The webcomics blog about webcomics

Kickstarter Updates

I was already going to be writing about Kickstarter campaigns when Scott Kurtz made a damn good observation on Twitter:

It’s interesting to follow “pay me to make a webcomic” Kickstarter campaigns, and 6 months to a year later, see who actually DID anything.

The first thought I had was Man, Scott’s very possibly talking about personal friends and acquaintances in that statement; I hope they don’t get mad at him. My second thought was, No, actually, I hope they’re smart enough to take his observation to heart. I suppose that’s why when I have (rarely) backed a Kickstarter that’s designed to launch a comic; I’m always looking for something concrete up front (which, if I get it, tends to bode well for an actually-regular webcomic).

The Last Halloween? I got some pins and a recipe for Sadness Brownies¹. Sufficiently Remarkable? Digital goods, including an audio recording of creator Maki Naro telling a terrible joke. Those were all I convinced myself I was ever going to get, and not only did I get them, but both comics are updating according to schedule, pretty much².

Others … haven’t done so well, either at launching at the promised time³, or at keeping updates coming; I really don’t want to get into names, mostly because for any that I might mention, there were probably three others that weren’t even on my radar. Not that I have much reason to complain about campaigns that I didn’t back (I’ve cut waaaay back on my Kickstarter habit in the past few months), but it’s something to always keep in the back of your mind — Does this project owner convince me that he or she will be able to get/keep their act together?

Let’s talk about some Kickstarts that I have confidence will be made good on in a timely fashion, then:

  • Update! Dean Trippe’s magnificent, haunting, win-all-the-awards Something Terrible has six days to go; it’s a little under US$35,000 (of a US$6400 goal) at this writing, and closing in on the US$36K stretch goal of an added epilogue and fancier book design. He’s dead in the middle of the Fleen Predicted Total, but I would be happy to have underestimated this one.
  • Update! My buddy Otter’s wonderful, funny, tense novels-to-audiobooks project is over goal, approaching the stretch goal where we can get the audiobooks on a cool USB drive, and pushing towards the stretch goal where Braille conversions (and donations to libraries serving the visually-impaired) happen. It’d be cool to get bonus stories and challenge coins but let’s get that Braille conversion done, yeah? Little more than three weeks for that to happen.
  • New Kickstarter! Jesse Thorn, impressario of the Maximum Fun empire, wants to have a conference of independent creators in LA later this year, and that’s going to cost some US$120,000. Aside from the fact that Thorn’s various podcasts have given props to webcomics on numerous occasions (and that MaxFun’s merch is handled by TopatoCo), one of the keynote speakers at the Make Your Thing conference (for that is its name) will be webcomics own Kate Beaton. She may be branching out into other areas of creativity, but comics about history and literature and her younger self will always be where she started.

    And crap, look at the other people gonna be there: Jay Allison, Jane Espenson, Chris Gethard, Merlin Mann, Vernon Reid (!), and John Vanderslice were just the names that jumped out at me the most. Word is trickling out, which is why MYT is currently sitting at 2% of goal, with a predicted finish around 65%, but we’re only three hours in and I hope to see that much higher by this time tomorrow.

    This one deserves some traction, but I fear that the relatively high price points for the campaign — US$25: stickers, thank you email, update announcements; US$100: add video access to the conference and a t-shirt; US$400: add a ticket to the conference and gift bag — are going to be a sticking point. For a three-day professional-type conference US$400 is actually pretty realistic, but how many small-scale creators are going to be able to drop four hundo (plus travel expenses)? I hope this one makes goal, but ask me again in a couple days if it will.

¹ Which might be the bestest brownies I’ve ever had. Well done, TLH creator Abby Howard!

² Within experimental error, given year-end family obligations, technical issues, etc.

³ Granted, Kickstarter has a long and hallowed history of things not happening when they were supposed to, but there’s a lot less lead time involved in getting a website up and running, even a rudimentary one and getting stuff made by vendors on the other side of the world then shipped to me so I can ship it to you (even before you encounter completely unpredictable events like ships turning back when partway across the Pacific).


PS: Aaaaaahhhhh!!

Holy crap, this thing is big — physically imposing, heavy enough to be a cause of death if rapidly applied to the base of the skull, and it even smells imposing. Thank you Mr Malki !, this will keep me busy roughly forever. So busy, in fact, that everybody else today gets quick updates instead of long writeups.

