Interesting thread developing over at the SLOG, the online arm of Seattle's alternative paper, The Stranger. Over the past couple of days, Stranger book editor Paul Constant's posts about the Portland Oregonian changing its comics lineup have drawn a lot of comments debating the appeal of Webcomics vs. traditional mainstream fare.
Paul cites this comment as one that got him thinking...
I have a list of 10 or 15 webcomics that I compulsively check every
morning, yet I can't think of one funny or worthwhile print strip.
Webcomics, by and large, are so much more creative, challenging and
intelligent than whatever lowest common denominator strip is deemed
"appropriate" for a wide audience...
That's actually only about half the comment, and Paul goes on to talk about the need for a Web comics aggregator or something that would make it easier for people to find the hilarious and lesser-known comics on the Internet.
But what caught my attention is the sentiment that there's nothing worth reading in print. That's a statement that can't be confirmed or denied, because for one, it's entirely subjective, and for another, each newspaper's lineup is different.
Instead, let's pose the question: Is there anything worth reading that's available for print?
Obviously, we here at the syndicate would say "yes." While we definitely lament the abundance of strips in the funny pages that rely on cliches, formulas and references to the Ed Sullivan show, we'd be out of business (or out of our minds) pretty quickly if we didn't do our best to find and market features that appeal to large markets while still retaining the originality, sharpness, zing, subversiveness, hilarity, what-have-you that make comics worth reading.
Part of the goal of the editor's blog is to call attention to these strips that exist comfortably (or somewhat comfortably) within both worlds. Being a true original and still appealing to the masses is not an easy task for a cartoonist, especially given the conservative standards of most American dailies. What's even harder is convincing editors to take a chance on something fresh and challenging when they've got so many cherished and non-offensive legacy strips to fall back on.
But rather than turn this post into the same old vs. new debate that we've seen on countless comics message boards, I just mention this to give you an idea of what we face when we go through submissions and present new features to newspapers. There were some great questions posed on the blog a few days ago about how syndicates work and what we look for. I think people often get the impression that syndicate acquisitions editors are self-important arbiters of taste, when in reality we're often just interpreters of the market. Even if we like something, that doesn't mean we think it's a good candidate for print syndication.
Fortunately, people no longer have to rely on syndicates for their comics to succeed and proliferate. With the Web, dedicated cartoonists can develop their strip, cultivate a following, market their products and not be hampered by the content, space and financial restrictions of print media. In the immortal words of Lennon's "Dig A Pony," on the Web you can celebrate anything you want, radiate everything you are, imitate everyone you know, and syndicate any boat you row.
So as syndicated strips carve out a place for themselves on the Web, and as Webcomics begin to cross over into the mass marketplace, are comics themselves changing?
Personally (and this is certainly up for debate), I think a good comic — print or online — is one that doesn't rely on any one shtick, but draws on a highly developed sense of humor, imagination, comic timing, and identifiability combined with a personalized art style to create something people of all ages and backgrounds can enjoy. The Web may be the perfect place for cartoonists to find a niche audience, but most of the successful Webcomics I've seen still get by on irreplaceable things like talent, consistency, strong writing and solid art.
A good editor, on the other hand, is one who identifies something as being of high quality and continues to support it even when the market does not respond favorably at first. That's why you'll continue to see us presenting our personal Universal Press features here on the blog and on GoComics — not just because they're our features, but because we believe they're as good (or in the case of Pepe, much better) than anything else out there.
As a final note, I'd encourage cartoonists to pay less attention to comments from readers and editors and just to follow their own instincts. Fame, fortune and calendar deals are statistically not in the cards for everyone who draws comics, but as long as you enjoy and believe in what you're doing, it will be worthwhile.
We all know Corey ... the devilish mind behind too many projects: Barkeater Lake, The Elderberries, Toby: Robot Satan, Lil Spencer, Drink at Work, MAD magazine, etc.
Well, Corey has just been nominated for his efforts at Drink at Work for the ECNY Awards for best Web site. I'm pretty sure what the "C" and the "NY" stand for, but the site is vague when it comes to the "E."
People are always astounded when they find out what I do for a living as they say, "you don't seem that funny." That's the beauty of it, with newspaper comic strips ... you don't have to be.
These are the words of Devin Crane, a Comics Sherpa cartoonist, alleged comic strip gag-writer and self-appointed advice columnist for those struggling to break into the industry. Now I'm not one to question a man's sincerity, but the more I read through Devin's advice, the more I have to wonder whether he really is the industry expert he claims to be.
Regardless, there's no denying that one of his recent posts contains several nuggets about how to enliven a strip that's failing to attract public interest. Except for the part about cartoonists and women. I know cartoonists and hang out with them all the time. Couldn't be further from the truth.
Big thanks to J. Lemon for picking this week's FTC. Also, big thanks to the readers for not abusing me for going back and forth between calling it "Name the Comic" and "Find That Comic." Our attorneys advised me to use both names to stop other award-winning blogs from stealing our idea.
OK. Rules are:
1) Name that strip in the comments section -- first correct poster wins 2) Strip appears on gocomics today 2/25/2009 (no need to search archives) 3) Cartoonists may not guess on their own comic 4) World record: Danny Burleson -- 6 minutes.
Winner gets to pick next week's entry and post, rant, promote a little something (contingent on Standards & Practices approval).
Ah, Ted Rall, the UPS writer/editorial cartoonist/graphic novelist/American Association of Editorial Cartoonists' President/competing syndicate exec., is there anything he can't do?
