The webcomics blog about webcomics

Some Few Things

As a side note, posts may be wonky for the next couple of weeks; I’ll be working from a client site, and the extent of network access during the day isn’t known. Somehow, I know you’ll cope.

  • From MoCCA comes word of their programming for Will Eisner Week (celebrating what would have been the master’s 95th birthday), centering on a panel discussion at 7:00pm, Thursday 1 March. The panel composition caught my eye — couple of comic book guys¹, an academic², and Judith Hansen.

    If I were going to be in town (cf: irregular updates for the next couple of weeks³), I’d be attending this panel and listening to Ms Hansen very closely, as she is the literary agent to [web]comics. Name a major creator, Ms Hansen’s repped them4. She has Ideas and Thoughts about where this creator-driven industry has been, where it is, and where it’s going. Also — and this may be my favorite thing about her — she’s tremendously knowledgeable about Belgian beer, and she and I have pointed each other in the direction of some seriously tasty stuff. Anyway, 7:00pm next Thursday, at the Museum (594 Broadway, fourth floor), $7 general admission, members free.

  • Let’s contrast on the Business of Comics angle for a moment; you may have noticed this week that Corey Pandolph announced that he was discontinuing his syndicated strip, The Elderberries, on Sunday 4 March. Relevant parts from Pandolph’s blogpost:

    Put simply, my career is going in another direction. I’ve been writing and performing more comedy, finding my cartoons in the pages of The New Yorker and discovering new ways to work in comedy, while still keeping myself happy and food in the refrigerator. I’ve done a daily comic strip in one form or another for nearly 15 years. There have been some real breaks along the way — a few reasons to really get excited about a future in comics strips — but nothing seemed to manifest itself into a solid career path.

    As I mentioned, this is all on me. I chose the manner in which I wanted to find success in the world of comic strips. I chose to not involve myself in today’s artist-owned business model of embracing the Internet and constantly hustling my own work to make a buck. I tried all that for a time with Barkeater Lake and I knew it was just not for me. Those who find success at being both creator and salesman in this world have my respect. It is very hard, very disciplined and it is not my bag.

    Best of luck to Pandolph — and especially thanks to him for that second paragraph quoted. With the Golden Age of Syndicated Strips fading ever further, I think that history will eventually come to observe it as a temporary blip in the great continuum of Art, where the usual condition always was (and likely always will be), To be an artist, you gotta hustle. It’s hard, it’s an entirely different skillset from the art itself, and it must be mastered at least as much as the creative portion.

    I’ve been having a back-and-forth with a creator of my acquaintance about a possible dark side to all of the Kickstarter successes that [web]comics have been seeing lately. The crux of the matter is, by focusing on the tremendous successes — which by definition are noteworthy — and not the many failed kickstarts, are creators who don’t have established audiences and a reputation for high-quality work going to be falsely convinced that raising money (read: success) is easy? The more I think of it, the more I’m convinced that making a go of comics is just like joining my volunteer EMS agency.

    Bear with me.

    As the Membership Trustee for my organization (also: Vice President, Cadet Advisor, Captain, and all-around datagathering and IT guy), I spend a significant amount of time telling prospective members that riding with us isn’t what they think it is. It’s not wall-to-wall excitement, dramatically shouting Live, dammit! until the CPR works, and walking away from explosions in dramatic slo-mo. Not only does none of that exist, most of our time is spend on the business of keeping everything running: inventory, supply management, raising money, paying bills, keeping the grounds and rental hall bathrooms clean.

    Everything that I just said that doesn’t involve a lights-and-sirens ambulance call? That’s the business of being a cartoonist. No matter how cool the creation, business remains paramount if you want it to be your living. There’s no shortcuts, no magic fountain of free money, no way to get around both putting in the work to build the audience, and putting in the work to make it pay. By all means, create because you can’t contemplate not creating, but don’t convince yourself that it’ll be easy; the best things never are.

¹ Paul Levitz and Dennis O’Neil, both from DC.

² Karen Green, librarian for Columbia University’s Ancient & Medieval History and Religion collections; she started the Columbia libraries graphic novel collection, which seems a deliciously broad range of interests to span from ancient times to modern graphic novels — but not one that’s unprecedented. Jennifer Babcock has done plenty of research tying ancient Egyptian art and ancient Greek ostraka to modern comics. Fascinating stuff.

³ Speaking of which, anybody I know in Boston want to get a drink?

4 Just names like Eisner, Brosgol, Gran, Kibuishi, Larson, McCloud, O’Malley, and Smith.

[…] spoke last week (Friday, to be specific) about how we need to be careful not to overestimate the potential of Kickstarter as [web]comics Next Big Thing. I started digging a bit and have some numbers that you might be […]

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