors love to give they’re opinion as to what improvements need to be made to a fairly decent strip; that just misses the acceptance mark].

    It’s then on the cartoonist’s side of the court to be smart enough and ope enough too make the actual adjustments to the strip – so that the resubmitting goes better than it did the 1st time. This might have to go on thru 3-4-7 or 8 resubmits. But all the while the strip will be going thru greater development! Which isn’t wasted; even if the artist decides after the 8th rejection to take the strip to web-only publication – it’ll be at the very least, a well developed webcomic.

    A webcomic that can then be also self published – and or maybe picked up by a standard comic book company for publication. It’s not all that difficult to understand, is it? You don’t need Scott to reveal any so called secrets in a book or here…. It just takes some logical thought; and exploration of the avenues available; along with research on how to exploit those avenues to ones advantage.

    The answer is – spend the time to develop your comic strip on all fronts; before releasing it too the public or the publishing powers that be. Yes – it takes more time and effort to do so. But it’s better than rushing and throwing a half-baked strip out there – only to have it labeled as ‘It sucks’.

    Me? I’m about too submit my own strip too the syndicates the 1st week of July. I’ve been developing the strip sense 2003 and I now feel – NO! I now know, that the strip is developed to the point that it’s worthy off being, POSSIBLY; syndicated.

    But whether or not the syndicates buy the strip with this 1st submission or not – I will continue too develop it. (I have also developed at the same time, over these past years, 3 other independent strips too. These 3 others are not ready to be seen by anyone – but I carefully continue too develop them, and will do so until they’re at the level of my prize strip). Who knows? Maybe it’s the single gag panel strip that will hit w/ the syndicates instead of my prize strip?!

    And if none of my strips get picked up for syndication; I’ll have 4 different, well developed strips to publish into comic books; reprint books; and or over the web. That’s the plan and I’m sticking to it. I’m also relaunching some of the comic books I released with good success as graphic novels trilogies. So I’ve got plenty to keep me busy and happily drawing and writing.

    Julie – She needs to keep developing her comic strip / improve the draftsmanship on the strip; along with the writing. She also needs to become familiar with all the different options available to her, for her strip – if she doesn’t actively do so, then her strip will surely die. It’s just that simple. Julie shouldn’t be looked down upon or just fluffed off as she and or her strip ‘sucks’! She should be seen as an example of what will happen / a struggle / if one doesn’t do what I’ve pointed out here, in this insanely long post.

    The power of success is always / mainly in the hands of the cartoonist! It’s that simple! You have to make the syndicates, etc want to publish your strip – and that happens, or has a greater chance of that happening, IF; you develop your strip to the point that its a must have..!

    Comments – rebuttals – cursing’s; gentlemen cartoonists / and or lady cartoonists, are welcome.


  207. @John Meyers: Consistent use of the word ‘too’ instead of ‘to’ is a little distracting. Aside from that, there’s anything wrong with syndicates per se, I think they probably started out as artist collectives with some good managers and PR people and grew in response to market demand. Artists give out about them because their editorial policies are viewed as too conservative, and because they keep rejecting our submissions.

    @Wanderlei Silva: Personally I’d love a Robert Khoo running the business side Neko the Kitty. I could start my own damn comics syndicate! With blackjack! And hookers!

  208. @Scott
    i wish you good speed

    love it!

    go eat a corn dog you special ed drop out*. the advice in web comics weekly and how to make web comics fell flat on your ears because it’s an entirely different world on line.

    As i have said before presenting good work on line leads to popularity, social networking and blogs naturally create a new awareness distribution system. No longer is what’s popular chosen by a few white men in suits. Everyone is a gatekeeper just looking for something to share with their friends. It is not a divisional culture of niches, it is a culture of unprecedented freedom and sharing.

    When distribution is limited content must be designed to “not fail” (mass appeal, not generating hate mail) however if distribution is no issue, content that is designed to succeed will win out.

    penny arcade is a fantastic example. it’s designed to succeed with gaming enthusiasts. If your not up on whats going on in the video game culture it’s easy for the comic to fail. That does not matter, penny arcade has no responsibility to entertain the people who it wont entertain. It’s not part of a package that people pay for. What matters is that it works for some people and for those people it works very well, so well they give their cash in exchange for goods and services.

    *i myself am a special ed drop out, and i approve of corn dogs.

  209. Actually; I used the correct form of the word “too” instead of “to” in most of the places…but it was like 3 am; so I was fighting fatigue & was half asleep when i posted. Sorry for the “too / to” errors.

