Matt Bors
Comics, Politics & Ridicule

Bors Blog

Print and Web Comics

On Friday a took part in a discussion about the future of comics with mostly people making comics for the web. Scott Kurtz, Rich Stevens, Dave Kellet, Ted Rall and some others took part and was part of Kurtz' weekly podcast. So if you are into this sort of thing, it's your chance to hear a bunch of pros meet up to hash out their differences.

It's a 2 hour conversation that is the result of a big debate that stretched over two comic news bogs--Fleen and Daily Cartoonist--and even resulted in a T shirt. Everyone is settling in during the first half hour and figuring out how to manage so many voices on the line at once, but after that I think it really turns into a good discussion.

The crux of the argument is: What is the future of comics? Web or print? There are two certainties: Print will continue to decline and the web will continue to grow. But what do the prospects look like on the web?

I manage to get out my concerns pretty clearly; putting comics on your site and making money through merchandising is not a problem at all--it's great and has been shown to make a few people a good living. A popular enough webcomic can generate income, provided the cartoonist is good at merchandising or making t shirts (have you seen mine?). But some of these guys think that's the model we are all supposed to look to and that the print model of paying for content is the laughable mindset of dinosaurs who don't realize their time is up. They're living proof you can do it.

The problem is most cartoonists can't do what they're doing--especially gag cartoonists and editorial cartoons. We rely on paying clients and need commercial websites to showcase our work and replace the magazines and newspapers that are declining. Relying on "exposure" to sell whatever goods you have doesn't work if your most important good is the comic itself. A few people acknowledged that this wouldn't work and basically said that some forms of cartooning will die. I would agree that editorial cartooning will probably be severely diminished in the future and never fully recover. Some of the best material out there is on the web, but a lot of people are just posting on their site, not making any money.

Print has shut out great talent for decades. It's always been limited by editorial constraints and space. Daily newspapers have failed to update their comics with the times--daily comics continue to be largely insipid garbage and legacy comics while most editorial cartoonists look like they walked out of 1960.

The talent on the web is undeniable but its promise of money won't work for everybody.
04.01.2008 |