  • The latest wine-learnin’ class from Kristen Siebecker¹, spoken of in the beforetimes, is upon us², with an emphasis on winter-friendly wines at 7:00pm on Thursday, 30 January, at West Elm in Chelsea. As is her custom, Siebecker has extended a discount to those using the code EMAIL10.
  • Herr Doktor Professor Dante Shepherd is about to celebrate a Big Round Number at Surviving The World, and we at Fleen would like to wish him a hearty congratulations a day in advance. Tonight he may be partying like it’s strip #1999, but tomorrow he erupts into the rarefied company of those that have achieved 2000 strips. If my math is correct, he will be one of a literal handful³ of PhD-holding webcomickers to achieve such a feat4.
  • Dave Kellett put up a future plan for himself today, and what jumped out at me was item #6:

    6.) MYSTERY PROJECT: In about 2-4 years, when things calm down a bit, I’m also going start on a new “mystery” project. I can’t say much about it, other than to say… it’ll channel a very different side of my creativity, it’ll take me about a year to complete, and that it’ll be super fun to do.

    It caught my eye because the last time Kellett put up future plan for himself, not quite four years ago, item #4 jumped out at me:

    4.) MYSTERY PROJECT: In addition to Sheldon and Drive, I should mention that I’ve started up a third project that I’m very excited about, but which I can’t really talk about yet. I know, I know…it’s sounds very third-grade of me to bring up a project that I can’t talk about. But here’s what I can say: I’m very excited about it, it’s my first collaborative piece since the “How to Make Webcomics” book, it both is and is not comics-related, and I think it’ll be right up your alley, when it comes time to announce it. More than that, I can’t say. But good things are a-comin’.

    That mystery project turned out to be STRIPPED, which is now so close I can taste it. One can only speculate what this mystery project will be, only we already know that it’s not a film as he took care of those possibilities in item #5. Damn, Dave, you ain’t got to conquer every creative medium known to the species.

¹ Whose name would apparently translate as they becker from the original German. Names aside, Kristen pretty much put together the first MoCCA Festival, laying the groundwork for all that has occurred since.

² And by us I mean those of us who are within easy travel of Manhattan, and of legal drinking age, and have a desire to up their wine game.

³ This would be a cartoon-style three-fingers-plus-thumb hand.

4 Also, while Jorge Cham has on the order of 1700 strips, he’s also got a feature-length movie, so I’m counting him. Deal with it.

Following Up

Several repeat visits today; sometimes that’s just how things reveal themselves.

  • Speaking of Penny Arcade, Child’s Play, etc: The progress graph on the main page is a little out of date, as the recent formal dinner/auction raised more than US$250,000 and have brought the year’s total to the neighborhood of US$3.4 million. This brings the ten-year total to some US$21 million, and there’s still US$1.6 million to go to pass last year’s total (CP have always grown in absolute terms, year-on-year).
  • Speaking of The AV Club and their year-end best-of lists, today they tackled Graphic Novels and Art Comics¹ wherein they recognized Emily Carroll’s Out of Skin and Gene Yang’s Boxers & Saints, all of which also count as “speaking of …”. One should note as well that another of their recognized graphic novels, while not strictly webcomic-related, does come from :01 Books (speaking of, once more) — namely, Paul Pope’s Battling Boy.
  • Okay, this might stretch the limits of “speaking of”, since we have to go back exactly one year when A Lesson Is Learned By The Damage Is Irreversible returned for what was claimed to be a one-off. They have since released a second new comic within the past five weeks, meaning they’re only now restarting the hiatus clock and will have to go more than six and a half years to equal their previous absence.

    It actually makes sense that they’ve produced but one comic since their return for hiatus, as it would seem that significant amount of time would be needed for them to put a collection of their past strips as prints up at TopatoCo, seeing as how they’re all different sizes and degrees of complexity. Those factors mean that not all ALILBTDII strips are available, and that those that are will have prices varying from US$14 to US$60 (for a single-piece humongous print of I Name Thee Annihilator, which is 190 cm tall, or nearly one Ryan North in height).

¹ To distinguish from yesterday’s list of mainstream comic books, the boundaries being somewhat arbitrary.

