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The interesting thing about my recent SMBC parody is that many people took it as a statement about webcomics in general. As d2002's submittion at digg blatantly points out, many feel that funny webcomics usually have poor illustrations and webcomics with great artwork are usually not very funny.
The real reason "why most webcomics suck" is that they're not profitable until you reach an absurd amount of traffic. It's a classic catch-22. You can't afford to spend any time writing and drawing until you can quit your job. But you can't afford quit your job until you have time to create a quality webcomic and business model.
The result? Stick figure comics. It's the only way. Stick figures are the most effecient way to convey information about the human form. I make at least one comic per day, but I only have about 30 minutes to write and draw it. I simply couldn't do it without drawing stick figures. I have no proofreader (except you of course) - each day I just write it, draw it, and upload it.
The solution? The solution is painfully simple. Webcomic artists give you content for free. It's not like a newspaper, where you pay for the newspaper. Not only are webcomics free, we actually have to pay for the bandwidth you're using. It costs us money to send you the comics. The words you are reading right now cost us money to send to you. If everyone donated an amount as small as one dollar per month (much less than a newspaper subscription) to their favorite webcomics, the entire problem would be solved.
The reality? This is not a nation of working solutions. We let George W. Bush hold office for eight years. We run Microsoft Windows on our computers. We don't support free content that we like. In my experience, for every 1 million readers, about 2 readers will donate (0.000002%). It's evidence that the donation model made famous by artists like Radiohead does not really work. It only works for brands that are already popular worldwide. No one is going to donate unless it makes a newspaper, unless they get something in return (which is not really donating at all).
I don't really want to sell shirts and mugs, but I'll have to if I ever want to make a living from comics. People only want to pay for something tangible. We're so accustomed to everyone trying to take our money that we want to see a physical item with our eyes so that we can do a cost/gains evaluation in our minds to decide if it's worth it. The idea of paying for free non-tangible services is completely foreign to us. And laughter is not tangible at all. It may improve your mood, reveal truth, make you healthier, and help you live a longer more enjoyable life but you can't wear it on your back or put coffee in it. Why would you pay for something if you don't have to?
So please don't take my comics very seriously. This isn't a serious comic strip effort. It's purely for fun and practice. If you want to compare my work here to professional webcomics, that's fine, but know the absurdity behind it. Someday, when I can afford it, I'll start a serious comic strip effort at 909sickle.com. Until then, I hope you enjoy the clob at 909sickle.com/s.
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WowAmazing journal entry, really hit the point home about what you and other webcomics artists are doing for the world at large, on a near-daily basis, no doubt. Thanks for all the laughs, ideas, and absurdity - makes each visit (and subsequent draining of your bandwidth) worthwhile ;)
Donated.Kevin64 months ago#1546reply
I realize that I don't speak for the vast, vast majority of readers, but if I had any money to spare, I would be more than willing to donate to a few e-causes, simply to show my appreciation. The fact of the matter is simply that I don't have enough disposable income to do so. The fact that reading webcomics is also a solo, momentary activity also contributes to this mentality, I imagine. Given the choice between reading something for 20 seconds or so, daily, that I enjoy immensely, or taking part in an actual social activity that provides less entertainment but for a longer period of time, such as seeing a movie or a night of binge drinking with some friends, most - if not all - readers would choose the latter.
I'm not saying I want to read a novel on a daily basis or trying to downplay the entertainment value of webcomics or other free online entertainment, just that the time invested, even cumulatively over a month, in reading a webcomic is extremely difficult to rationalize actually paying for, for those of us with limited incomes and significant financial obligations such as rent and car insurance.
On a somewhat related note - take a look at Encyclopedia Dramatica. ED is the only website that I have ever actually donated money to, and that is simply because they make a needlessly big deal out of "NEEDING" donations in order to continue running. The sense of urgency given to readers and contributors on these occasions, although most likely baseless, mentally registers as being a far more worthy cause than a simple Donate link on a navbar on other pages.Anonymous64 months ago#1549reply
You weren't kidding about using the journal were you?Waltz64 months ago#1555reply
-Claps hands-Trent64 months ago#1556reply
Some day when I can afford it I'll make a donation. Anonymous64 months ago#1557reply
Well we need money to spend money ... I assume many of your readers can't afford to donate and may do so in the future when it's viable. All we're good for is spreading the word to attract more readers.Duck64 months ago#1565reply
Stick figures don't suckHi,
I like stick figures, more complex art doesn't always add something.
The arguably most succesfull French-speaking comic strips (published in newspapers and as hardcover, even used in ads, ..) has mostly the same drawing in 3 cases, only the text change, a sample is here :
http://www.geluck.com/dessins%20semaine/08.jpg
So well, I don't associate simple (even simplistic) drawing with bad comics, at least on strips.
I don't see what's bad with selling shirts. It can be time-consuming, but as far as I understand there are web sites that will do most of the work (printing, shipping, ...), but I'm not sure how much you get from them.Dominique64 months ago#1568reply
Thanksfor the kind words and good vibes. Now I feel bad for expecting negativity.swb64 months ago#1569reply
A little bit offI laughed when I saw my comic mentioned here -- I wasn't expecting it. Cute :)
But I think your journal entry is actually pretty far off the mark, as far as painting an accurate picture goes. You talk as if comics in other media are more immediately profitable and thus justify the investment, but this just isn't the case. There are thousands of would-be newspaper cartoonists toiling in obscurity. Most successful cartoonists such as Charles Schulz and Bill Watterson drew and shopped around their cartoons for many years before they ever got a penny for them. It was incredibly thankless work with a very small chance of reward.
