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.