Changes coming down the pike, Clem, and hard to say where they’re gonna lead.
- Let’s not bury the lede — Jerry Holkins posted a rather startling news update on Friday afternoon, of which the key point was:
But I don’t think I want to “grow my business” anymore; I sort of want to do the opposite. And I’m tired, sick to death, of saying “Maybe Someday” when it comes to the things we really want to make. So, we’re not going to do that anymore. The next year is going to be a pretty big one, one of the biggest yet; it’s the year the previous fifteen have been leading up to in the literal sense but also in other ways. I think they’re going to be “big years” from now on, frankly. And it hurts pretty bad, but I don’t know where PATV as a “channel” for third party shows and The Penny Arcade Report fit into that. We’ll be shutting those things down at the end of this year.
It may just be a sign that webcomics qua webcomics has finally gotten to an age where something like a fundamental shift of direction can take place and be noticed; plenty of creators make strategic shifts every other month¹, but they affect far fewer people or have fewer visible effects. For an enterprise like Penny Arcade to make such a shift² for essentially philosophical reasons — I suspect it’s not the last we’ll see, but probably also it’ll be a while before another such appears.
In the meantime, this opens up questions about the future of Blamimations and other Scott & Kris-type productions, not to mention current and future productions from LRR, Mega64, and some pretty damn skilled game journalists. I’d guess that the PATV banner will now be focused solely on what happens inside the walls (so to speak) of Penny Arcade Industries, and that future iterations of Strip Search are no less likely than they were before, but at this point we’ll have to see.
I would quibble with Holkins on one point though, and that’s that he still will be building his business, but less by incorporating the creations of others, and more by expanding the offerings of his own.
But it’s time to start making good on some of the promises we’ve made in our work. Recognizing that things like the Pins or The New Kid or Daughters of the Eyrewood or Thornwatch or The Lookouts or Automata deserve every ounce of our resources. Novels and albums, too – all these things that got put off in the interests of Empire. Essentially, we’ve decided to be Penny Arcade.
This refocusing of effort casts certain decisions in a new light — the expansion of PAX to a third event (and what I’ve interpreted as hints that there may be more in the future), the handing-off of art and writing duties on The Trenches … Holkins gives every impression of having built up his sandbox and now wanting to get to play in it again. I wonder how long he’ll get to before the Empire starts to raise its head again.
- The scope and scale are entirely different, but I can’t help but see parallels in the appeal made by Jon Rosenberg today — he wants to be able to direct more of his energies to the creation of comics, but instead of having too much business to attend to, it’s the unique challenges of children³ and family. The world is in some degree cyclical in its nature, and webcomics is not different in that respect — the Patreon system that Rosenberg is now banking his creative career on is reminiscent of the public broadcasting-model approaches that webcomics returns to on occasion.
Someday, the pendulum will swing the other way again, and maybe it won’t be necessary. For now, though — if you like his work (and I’m too lazy to type out the obligatory disclaimer re: me and Jon again, but you can read it here), a very small amount of money will make it possible for that work to continue.
- The AV Club, who I think of as being rather trustworthy when it comes to cultural recommendations, is writing about its favorite books of the year today, and in among your Thomases Pynchon and Davids Foster Wallace, one may find a couple of entries from our weird little corner of the cultural conversation. Allie Brosh’s collection of Hyperbole and a Half and the second volume of Machine of Death are both called out as among the year’s best. Well done Ms Brosh, and everybody at MoD.
¹ Indeed, that agility is one of the great advantages of being an independent creator, where the distance from see an opportunity to decide on a plan of attack to make it happen to all done can be measured in hours. that
² And not in response to a crisis or failure, which is how things of this sort normally go in the business world.
³ And Jon didn’t bring it up, but I will: his situation isn’t helped by the fact that his twin sons (happy and healthy today, thank whatever you thank in these situations) entered the world sooner than would be optimal, after an extraordinarily risky pregnancy. No father on the planet could have been prouder than Jon when the son he was told might never walk on his own did exactly that.
However, these triumphs came at a time when the system for the delivery of healthcare in this country — both to get those boys born, and the extensive needs for physical therapy since — is structured in such a way as to make a situation like this financially ruinous. I don’t know the particulars, but I suspect that if you looked around everything you could see within a 50 meter radius taken together probably doesn’t have as high a dollar value as the medical bills Jon’s family have racked up.
So understand, Jon’s not trying to make comics under the usual constraints of family; he’s trying to make comics under the usual constraints of family and medical debt that likely reaches seven figures, and after more than two years of that unique financial burden, is finally asking for help.