    Guess I’m used to my novel’s editor getting rid of pesky spelling errors for me; makes me lazy sometimes with the whole spell-checking thing.

    eh; hopefully, my point(s) in the post offered up some helpfulness to someone reading it – which was to point to posting. Maybe if Julie read it; she found something in it to help her out. *Shrugs*

    As far as the whole newspaper syndicate thing; and me trying for paper syndication – I, at the very least want to see if I can become part of comic strip newspaper syndication history, before newspapers vanish entirely. *Double shrugs*

    And of course, I’m not opposed to making the added monthly syndication cash to my Swiss savings account too. Although I’m at the point where I don’t really have money headaches anymore – I feel that one can never have enough of the green stuff these days. So I’ll sock the syndication money away (if the strip gets bought, that is); sock it away, as I do with the royalty money I get from my supernatural genre novels; the graphic novels; and the newly licensed artist supplies I have coming out on the market (starting in August).

    The point of that ‘too’ ridden posting was to ignite some hope & get up-n-go fire under Miss Julie’s butt and maybe others reading the thread. cartoonists have to start being smart with how they do their art business or suffer the consequences as Julie’s now seems to be suffering from; even though I see a lot less doom-n-gloom for the future of cartooning than some others do.

  210. @John Meyers

    Whew! That’s a loong post, dude!
    I’m hoping you didn’t work as an editor when you did your publisher gig, ’cause you spelled so many words wrong (never mind the spell check) that I was beginning to wonder about your ability to write, even for a comic strip.
    (I’ve worked with a lot of editors and if it’s one thing they taught me, it’s how to spell the words right.)

    Now that I’ve attempted to do my best Rall, I’l comment on your comments-

    1) It takes a lot of work to produce a good comic strip. Period.

    2) Yes, you should map it out, but asking an editor what you can do to ‘fix’ or ‘improve’ your submission only proves to them that your strip isn’t worth looking at, doesn’t it? Besides, you’re asking them what it is that they like. A truly objective editor won’t say anything. If your work is good, they’ll like it, no matter what.

    3) Frank Cho is a truly gifted artist and an awesome storyteller. He also has a wonderfully warped sense of humor. I was lucky enough to see his work in the Diamondback when he was developing his strip, and some of those were amazing.

    4) You better have some point to your strip, otherwise mapping it out won’t matter, because any tangent you go off on won’t make any sense to anyone, even if it’s not supposed to make sense. (Much like some of these posts.)
    Had enough?

    …oh yeah, hey Ted, are you going to accept my LinkedIn invite, or ignore it?


  211. @John: Sorry dude, you can’t make a bunch of typos like that without someone drawing attention to it and/or being a jerk about it: it’s the Internet.

    Making money as an independent cartoonist in the internet age is one of those things that hasn’t been fully figured out yet, and with all the competition around there’s bound to be some snarling and baring of teeth as people defend their own position. I think we can all agree that producing a quality comic is the first and most important step (although opinions vary on what constitutes ‘quality’.) Finding the right distribution models, types of merchandise, and good marketing requires adaptability, good business sense, luck, and gumption. Gumption’s mainly there because it’s a good word

    My own strip Neko the Kitty (shameless self promotion, take a drink! http://www.nekothekitty.net) is (I think) cute and funny enough to be marketable, but too weird for a syndicate to consider. I’m doing it as a hobby until the Career Fairy comes along to make one of my strips or t-shirt designs go viral and start bringing in fans who’ll buy merch and click on ads. It’s not the Best business strategy, but it lets me get on with the cartooning.

  212. @Duane – For Christs sake; it was 3am when I posted my loooong post! Gimmie a break! LMAO!

    And an editor won’t think your strip isn’t worthwhile or that you don’t know what your doing, if, you ask what they feel is wrong with it, the right way. I’m talking in general here.

    Example editor response might be that the strip doesn’t seem to be appropriate to appeal to a general mass audience…which is what syndication corps. want to do. It doesn’t mean the strip sucks…just means they feel that they can’t do anything with it.

    Another response might just be that the strip is too similar to 6 other strips that, that particular syndicate already carries.

    That’s the general type of opinion input I was referring to in my previous post. And such a response IS valuable to the Cartoonist, because if all that’s wrong with the strip is that its themes are too similar, than that can be changed easily…and the cartoon strip can be resubmitted again; with its new unique thrust.

    My “Nyghtfall” comic book, was a vampire story…but when I was done with it; before publishing it; I realized that it wasn’t all that much different than any other vamp story. So I adjusted it; adjusted the vamp’s origination and turned the story into more of one about abuse than just another girl gets bit – girl turns vamp – girl bites and kills others vampire story. And it worked! Sold out its first small print run of 22,000 copies in its 1st week; and had to do a second printing run; which also sold out. The only letters I got from readers were about what happened to Nyghtfall’s baby, that she’d given to gypsies, to protect it from the bad guy vamp; and that they wanted to know more details about Nyghtfall’s abuse that she suffered before she became a vamp. A couple of changed panels and an adjustment to the overall thrust of the book’s premise and…success!

