The webcomics blog about webcomics

Creators And Value


A pair of large media companies sought to use content from independent creators, and the results could not have been more starkly different; let’s take a look, shall we?

  • Via a much-retweeted notice on The Twitters came news of the musician NJ White being asked by a TV production company to use his music for free; his response is wonderful (and, unfortunately, an image and not easily copy/pasted, so click on the picture up above to embiggen), but let me type out one brief bit by hand:

    Or would you walk into someones home, eat from their bowl, and walk out smiling, saying “So sorry, I’ve no budget for food”? Of course you would not. Because culturally, we classify that as theft….

    Yet you send me this shabby request — give me your property, for free. Just give us what you own, we want it.

    The answer is a resouding, and permanent NO.

    I don’t know White from a hole in the ground, but I’m going to start searching out his music and give it a good (paid for) listen.

  • By contrast, Zach Weinersmith had an announcement barely three hours after White’s that turned out far better:

    Announcing! SMBC will now also be syndicated on @BuzzFeed ! http://www.buzzfeed.com/smbc/smbc-infographic …

    Buzzfeed, like pretty much all of the big aggregators, has come in for criticism for taking content without attribution or payment, but Weinersmith seems to have worked that out:

    They gave us terms that comported with artistic and business integrity. I was very pleased by the whole experience :)

    [regarding Buzzfeed's prior habits of not attributing/paying] I dunno about that, but at least in my case they’re giving us the kind of deal I wish were prevalent.

    And may I add, this just shows that sites like Buzzfeed and independent creators can work together. @buzzfeed did it the right way.

    I’m going to take that to mean (and I have no inside information, so this is speculation) that Buzzfeed offered Weinersmith something of value — money, or an equivalent¹ of sufficient value. Appropriately enough, today’s SMBC cartoon, the one that ushers in this ongoing Buzzfeed deal, is in the very Buzzfeed-friendly form of a Top N Things list/infographic (with an art assist from Ross Nover of The System). And because Weinersmith is Weinersmith, it’s a Top N Things list/infographic about how much infographics are worthless. Well done, Mr Weinersmith.

Oddly enough, there were also instances of creators bypassing media gatekeepers to deal directly with audience/other creators, with a goal of obtaining money in the right places.

  • On the creator/audience front, Meredith Gran has released another tranche of originals from her (wonderful) six-issue Marceline and the Scream Queens miniseries — all remaining pages are 50% off for a limited time, with prices as criminally low as US$75 in her store.
  • Meanwhile, Spike is over the Death Flu that laid her low last month and had the side-effect of delaying the acceptances for the next Smut Peddler. Spike reports more than 370 creators submitted for consideration, far more than could possibly be accommodated in the gig², and is understandably down about having to tell so many people no. Despite what would obviously be a disappointing outcome to nearly everybody involved, she also reports that everybody’s cool about the rejections, which means that a lot of people have been taking the professionalism lessons from the likes of Estrada and Zub seriously.

    My sincere hope is that everybody that didn’t make the cut for SP2104 work their comics skills (and their smut skills, for that matter) hard so that when the next open submission for the next ‘Peddler comes around, it’s an even harder decision to pick out the best. Creators get better at comics, I get better smut — that’s a win-win.

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¹ I’m not saying that the rumors that Weinersmith has a fetish for Bolivian marmosets are true, just that he might find some things more valuable than mere cash.

² The paying gig, we should note; some lucky people are getting paid to draw porn!

Opportunities

Kickstarter is not a free money machine. It’s an opportunity machine. You still have to sell your product.

I get a lot of emails with a lot of questions that can be answered simply with those three sentences. — David Malki !

Look at that, opening up with a pithy, intriguing quote just like some fancy writer guy. It doesn’t hurt that David Malki ! managed to sum up the state of Kickstarter, how many people perceive it, and why some succeed in their campaigns while others crash and burn and get mad at everybody but themselves. It’s as concise a declaration of perception vs reality as ever I’ve seen.

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¹ Anybody that’s ever noted his extreme emoting in photos, just imagine what he can do with full motion and audio.

Anybody Out Candy-Wranging?