The fact is, merchandising a webcomic is much more profitable than cartooning in any other medium ever has been. There's no syndicate taking percentages, there's nothing like that. Webcomics can be supported by a combination of commissions, merchandise, print collections, and advertising. I know people making most of their income off of each of these.
You suggest that because under the old models, newspapers were paid for, it was more profitable for the cartoonists. This is absurd. Any comic with the readership of a major newspaper comic would make far more money for the creator if it had the same readership in web form. When Scott Adams started drawing Dilbert, even after he was syndicated for a couple years, he made a lot more money speaking at companies than he did from newspaper syndication.
In 1998, Bill Watterson gave a talk about how comics were dying because there was nobody supporting them. He said they might be saved by a weekly dedicated full-color comics magazine, but it turned out they were saved by the internet.
Sure, xkcd is a successful stick figure comic. And, in fact, humor comics ("gag" comics) have been getting simpler and simpler since the 1950's, partly because of constraints of the medium, but partly because telling a joke is very different from telling a short story, and works well with minimal atmosphere.
However, your basic premise -- that comics on the internet have gotten visually dumbed down because there's not a lot of financial support -- is way off. It's partly true that there are a lot of simple comics out there, but there were plenty of people doodling in their notebooks before the internet -- they just didn't go anywhere public. But if you look at the list of self-sufficient webcomic artists ...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_self-sufficient_webcomics
... you'll notice that most of the comics there are more artistically involved than most of the comics in the paper over the last few decades. Successful gag comics have gotten artistically *better* with the nascent transition to webcomics. You might say "sure, a few are successful and can afford to draw a lot, but most people can't." But most of the comics on that list started out with fairly involved non-stick-figure art, and only became popular and profitable later. The bottom line is that webcomics are just like print comics. Most of the time, you have to toil in obscurity, doing a lot of visual work for very little profit. Your comment about "I can't make my comic profitable without free time, but I can't get free time without a profitable comic" is an incredibly common complaint in the art and music worlds. However, your chances of escaping this mire -- if you're really working hard -- are a lot better than they ever were. You don't have to convince a hardened syndicate representative of your works' merit, you just have to get something that enough people like and let word-of-mouth do the job for you (assuming you've made the site easy to navigate and so forth).
I agree that it's rough for small webcomics; it's not a great business environment. But as far as most of these issues go, for this style of cartooning, *every other business environment in history is worse*. This is not a problem with webcomics. It's a problem with doing art for a living, and it's one that is *less* bad for those of us doing webcomics than it is for our friends in other parts of the industry.Randall Munroe64 months ago#1570reply
In reply to Dominique, comment #1568:
I think a lot of the merchandise aversion comes from the words of my favorite comic artist, Bill Watterson. He thought it would cheapen his comic. Part of the reasoning was having the issue of Hobbes reality being settled by a stuffed toy.
But that doesn't really apply to other comics. Also, he had the advantage of being able to profit from newspaper syndication and book sales.
I imagine if he was making comics on the Internet today he might take advantage of ad sales or tasteful merchandise. You can't really live off book sales when you have to pay Internet bandwidth until the day you decide to sell books.
I always wondered why Watterson never showed up on the Internet. His big complaints about the comic biz were that too many people try to control your art and that newspaper formats are too constraining. But none of those problems exist with webcomics.
Bla bla bla...swb64 months ago#1571reply
In reply to Randall Munroe, comment #1570:
Can't decide if you're the real Randall, but troll or not, you made some good points.
For the record, I wasn't trying to blame all poorly drawn comics on time problems. It's not a simple issue. Some people just can't draw. I may be one of them. Others may only be going for simplicity. But I assumed there's also a lot of people in my situation. I would sit down and do more detailed drawings if I had the time. I would spend 2-4 hours writing scripts instead of 15 minutes. I would do story lines, series, and many other things I simply can't do with the amount of free time I have right now. My non-comic work demands a lot of my time and I couldn't afford to stop doing it unless I was already getting solid income from somewhere else.
I do believe that if people had a "donation model mindset" that there would be a lot more higher-quality free content on the Internet. The best would get rewarded and could dedicate serious time to their work.
Maybe I'll run ads. Maybe I'll sell shirts. Maybe I'll take a break from comics and save up some buffer money. Just like the old newspaper comic artists had to do, I'll find a way to get the time to do what I want. All I'm saying is that it could sure be a lot easier. It doesn't have to be a 1 year struggle. It could be... efficient.swb64 months ago#1576reply
In reply to swb, comment #1571:
Calvin and Hobbes was my inspiration, too, and I really admire how he stood up for that freedom. But I think a lot of Watterson's objections were to *other people* merchandising his strip, making those decisions. I feel like doing your own merchandise, with fairly nondescript T-shirts and prints of the comics, is a little bit more on par with book collections (which were a type of merchandising Watterson was okay with.
I dunno. People *really* like getting comics stamped on their t-shirts. Never really figured that one out, but I go with it. Me, personally, I just wear a diving wetsuit everywhere I go. Much more efficient.Randall Munroe64 months ago#1587reply
one point about stick figures... "many feel that funny webcomics usually have poor illustrations" this doesn't seem right to me, if you think of xkcd... it wouldn't be so successful if it weren't for it's funnyness, and it's very well illustrated! I fact, I think the stick figures of xkcd are part of its success: Imagine the same comic with foto-realistic drawings - that would be far less funny.
About being able to make donations - there are microtransactions nowadays. People could easily make donations of just a few bucks without the donations being eaten away by charges. Maybe not to every webcomic they read, but if everybody just supported one of them... The actual problem is that a) webcomics exist regardless of the individual donation, and b) people are too lazy.Anonymous64 months ago#1588reply
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