    A lot of strip cartoonists fail; because they’re unwilling to adjust their strips to turn them into mass appeal successes. Especially if the suggestions are given to them by non-cartoonists.

    It was suggested to me by someone that wasn’t really a comic book fan / collector; but who had read my comic book that I should redesign Nyghtfalls costume to be more gothic looking; said her costume looked too superhero-ish to be a vamp. 1st I resisted; dude didn’t even like comic books…then I slapped my ego down; reluctantly; and did the costume overhaul…and hate to admit it but the dude was right. So the graphic novel relaunch will feature the more gothic costume.

    Point is that; yes doing a strip or a comic book is very hard; especially a unique one. But if you want to be a success as a strip or comix artist; you do what you need to do or change; to make it a success. Ego or whatever be damned. That’s all I meant by my editor opinion mind-pricking; after rejection occurs. What do u have to lose at that point? You’ve already been rejected.

    And yes Duane, you have to have a point to your strip, not just mapping it out, etc. But if your point, etc…isn’t garnering success; especially financial success; then your wasting your time.

    There’s potentially great webcomics that aren’t successful because the cartoonist won’t ask for input from editors and such – that’s a fact. A sad fact.

    Opps post getting long – will rest now.

  213. @john meyers- Do you even have a website? 20,000 copies of a comic book sold, and no website?

    Also, it has nothing to do with my attention span. Your posts have grammar errors galore. I lose interest right away because of that.

    Since you’re so prolific, I (and I’m sure others here) would like to see some of your work. Especially since you have so much advice for everyone.

  214. @Dan Bielinski – Yes Dan I had a website up for a few years – but decided to take it offline for an overhaul and unfortunately I’ve been too busy for the last 2 years to spend the time revamping it. However, when or if my comic strip gets syndicated during this next month I will be having my computer wizard brother do the revamping of the website and he’ll throw it up online again; most likely sometime in either September or October.

    If the comic strip doesn’t get picked up by a syndicate then I’ll be throwing it into a graphic novel format, and along with another graphic novel will be releasing it to the market. (The website would still go up to feature those releases and be updated there on, as time permits).

    I you can’t hold on till then though Dan, I would suggest that you visit your local comic book shop and ask if they have a copy of the 1996 released Nyghtfall comic book for you to peruse.

    I can’t just send you any artwork I’m presently working on because I don’t show anyone I don’t know artworks of mine before they’re published – for obvious reasons. (One being that I’ve had artwork ideas, character designs, ripped off more than a few times – so I’m very gun-shy these days about showing my work that’s not published yet). No offense intended towards you or anyone else here – it just the way I am now – the way certain people have forced me to be. Shrugs.

    However I would be happy to let you know when the graphic novels are being released – if you’d like; and when I get my website back up.

    As far as offering up advice here – gee, Dan, I didn’t know it was such a sin to do so. I thought artists always tried to help each other out whenever possible – sorry guess my bad. I’m always open to art advice from anyone kind enough to offer it – especially sense advice is usually free and can be taken or not taken, as one sees fit. But if that’s not the case here with all present then I’ll not offer any advice up again – consider my input just a sound of silence.

    Again, I meant no offense to anyone – just was offering up my thoughts, as was everyone else.

    Oh and for the person who hoped I wasn’t an editor when I was in publishing – take heart – I wasn’t an editor; I was the owner of the publishing company; which was called: Escape Comics, inc.

    Eh; I learned a lot from owning and running my own publishing company; so when I offered any off-the-cuff advice here; not realizing that you’d be taken so aback by it; it was just, I don’t know, a slip of the tongue. I assure you though, it won’t happen again.

    I’ll just keep my mind where it should’ve been; on getting my writing done and the artwork finished. Which is what I should be doing, instead of posting anyways. Double shrugs.

  215. Whoa! This thread is still goong on? Holy crap on a cracker.

    Out of curiousity, Alan, do you know what the longest thread was on DC? Just curious. If so, do you know what it was about? I’m guessing either web vs print or diversity in comics.

  216. @johnmeyers

    John, please accept my apologies for being a bit ruder sounding than I needed to be. I think my newfound association with some of these guys is rubbing off and I’ve forgotten my manners.

    Still, all things considered, we all learn a lot from these discussions.

    Alan, thanks again for this wonderful site.
    Very much appreciated-

    Peace, y’all-

  217. @Dan – no need to be rude at all…however, apology accepted.

    It’s all good…

    …And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go beat up my cat, Echo, for stealing drawing pencils off my drawing-board – AGAIN!

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