Long Games

Damn, webcomickers got some patience sometimes. They get an idea, they get plans, and you get to enjoy the fruits of their labors. Check it:

  • Earlier this year, Gunnerkrigg Court Tom Siddell did an extra story, taking place between chapters 31 and 32 of his long-running story. Annie in the Forest part one was released in limited quantities through TopatoCo (and then restocked, so you can get one now), and part two was on his table at the recently-concluded Thought Bubble Festival (and is not otherwise available as of this writing). Today, however, Siddell opened a new section of his site for extra stories, and lo and behold — AITFp1 is there for you to read for free, with the second part coming soon.

    It’s a heck of a thing that Siddell’s doing — taking a reasonably pricey item and discounting it down to exactly zero dollars, so if you enjoy watching Annie grow the hell up a bit, do consider dropping a little something towards his ongoing spiders-to-money research. Alternately, you could buy something good from him when he hits MoCCA Festival in April, where he will be tabling alongside Magnolia Porter. In fact, give her lots of money, too, because her comics rule.

  • Next up, David Malki ! shares more about the Machine of Death game, shipping mishaps, and farm animals¹, which really just means that it’s a random day of the week. The interesting part comes a little bit further along in the update, wherein we learn:

    Some of you may remember the $400,000 stretch goal: “All backers get a MEGA-CRAZY FUN-TIME KIT that includes Wondermark ebooks, the MOD v.1 ebook, free music from our favorite pals, addt’l bonus ebooks …”

    Those “addt’l bonus ebooks” are a Webcomics Pals Ebook Bundle containing over 2,000 pages of comics


    from artists like Ryan North, Dave Kellett, Chris Hallbeck, Spike, KC Green, Sam Logan, Angela Melick, David Willis, Zach Weinersmith, Jim Zub, K.B. Spangler, R. Stevens, Jon Rosenberg, Christopher Baldwin, and more. I’m paying them a license fee for their ebooks and giving them to you for free. The retail value of this bundle is probably a million zillion dollars.

    Actually, I probably own most of that particular payload of creamy comics goodness, and guessing that the content includes one random book from each of the other creators. If that’s true, then I’d put the value of that bundle at over US$250 if they were physical copies (and that’s not including the Wondermark/MoDv1/music content).

    Even if you paid one dollar at the “JUST THE TIP” level, you’re getting all this content for free. It would take you a hundred years to read all this stuff. The bundle will be ready for download next week. A gift from me to you.

    Know what I’m going to do next week? I’m downloading that entire bolus of entertainment, and I’m going to come back with an actual dollar value so that you know exactly what Malki ! is giving you, and keeping in mind that what he is paying other creators and the value of what you get is probably not going to be covered by the value of the Kickstarter pledges except for the ten people that pledged at the Goat Stare² level and above. Hell, I’m in for the Boxed In level and once you account for the value of the stuff I’m getting, Malki ! is probably out so much money that it would have been cheaper (and certainly less hassle) for him to have never had a Kickstarter and just sent me twenty bucks and we’d call it even.

  • Still speaking of Malki !, a Wondermark strip from six and a half years ago got a callback in today’s xkcd. Nice.
  • Speaking of six and a half years ago, Christopher Hastings has been holding onto a key, secret plot point for about that long. Attend: the introduction of the Cumberland, Maryland Zombie Defense System and Mayor Chuck Goodrich, astronaut. Add a dash of King Radical, ancient tennis gods, time folds, dimensional portals, alternate Chuck Goodriches with problems with King Radical.

    And all those plot threads paid off today. If Dr McNinja ended on this story, it would stand as a magnificent achievement in long-term storytelling served well by shorter, connected arcs. Fortunately, I think we’re a bit further than that from the end of Dr McNinja, which means that at this point Hastings has nowhere to go but up.

  • And that wasn’t even the oldest callback today. Behold, a super-size Achewood that both promises a story arc and calls back to, oh, April of 2002. Damn.

¹ Just go with it.

² See the bit about farm animals above.

Today I Learned …

It’s a day for learning things, including the fact that today is Repeal Day¹, the anniversary of the day when the United States ended one of the most stupid experiments in law and social policy in all of human history. The other things I learned all involve comics.

  • First thing I learned: Really never underestimate David Malki ! We spoke not long ago about not ignoring his boundless font of creativity, so I shouldn’t have been surprised, honestly. See, I had gotten it into my head that with all that Malki ! had taken on this year, including the logistics of shipping something like a million collated cards², he might give the Wondermark calendar a year off. After all, it’s less than three weeks from Christmas and thus less than four until the new year, when the calendar is most needed.

