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The fate of alt weekly comics

Death_Ray_GraphicsDeath_Ray_Graphics Registered User regular
edited February 2009 in Debate and/or Discourse
Alt weekly papers, the original Internet for cutting edge comics , have struck the same iceberg as the rest of the economy and, in order to save dollars, are shedding comic strips like dandruff.

The situation has inspired articles such as this one in the Chicago Reader, and led to popular indy tooners like Max Cannon to issue a red alert to his readers that fans of indy strips need to be more outspoken.

Consequently, this has inspired a few dicks to come out of the woodwork, notably a guy named Ed Decker, himself an alt weekly freelancer, in an effort to kick sand in the face of struggling cartoonists, as if we were a bunch of Bernie Madofs who suddenly can't get caviar to flow from our kitchen faucets. My own response to Decker below:
Following a link first from cartoonist Tom Tomorrow’s website, then to Lloyd Dangle’s, I finally arrived at the source of a screedy little denunciation of alt weekly cartoonists and their current economic plight that comes courtesy of one Ed Decker, a columnist for the San Diego CityBeat.

Decker writes in reaction to an editorial on the website of Red Meat cartoonist Max Cannon, justifiably despairing of the economic iceberg America’s alt weeklies have struck and how cartoonists have been the first ejected overboard, despite the fact that reader polls consistently prove that the comics in weekly papers are a top draw. Cannon’s lament is thoughtful and not at all hostile to the industry, which makes Decker’s riposte all the odder for its sneering tone. Writes Ed:

“And Max, dude, did you actually say that you “slaved” over your work? Are you for real? You’re not picking cotton under a blazing Mississippi sun, man. You’re not digging ditches in pools of raw sewage. You draw cartoons. If cartoon-drawing is anything like column-writing, you sit at your desk with your wine and your weed—Big Sonic Chill dripping its pollen from your speakers—and an expensive computer doing all your heavy lifting.”

As a cartoonist, I can assure you that the work has some added challenges that Decker does not to have to contend with, such as pruning shitty metaphors like “pollen dripping from speakers” from my drafts before they reach the public. Otherwise, writing and cartooning for alt weeklies are part of a common artistic grind, and you would expect more sympathy from someone laboring to make his own name this way.

Not so Decker. His “open letter” screams jealousy like a banshee at an opera house. “Let me see if I can’t find a waah-kerchief for you to bawl into”, “don’t tell me about hard times, Mr. Maximillian McWhinyFace!”, “If I were a ditch-digger or a cotton-picker, and I saw your donate button—oh yeah, I’d donate something all right,” is just the dross of his pith.

And all this in response to a plea that comic strip fans contact their local weeklies and express how much they enjoy the comics featured therein. Hardly some elitist propaganda juggernaut.

One steaming load of Decker’s odiferous prose will be enough to assure you that Ed is not benefitting from any such calls on his behalf, and this is doubtless the motivation for his over the top denunciation of fellow freelancers who, after all, are just trying to make a buck in a tough business. Decker’s double-barrel assault on the modestly successful Max Cannon and Tom Tomorrow, his bitchy pronouncement that the fruits of his own talents “can’t even buy me a small bindy of coke and an hour with a bottom-dollar street hooker” are like a planet-sized window into the soul of a failure. So your wings are starting to melt? That will teach you to aim for the sun, Icarus! Welcome back to Planet Crap with the rest of us blow flies!

Ed, I know you are reading this because I sent you a link and because anyone throwing out this much red meat (pardon the pun) could only be doing it to hoover up the short burst of attention that a creative bottom feeder never earns from the work he is actually proud of.

So let me suggest that you actually demonstrate some solidarity with the brothers of your profession instead of evacuating your bowels on them. Because if an alt weekly can’t spare three column inches for Max Cannon or Jen Sorenson, how long do you think its going to take an editor to realize that someone who pens a line like “Maximillian McWhinyFace” isn’t going to be rushing out to buy Pulitzer polish any time soon?