Well, yes, there is one thing I'm sure he can't do ... and that's endorse a return to true conservative values in Congress. But that's not why I'm writing today. Ted wrote one of my conceptually favorite graphic novels of all time. The dripping with schadenfreude "The Worst Thing I've Ever Done."
Ted asked readers to send in stories of the worst thing they've ever done and he illustrated their stories into this occasionally haunting, sometimes darkly funny graphic novel. I still get chills when I think about how the teenage neighborhood lawnmowers union dealt with a scab who was undercutting their prices.
Personally, I know I could provide enough material for a Volume 2 and 3.
While this blog primarily focuses on the comics-related aspects of syndication, Universal Press also distributes opinion columns by writers such as Cynthia Tucker, Richard Reeves, Anna Quindlen, and most recently, Saritha Prabhu.
Because she is originally from India, I'm always interested to hear Saritha Prabhu's perspective when it comes to global issues including the terror attacks in Mumbai, the response in other countries to Barack Obama's election to the presidency, even the awards and political attention drawn by yesterday's Best Picture winner, Slumdog Millionaire, which Saritha wrote a column about earlier this month.
Interestingly enough, when I was living in my safe, educated middle-class enclaves in India, I accepted the sight of children begging in the streets as a fact of city life. When one sees poverty around often, one gets somewhat desensitized to it.
On my last few visits there, however, I saw my native country through the eyes of an outsider, and the disparities seemed etched in harsh relief.
I found I couldn't take much pleasure from the gleaming new malls, office buildings and call centers when there were still slums and shantytowns, still the poor around you.
There was something wrong with the picture, it seemed to me, of the nouveau riche shopping for Gucci and Louis Vuitton bags while beggar children foraged for scraps.
Unfortunately, some in India's middle class would like to pretend the poorer classes don't exist. Hence, the discomfort at seeing them in Slumdog.
One of the things I've learned from living in America is that the truth, however unsavory, must be confronted, not denied.
Saritha Prabhu has been writing a weekly opinion column for The Tennessean of Nashville since 2004. As a native of India who has been a resident of the United States since 1992 and a naturalized citizen since 2006, Saritha has a unique background, earning a degree in Chemistry from Madras University in India before developing her lifelong interest in reading and writing into a biweekly opinion column.
Living in America, straddling two cultures, knowing three languages, being of the Hindu faith, and raising her children in a setting different from the one she grew up in give Saritha a bicultural, outsider perspective that you won't find anywhere else.
Her columns can be read on The Tennessean online, and are now available for print and online syndication from Universal Press.
This might come off as self-indulgent and a bit arrogant but it was Lucas' idea and if you knew him you'd understand that that is the reality he lives in. So ...
Do you have a question you'd like to ask a syndicate editor? Or the syndicate in general? Obviously, there's a lot of proprietary information we can't divulge and we can't answer specifics about why we turned down your strip ... and keep in mind that any question that starts out, *"Let's all accept for a fact that Glynn is over-matched ... " will be given priority.
* Other than that, please no personal attacks or hurting feelings-type questions.
In an effort to better relate to my teenage sisters, I've been brushing up on text message acronyms, or "textese" as some people call it, trying to cram as many unusual acronyms into my lexicon (texticon?) as possible.
Aiding my efforts is this massive list of acronym and text message shorthand. I'm not sure it's the most reliable or authoritative list out there, but it's an interesting document, especially when it comes to the longer phrases like IWBAPTAKYAIYSTA (I will buy a plane ticket and kick your ass if you say that again), or YROYOCC (you're running on your own cuckoo clock).
Of course, it's not just the kids texting anymore. Mr. Glynn frequently peppers his comments to cartoonists or other editors with his favorite acronym, IMHO (in my humble opinion). Of course, once he reads through the list I linked to above, I would hardly be surprised if he started using the more authoritative IMNERHO or even IMHEIUO.
Back in October, the New Yorker had a good article called Thumbspeak that asked if the texting craze was here to stay. The question I'd like to pose today (especially after the overwhelming feedback and spirited dialogue resulting from the Twitter post a couple of days ago) is what effect all of this will have on comics.
I've definitely seen TXT language and SMS speak in Web comics, but what about newspaper dailies? Will creators use it to extend a hand to younger readers and the tech-savvy, or will they avoid it so as not to alienate the older folks?
As far as Universal Press features go, Bill Hinds has worked some good text gags into his daily strip, Cleats on several occasions. Mark Pett's Lucky Cow, a personal favorite that is unfortunately no longer running, addressed texting a time or two as well.
A lot of the strips about texting deal with the absurdity of texting someone who is right next to you, like this Fox Trot Sunday...
Probably my favorite texting-related comic is still this Boondocks from 2005.
Referring to Blue-Toothers as "cyborgs" always cracks me up.
So will textese begin to appear more frequently in syndicated dailies, or will it remain the domain of Web comics? Any opinions, examples or feedback on this topic is encouraged in the comments section, preferably delivered with as many acronyms as possible. There's no guaranteeing everyone will be able to understand it, but then again, that's part of the fun, isn't it?
Students of the Harvard Class of 2000, fifteen years ago I sat where you sit now and I thought exactly what you are now thinking: What's going to happen to me? Will I find my place in the world? Am I really graduating a virgin? I still have 24 hours and my roommate's Mom is hot. I swear she was checking me out. Being here today is very special for me. I miss this place. I especially miss Harvard Square - it's so unique. No where else in the world will you find a man with a turban wearing a Red Sox jacket and working in a lesbian bookstore. Hey, I'm just glad my dad's working.