The webcomics blog about webcomics

So … Cold … Even Servers … Freezing Up

Since we’re in the grip o’ arctic doom here in the Greater New York Mediasphere, may I point you towards the snowiest, frostiest, most chilly (in a toasty hearth with a roaring fire kind of way), Snowflakes? Chris Jones, regular artist for the lovable (maybe) scamps (definitely) in the far-off orphanage decided that “supporting his wife” while she “gave birth” was I dunno, important or something, thus necessitating a short break from drawin’ duties. Three weeks without art? Disaster.

Into the breach: one Christopher Baldwin, who can certainly draw kids. But given the subject matter of Snowflakes, Baldwin has opted to use is somewhat more crazed style, as found in Spacetrawler; check out Wray’s expression in the last panel of today’s strip and tell me she doesn’t have a relative or two crewing the I.A. Star Banger. The frenetic style suits the perpetual motion and near-panic of our favorite orphans to the proverbial T. If you don’t regularly read Snowflakes, these strips act as a stand-alone story, and are a great place to get a feel for the characters.

  • Is there anything better than Sexy Batman? Science says no; science also says that as this is being written, Kate Beaton is having Q&A funtimes at Yale University, so I guess if you’re not already there, you’re out of luck, Sparky. Doubly so, considering that Latin Art-Throb Aaron Diaz accompanied Beaton, and is surely visually blending in with the dapper classes. Although as Mr Diaz is missing the typical elbow patches on his jacket, he may be given away as being too well dressed even for an Ivy League campus.
  • Something I’ve been meaning to get around to for a couple of weeks now (and thanks to Tony Piro for prodding me via email): Colleen Doran (most recently mentioned on this page in conjunction with her cautionary tales of dealing with publishers) put up a State of the Webcomic posting at the beginning of the year that’s worth your close study.

    For those not sufficiently familiar with Ms Doran’s work, she’s been doing comics a long time — she’s been in print since her teen years, has worked on literally hundreds of titles and characters for nearly every publisher imaginable, and through all that time has continued work on her creator-owned project, A Distant Soil. Much like the Foglios and Carla Speed McNeil, Doran found it expedient to move away from the struggle to self-publish floppy-style comics, and moved ADS online; like her colleagues, she had the advantage of a loyal audience and the disadvantage of a longform narrative with years of backstory. On the other hand, “years of backstory” also means “lots of content that can go up immediately”.

    Naturally, there are no promises or guarantees in webcomicking, no matter how loyal a following you bring with you. It’s been a challenging transition, and Doran’s post is useful because it puts numbers on exactly how challenging — breakdowns of traffic patterns, effects of site redesign, and audience reading habits. It’s the most complete look inside of a metaphorical kimono since the last time Dorothy Gambrell revealed income data. The practical upshot comes near the end of Doran’s post:

    Most of the traffic on the old website was driven by blog posts. Most of the traffic on the new website is driven by webcomic readers. The more attractive pages later in the series account for much of the site’s appeal. Webcomic readers have short attention spans and are unlikely to stick with a site if the first page they see is unappealing. Earlier ADS pages are less likely to grab new readers and keep them. Later pages show a significant increase in staying power.

    Which leads a little later to the payoff line:

    A Distant Soil will run M-W-F through 2011. The sales on the site are up, the site is self supporting.

    That first quote is far more important than the second. Yes, it’s terrific news that Doran has achieved self-support and growth, but the lesson that you need to take away is how hard a process it was to get to that point; how much analysis was necessary to figure out what was going to grab readers and what was going to keep them. There’s no such thing as an overnight success, and once that self-sustenance comes along, the only rational response is to build on it:


    1) Triple traffic in 2011.
    2) Work part-time on ADS in 2011
    3) Full time throughout 2012. It could happen.

    My money’s on her succeeding, but only because decades as a self-managed artist have honed Doran’s business, promotion, and creative survival skills to the point that the frantic scrambling of a young person’s career actually pays off. Read her story, be prepared to be at least as tenacious and skilled in the non-creative fields if you want to succeed in the creative one.

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