Happy Halloween, kids! Try not to rot your teeth out by the weekend.

  • November is shaping up to be a momentous month, as it’s finally been announced when Jeff Smith’s new webcomic will be launching. As previously noted, Tüki Save The Humans [that link may just be a placeholder; we'll all find out together in a couple of weeks] will be about the first human to leave Africa for the wider world, and it’s been in the planning stages for a very long time (Smith’s wife and publisher, Vijaya Iyer, was dropping hints as long ago as SDCC 2012). Working in a share-first, print-later model will be a big change for Smith, and his shift to the webcomic model will represent perhaps the biggest name in dead-tree comics to take a flyer on our weird little community.

    In any event, Tüki will be unveiled in a 10 November brunch at the Society of Illustrators in New York, as a benefit for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (Smith has been a long-time supporter of the Fund), which you can attend in exchange for a donation to the CBLDF. You’ve got US$100 general admission tickets (US$40 of which is tax deductible), and for those that want to get up close and in-person with Smith, there’s the US$250 VIP ticket (US$190 deductible). Drat and darn, about the time the program starts at noon I’ll be at the airport getting ready to depart for Wildest Iowa for work, or I would most likely be there, because Jeff’s great, the Society is great, the CBLDF is great, and I have a feeling that Tüki is going to be great as well.

  • For those that can’t be in New York on the tenth, how about Pittsburgh on the ninth? The Toonseum will be holding a memorial service for Lou Scheimer, the recently-departed animation impresario and co-founder of Filmation. For those that were too young to catch Filmation in its heyday on Saturday mornings, or perhaps after school, the animation was basic, limited, featured a lot of re-used stock footage, and was pretty often in the service of not particularly great shows.

    He also made sure that Filmation’s work was never sent overseas and was a major contributor to keeping animation jobs and skills in America. There’s a lot of animators today that grew up watching Filmation’s various shows, and they’ve been the teachers and inspirations of at least one more generation. Scheimer was a Pittsburgh native, as well as a supporter and booster of The Toonseum, where a gallery is named in his honor. The memorial is open to the public, and will run from 7:00pm to 9:00pm.

  • On the off chance that you’re having trouble keeping track of all these dates, can I suggest you invest in a webcomic-themed calendar? Okay, the offerings from Jorge Cham and Brad Guigar might only start in January, 2014 … but if you’d bought one last year, you’d have someplace to note your Pittsburgh or New York comics-themed events right now, wouldn’t you? Don’t let that happen to you next year.

It’s A Babypocalypse In Webcomicsland

It’s just like squirrels; if you see one, there’s probably others lurking around.

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¹ Not to mention unlikely to be duplicated once he ends up in class with all the Jadens and Jaydens and Jaedons.

² He doesn’t do a webcomic, but the Maximum Fun empire is a client of Mr I Am Made of Poison, and he has followed the independent creator give it away/monetize the back end model for years, so he counts.

New Things

Pretty much good news across the board today, in fact.

  • Word comes from New England today, that Paul Southworth (late of Ugly Hill, currently of Not Invented Here) is part of a special event that one might choose to remember every 24th of October for the forseeable future:

    ITS A GIRL! Eloise Karin Southworth is 8lbs 5oz and everyone is doing great! http://instagram.com/p/f2l3CNp3tM/

    Those clicking on the link should be aware that it features an alive human child moments after its emergence into the world, and not looking like the angelic baby with the beatifically-reposed mother that might feature in the birth announcement you send to your maiden great-aunt. There’s vernix¹, and a full-throated protest at being dragged into a noisy, bright, cold world, and it looks like a lot of wriggling and pinking-up and you know what? She’s gorgeous. Congrats to Eloise, her two big brothers, mom and dad, and sincere hopes that every day just gets better for them all.²

  • One of the things that Chris Hastings mentioned as an upcoming project during his NYCC panel was a Dr McNinja-themed card game. It was all designed, he had a prototype at home, and everybody that came to visit got to play it and nobody said it was less than lots of fun. The Kickstarter would be starting in the near future.