    Nope. In fact, he’s upped the proverbial ante by also offering a book of the art and verse from the 2008 — 2012 iterations of the calendar, and original art from last year’s Gaxian travelogue edition. As in past years, the calendar is in a limited edition of 250, and there are but 29 pieces of original art from last year’s calendar. The book may or may not be available after the calendars sell out, but for now I’m guessing there’s only 250 copies of that as well. Best jump on that soon if you want in.

  • Second thing I learned: The good folks at :01 Books are successful out of all proportion to their size³. Seriously, there’s something like four people involved in the entire acquisitions/editing/production end at the imprint, and they gather accolades for a hefty percentage of their output every year. Latest proof: NPR’s year-end guide to the best of 2013 books has a category for graphic novels & comics, and :01 garnered a full 25% of the recognition.

    It’s worth noting that the :01 Spring and Fall catalogs contain a total of 14 books (I can’t find a copy of their Winter catalog right now, but I’m confident in putting their total releases for the year in the vicinity of 20). There are publishers that drop more graphic novels than that in a month, but it’s all about the quality, not the quantity.

    Oh, and it looks like next year will be just as fun. I just want to publicly thank the :01 crew: Callista, Colleen, Gina, Mark, and anybody else I might be overlooking at the scrappiest, most thoughtful, best damn imprint in the New York publishing scene. Y’all rock.

  • Third thing I learned: If I’m reading this announcement correctly, the folks behind the Making Comics podcast are getting ready to launch a repository of comics-making online courses. They’re talking about live courses to start with, aimed at the 10 — 12 year old range to begin with … but if those lessons remain on YouTube, does it matter how old you are if you want to watch ‘em?

    As a thing, the Massive Open Online Course is still rapidly changing, and I’m not sure that any number of pre-recorded lessons can replace the experience of working with a skilled instructor who also knows the material inside-out4, but this does have the potential of spreading the basics of comics-making far more widely that it has been in the past. It’s worth keeping an eye on.

¹ Actually, I knew that, but I did learn that heavily Mormon Utah was the state that provided the clinching vote to repeal the 18th Amendment so thanks for that one, Utah! Oddly, my own state of New Jersey provided the last vote in favor of ratification of Prohibition, but not until 1922, more than three years after the 18th Amendment was approved and more than two years after the Volstead Act came into force.

² Which logistics, by the way, also involves the container ship developing mechanical problems and having to return to the far side of the Pacific Ocean.

³ Okay, I knew that one, too.

4 As some of you know, my day job is teaching for a technology company. For the past decade, an increasing percentage of my course load has been delivered from my home office in a virtual classroom rather than in-person. The advantages to students are numerous — no travel costs being paramount — but there are challenges as well; most important from my perspective is the lack of immediate feedback to me as to how well the students are getting it during lecture.

There are dozens of small cues that an instructor picks up from a student sitting right over there that convey clearly — they understand or I need to do that last bit over in another way — that are severely attenuated over a net connection. There are other logistical concerns as well, especially of the show me what you’re doing right now variety. Those challenges are compounded when the session isn’t live, but pre-recorded. However, any form of instruction is a step up from struggling on your own to the point that you decide I can’t do this.

Race To The Finish

How the hell did it get to be December already? End-of-year madness is coruscating around us, and before you know it, it’s Aught-Fourteen and we’re all a year older. Man.

  • If I’ve done my sums correctly, this weekend will feature the fourth annual Webcomics Rampage in Austin, Texas, and the largest one yet. Sixteen creators! Three days! Rampages! Well, okay, there are Canadians coming, so it’s probably going to be a very polite rampage. That being said, Dragon’s Lair has developed a reputation for putting together a fun, relaxed (for creators and attendees alike) event, and if you’re anywhere in the warm regions of the country from Friday to Sunday, you could do worse than to meet some neat people and hear some interesting thoughts on the writing, art, and business of webcomics. Tell everybody I said hi.
  • A big part of the end of the year is that people frequently wish to give gifts to others, in celebration of whichever cultural signifier they find most familiar. Keep in mind that you’re not the only person to do wish to do this and until every vendor has its own fleet of ill-advised delivery drones, you’re going to have to rely on various forms of shipping services, which increases your lead time somewhat.

