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Stephan Pastis: I’m not dead yet!

The Independent Weekly profiles Pearls Before Swine creator Stephan Pastis and his book tour for his latest book: Pearls Freaks the #*%# Out: A (Freaky) Pearls Before Swine Treasury

One little nugget from the interview:

"Sometimes I think the obituary for syndicated comic strip guys has been written prematurely ? it?s almost impossible to break in, but for those who have, the readership is still there. Sometimes I want to remind people that I?m doing OK! Most towns still have a newspaper, and at the end of the day, you still have to have local news. Even Yahoo and Google rely, by and large, on content that originally comes from local newspapers. It might take different forms, but local newspapers will survive, and I feel comics will be part of that.

Reminds me of this little snippet from the classic Monty Python’s and the Holy Grail

Community Comments

#1 Justin Riley
@ 12:13 pm

I have often wondered why small community papers don’t have a comics page. I’ve always assumed it’s because the big city papers demand exclusivity from the syndicates. If that’s the case it needs to change.

The syndicates are in the power position and should start planning for tomorrow. If there are legal barriers, they could just create a division or an affiliate that launches strips specifically for small market community papers.

I’d gladly launch my strip in local papers.

#2 Justin Riley
@ 12:22 pm

Actually, Pastis is such a workaholic empire builder he should launch a new syndicate himself, just for small local papers.

He’d be doing humanity a service.

Where do I send my submission?

#3 Mike Kandalaft
@ 4:14 pm

“There is no new great syndicated strip, and there probably won?t be. Literally, there are no new launches.” — Stephan Pastis

What about Dogs of C-Kennel, Dustin, Tundra and others which have all launched in the past few years and are all amazing…not to mention actually well drawn?

What an insulting comment to make regarding your fellow peers.

#4 Mike Cope
@ 5:26 pm

@Mike Kandalaft:

I’m not defending Pastis, but he did say “great syndicated strip.” The ones you mentioned are all nice features, but the syndicates haven’t launched a GREAT feature (from both an artistic and commercial success POV) for some time. That is not necessarily the fault of the cartoonist(s) working on recently launched features. One could consider it a sign of the times.

If one was going to issue with that Pastis quote, I’d challenge his pessimistic “probably won’t be” sentiment.

The Titanic sank years ago, but there are some pretty fancy cruise ships sailing the open waters today. You just need the right combination of talent, timing, luck, and magic.

Pessimism is a wise position to take. It helps makes the next great success seem that much more special.

#5 Mike Cope
@ 5:28 pm

Sorry, that should have read “take issue” … Typing with two fingers here ;)

#6 birdie Birdashaw
@ 11:55 pm

Even though it retired recently, can’t we all agree that at least Cul-De-Sac is probably the last great syndicated strip we got to experience?

Also, I don’t think you need a syndicate for a local paper distrubution. You just have local artists work with the paper as a staff artist.

#7 Mike Peterson
@ 4:39 am

The small, community paper is a shoestring operation that can’t justify ten bucks a pop for comic strips when they only pay $30 for a local column, and don’t pay half their local columnists at all. (I had some who were insulted at the idea of being paid — they write about the next chicken dinner and who’s home from the Gulf the way they would work with Literacy Volunteers or keep the flowers nice in the median downtown.)

But that expense aside, it’s very expensive to add another page to the paper — and, oddly enough, it doesn’t matter much if you add a “dinkie” (two page sheet) or the full four pages. And besides the paper, you’re now burning that many more plates.

About the only thing more expensive would be hiring a staff artist. You don’t have to pay them much, but “not much” is what you’re paying the editor. (The one reporter is part-time, no benefits.)

The small papers — 17K to 25K dailies — generally do have comics pages. I’d assume those are the ones Pastis is referring to. Unfortunately, they’ve been gobbled up by distant beancounters and only a few qualify as “community” papers anymore — similar to how, in rural towns, the local convenience store/gas station is being edged out by the chain operation.

#8 Justin Riley
@ 12:47 pm

Every city, district, region and suburb has a free community paper with a minimum of 32 pages and publish 3 times a week. Each paper has a big building with their name on it, plenty of articles, photographs and their own in-house graphic designer. A lot of them have horoscopes, so why not add a little patch of 6 strips?

Your pessimism seems unwarranted, but I’m from Canada and maybe the local paper is different here.

#9 mark mason
@ 11:23 pm

Is it true that there have been no new launches by any of the syndicates?

#10 Mike Lester
@ 8:24 am

I can only think of one:

#11 Mark_Tatulli
@ 8:46 am

Mike, I love your strip and your artwork is always so loose and full of energy! If I may ask (and feel free to decline in response), how many print newspapers did you launch with?

#12 Mike Lester
@ 9:37 am

Forgive me while Mark and I exchange deep wet kisses that last three days but fact is, “Lio” is a modern day Addams Family.

To answer your question, “Mike du Jour” launched Oct. 24 in 7 papers: Miami Herald, Seattle Times, WaPost, Charlotte Observ. and 3 smaller papers. That’s not many but the combined circulation/readership is a big number.

btw: there was a time when fifth paragraph of Pastis interview (above) would have set this blog a blaze. What happened? Is he right?

#13 Stephen Beals
@ 11:46 am

@Mike Lester Yes. I recently had a conversation with other web cartoonists about this. I think that that if you want to do comics for the web, do it for the reasons Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick and not for the reasons Sam Walton had for opening up his own store.

I don’t doubt that people are making good money from webcomics. I don’t doubt that people win lotteries, either.

Hopefully, things will change so that there will be a healthier percentage of creators who can make a living this way. I’m happy for those who do, of course, but I read way too many quality webcomics that make nothing compared to their newspaper counterparts from 30 years ago.

#14 Egmont Ouerveture
@ 5:44 pm

Pastis is only brain-dead. His zombie corpse toils on without reason or purpose. His characters have been dead since ’07.

#15 Marc Davidson
@ 7:52 pm

“This is a signing line ticket event, with tickets available for each copy purchased; Pastis will also draw a character in each purchased book.”

What’s a signing line ticket? Does it mean you have to have a receipt/ticket proving you bought a book before you can see/meet Pastis?

#16 Mike Peterson
@ 3:49 am

Mike Lester: Don’t forget that, with web comics, you see them all. With syndicated comics, you only see the ones that make it through the process. I doubt the wannabe/are percentages are a whole lot different.

And for those who do make it, while banner ads do bring in some change — and remember that most of these strips only have to support one or two families, and the top 10 percent get massive numbers of hits — the real money, as I understand it, is in reprints.

But basically, if you saw everything in the slush pile at a syndicate rather than just the stuff that makes it into development, I think you’d find little difference between cr@p on paper and cr@p on a screen.

#17 Mike Lester
@ 8:30 am

#15: Marc: Sounds like that’s exactly what it means. It’s commerce and probably a necessary evil.

#16 Mike: “cr@p on paper and cr@p on a screen” you’re right and I wish you weren’t.

And “reprints”? Really? A reprint of a computer drawn web comic generates appreciable revenue in REPRINTS??? How’s that possible? And how long can someone rely on that income stream?

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