    In this case, “near future” meant yesterday, and it (that is to say, Dr McNinja’s Legendary Showdown) is already funded. What I found most interesting about DMLS (I’m afraid that it simply demands boldfacing) is the first stretch goal of the campaign, which is not based on a dollar figure, but on backer involvement.

    In case you can’t read that image up top, it says:

    2,500 Facebook shares or #LegendaryShowdown tweets
    NEW CHARACTER CARD

    I don’t recall at the moment another campaign tying content to the breadth of discussion of the project in question; it’s a damn clever idea, since that many tweets and shares puts the game in front of more potential backers. I’ll be watching this one very carefully. If I could make one suggestion to the project runners at Killer Robot Games³, maybe they want to also count Kicktraq shares? Just spitballing here.

  • Not new, per se, but still good news — per the comments on yesterday’s post, Sinfest is having website issues, but Tatsuya Ishida is posting updates on the forums (yesterday, today). Hopefully the main page will sort itself out soon, but in the meantime, there’s still comics and that’s all right.

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¹ Look it up.

² Although if Southworth is good at his job as father, today will mark the last time his daughter is naked on the internet.

³ Couldn’t find a website for them, on account of the words “killer robot” spawn a lot of matches in Google.

Change-Ups And No-Brainers And Some Damn Big Numbers

Dang, that's pretty.

Some things go exactly as you expect; anybody could have told you when PAXEast registrations went live today, the tickets site (and the hotels site, for that matter) were gonna get hammered like the Obamacare site on launch day. Seems to have sorted itself out, in the sense that much of the registration and hotel inventory are now spoken for. Have fun in Boston, y’all.

  • One thing that’s been pretty much constant for a really long damn time is that every morning, there will be a new update at Sinfest. Love it or hate it (or, given that it’s about five different strips in one, love parts and hate other parts), Tatsuya Ishida’s strip is something you can practically set your watch by — checking the archive, the last break in the daily schedule I can find was the several weeks long gap between 14 June and 10 July of 2006. More than 2600 days in an unbroken streak followed until today.

    Not that Ishida (who is quiet and not well-known in webcomics circles) owes us an update or anything — it’s just that when a long-established pattern suddenly changes, it sure as hell catches your eye. Fleen hopes that all is well with Ishida and thanks him for all of the free comics to date, and appreciates him in advance for any that he creates in the future.

  • More than seven years of an update streak is a pretty big number, and here’s another: 1,254,120, which readers may recall as the number of United Sates Dollars raised by Rich Burlew in his record-shattering Kickstarter campaign last year¹. I’m bringing Burlew and his campaign up because he emailed me regarding The Lando Effect (as described by Rich Stevens yesterday) and declaring it the reason that said Kickstart became such a huge success:

    I just wanted to point out that the Lando Effect that you mentioned in yesterday’s column is exactly what powered my Kickstarter project. The initial pitch included a bonus digital story about the history of a secondary character, and also allowed three backers to buy additional stories about any character they chose that would then be distributed to all backers. As the drive went on, I added more side stories with each goal hit … So, yeah, it absolutely does work, as long as your audience is invested in the series as a whole and the chosen character is compelling enough in their main story appearances to pique interest.

    In case you didn’t have a reason to believe Stevens, Burlew has given you one-point-two million more reasons, and also ascribes to the “side story” model the success of his print collections that pre-date the Kickstart. Just don’t ignore his last line, which we’ll repeat here with a little emphasis added:

    So, yeah, it absolutely does work, as long as your audience is invested in the series as a whole and the chosen character is compelling enough in their main story appearances to pique interest.

    Also, try not to have near-career-ending injuries at any time; if you find yourself on the cusp of having a near-career-ending injury, just imagine Burlew standing a meter or so in front of you, sadly but firmly shaking his head and silently mouthing the word No.

  • Finally, it’s Wednesday, and that means it’s Charles Christopher day², and for those of you that have always wondered Hey, Karl Kerschl lives in Montréal, when will we be able to read Charles Christopher in French?, the answer is Real damn soon now, Sparky:

    The first volume of The Abominable Charles Christopher has been translated for the French market by my pals at Studio Lounak! It’s their first publication and it’s a beautiful hardcover volume with a spot-gloss on the lettering.

