The webcomics blog about webcomics

The More I Wrap My Brain Around This, The More I Like It

So PvP was down for a while yesterday, but the wait was worth it. Because when it came back, there was Scott Kurtz’s open letter to Bill Amend, et. al., and I’ve been giving it a good, hard think. Short form — newspaper syndication of comics is a troubled business model, webcomics are (let’s be honest) off in our own little corner of the world, and:

Some of you might think that new guard, the webcomics can bring these changes. But I think that’s an incorrect notion. We have no credibility outside of our own community and circles. We have little knowledge of how newspapers work and we have no connections or trusted working relationships with the people in power. We’re limited to the web and when we try to cross over we have less than stellar results.

The syndicates are failing online., Comics Sherpa, Ucomics. Nobody cares. They’re hiring hipsters to bring new talent into their existing system but they meet resistance with such piecemeal actions I think.

More and more I’ve been wondering if there’s a halfway point where we can all meet. What we need is a bridge. Someone who understands both sides and can work with both sides. Someone who has the time, which means someone who’s probably retired from comics or is superhuman in is ability to meet his daily syndicate schedule. Someone who is willing and able to work alongside or outside is syndicate contractual obligations.

What would happen if I got myself, Bill Amend, Bill Hollbrook, Joey Manley, Robert Khoo and a handful of forward thinking features editors all into a room together?

Who’s interested and what’s our first step?

Answers to those three questions:

  1. I don’t know, but I would pay American cash money to see that meeting happen.
  2. I am.
  3. Not sure yet, but check back tomorrow; I’ll be talking with Kurtz later today, and we’ll have to see what sort of ideas might develop.

I hope Kurtz pays attention to some of the comments/suggestions/criticisms made by his readers following that post. While many of them represent your typical rabid online wolverine, there are some excellent points made in there that shouldn’t go unnoticed.

“If you ask someone my age or younger if they read any strips in the newspaper, you’ll probably hear them mention either Get Fuzzy or Foxtrot and both of those strips are, at best, the top of the mediocre pile.�

– Scott Kurtz 12/19 Link here…

Interesting that Kurtz would want to be involved with someone whose work he considers “mediocre.â€? But perhaps not surprising, because he also referred to Charles Schulz work as “trite shitâ€? on a BLC podcast. Link here…

This isn’t about the future of comics. It’s about PVP, and making his audience bigger. That’s all it’s ever been about. How long are you people going to keep buying into the bullshit?

Well duh, asshole.

and fuck you for implying that self-survival and growth is bullshit.

Foxtrot and Get Fuzzy ARE mediocre at best. But is that the fault of the creator or the fault of the constraints the papers and syndicates put upon them?

What could Amend do if he wasn’t in the paper? Do we know yet? Why are we waiting?

Stop being so bitter.

Yeah, he just said in this xfire chat transcript that he didnt really care for the web comics, “I have no idea what’s going on in webcomics anymore because..I can’t. We just don’t have the time or interest any more.”

And a few days later he wants to reinvent the wheel, or talk about a new “hub”. The problem is, no one really gives two shits, and those newspaper guys who are retiring are doing so for a reason, they either don’t need or want to work anymore, or they likely made enough money to retire and relax. The last thing they’re going to want to do is take Scott Kurtz for a piggy back ride.

“Foxtrot and Get Fuzzy ARE mediocre at best.”

That’s the kinda quote that will stop those guys from working with you. How can you reach out to them to help you, but then pretty much slam them? They might not share the same opinion you have about quality in the newspapers. In fact, they might find in insulting. Not everyone is upset with the work that’s made their careers you know?

so…are you guys saying that you would rather not try anything?

I mean, so far, all you guys have done is talk about how it’s stupid to try essentially.

but you don’t know what you’re trying to do exactly. You know, to be fair, why not set up a summit or something and get all the willing minds together. If thats what you propose, all the best to you on it. It will be hard to change the minds of people whove done something one way for eons now.

I don’t begrudge your success, nor your efforts to grow your audience. That’s capitalism, baby, and I tip my cap to you. And I’m not bitter. I’m not the one bad mouthing the syndicated cartoonists, other web cartoonists, or even Charles Freaking Schulz. (That trite shit was gold, especially in the context of why you said it. Go ask Billie Jean King about Charles Schulz. She’d laugh you off your drawing chair.)
I’m sure a person with your clout (and I mean that sincerely) would have no problem getting in touch with the folks you mentioned privately to discuss this idea. But by jumping on your soapbox on the front page of your website, you’re making it another “Kurtz Event,” destined not to accomplish anything but keep Scott Kurtz out there on the forefront of the community he otherwise disdains.
Which if fine. I freaking applaud you for it! Please understand again – I don’t begrudge you a single dollar or a single fan you earn.
What I’m saying is I’d like people to recognize it for what it is. That’s all.