    Obviously, it’s not possible to link you to every shipping calendar out there, but in the past I’ve found TopatoCo’s to be a good indicator of lead times. Naturally, these dates only apply to items coming from their internet amusement vendory, and you should check with whomever you’re ordering from, and if you’re requiring any number of international borders to be crossed, might want to get that order in yesterday.

  • I wasn’t going to point out any particular CyberMonday™¹ merch launches or sales; suffice it to say that most creators are either putting new stuff up, offering discounts, or both. But then I saw that the Penny Arcade dress-code compliant arm, First Party, were launching a nice leather belt today and you know what? I need a belt.

    But I won’t be getting the First Party belt. Know why? Here’s why:

    The belts are 1 1/4 inches wide and available in three sizes:

    - Small – 43 inches long
    - Medium – 45 inches long
    - Large – 47 inches long

    Forty-three inches. That’s 109 cm for those of you in the rest of the world. Okay, granted, I’m a bit on the thin side, but I wrapped a tape measure through my belt loops, and 43 inches goes all the way around and touches the outside edge of one of my back pockets.

    I realize that I may not represent the median cohort in modern garment sizing, and for all I know videogamers may have the same needs for traditional belt sizing as Trekkers. But skinny-ass nerds need clothing too, and I thought a company with once-and-future skinny-ass nerds as a core audience demographic might have been able to hook me up. Time for a Christmas Carol-style trip to the past for everybody at First Party, so they can remember their own pasts as skinny-ass nerds.

    Either that or it’s a typo, in which case we cool.

¹ I hate that term.

Wait, Shouldn’t That Be “Malki !dian”?

Warning: keep hands away from the GNASHING TEETH OF DOOM.

It is fast becoming a basic tenet in the world of independent creation that you ignore David Malki ! as your peril. He has his hands in more endeavours than you can easily count, he has stumbled into problems and found solutions that you need not recreate, and he’s generous about sharing his knowledge. Also all those projects take so much time that by my calculations he’s averaging about 37 minutes of sleep a night, meaning by now he’s dangerously insane; definitely you want to keep your eyes on him at all times so he can’t sneak up behind you.

Case in point: in and around all of his own projects, Malki ! took on a gig with Audible UK to promote a new book by Bill Bryson, which became Real True Actual Stories of America (here, and here, and here). Now Malki ! has done animated versions of his Victorian illustrations before, with some paperstock and sticks and suchlike, but for the RTASoA he went and invented a motion-capture technique that allows real-time rendering of virtual performers. Check out the entire behind the scenes video and then come back here.

All done? Here’s a thought for you — one of the last projects that Jim Henson worked on before his untimely death was a motion-capture system for real-time virtual puppeteering. It required an elaborate electromechanical interface and 120 hours of rendering for a 2-minute short. Malki ! has essentially achieved the same thing with some paper, some clothespins and sticks, and a Mac; certainly some of that is down to Moore’s Law and the work done by previous generations of motion-capture development, but a hell of a lot of it is due to Malki ! messing around with an idea that might. just. work.

Not that everything works out so easily. With the long, intercontinental production of the Machine of Death game nearing the endgame, it’s time to make one last attempt to make sure everything goes to where it should:

So now that we’re getting really close to shipping, we sent out an email to all 10,468 people asking if the address we had on file for them was correct, and providing a link to a form they could fill out to correct it if necessary. We used the email addresses we collected from Kickstarter.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but for the sake of data and trivia, here are some of the results, so far, of sending out that mass email at roughly 1pm this afternoon:

  • Autoresponses saying “My email address has changed”: 4
  • Autoresponses saying “My email address has changed”, but without providing the new address: 1
  • “Out of office” autoreplies: 5
  • Earthlink anti-spam prove-you’re-human autoreplies: 2
  • Non-problem emails just saying “Everything’s fine, you’re doing a great job”: 8
  • “I’ll be out of town from x date to y date, can we make a special arrangement”: 5
  • “Using such-and-such courier service will cause me a problem, can we make a special arrangement”: 5
  • Verifying or confirming something specific in their order: 3
  • “I don’t currently have an address so don’t send anything yet”: 2
  • “I’m in a different place in my life now, so you know what, don’t send it at all”: 1
  • Undeliverable email bouncebacks: 19

[bold original]

So that’s 50 out of more than 10,000, not bad.