    It’s available through a number of retailers and you can buy it now from werehouse.ca, which also stocks my other books, as well as books by Becky Cloonan, Andy Belanger and Cameron Stewart.

    This is the first of many such volumes, and hopefully more translations!

    Given how non-culturally-specific TACC is, I’m not surprised at all to see that Kerschl’s pushing for translations — there’s a world of people who would read these gorgeous, heartfelt comics in other languages, and I hope that they spread the word far and wide in their respective linguistic communities. My French is extremely spotty³ so I think I’ll give this one a miss, even though it comes with an exclusive bookplate that looks pretty gorgeous.

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¹ Which resulted in a creative-production and fulfillment job that would send most rational people into a fetal ball o’ panic, and give rise to serious thoughts of taking the money and fleeing to a country without an extradition treaty. Burlew continues to make progress (hampered as he was not only by the scope and scale, but also by a near-career-ending injury 13 months ago) and has set the standard for communicating progress made on the many aspects of fulfillment via his brilliantly-designed Workometer.

² Also weekly computer maintenance day, but maybe that’s just me?

³ When traveling, I count myself lucky if I can use the local language to get a train ticket, a hotel room, and a beer. I’ve managed that so far in Czech, French, Dutch, and Japanese, but I only “studied” one of those for four years in high school. Oh, and when I speak French, I have a tendency to drift into other languages, including on one particularly embarrassing occasion outside of Antwerp, tlhIngan Hol.

Webcomics On Five Dollars A Day

Today’s about value for your discretionary spending dollar.

  • The webcomicsosphere chatter fairly exploded over the weekend with praise for a very short comic (18 pages, including covers, afterword, and 14 nearly-wordless pages) by longtime creator Dean Trippe. Something Terrible is about something terrible that happened to Trippe, how it affected him, and (not to put too fine a point on it) how he was saved by his son and Batman.

    It’s a devastatingly honest work, a very public piece that says This happened to me, it became a part of me, but it’s not who I am. For 99 cents, you can download Something Terrible from Sellfy, and when you’re done reading it, you’re going to be in the mood to support Trippe’s comic-making, so maybe donate a bit more via his own webcomic’s page — or better yet, grab a print of his previously-released print, You’ll Be Safe Here.

  • Now while I wouldn’t go back and not read Something Terrible, I have a feeling that (like me) you might be in the mood for a shift of tone. How about we trade adult-and-serious for adult-and-hilarious? Fleen fave K Brooke “Otter” Spangler has many fine wares in her Internet Shoppery but we’re on a budget so we’re heading to Amazon instead for her PDF-only pulp novel, The Russians Came Knocking, starring her technologically-augmented Federal agent slash manwhore, Josh Glassman. Obligatory disclaimer, Otter’s a good friend of mine, and she just might have put in the bit about the squirrels after my run-ins with the brush-tailed little bastards, and for that I will love her forever. That’s another 99 cents, so we’re just under two bucks in our buying trip.
  • Having made it throgh TRCK¹, your laugh muscles may be warmed up enough for a pro-level workout, and the sexiest man in webcomics² is going to provide it. Brad Guigar has recorded his infamous laugh as a ringtone for your phone. Three ringtones, in fact, including the laugh courtesy of the infamous episode #76 of Webcomics Weekly when a troublemaking Skype locked into a loop of Guigar’s laugh-chuckle³ and nearly killed Kris Straub and Scott Kurtz. It’s US$2.99 for the three ringtones, meaning that we’re at a grand total of US$4.97 and you’ve got three shiny pennies to buy candy with.

    Or, alternately, you could go make your own money via memefication, with bonus points for ensuring that the webcomic creator gets none of it.

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¹ And one must remember that around Josh, the verb knocking takes on a particular meaning, as in knocking boots or knocking shop.

² I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Mrs Guigar is a lucky, lucky woman.

³ The madness starts around 7:45.

