The webcomics blog about webcomics

Friday Sold Out, Today Looks Insane

Brief post today because it’s Saturday and exactly how much do you people want from me? Also because I’m still mulling over a lot of what I heard and saw yesterday and they’ll have to get a fuller treatment later. With that in mind, let’s get started.

The Business of Webcomics panel was different than any other I’ve seen at Comic-Con so far; Robert Khoo and Scott Kurtz set out with a goal of creating a viable, monetized property live on stage with the help of a whiteboard and a wireless microphone. While Kurtz called for suggestions from the audience and scribbled notes, Khoo wrote his ideas on the other side of the board.

First up — deciding on a setting. Kurtz is of the general opinion that webcomics are like sitcoms: the setting gives you flavor, but it’s the characters that drive things. That is, WKRP in Cincinnati isn’t really about a radio station, The Office isn’t really about the paper business … you get the idea. Suggestions flew fast and furious; in some cases they were already done (movie theatre!) and in some cases too tricky to implement (deep sea trench!). Ultimately, Khoo pushed for a setting he thought would be a challenge: A CASINO.

While Khoo started thinking up issues of market segments, audiences, and industry pluses and minuses, Kurtz and the crowd started spitballing potential characters — the pit boss, the horrible Elvis impersonator who’s really Elvis, the bouncer, the guards and cocktail waitresses. Given the better potential for conflict (which would drive character design), Kurtz decided this was a crappy casino where the house manages to give away its advantage.

Meantime, Khoo’s working up his limitations. He wants to partner with representatives of the industry and they’ve got deep pockets, but they’ve also got a small number of potential partners/advertisers, and a built-in limitation of appealing to an adult audience: you can’t push to kids with the natural tie-in products. There’s also the thought that while a lot of people may think about gambling for a week when they’re on vacation, there’s not many people that make it a continuous part of their lives — and their lives aren’t necessarily in great shape.

Character design isn’t going to be really possible to describe here, but we can summarize Kurtz’s thoughts in two words: Bert and Ernie. Strongly visually contrasting characters work well together, as much as strongly contrasting personalities. It’s such a complex topic, in fact, that you really ought to wait until January, when Image will be publishing a book on this very topic and more (think of it as a how-to guide to webcomics) by Kurtz and Kris Straub.

Similarly, Bill Barnes‘s question on how the setting/design is to the business end was revealing. Khoo emphatically denied that he would try to influence things in any way at all. If Kurtz wants to use the strip (as he mentioned) to do commentary on the people who line up to cash their paychecks in chips, then Khoo’s got to find a way to work with that when pitching to that self-same casino for partnerships and advertising. Whatever the artistic direction of the strip, whatever the social responsibility issues, it’s up to the business guy to make it work without changing the strip.

At this point, the session went to straight Q&A; as I mentioned before, there’s going to have to be a fuller discussion of these issues, and look for that in the coming week.

The other session of note yesterday wasn’t a session — it was a party thrown by Zudacomics to introduce themselves. I have written of my skepticism regarding DC’s initiative, but let me say that the snacks were tasty, the open bar was top quality, and Ron Perazza (director of creative services) was honest with his answers. I’m still working up my thoughts on this one, and will talk about it as soon as I have the time to do it justice.

Finally, the Eisners were last night, and from the Dumbrella booth you can easily see both Phil Foglio and Brad Guigar, who were nominated for Best Digital Comic. Last time I spoke to them (Guigar before the ceremony, Foglio possibly after), neither knew if they had won or not. If you’re around, drop by and give each of them a hearty handshake/manly shoulderclap of congratulations, or a tender hug of condolence. Today’s sessions of note below the cut.

  • Dave Kellett, on his favorite cookieI Hoovered those things down.
  • Robert Khoo, on collectives — This is not a knock on anybody, I think those guys are great, but I don’t think there is any collective right now doing it right.
  • Scott McCloud, on me — Do you know there are no photos of you on the internet?
  • Ivy McCloud, on driving distances — We got an oil-and-filter change at least six or seven times, and that was every 7000 miles.
  • Sky McCloud, on forgetting an important story detail during the big slide show — Oh, frak.
  • Ron Perazza, on which population Zudacomics is going to be drawing its audience from — We don’t know yet.
  • Phil Foglio, on awards — We put a sign on the booth last year that said Eisner Award loser!

Satuday Session Wishlist

  • 1030 — 1130 TokyoPop/Wil Wheaton — Room 2
  • 3:30 — 4:30 Penny Arcade — Room 1AB
  • 5:30 — 6:30 Keenspot — Room 3

“Brief post” — yeah, succeeded there, didn’t I?

McCloud the Elder isn’t quite right.

The mustache is a dead giveaway.

[…] webcomics. This year featured far fewer webcomic-centered panels and apart from the very valuable Khoo & Kurtz Show, they were pretty much of the personality variety. So I’m soliciting suggestions from you, […]

[…] back to my conversation with Robert Khoo at SDCC on the topic of collectives, I’m becoming more convinced that there’s a market for — let’s call it a […]

[…] off once already, with the complete alteration of the Robbie & Jase dynamic. Having heard him (back in July, yo) riff live onstage about how shaking characters out of their comfort zones can lead to hearty […]

RSS feed for comments on this post.