Friday, August 07, 2009

Rants in my pants!

I get a little depressed when I keep reading the same arguments again and again about webcomics, and Zuda, making money, rights issues, blah blah blah.

And it's HILARIOUS to me that webcomickers are coming out to complain about how to make webcomics more economically viable, and what's going to be a good model, because they all shot themselves in the foot. The internet came along, and everyone jumped in, deciding to sidestep the syndicates and go straight for that pie themselves, and now it's all over their faces.

I wanted to do comics since I was 5 years old. Since I read my first batch of Peanuts books back to front every day for a year.

As I got older, I worked on my strips, sending away my first solid strip attempt when I was 18, but it turns out I was too late. The syndicates were falling away already. Some had stopped taking submissions entirely, some were in the early stages of disappearing for good, and some sought new strips purely by headhunting off the internet. My dream was crumbling before me, and all I could ask is 'Why?'

Because people were putting comics on the internet FOR FREE.

Surely, anyone can see the inherent problem with that? How is anyone going to place a value on your work, when you can't be bothered placing one yourself.

Now, subscriptions don't work, paying to read won't work, etc. because the precedent was set. Readers now could read comics without paying 50 cents for a paper. And the comickers could now get readers without having 50 percent of their revenue taken away from them by the 'evil syndicates'. Um, what revenue? No one is paying you! Money is now completely out of the equation when it comes to reading comic strips. And now you want it? I really wish someone had have thought of that to begin with.

Sure, the standard contract from a syndicate was pretty terrible, 50 percent of the take, the option to have someone else take over your strip should you burn out, etc. There were even editorial mandates to contend with, some so constricting it destroyed some great strips. But they could go out and get your strip in to 100 papers within a week. They had access to overseas markets. They did a LOT of good stuff for that share of the take. I have a degree in advertising/marketing and I could never hope to do anything like that.

The system was in place, and the system worked, but everyone decided to go out and destroy it.

I know papers all seem to be in trouble now, but the syndicate death toll rang LONG ago.

Well, so there I was. 18, with a head full of dreams and ideas, but no real avenue to send my strips, and no desire to completely devalue my work by giving it away for free. I gave up, I retreated to the 'real world', went and got myself an advertising degree, floundered in crappy jobs, all the while scribbling comic strips mainly for my own enjoyment and growth.

There are people out there who are having fun, posting their comics on the net, working full time jobs and producing in their own time, and that's great, but if you want to make a living out of it, why would you ever give your work away for FREE? That's just bad business. When I go down to the art supply store, they certainly don't give their pens and paper to me for free.

Then Zuda came along.

Zuda, who were willing to PAY me for my work? Hot damn. And I get to keep my copyright? HOT DAMN. They'll take care of all the web stuff? And the advertising, and the promotion? HOT DAMN. I could at least handle that part of it myself, of course, but hell, all that advertising degree gave me was a strong desire to never work in advertising.

Thank god for Zuda! No more call centre jobs for me, no more soulless storyboard work. Just working on my comics, and spending my money. Zuda haven't taken any of it from me yet. Shock! People are reading and discovering my comics every day, when they used to sit in my drawer amusing no-one but me. Horror! I am telling my story the way I want to. The editors haven't changed any of my story, if anything, input from Kwanza has improved my stories. Omigod, Zuda is the devil!

Grow up.

You all want to be some kind of modern day Rockefeller with your comics, desperate to cling to any potential money should it (ever) come along, but you're giving your comics away for free! Your ONE asset!

Life is short. Let someone do the work you don't want to do, so you can produce the best and most art you can. Computers and web design mystifies me and I can market my comic if I really want to, (but I don't have to). All I have to do is work on my comics, make my deadlines (easy when you're enjoying yourself) and have steak for dinner.

So Zuda have a share in my property should it ever expand beyond its comic roots, if it's ever a movie or a cartoon, DC gets more of the pie, so what. I still get some, which is more than none. You want to hold on to the rights of something that no-one's reading, or have a share in the rights of something that IS out there? The odds of my 'property' ever becoming something else are still pretty slight, but they were non-existent before. Why? Because I don't want to make myself hoarse selling fish at the market, I just want to supply the fish. People like the fish, they WANT the fish. They don't like the guy yelling at them.

You can hate Zuda if you want. If you're some kind of 'cool' anti-establishment robot that likes to hate things just 'cos it's interesting to say at parties, whatever. You can see Zuda as a necessary evil, just like the syndicates were, in delivering the 'fish' we really want.

As a fish supplier, I'm just glad someone's moving them for me so they don't stink out my fridge.