We’ll Miss You, You Magnificent Bastard

On occasion, I get people asking me how you put together a press release. For those still wondering, this is how you put together a press release:

September 10, 2013 (Portland, OR) – Shocking fans, battery wholesalers, and his many cats, pioneering web cartoonist R. Stevens disappeared last Monday from the art-deco mineshaft he famously confined himself to since starting the world’s most popular webcomic DIESEL SWEETIES in 2000.

Through the blinding electronic din, those steadfast and lucky few were met by an image of their new pixilated messiah, cradling a cat in each arm and beckoning them forth.

Usenets across the globe reported seeing a similar image, followed by a mysterious message: “Awesome. I AM ALL. RS3.”

The reaction from the public was remorseful and swift. Coffee stocks plummeted, cats gathered from around the world at Stevens’ favorite donut shop to hold a round-the-clock vigil, and many of the world’s record store owners simply set their shops ablaze and moved back in with their parents.

Vice President Joe Biden attempted to soothe a grieving planet Monday night, but was overtaken by his emotions, saying “I’m gonna need a few weeks, you guys. This is really messed up. I know it’s silly, but in my heart of hearts, I really hope this is some kind of bizarre stunt. I just don’t know what I’m gonna do without Indie Rock Pete.”

“All we can do now, is hope that Stevens uses his infinite power to remake this turd of a planet in his own image, ya know?” Biden continued. “More donuts and cats. Stuff like that. I don’t know, man. That sounds pretty awesome to me. We could all use a little more DIESEL SWEETIES in our lives as far as I’m concerned.” [boldface original]

Honestly, just go read the whole thing, it’s great; bonus points for the Onionesque version of Biden.

  • In other news, we have more information on the mysterious, Ryan North/Shelli Paroline/Braden Lamb produced, original comic book coming from BOOM! Studios. Well, original in that it came out of North’s brainmeats, but much like the central hook of the Machine of Death anthology, it’s taken from an old musing by one Mr T-Rex. Namely, what happens if the fabled Midas Touch was weaponized.

    BOOM! seems to be giving all the good scoops to Chris Sims over at Comics Alliance on this one, so you’d best head over there for the details. When you get back, I’m considering running a contest: which other of T-Rex’s random musings from the past 2400+ comics will be made into an awesome comic/book/opera/radioplay/whatever next?

  • Going to SPX this weekend? Sara McHenry has a post that is chock-full of good advice for exhibitors, a significant part of which is also good for attendees. She even has thoughts on what to do with the many bits of comics ephemera that you will inevitably collect but may not consider long-term keepers; key takeaway: don’t feel guilty.
  • Two weeks ago, Angela Melick¹ suffered a break of the wrist of her drawing hand. I just wanted you to see how she’s managing with her allegedly “off” hand. Naturally, Kory Bing’s coloring job [Editor's note: see here] is a big help, but Jam deserves a nod for how much she’s improved her non-dominant art skills so quickly.
  • In case you missed it last night:

    Goal: $9,500. Amount pledged: $141,085. Holy crap.

    Holy crap, indeed. Jeph Jacques has become the most overfunded (that is, exceeding goal by the greatest percentage) musical campaign-haver in Kickstarter history with Permanence, and thanks to the stretch goals will have KC Green following him around with a videocamera to make a documentary of the recording of the album. One can only hope that the footage gets … exotic.

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¹ My sibling in engineering: Iron Ring 4 Lyfe, yo.

Events And Occurrences

There are things afoot, mostly tangential to webcomics qua webcomics, but possibly of interest to people that read this page on a regular basis. A page which, I have been recently informed, shares a name with a number of other things also called Fleen.

Looking at primacy, it appears that the McSweeney’s reference dates to early 2001, the sci-fi epic to 2008, and the tessellation tool to earlier this year. While this page in its current form began in December 2005, the name was chosen merely because fleen.com was still owned by Jon Rosenberg, it being used for the Fairly Large Electronic Entertainment Network as far back as 1999 as a portal for some webcomics creators that you may have heard of. Given those dates, it appears that this is the true scion of the Famous Original¹ Fleen and you should accept no substitutes.

