The webcomics blog about webcomics

This One Is Mostly About Books

Also, a few things that are Not Books.

  • Books: Yuko Ota and Ananth Panagariya do one of my favorite webcomics (to the point that I know how to spell “Panagariya” without looking it up), and they were kind enough to send me a copy of Johnny Wander vol 2: Escape to New York, for which I was pleased to provide a blurb (it involved Archie). Let’s see if I can repay their kindness with another well-chosen phrase for volume 3, whenever that may come out.

    What struck me on my reading (and re-reading) of EtNY was its sense of generosity; this is, after all, an autobio strip, and one might well assume that the focus would be on Panagariya and Ota to the point that the rest of the city becomes a mere setting for them to live out their lives, and people that they encounter to be bit players and extras. Far from it, though, as they’ve gone out of their way to share the spotlight, even to minimize their own presence in the story of their lives, and let their cast of friends and co-conspirators have their chances to shine. Many of the best strips feature John, Aaron, Evan or George¹.

    Ultimately it’s about capturing the moment and whoever that may entail (I have had this epiphany at the AMNH, as well as by the Q. northropi, the A. excelsus, and especially the T. rex), and nobody recognizes that moment, nobody captures its essence, in quiet and in enthusiasm like Yuko and Ananth. Also, there are adorable critters, and Garies. So many Garies.

  • Books: If you haven’t seen it yet, the new collection of comics inspired by Jim Henson’s The Storyteller is quite good. It might be my webcomicky preferences showing, but I most liked the story by Chris Eliopolous and Mike Maihack (inverting the normal order of things as the Storyteller’s dog — who is named Dog — tells an old Romanian tale of why dogs and cats and mice dislike each other, making more sense than a more modern version where it just don’t add up); the Aesop story by Colleen Coover; and a Japanese tale by Katie Cook. In fact, of the nine stories in the book, three were from China and Japan, and one from Appalachia, which marks a welcome broadening of the basis of the tales (entirely European in the first Storyteller series, and obviously Greek for the Greek Myths sequel series). Terrific work, start to finish.
  • Books: End of the year, time to confirm or recant my strong words regarding Anya’s Ghost back in April:

    It is 224 pages long, was written and drawn by Vera Brosgol, and is the best comics work of 2011.

    From the perspective of time, I stand by my opinion. I will draw an arbitrary line between the “comics” of Anya’s Ghost and the “cartoons” of Hark! A Vagrant, and say that Vera Brosgol’s story of a moody teen learning uncomfortable truths was the best comic story of 2011. That is all.

  • Not Books: In contravention of conventional wisdom, there’s a comment thread on the internet that’s useful and reasonably polite. Well, until the end when it goes off the rails a little, but I’d like to commend to your attention a back-and-forth from Friday’s posting between Ben (no last name given) and Scott Kurtz, which starts here. In particular, I’d commend this part of the discussion, from Mr Kurtz:

    [W]hat’s not known is that I’ve already approached some syndicates about consulting the “proper way” and got told that they really, by policy don’t hire consultants.

    I agree that the way it was presented was out there and a little crazy, but at this point, It’s the best way to target the “crazy” person at any of these syndicates that’s willing to buck the system and say “fuck he’s right.”

    So it’s not like we didn’t try other ways first.

    Cross-reference the criticisms of Kurtz² for not going about things properly, say, here. In all sincerity, I ask those that took issue with “how Kurtz³ said it” if this revelation changes their minds. Answers, as usual, on a postcard, and let’s try to keep things polite?

  • Not Books: Randy Milholland reached a milestone yesterday, having spent ten years drawing comics of horrible, dysfunctional people (although I really like Fred and consider him a much less horrible person than most of the cast, despite having more than his share of sorrow). But, and this is a thing I’ve noted about Milholland’s work, a thing that I think he does better than anybody else in webcomics, his horrible dysfunctional people are trying.

    At the same time they wallow in their respective psychoses, they’re trying to be there for each other, trying to be better people (even when they don’t admit it), and it’s why I regard S*P (which is so deeply wrong and cynical and vicious on the surface) to be innately hopeful and optimistic. Milholland may not always ‘fess up to all of the sweetness and sincerity he’s capable of (particularly because he seems to have a higher-than-normal quotient of humorless, angry, rage-quit inclined readers), but it’s there all the same.

¹ Especially George; you might try to convince me that John has the punchline, but it’s all about the vibe that George is projecting. His simple, iconic, almost hermaic representation will follow him all the days of his life and beyond.

² And Guigar! Let’s not leave him out of the equation. Poor Brad, always laboring in the shadows … like a ninja poised to strike.

³ And Guigar, ibid.