It is indeed that.

but it’s also got a diamond in the center of it’s coaly… blacky… coal… ness.

…and to say that FoxTrot and Get Fuzzy are weak comics is pure opinion (to state the obvious). Senses of humor vary (again with the obvious). Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it isn’t a skillful example of that medium (to state the obvious again). To an objective person (me- a webcomic artist who is also a fan of the aforementioned mediocrity), it just sounds like Scott’s begrudging them accolades because they have the access to, and success in, the world he wants to crack open and enter. To then ask them for a hand in the master plan just proves Norman’s point.

But again. The diamond is there.

…and it’s the size my wife likes.

Scott, no one is telling you it’s stupid to “try.” People are telling you it’s stupid to crap all over these artist’s work and then actually expect them to help you.

The idea of web and print cartoonists coming together is a great one, but they’re never going to rally around you because you have so much public ill-will towards so many of them.

Telling print cartoonists that all their comics are terrible… yeah, that’s going to encourage them to reach out to us and help get webcomics into newspapers. Thank you so much for your help, Scott!

It’s good that a long thoughtful post like the one at PvP can be dismissed by serving up the drama and questioning motives. Maybe this idea can die on the vine and we can all wait for UFS to step in and tell us what to do.

Let’s not learn from the newspapers OR from successful web cartoonists and just organize another back-patting ceremony or celebrate the 250th strip of a comic no one reads. Keep up the good work everyone.

Scott and a couple others just need to realize, without being too big headed, that they just don’t NEED anyone from the print world of newspaper comics. Scott takes his daily webcomic, reprints it in an Image Comic book, wins awards… Why even include the old school in the situation? Just bury the bones of the dinosaurs I say. The ones who are interested will be coming soon enough, especially when the big newspaper markets dry up or there’s magical digital paper…. oh, they’ll come find you. What you have to ask is, you want to invite the old guard to be the new guard??? That’s dumb. I mean, you couldn’t even get the top WEBCOMICS to get together under one label and work together.

Scott, if you want to be in papers, just submit your comics or develop a new one.

Scott, I gotta side with Sam on this one. You can’t hope to reach out to these guys and call their work “mediocre” at the same time. It’s rude, and rudeness is the LAST thing you can afford when dealing with folks who are already comfortably entrenched in an industry that you’re trying to break into.

One more thing: denigrating Schultz around newspaper cartoonists is like going to a Southern Baptist service and calling Jesus a sonofabitch.

One of the comments I saw that really struck me is basically… the idea may or may not be sound, but putting an open letter on the site isn’t going to start anything. It may generate discussion about the open letter itself, but not really make any headway towards the actual concepts spoken about within.

If the goal is to form a coalition to work on this, then you’ll need to reach out and go to them. Whether it will succeed or not is hard to say, but it won’t do either if one doesn’t actually go out and put it together.

Jeph’s right.

Part of the problem is that we do NOT have a good relationship with syndicated folks. It doesn’t matter who started this fight, there will never be a community if both sides keep standing in our “newspaper strips are boring”/”webcomics are amateurish” islands.

We also have to take in account there’s unmovable folks in both sides. I don’t think you can convince Wiley, for example.

If there’s any chance for this happening, it would have to be at one of the big cons. San Diego, perhaps. Still, there would have to be a lot of mending and good will *before* that.

I’d say Scott’s idea is good, but he has to make someone else buy the idea so that other person is the “contact” with syndicated cartoonists. Someone more neutral. Bill Holbrook, perhaps.


All drama aside, I like the ideas put forth here. One of the things mentioned in Watterson’s speech that Scott quoted was pre-printed comics inserts. I think this could work though perhaps only if it was funded by ads so it could be given to papers for free or a marginal cost. Kinda like Will Eisner’s Spirit section.

[…] PvP creator Scott Kurtz issues an open letter to Bill Amend and any stray features editors under the age of 50, in which he wonders in somewhat confused fashion if newspapers and online strips can’t help each other out somehow. (Link via Gary Tyrrell.) […]

[…] Gary Lotta confusion about what Scott Kurtz really means in his open letter; on first readthrough, I wasn’t entirely clear on what he was proposing and why, so I called him to ask. And just to save time, we’ll posit that Kurtz is one of the polarizing figures in webcomics, has pissed off people by word and deed (although in person, I’ve always found him to be amiable, and he’s always offered me every courtesy), and there’s baggage associated with almost everything he says. So underneath the strata of history and emotional color that will inevitably cloud the issue, what was he trying to say? […]

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