You can try and do it all yourself in the hopes of success so you can retire early, buy a big house, fancy car, ivory toilet roll holders, congratulations. Here's your Greed Award. Or you can let someone else HELP you, share your success, and still live pretty well anyway, practically stress free. As Linus would say, from those Peanuts books I read all those years ago, and continue to do so, 'In 500 hundred years, who'll know the difference?'


Josh said...

Makes sense to me! Fun read.

metsuke said...

I really like your early strips and 24 hour comix. Zuda isn't the beginning, it's the next stage. It is fairly obvious that you, Caanan, could throw out an idea a minute, you're a madman producer. YOU need an intervention :) So many "webcomickers" are desperate to hold onto that one great story. When in actuality you need a hundred of them to make it in this biz. In the scheme of things Celadore was your 'IN' recognition, proof of talent, and you got paid.

Jonathan said...

Metsuke, I think your comment is one of the most key bits of wisdom out there about selling comics. It should be at the top of the post.

Steve Steiner said...

amen. I had no idea for a long time people actually didn't like Zuda. Still mystifies me.

Dean Hsieh said...

Nice, I couldn't agree more. I haven't really encountered these "anti-Zudites" myself but I guess they're out there. I consider myself very lucky to be one of the few that is actually making money from their comic work, its an extremely difficult thing to do.

ryanovision said...

I couldn't agree more. I would be happy enough to have my comic on Zuda period, sure getting paid for it is great, but exposure and the chance to tell a story you want to tell is priceless. People get too caught up in the business aspect of comics. I met Dave Ross a few years back at a con, I showed him some stuff, he gave me pointers, but he gave me some of the best advice ever. "Do every job like your an intern, make every page like your trying to GET a job, even if your getting paid for it." He then let me know my fly was, I had walked around for quite some time flying
I took his advice to heart. I stopped worrying about getting a paid gig, I just worried about how good my pages looked. The rights to your characters should be important, but not your driving force. I could go on and on,( but you summed up everything I would say. The editors know what they are doing, and yes DC has a lions share of your product, but they do most of the business end work anyways, so why shouldn't they.

RKB said...

I wouldn't have gotten into reading web comics if it wasn't for Zuda, so I've never got the antiflashplayerZudaisthedevilnotreallywebcomicsanyway
style rants myself either. Good job Caanan!

Anonymous said...

Damn. You stole my blog post from me! CURSE YOU, GRALL.

I take it you heard about what happened at the Making Webcomics panel and this is your response.

Since then, even more shit and lies have been stirring.

Jules Faber said...

Hey Caanan, that was awesome.

Metsuke was right on the money too - if you have but one idea in this day and age yer already obselete.

Keep rockin' 'em, Caanan. celadore rocks and it might never have been should Zuda not have existed. I'm proud to say I voted for it and will eventually get my own attempt up on Zuda. And why not? It exists to promote cartoonists and comickers. For anyone who isn't interested in being part of it, great. More money and more oppotunities for the people who do want to try and break in.

Of course there's the whole 'corporate' angle but if you want to remain purely original in this day and age and be paid for your work, then hell, you gotta sell out a little. Otherwise, good luck to you - it's a long, long road to drag yer shit uphill yerself.

Well said, Caanan. Someone needed to.

Andrei said...

I'd be really interested to find out if those free online comics 'Donate' buttons ever, ever get clicked.

I like Zuda but from a business sense, feel like they might need to get a little meaner on the consumers, not the producers. The consumers have had it too good for a very long time. What about having the first half of a publication as free on the web, and if you want to read the second half, THEN you need to order the product. Are we shooting ourselves in the foot by making a hard copy of the comic?

Michael Sandford said...

I very much disagree with the start. But I also agree that Zuda is an incredible webcomics system for people who want to focus only on making the comics and not having to sell them themselves. Nobody should be angry with it. A nice rant :)

Anonymous said...

Very well said.

caanantheartboy said...

Brian, this was indeed a reaction to that post from Scott Kurtz. Not the post itself, as I thought it raised some interesting points, but some of the reply comments annoyed me.

Andrei - I think you're on to something there. I think there's room in this world for the people who like to post their comics as a hobby, but we need to be able to tell the difference between them, and the ones who are trying to make it as a business.

One of the ways to do that is absolutely by teasing comics. Post half on the net, and if you want to read the rest, buy the book. People may not like that, but if your work is strong enough, people will be compelled to purchase it. If not, there's still plenty of free stuff out there.

Two minutes of footage gets you excited to pay for a film. A hit single (or two) entices you to buy a whole album. Why can't a few teaser pages entice you to buy a whole comic? Previews are released all the time on CBR, Newsarama, etc. If a comic artist wants to actually make money, stopping giving everything away for free might be the first step.

t.wood said...

I think you're using Zuda exactly how you should Caanan. Nice blog.

A webcomicker.