Responses to the form submitting a correction to their shipping address (so far, more are coming in every minute): SEVEN HUNDRED AND EIGHTEEN

That is BONKERS. Overnight it will probably top 1,000 people. That’s TEN PERCENT who need to change their shipping address all of a sudden TODAY.

If we hadn’t sent out that email, would 1,000 packages have been returned to us as undeliverable? The thought is terrifying! [bold original]

Oh. Mind you, every single person that replied at the last possible moment that their address had changed has had access to BackerKit since April, and has been occasionally exhorted by Malki ! in project updates to make sure that their addresses were current. And let’s not overlook the likelihood that even the first 50 backers Malki ! recounted could be incredibly hassle-filled and expensive:

then you you send a package overseas and it’s returned to you because the backer moved and then they ask for a refund of their pledge

that is not only a true story, it happened more than once

That would be Sara McHenry and Holly Rowland, logistical geniuses at TopatoCo and Make That Thing. Take this as a lesson, anybody that’s creating a Kickstarter campaign — there are things almost entirely out of your control that could very possibly ruin your attempts to provide a timely delivery to your backers, and eventually drive you as insane. In which case you might be the next person we ignore at our peril.


Editor’s note: No photo today, because it would give away the surprise at the end. You understand.

Whew boy, today has kicked my ass. Let’s look at what surprised me in the past day or so.

  • Not surprising: Box Brown’ long-percolating biocomic of Andre the Giant earned him some love from CBR for the just-released cover.

    Less expected: Grantland, the bloggy aspect of ESPN’s online empire, did an interview with Brown in advance of the comic’s release. This may be the harbinger of the fabled Jock-Nerd Convergence, as was foretold in the beforetimes by the Truthsayer.

  • Not surprising: Big magazine does a listicle of webcomics it likes.

    Pretty damn nervy, actually: after grabbing snippets of comics to run on their site (many of which are licensed as Creative Commons NonCommercial), they then offered the creators the exciting opportunity to quote specific sections of the article to promote themselves, for a modest fee. Think I’m exaggerating? Here’s an excerpt from an email sent to one of the creators, in response to the simple question, Are you trying to get me to give you money?


    Thanks for your reply. [other employee] reached out to you because your [comic] was featured in our Best Web Comics story.

    Licensing is not free but to my knowledge you have not used any of our content commercially so no, this is not an attempt to collect money.

    Many companies like to leverage recognition like this to promote their products/services/apps/games/etc. I am here to let you know we can facilitate any needs you have to use this recognition.

    Here are examples of how others have used their recognition from to promote their brands…[link removed]

    If you wish to use our trademarks or quotes to promote [comic] I’m here to help. Use of those trademarks and/or quotes requires licensing which is fee based.


    [name omitted because I'm a nice guy]
    Licensing Manager
    Ziff Davis Inc.

    So to sum: Ziff Davis Inc. makes money by driving clicks via a listicle, then graciously allows the people whose work it is referencing to specifically quote the story title¹, but if they want to actually quote the article, or maybe show a screenshot that might incorporate a ZD logo, they have to pay for the privilege to display it for one year which will in turn promote the magazine that gets the license fee. To quote the creator’s reply to this “generous” offer:

    I can’t decide if Kafka or Orwell wrote this!

    Me neither.

  • Completely coincidentally and without any reference to any publisher’s hubris whatsoever: look what I got in the mail today.

¹ Excerpt from the original pitch letter:

Here are instances where you featured on The quotes available for you to license are mentioned in Bold below (this quote can be used with the logo or text). All license rights are for one year.

Which included the following explanatory boilerplate:

In order to maintain the esteem and integrity surrounding our logos, PCMag and Ziff Davis, Inc. must grant rights and permission prior to the use of any material. Ziff Davis, Inc. makes its content available only subject to the terms of licensing agreement. This is standard with all of our clients and we are vigilant in safeguarding our content for misuse. You currently are permitted, without need for license, to reproduce on your website the headline of an article published on any of our websites, as long as it is not for commercial purposes and is limited to the following use only, as stated in Section 107 of the United States Copyright Law: Criticism, Comment, News reporting, Teaching, Scholarship and Research. However no part of our content, reviews and articles may be used for commercial purposes without a license.

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 ! …

    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.

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!


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.

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