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Cat and Girl

Comix Talk for Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dumbing of Age by David Willis

TOPIC OF THE DAY:  David Willis' new Dumbing of Age is like the (new) Star Trek of webcomics (I am waiting for the red matter to show up) Discuss!

CONVENTIONS: Intervention reports that its fundraiser collected $500 for EFF.  SPX raises money for CBLDF.  Both good causes, but If you're into webcomics, EFF is probably as important as CBDLF.

IT'S THE ECONOMY STOOPID PIGEON: MK Reed ran through some rough numbers for overall attendees, educated guesses about gross revenue and costs to come up with a rough estimate of profit per creator for the recent SPX.  It's an interesting thought experiment but I can't imagine it means all that much to any individual creator.  There's a big difference between Kate Beaton's table and someone who is at their first convention.  Also of interest -- Sean Kleefeld notes that Dorothy Gambrell of the webcomic Cat And Girl has posted several charts with her annual income.

DEFINITIONS: El Santo debates "what is a webcomic?" I agree with his knocking down motion comics -- not really comics at all in my book.  He also runs through several other examples where people have debated the definition of webcomics.

HYPE: Jen Wang's KoKo Be Good is now out on the shelves.  Needless to say I love this book and I should have a full review telling you why up on the site this week.

The ComixTalk 2009 Roundtable

It's the end of the year and what better time to talk webcomics with a great group of interesting creators and commentators.  For this year's roundtable we talked about favorite and new webcomics from 2009; iPhones and iTablets; developments in the business of comics; developments in the subject matter of comics; webcomic awards; and predictions for 2010!  I'm joined by Gary Tyrrell, Delos Woodruff, Shaenon Garrity, Fesworks, Derik Badman, Larry Cruz, Brigid Alverson and Johanna Draper Carlson.

And Guest Starring Ted Rall as the "Get Off My Lawn" Guy

I actually like Ted Rall's cartooning - don't always agree with him but to me if you're going to put yourself out there as an editorial cartoonist it helps to actually editorialize in the cartoon.  Rall does that fearlessly.

But apparently Rall seems to think the only way to success in comics is through the narrow prism of his own experiences.  He can't seem to stand thinking about any other avenue to a sustainable career in comics despite his clear understanding that the newspaper biz is dying and killing off editorial (and all) comics in the newspaper even faster.  There's a somewhat over-long interview between Ted Rall and Rall protege Matt Bors in the recent issue of TCJ (available online now) where Rall just can't leave "webcomics" alone:

How can we be "alternative"? There are more political cartoons drawn and published in "alternative" styles — in altweeklies — than there are in dailies. Indeed, the only thing more annoying than the lame posturing of a few ridiculous tools like Scott Kurtz (PVP) and the Penny Arcade guys (who apparently have Roman orgies every time a staff editorial cartoonist loses his job and winds up unemployed) is the term "webcartoonist." What the fuck does that mean? Oh, I know: Cartoonists who post their stuff online for free and sell visitors to their websites merchandise like T-shirts and books. And who attend lots of comics conventions. Well, gee, what cartoonist doesn't do that? We all do. We all have been. Everyone is a webcartoonist now.

What's disconcerting beyond the ridiculous Amway-like rhetoric ("You too can make BIG CASH MONEY making comics FROM HOME!") is that free has become a religion for the e-vangelists. They give cartoons away for free that they could sell — simply by asking! You and I were on a group phone chat a while back with webcartoonists like Kurtz and someone — I forget who — said he wouldn't even know how to ask for money. I said: "You just ask, 'Do you have a budget for this?'" It really is that simple. Not only are these guys driving down the prices for all of us who are trying to make a living, they're doing the same thing editorial cartoonists are doing by lowering the quality. Look at webcartoons like PVP and Penny Arcade, by all accounts the most successful webcomics around. Kurtz tried to give PVP away for free to newspapers a while back and there were no takers. Why? Because it's terrible. Incompetently written. Awful characterization. Plastic, cold artwork. Syndication 1.0 had flaws. It kept out good, daring work. But now that there's no gatekeeper, all the shit is everywhere. It used to be off the page. Now it's damned near impossible for readers to distinguish what's good because it's surrounded by crap. That's not good for the profession. A terrible mainstream comic like Tumbleweeds had a base level of competence. Only a half-dozen webcomics, like Diesel Sweeties, Cat and Girl, etc. do.

Strip News 7-31-9


Here are quite a lot of things that may be a little deeper than first appear…

The Joy of Webcomics lies, cheats, and steals

joyofwebcomicsThere was apparently a big To Do down in SoCal this weekend. Various webcomic types are spending this week coming down from the high of San Diego Comic Con. The event has gotten so large that I swear I saw Stan Lee on CNBC last night doing a post-Con wrap-up. Surreal.