White is my last name. It was great to see a response from Scott in regards to my comment yesterday. I didn’t know that they had approached peoplewith comparable offers in a more traditional manner in the past, but it doesn’t surprise me. Guigar and Kurtz are obviously pros in many regards besides producing quality products. I’m also sort of sympathetic to the “had to get their attention somehow” approach, and on a practical level nothing is lost because the slickest, most professional, compelling proposal in the universe wouldn’t have changed the minds of syndicates or other middlemen. I should be clear on my stance: syndicates are the ones really missing an opportunity here.

To answer for question: yes and no. It makes it more clear that “how Kurtz said it” here doesn’t really matter. But I stand by my point, which is ultimately that professionalism matters. As Kurtz pointed out, he has a reputation in the industry. He didn’t just say that his potential clients are incompetent and suffering from illusory superiority; he said they’re fucked. There’s a pattern. And here’s the thing: Scott has built a successful, thriving business. He has many valuable connections, the quality of his product is high, and I think his take-no-prisoners attitude and tendency to speak his mind has helped his business in the long run. People who would support his type of business respond well to personality. That approach just also closes other doors, which is in part what we’re seeing here.

At long last I’m done yapping, with one final remark- If those folks think that Kurtz and Guigar should net just “a couple k” in light of the skills they bring to the table and the need the industry has for said skills, well…they really must not be in the habit of hiring consultants.

It always amazes me when people spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on the *how* of our post instead of doing the really hard part — addressing the actual points being made. I’d love to see someone do that — ’cause *that’s* where the real, valuable conversation is.

See I disagree. I seriously doubt Scott perused a formal proposal process for this. I am guessing the “proper way” that Scott is referring to is a conversation with some mid level exec as a convention bar. That’s may be a good way to pick up 2 month a work for hire art job but when you are proposing that a company overhaul it entire business model it’s a laughable approach.

The rudeness aside the whole thing shows Scott’s complete ignorance of the business world. He has proposed no real ideas put forward no strategic plan. I mean what is Scott’s plan? How would he scale up the his business model that support only one person to a large scale business? How does he propose to move out of the over-saturated videogame market? What are the potential risks of the next 5 years that he see? How does he propose to take advantage of the tablet apps market? What is his strategy for online piracy? What sort of contracts is he proposing be made with the talent to insure that top comic don’t just leave once they have found success?

And the list goes on. A proper business proposal offers real solutions, its not just a resume. There is nothing that indicates that he has even thought about issues that face a real business. He has had absolutely no success in building anything beyond his own fame. He doesn’t even have a single employee that he manages. Look at me I’m famous is not a valid reason to give someone a job that requires a deep understanding of business process.

You and I both know that, inasmuch as business is sometimes done with prospectuses and formal language, it is also just as often done on golf courses and bars with language that never appears below a letterhead.

Scott’s done more business than both you and me put together. Let’s not spend too much time wringing our hands over whether he knows how. He’s kinda proven the point.

So the tone issue is beside the point.

Here’s the deal…

No syndicate was going to accept our offer — even if it was typed-up double-spaced on 100% cotton bond. It’s not how they work. And, truthfully, I don’t know that they agree that the problem is dire.

That post was aimed at someone who could recognize two things. We’ve reached drastic times. And Scott and I simply love comics and want to see them flourish — and that includes syndicated comics that everyone assumes we harbor a grudge against.

We — quite honestly — offered ourselves as drastic measures. And the only person who could appreciate what we could offer is the same person who could read a post like that and *get it.* A person who could read that brash statement and appreciate it for the cut-through-the-B-S nature of it.

Because *that’s* the person that could take what we have to offer and run with it.

It wasn’t gloating. It wasn’t dick-waving.

It was like a message sent in code. To the intended recipient, it reads clear as day. To anyone else, it seems like garbled nonsense.


I’m not a professional consultant, nor is Brad. We would consult or advise based on our real world experience. I think anyone taking us up on this offer is aware we’re not trained consultants from a consulting firm.

Sometimes a University will allow people to teach despite a lack of a degree because they have equiv experience.

Your lambasting us for not doing things like the pros do. I submit that attempting to would make us look like phonies.

See I AM a professional consultant(trainer/consultant to 100% accurate) and have worked on many deals just like what you were trying to do. As a professional it kind of made my blood boil when you said you did it the proper way when it’s clear you didn’t. It would be the equivalent of a print cartoonist saying “Webcomics are easy all you do is sell T-shirt”. You would have a problem just letting something like that go, right?

