Sunday, April 29, 2007

My idea to save the industry--guaranteed to work!!!

During the course of my year-long study of silent penultimate panels, Doonesbury appeared only occasionally—a silent, angry B.D. here, a silent third-quarter of the White House facade there. This week, however, was over the top with three out of four days using an SPP, and two being essentially the same panel. While not always the case, a preponderance of SPPs indicates a cartoonist spinning his wheels waiting for a good idea to come. And compared to a lot of things in recent Doonesbury, this Jeff applying to be the War Czar is a little boring.

But to follow up on my post from two weeks ago: I have an idea for all you frustrated cartoonists that can't get a break from the syndicates. The essential contradiction of web cartoonists and fans is that while complaining about how dumb and unfunny and talentless newspaper comics are, they also complain that they can't get in. This club is terrible, we say, the DJ is horrible, the drinks are overpriced, and goddamn it, they won't let us in. So, what needs to be done is to re-write the rules. There should be another way to get good, edgy, creative comic strips on newsprint and in the hands of smart readers. And I have an idea. I don't have the means or time to follow through with it (I can barely keep up with a weekly blog,) but I'm sure there is someone who can.

This is it—a weekly, free newspaper of comic strips, paid for by local advertisement. Along with comics by a dozen or so of the best unsyndicated cartoonists unconstrained by format or subject matter, there would be a section dedicated to local entertainment—movie and restaurant reviews, concert and club listings—and it would all distributed on street corners and coffee shops in the hipper neighborhoods of a major city. Basically, I'm talking about an alternative weekly with comics instead of feature-length articles about pollution and transit strikes. Once this paper proves its success in New York or Los Angeles (or even a place like Austin, Texas or Lawrence, Kansas,) it can expand nationally in the same way The Onion has done. (The Onion prints the same “feature” content everywhere but supplements it with a few localized items and lots of local advertising.) I have no experience in newspaper publishing, but I would guess that to start you would need (in addition to a lot of cash) an editor with some sort of cartooning experience, a lay-out and design person, a couple of regular freelancers for the local articles, and a few really good salespeople to fill up the advertising space. Again, I'm talking about a legitimate, professional publication, not a homemade tract printed at 3am at Kinkos. It may just be wishful thinking, but something like this could be very successful if done right.

If the game really is broken, if its fixed for the betterment of dead guys and the amusement of elderly, easily-offended readers, then don't play it. Let's make up a new one.

Next week, I get off my soapbox. I promise.


Blogger M. Bouffant said...

Matt: Not to burst your bubble (or thought balloon) but if I recall correctly, there was an attempt to do much the same thing right here in Smogville sometime during the 90s. I can remember at least the first issue, but it didn't last long. I don't think there were any listings of local crap to do in it, or what the strips were, but I'm damn sure there was at least one issue, which is probably somewhere in my storage. Who knows, maybe it would work now.

7:57 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

This sounds like a great idea.
With all the web cartoonist out there today, who would love to get into print, I'm pretty sure this could be something that would work.

9:03 PM  
Blogger Neal said...

Agree, agree, agree. I have said this many times myself in a variety of blog comments, and on my own blog. The print comics world is in desperate need of something fresh, and I think a well constructed free periodical would be just the ticket. It may have failed in the past, but I just can't imagine that a free paper, containing high quality comics, that is well marketed, would not be read by the many comics enthusiasts out there.

10:07 PM  
Blogger Mary Pat said...

They had something like that in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area in the 90s -- but I believe it was mainly political cartoons. They ran once every two weeks.

2:02 AM  
Anonymous DemetriosX said...

Hey, sou got a mention in Safe Havens last week. I'm not quite sure what Holbrook's intent was, though.

3:25 AM  
Anonymous counterhegemony said...

A number of webcomics do get published here and there in various alt mags - for instance, I discovered Bob the Angry Flower ( and The Perry Bible Fellowship ( when they ran in a surprisingly obscene alt weekly called The Beast that could be found around the Buffalo, NY area.

Of course, The Beast was also known for publishing a question-and-answer column for marijuana growers, so I doubt this type of exposure could ever lead to an Eisner.

I think you're right - webcomics and alt mags are missing out on some pretty good opportunities to support one another. But it's still no excuse for the nespapers' comics sections sucking SO HARD.

3:17 PM  
Blogger BTHOLBROOK said...

Yes, I'm the Safe Havens cartoonist. The mention (on Saturday, the 28th) was all in good fun. :)

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zoinks! is a bimonthly webcomics alt newspaper published bimonthly filled with webcomics in print, distributed nationally in Canada.

8:11 PM  
Anonymous Jeremy said...

Recently in Buffalo, NY there's been a free comic only publication floating around. I picked up a few issues, they definitely needed help in the drawing department. If anyone has or is thinking of starting an indy cartoon publication I'd love to contribute!


6:06 AM  
Anonymous Robert said...

The problem with anything printed is the high costs and limited possibility for distribution. Like with The Onion, it could work, but it wouldn't be easy.

Do you think independent cartoonists would be interested in an online, comics-only publication? Does something like that exist already? A revenue-share plan could be worked out, so the cartoonist gets paid, their work gets more exposure, and it's a win-win situation for everyone.

If something like that doesn't exist already, maybe I'll start one up.....

10:53 AM  
Blogger spleenal said...

I'm drawing my own strips over on my blog and the nice thing is there are no constraints. A strip can be two panels long or 22. What ever it needs.
When you don't need to worry about the size and shape of your paper you can do what you want.
I'd love to see what todays best newspaper cartoonist would do if their editors said as big or as small as you like.

3:28 PM  

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