Regular readers of this page know a few things about me: I like webcomics, setting off the occasional potentially-explosive discussion, and beer. I also have a low opinion of comics syndicates and how they treat a) their artists; and b) their audiences. And yet, there is room to discuss the syndicates and their contributions to an art form we all love, in a mostly-mature fashion.
Enter Chris Baldwin of the incomparably wonderful Little Dee, who on Monday announced a move in the direction of syndication; Baldwin was kind enough to talk to us about his reasons for doing so, his hopes, and whether or not he thinks he can take Dave Kellett in a no-holds-barred-fight. Okay, I made that last part up. Sorta.
Baldwin: I’ve always loved to write and draw, not only Little Dee, but also other daily comics, comic books, novels, poetry, plays, children’s books, and I am even currently doing work for MAD Magazine.
Fleen: Comics.com is part of United Features Syndicate; you had a quote from the Aquisitions Editor of Universal Press Syndicate on the back of Little Dee, Volume 1. Was there a bidding war over Little Dee? If so, what does UFS offer that the others didn’t, wouldn’t, or couldn’t?
Baldwin: There was not a bidding war. Universal Press has shown some respectful interest in Little Dee, but has not made any movement. Mr. Glynn, himself, has been very supportive of my work and in my pursuits in the industry, I cannot thank him enough.
Fleen: You wrote [on Monday, 29 May 2006] that you’re not syndicated, but this move is “the next step in that potential.” Have UFS laid out a pathway for full-on syndication, and from there to promoting the strip widely?
Baldwin: I believe that both parties hope for eventual syndication, although it would be under a totally new and separate agreement. If it was syndicated, I am sure it would receive the same attention regarding promotion that any other syndicated strip would receive.
Fleen: What do you get from the syndicate that you don’t get from being solo, and vice versa?
Baldwin: I don’t believe either party will gain greatly unless our relationship moves to syndication, but in the meantime I may gain some readers, as might they, and we both may also gain some financially.
Fleen: When will UFS be launching Little Dee on comics.com? Will it require a reboot? How about if you went full-bore syndicated?
Baldwin: They will be launching Dee on comics.com on June 13th (although that could change). They will begin for a short period with some older strips picked by me from the archive, strips which set up certain secondary characters and plot-lines which readers will see again. I do not know what we would do for syndication.
Fleen: What (if anything) will you be required to give up by going to comics.com? Will you still have open archives, or will they be locked behind a 30-day window?
Baldwin: Dee will continue to appear at littledee.net, being posted two weeks after they appear at comics.com, and there will indeed be only a 30-day window on the littledee.net archive for strips created during Dee’s stay at comics.com. That is the only notable limitation I can think of. And yes, I’m sure at comics.com they will use their standard archiving, which I believe is also 30 days.
Fleen: Will you still be able to offer your originals for sale?
Fleen: Will move this affect the publication of future Little Dee books? Does the syndication deal make future guest strips less likely?
Baldwin: This agreement will not affect the publication of future Little Dee books. Regarding guest strips, during the period of this agreement, as I have hopes for it leading to syndication, I would not choose to take a vacation from the strip for any amount of time.
Fleen: Given the traditional syndication model, will we see Little Dee Sunday strips?
Baldwin: Not under this agreement. If a move is made towards syndication it might happen.
Fleen: Best case, how does this deal progress over the next year? Two years? Five?
Baldwin: My guess is that we’ll test each other out for a year or so, and then either join up or part friends.
Fleen: San Diego Comic-Con Steel Cage Deathmatch between you and Dave Kellett: who wins?
Baldwin: Lol. Sheldon is a fine comic. I’m not sure what a deathmatch is, but it sounds like fun. Actually, I’m afraid I am yet again going to be missing San Diego this year, although it is sorely tempting.
We at Fleen thank Chris Baldwin for his time and answers to our questions; if you have questions for him regarding this thoughts on syndication or upcoming changes to Little Dee, send them to gary at fleen dot com.