Cartoon Art Museum Call for Webcomics

The Cartoon Art Museum of San Francisco ( is organizing "Monsters of Webcomics," a showcase of cutting-edge webcomics work. The show's ten spotlight artists have already been selected. However, the museum also wants to include a virtual gallery of as many other webcomics as possible. If you're interested in having your art included in the virtual gallery, email curator Andrew Farago at

Feel free to spread this information around the webcomics community. The museum wants a wide range of comics included in the show.

Strip News 6-25-9

All this just from last Friday until Wednesday…my hat is off to all you comics folk. You work hard and keep yourselves busy…

Interviewing Bryant Paul Johnson

Bryant Paul Johnson is the creator of the long-running "semi-historical micro fiction" webcomic title, Teaching Baby Paranoia.  I met Johnson at an SPX several years ago and I've always enjoyed reading his wonderfully smart, intellectually wacky comic.  It's a bit like reading the history of a much more interesting world than our own.  He also created a limited comic series for ComixTalk titled The Antecedent that might be described as semi-historical micro nonfiction and often illuminated many interesting parallels between American history and our recent era under that Texas yankee who used to be President.

I was really happy he was able to do a cover for us last month and than an interview now.  Especially interesting is an update on the graphic novel titled The Lower Kingdom that Johnson is working on along with a preview of its first chapter.

My Life in Webcomics: An Interview with Grant Thomas

Grant Thomas is the creator of several comics including the more personal My Life in Records and the more adventuresome Graphic Poems.  I think Grant has been creating some of the more interesting and challenging comics I've seen in webcomics and his stuff is well worth checking out.

Grant's also been a contributor to ComixTALK, creating the cover art for ComixTALK for December of 2008 and writing several features for the magazine, including a three part series on creating mini-comics.  I got a chance to chat with Grant recently about his plans for 2009, including the next chapter of My Life in Records and the inclusion of his work in an upcoming book from Fantagraphics.

DRAFT List of 100 Greatest Webcomics: Comedy and Drama

Last year I posted a couple times (Previous posts on this "research" project were here and here) about a possible article on "ComixTALK's 100 Greatest Webcomics" which would be something like the American Film Institute's list of the greatest movies of the last 100 years.

A recurring comment to the previous two posts was what is the criteria for this.  I'm always a little hesitant to give too much guidance when part of the point of asking this kind of thing out loud is to listen to the resulting discussion of what everyone else thinks the criteria should be.  For the AFI list judges picked films based on criteria such as Critical Recognition, Major Award Winner, Popularity Over Time, Historical Significance, and Cultural Impact.

That sounds about right to me.  We've got a round decade plus a year or two of webcomics to look at it.  Critical reception (both from peers and critics), and popularity are both relevant to thinking about the impact of a webcomic.  WCCA awards are somewhat indicative of what peers were impressed with in a given year and more recently awards like the Eisners and Ignatzs have recoginized webcomics.  Historical significance and cultural impact are a little harder to pin down but various "firsts" in webcomics are important and comics like Penny Arcade have had a much wider impact on popular culture than most comics do these days (put aside the legacy superheros of comics -- what other "new" comic, let alone webcomic, in the last decade has had a wide cultural impact?)

Another thing AFI did that might be useful here to help sort through the vast numbers of webcomics one could talk about is to also think about categories or genres of work.  Just as a simple matter of numbers if a webcomic isn't one of the best of a larger type of story -- or frankly, so startlingly unique it's hard to categorize -- then it's hard to imagine it's one of the 100 Greatest...

So to move things along I'm listing another "draft" of titles submitted by the crowds but this time I've tried to break them up into drama and comedy so as to help avoid complete apples to oranges comparisons.  In doing that I've realized (1) it's hard in many cases to decide; and (2) there are probably more comedic than drama on the list so far.  I think it would make sense to whittle down the two lists to 75 each so as the final list is no more than 3/4 of one type or the other.  Of course we could further do genre type lists but for now this was enough work on my part.

So -- your assignment (if you choose to play):

  1. Name the comic you're talking about (you're also welcome to nominate ones not on the list -- I KNOW there are many I haven't even thought about yet -- it takes time to review all of the corners of the web)
  2. Tell me where on one the two lists (comedy and drama) it should be (you could give a range of slots if you're not sure). (If you think I've got a drama on the comedy list or vice-versa let me know!  I'm not "done" - this is fairly dashed off still at this point)
  3. Tell me why!  Referencing awards, critics, historical achievements, strengths and weaknesses of the works are all really helpful!