As comics creators make their way towards New York City, questions of identity, oddly enough, are what present themselves to me today.
- To start, readers of this page are probably familiar with Box Brown, Xeric-winning comicker and publisher of Retrofit Comics. He did a terrific series inspired by death (with a side of eschatology) called Everything Dies (no link details coming if you’ll bear with me), which until today was linked over there to the right. However, it seems that sometime in the past (exact timeframe unknown), the domain lapsed. So far, no big. Then somebody else bought it. Happens all the time.
Then earlier today my RSS feed pointed me to a series of new posts at Everything Dies by Box Brown and they were a series of incredibly convoluted, nigh-nonsensical Qs & As about comics¹. A quick check with Brown confirmed that the site was no longer under his control and my computing-risk paranoia jumped into high gear — there weren’t any obvious means of making money from link farming on the new ED by BB page, which sent me into a full, careful exam of my computer for malware².
Meanwhile, the site sits there, outside of Brown’s control but with his name still in the title, pumping out invitations to all his former RSS subscribers, trading (either intentionally or accidentally) on his good name to pull in people for whatever purpose.
So let’s make this one a teachable moment: you have a project that’s wrapped, or moving to another identity, or just doesn’t need its own domain any longer? Don’t just let it fade … take down the site with a lot of notice. Let your readers know that it’ll be closing shop on a given date³, that after that point in time any references to that domain have nothing to do with you. Send out RSS notifications, make it as obvious as possible, and when the time comes, turn out the lights and lock the door on your terms. A domain name ain’t worth but a few bucks a year, but your name is all you’ve got to build your brand on.
Other things that people are putting their names on:
- Really? People are still having this discussion? [credit to Sean Kleefeld, who was the first person I saw to point out the stupid] In case you didn’t follow that first link, it’s Pearls Before Swine (which I like) creator Stephan Pastis (whom I’ve met very briefly and liked) talking about lots of things, but including this:
“Now, to make it, you have to go that web route. Many of those guys, from Penny Arcade to Cyanide and Happiness to The Perry Bible Fellowship — which are all excellent — claim to make a living, but how do you know? I can tell you that even if someone does a strip and it’s fairly popular online, the money is not online. I question a lot of claims about the money being made, and the question remains that if things continue to go that route for newspapers, and you have to make money online, how do you do it?”
Jesus. Tapdancing. Christ.
Okay, in the altogether vain hope of putting this damn thing to bed, here’s what I’m going to do. Tomorrow, or this weekend, or sometime during the run of NYCC, I’m going to seek out Matthew Inman (whom I’ve met briefly, and liked quite a lot), who has a new book out, and I’m going to ask him if he’d be willing to release an approximate copies-sold total for that book for, say, the three months of quarter 4, 2012. Then come January we’ll run that number here, and Pastis can compare it to the first three months of whichever Pearls collection he likes.
And then maybe we’ll all finally come to the conclusion that no, the money isn’t online, it’s in the merchandise and the collections, and the same damn thing has always been true for syndicated strips. One last time for those at the back: Sparky or Jim or whichever megasuccess you wish to discuss did not become richer than God off of syndicate checks. The money came from getting the people who read the strip (and essentially paid nothing for it) to buy other stuff with characters on it4.
- Speaking of Sparky Schulz, opinions of the opinionators vary, but there seems to be consensus that a Peanuts movie is a bad idea. If we can all agree on that fundamental point, I’ma suggest that we not get in each other’s faces about the consistency or purity or whatever of opinions, but also that we not make a thing about this project between now and whenever it might see fruition. I plan to put it out of my mind and not give it either the money or attention that would feed it.
¹ At some point, they may have been written in English. I think that a mechanical translator was used to shift them to at least one other language, then back to English, then copy-edited by somebody that took English in school about fifteen years back and hasn’t spoken it since. Bizarrely confounding word choices and sentence construction that I initially mistook for a Dadaist artistic statement by Brown.
³ A nice demonstration of this was recently provided by Secretary of Geek Affairs Wil Wheaton, who revived Wil Wheaton Dot Net after years of an “in-exile” site hosted on another domain. He fixed up the one named after him, and he let people know about the move in advance.
4 Okay, I have to paraphrase here, since it was related by Dave Kellett during his Stripped panel at San Diego this year, and while there’s video, it’s for Kickstarter backers only and thus I can’t link you to it in good conscience. It involved Kellett and his filming partner Fred Schroeder arriving at Jim Davis’s PAWS, Inc. HQ and being shown a room, possibly 3000 square feet, filled floor to ceiling with Garfield merch. Dave asked if that was everything Garfield-related ever made, and Davis replied, “Oh, no — that’s just for this year.”
Also in that same panel: a clip from the movie explaining exactly how you make money online which is a discussion that’s been had a million bloody times.