Editor’s note: This post is largely going to concern the economic well-being of Jon Rosenberg; long-time readers may recall that Jon was the first publisher of Fleen, and largely the driving force in me writing this damn thing for the going-on-five-years since. You can insert any necessary disclaimers about conflict of interest into this piece that you feel necessary.
It sounded serious on Twitter the other day:
I have just completely wasted thirteen years of my life.
… but then again, we’re talking about Jon; he’s been known to exaggerate his woes on occasion. But as the followup has shown, this isn’t a moment of artistic doubt — this is a wholesale re-evaluation of … life, I guess. After being part of the defining generation of webcomics, after just about creating the two guys sitting on a couch genre, after providing countless hours of free entertainment and thousands of updates (which, contrary to his own self-interest, have become increasingly artistically, narratively, and philosophically complex), Jon’s toying with the conclusion that the creation that expresses him best isn’t sustainable:
Goats is thirteen years old. Since 2003, I’ve been working on a single epic storyline meant to culminate at the end of 2012, at which point Goats would toddle off into the sunset and I would start my next comic. Easy, right?
It is becoming apparent that this approach isn’t viable. While I’m happy with what I’ve done creatively, the webcomics medium rewards quick, easy updates with traffic. Long, continuity-filled stories like Goats that take a long time between updates tend to stagnate, although there are certainly folks more talented than I who can pull off this difficult feat.
None of this is news to me. It’s hard to come to a teenaged webcomic and not get put off by the large archive. And the books do not seem to be mitigating the problem as much as I had hoped, since most folks are trying to buy food and pay rent these days and graphic novels understandably do not provide shelter or many other things at the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid. As many other problems as Goats has, as many mistakes as I have made, this is the only one that matters right now. Without growth, I’m dead in the water. There’s only so many times I can beg you guys to buy stuff.
If I were single, or younger, or less encrusted in the leakings of children, I would hunker down, buy some ramen and just tough it out. But it’s not fair to my family to ask them to suffer like that, they deserve better. A lot better. So I have to make some changes.
The bright spot in Jon’s missive is what he didn’t say — he’s not giving up comics or creative work, he’s not going to get a job selling insurance for this wife’s uncle’s cousin or anything like that. He is going to be looking at what things he can make that will appeal in a more immediate, less attention-requiring, and financially remunerative form. As much as I would love to think that there’s a place for long, complex stories that demand attention from the reader, Jon doesn’t owe me that in my free entertainment; nevertheless, he’s said that he’s not dropping Goats where it stands.
There will be a wrap-up to the (as of today) six years, five months, and three days long storyline that those of us in his (too small to satisfy his publisher, alas) cult have invested in. It won’t feature the original depth and breadth that he conceived, but maybe after he’s become the next JJ Abrams and conquered all forms of media, he’ll have time to go back and release the director’s cut of his first magnum opus and we’ll get to read it then. I hope so — he deserves that closure.
And as much as a final groundswell of sales might not change any decisions based on balance sheets and long-term exploitation possibilities, if you’ve ever chuckled at Jon’s work, I think getting a book or two would be a nice thank you for a story that he’s fought to give to us in exchange for meager and shrinking rewards.
Thanks for the stories, Jon. I can’t wait to see what the next one is like.