A proposal doesn’t make you look like phonies, it is just answering the question “Why should we pay you money”. Businesses requires such documents to insure the consultants they hire have;

1) understanding of the business
2) a strategic way forward
3) the ability to implement the plan

Expecting to get a consulting job without written proposal would be like getting a Career Councillor job without having a resume or to take your university example to be hired to teach a class an while saying your not going to make a lesson plan.

Not having the proposal is the thing that is making you look like phonies. The proposal is the substance where the self-promotion is put aside for real ideas and solid data. It’s not like a degree or honor it’s a plan and a company is not going to hire you if you don’t have a plan.

The point is that there was a way to do this that had a chance of working or at the very least would laid the groundwork for consulting jobs in the future when the industry does reorganize. Again let me give you an analogy; remembered how you felt when zuda comics implemented a flash viewer without deep linking ability and called it a innovation. That kind of how those of us who have done these things feel about this tack your taking here.

But you know what, I got no dogs in this fight. I wasn’t trying to lambaste you, just point out an error you made in your approach. I admit I got a bit testy with my response. You got to keep in mind I have been doing the consulting thing for over 15 years. It’s painful to see these fundamental mistakes made.

PS: I was not being facetious about wanting to see the plan. Suppose you were hired by a Syndicate what changes would you implement? What would you have them do?

You’re the consultant, Eric. Do you often consult for free on public Web sites? :)

As for us, what we’re offering isn’t exactly new. Rather, we’re offering to help a syndicate (or syndicated cartoonist) apply the stuff that we’ve been talking about for ages — in books, podcasts and Web sites — in a way that’s tailored for their unique needs. We have a few unique ideas that we’d like to share that would apply only to them — ideas that came up as we sat there brainstorming this concept. But nothing we’re going to post here.

It’s like this: You know the feeling of frustration you got when you felt that Scott and I were flubbing the basics of what you do?

That’s kind of how we feel when we see them try to grapple with the Web.

And, like you, we’d like to help.

Ok I am just going to stop saying “consulting does not work that way.” It’s getting us nowhere. There’s a difference between what I am asking and giving away business secrets but that is neither here or there.

The thing I was curious about is I don’t think your advice scales up to cooperation. I frankly don’t see anyway to really save the Syndicates with the current webcomic model. (Just one example is when a artist can leave for the web at anytime and make more profits how does a syndicate hold on to talent once they are popular?)

But your saying you have a secret plan to save comics. (You know, like Nixon.) If that’s so you have to find some way to get this secret plan in front of people who can act on it. Thus again a proposal. I do suggest you look for a professional proposal writer instead of trying to do it yourself. They are pricey but you’ll find you’ll make more headway with something formal. Think of it as a resume for your business skills.

“A secret plan to save comics”? I love a good straw-man argument, and that one’s a doozy!

What we *actually* said is quite clear. It frustrates us to see companies struggle with the Web as if it’s brand new — and not over a decade old. We’d like to help. And we offered that help in a way that was — as several of you have pointed out — informal.

But we’re not looking to get into the consulting business. We were offering a one-time deal.

If no one takes us up on our offer, we’ll simply go back to doing what we’ve been doing — happily.

Say you saw a guy who had fallen down a well. And say you offered to do what you could to help him. Now, say the guy says, “Certainly! Just fill out this form in triplicate, submit a written outline of what you plan to do, and — as long as it’s done in the correct format — I’ll be happy to consider your offer.”

What would you do?

I’d walk away from the well.


I’m trying desperately not to let the previous chip you have on your shoulder about us cloud my talking to you on this subject, but it’s getting harder with every passing moment.

Look, we never said we have a secret plan. We said, we think we have the accumulated knowledge to help a syndicate or SYNDICATED CARTOONIST make more informed and successful web initiatives.

We didn’t say we can save newspapers. We didn’t say we can save the syndicates. We didn’t say we can undo the damage that’s been done.

We said, we could help these companies look a little more well-informed when it came to their digital business models.

For the record, the thing keeping a syndicated cartoonist from leaving once they see they have a successful web-model would be their contract with the syndicate.

We acknowledge that you are a professional consultant. You don’t have to keep reminding us of that. I also acknowledge that you would like to see my plan. I will not be providing you this plan as you are not involved, at all, in any possible way, with my offer to consult for a syndicate or syndicated cartoonist. And if I published my plan in an open forum, why would someone pay for it later.

[…] of recognitions and honors (including those of YALSA, CYBILS, Kirkus, and the prestigious “Fleenie”), Brosgol’s story is a nominee for a Bram Stoker Award by the Horror Writers […]

[…] You and Scott Kurtz caught some heat back in December when you made an open offer to consult with comics syndicates on The Future, then amended the offer to offer your ideas to the highest bidder. When […]

RSS feed for comments on this post.