  • Tangential To Webcomics (Performance Division): The Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco remains a friend to comics of all sorts including webcomics, not least because curator Andrew Farago does webcomics himself. Farago and his fellow staffers are responsible for one of the busier events calendars in the Bay Area, with lots of skilled and well-regarded creators dropping by to say hi. As part of their regular Third Thursday late-night hours, CAM will be hosting the preview night of The Videogame Monologues prior to performances in San Francisco and New York.

    The following week, as part of an ongoing exhibition, CAM will host a reception for the graphic novel adaptation of The Thrilling Adventure Hour. TVM kicks off at 5:00pm on Thursday, 18 September, with a suggested donation of US$5. TAH’s fancy reception is a ticketed event (with prices starting at US$75, mostly tax-deductible), taking place Saturday, 21 September at 7:00pm, with snacks and drinks provided.

  • Tangential To Webcomics (Booze Division): September in New York City is where you want to be if you like combining comics and sophisticated adult-type beverages. The Society of Illustrators has long known how to do a reception/happy hour right, and they’ll host one on Wednesday, 25 September at 5:00pm as part of their currently-running exhibition of Peter Kuper’s work in their dedicated MoCCA Galllery.

    Also, Kristen Siebecker (inaugural showrunner of the MoCCA Festival) continues her wine-demystification classes, with two special ladies-only workout-and-wine events next Wednesday, 11 September at 6:30pm and 7:15pm at Uplift Studios in Manhattan. Exercising off the alcohol before you drink it is the definition of guilt-free, right? For those that prefer to not moderate their sins, her regular class will be on Wednesday, 2 October at the West Elm Market in Brooklyn. This class will examine the classic pairing of wine and cheese and starts at 6:30pm.Each of Siebecker’s sessions costs US$45, but you can get a 10% discount on the wine-and-cheese class if you use the code EMAIL10.

  • Tangential To Webcomics (Instrumental Metal Division): Jeph Jacques made goal on his Deathmøle album Kickstarter in mere hours about three weeks ago; since then his crowdfunding total has been on a steady upward crawl and it crossed the US$100,000 mark about an hour ago. The Fleen Funding Model says to use the predicted total from Kicktraq at the 24-36 hour mark as a base figure, and it’s highly likely that the final total will fall somewhere between one-sixth and one-third that value.

    For Jacques, that base figure was US$400,000, giving an expected total in the range of US$67K to US$134K. Permanence is solidly in that range already, and it’s just a matter of how high the usual last-few-days frenzy³ carries him; it’s pretty unusual for a webcomic-related project to fall below the 3.0 ratio², but if anybody can do it, it’s Jacques’s fans.

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¹ See also: Famous Original Ray’s.

² Remember, lower ratios are good.em

³ Stretch goals will help, as Jacques has already drawn light porn, and now has to produce a 20 page comic for backers. One smart stretch goal in the US$120K slot and he’ll have money thrown at him from now until the campaign end next Tuesday.

Didn’t He Just Have A Big Round Number?

Back in April, Chris Yates (this blog’s favorite Tintin¹ with a scrollsaw) celebrated nine years making Baffler!s, for a total of 2222 of the handmade wooden mental torture devices, making an average of just under 250 Baffler!s per year, or about one puzzle every day and a half. You’d naturally be curious what Mr Yates was up to in the time since.

How about producing puzzles at more than twice the usual rate, despite having weeks lost to conventions and travel?

Yesterday saw the release of Baffler!s #2499 through #2511, making 289 more puzzles in less than five months. Okay, granted, some are pretty similar and pretty simple², but some of those puzzles are fiendishly clever and complex, more than making up for the simpler ones.

Best of all, Yates was so heads-down in work mode that he didn’t realize that a Big Round Number was coming up, meaning that #2500 was not one of his usual insane anniversary pieces, but rather something pretty appropriate for a guy that runs in comics circles.

That’s a lot of damn puzzles, and no sign of a slowdown in sight. Here’s hoping that Mr Yates keeps all his fingers and that his puzzlecutting imagination continues without pause for as long as he finds this mode of creative expression to be remunerative and to his liking.

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¹ Tintin himself makes an appearance in #2499.

² Bonus points to Yates for titling these Baffler!s — and four others — with a reference to Warhol.