The weird thing is, comics are usually one of the major reasons people pick up alt weeklies. If anything, weeklies ought to commit to a permanent comics page and start giving space to comics like Achewood or SinFest (not that I think Tat has ever tried for this, but his Sunday strips would look great in weeklies) which are the natural (and prosperous) evolution of the revolution in comic strips that weeklies began with the likes of Life in Hell, Too Much Coffee Man, Derf and others. What does it say when the print medium has room still for obsolete 3-panel eye-sores like Moose and Molly but not sublimely funny comics like Tom the Dancing Bug?

mod edit: link to website removed to alleviate site-whoring concerns

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    DmanDman Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Are you talking about a physical newspaper here? Because those things are dying.

    Dman on
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    Richard_DastardlyRichard_Dastardly Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Dman wrote: »
    Are you talking about a physical newspaper here? Because those things are dying.

    I heard this Internet thing has something to do with it.

    Richard_Dastardly on
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    Death_Ray_GraphicsDeath_Ray_Graphics Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Dman wrote: »
    Are you talking about a physical newspaper here? Because those things are dying.

    I heard this Internet thing has something to do with it.

    What is queer is that the first instinct of these papers is to jettison the thing it has most in common with the Internet, comics, which are a synergy of text and graphics that is the core of the Internet's visual interface. I know that when I pick up an alt weekly, the comics are the first things I look for.

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    Richard_DastardlyRichard_Dastardly Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    It's just as well, since newspapers are about to go extinct. Even a public with a passing interest in comics has largely moved on to the Internet.

    I'd imagine comic artists to be the most creative and progressive members of the newspaper community, so they'll probably find a way to make a living doing what they love. I bet it'll be those damn sports and lifestyle writers who'll suffer the most.

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    matt has a problemmatt has a problem Points to 'off' Points to 'on'Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    The well established comics are going to suffer the most from the death of the physical paper. The people who read those are the least likely to move to the internet. Most indie comics would actually do much better online, look at strips like questionablecontent and dieselsweeties. R.Stevens even had a print version of Sweeties for a while, but it just wasn't popular enough. Yet on his site, he's making money hand over fist.

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    Death_Ray_GraphicsDeath_Ray_Graphics Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    It's just as well, since newspapers are about to go extinct. Even a public with a passing interest in comics has largely moved on to the Internet.

    I'd imagine comic artists to be the most creative and progressive members of the newspaper community, so they'll probably find a way to make a living doing what they love. I bet it'll be those damn sports and lifestyle writers who'll suffer the most.

    The difficulty with profiting from online content is that since you can go directly to the source for the cartoon, skipping the middleman (the paper), there is no real way to sell your strip to an online publication, since a fan need not visit that site to gain access to it in most cases. This puts the onus of making a profit directly on the artist, which is a difficult proposition. You have to be both creator and marketeer. Since your product, the strip, is basically given away for free, the only revenue source becomes online ads (not that profitable for most cartoonists), merchandise (again, tough to make a buck at) and books, the value of which is somewhat diminished by the online availability of the product.

    These odds are not insurmountable, but realize that what was once the product, the strip itself, is now more or less the advertisement for what used to be secondary revenue sources like merch. And merch is a tricky business. Yes, you like reading Tom Tomorrow, but do you really want to wear This Modern World? of course not.

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    PreacherPreacher Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    The well established comics are going to suffer the most from the death of the physical paper. The people who read those are the least likely to move to the internet. Most indie comics would actually do much better online, look at strips like questionablecontent and dieselsweeties. R.Stevens even had a print version of Sweeties for a while, but it just wasn't popular enough. Yet on his site, he's making money hand over fist.

    Man I would never be such an absolute dick and tell someone to look at QC.

    Preacher on
    I would like some money because these are artisanal nuggets of wisdom philistine.

    pleasepaypreacher.net
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    NocrenNocren Lt Futz, Back in Action North CarolinaRegistered User regular
    edited February 2009
    I wouldn't mind wearing a bug-eyed Earl shirt. Thruth be told though I first learned about Max Cannon from a Heavy Metal write up about him and not because of any alt-paper.
    Hell, I think I'm too mainstream to even know were to find an alt paper.

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