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Independent Cartoonists Band Together for Success 194

Brad Guigar writes "Six cartoonists, previously hosted at Keenspot, are banding together in a new approach to self-publishing. They have formed Blank Label Comics, a cooperative group of cartoonists who are helping one another succeed as independents. Each is using his proficiency in a particular aspect of the cartooning business to help the others -- who are doing the same in return. Scott Kurtz, creator of the daily comic strip PVP, applauded the move. 'The forming of Blank Label Comics is a big story in the webcomics community,' he said in a statement on his Web site, insisting that the 'real story ... is that a bunch of really talented guys are taking a chance, putting their necks out and trying to do this on their own.'"
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Independent Cartoonists Band Together for Success

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  • Independent Labels (Score:5, Interesting)

    by geomon ( 78680 ) on Monday May 30, 2005 @11:50PM (#12681126) Homepage Journal
    It is encouraging to see any independent label for cartoons come into existance. Like music, film, or any other artistic medium it is better to have more outlets than fewer. I enjoyed, during my early teen and, later, my college years, a variety of "underground" comics (e.g. R. Crumb, Gilbert Shelton) that would have *never* existed at established publishing houses. Some probably shouldn't have existed, but there you are.

    The only concern I have with independent labels is their ability to fight off incorporation or extinction. Some independent music and film outlets have consolidated leaving these media under the control of only a few companies. We have all seen the result of that outcome.
    • You are absolutely right, but TBH I was more encouraged by the fact that the article had "independent" spelled correctly (not "independant").

      There is still hope in the world. Perhaps I should mark this day in my calendar (not calender) as "independence day".

  • Google search for "Image comics" [google.com]

    If you aren't good enough to get syndicated, keep at it until you are. Alternatively you can find your niche audience, but that road is fraught with peril and many nights of eating nothing but instant ramen and tap water.
    • Because image did a bad job of keeping their collective shit together, every other independant enterprise is also bound to fail, right?
      • Spot on, Image is a terrible example. Image didn't fail becuase the ideas or the concept was bad, they failed because too many (not all of them, but enough to sink the ship) of their founding fathers were lazy, egotistical hypocrites.

        Guys like Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane didn't hate the system, they just didn't like which side of the equation they sat on. People toiling away writing and drawing books for a big company and ending up with no ownership or rights to anything they created wasn't the problem,

    • The difference is that today, geniuses in the comic/cartoon industry can now band together using that 'internet' thing.

      The results are likely to be incredible; and I for one, applaude this maneuver. It's one more step toward artistic control for the actual human beings that need to put food on their table (instead of the mega-corporations that force-feed their readers).

      Quoth Herr Bergeron in 2005:
      Whom among us is the shallow Dolt? Ye which post about something ye know nothing about; or perchance just ye
      • Right. This also lets the actual authors get the revenue they deserve instead of feeding the parasites. As Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary [schlockmercenary.com] said, right after he split from KeenSpot, mere Google Adsense gave him three times that much.

        Oh, and by the way, Schlock Mercenary is the best gem KeenSpot used to have -- and it's probably Howard who triggered the Black Label guys in the article.
        • I think somewhat worse than the lack of money is keenspot's instabillity.

          I actually got an autographed picture of Schlock with my keenspot subscription but after having the system go down and loose my settings every other week I didn't bother to renew.
    • by nunchux ( 869574 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @01:31AM (#12681628)
      I know you're trolling, but for the benefit of anyone who cares...

      Image comics has nothing to do with this discussion. It was a group of well-known superhero artists who wanted to get away from Marvel and keep all the royalties to themselves. Of course, they stuff they turned out was more expensive and no better written or drawn than the typical Marvel book, and they tried to maintain a market saturation that couldn't last forever, so they failed and failed big.

      Blank is comprised of cartoonists, not superhero comic book writers and artists. It's a pretty big difference that I won't go into, if you don't understand it then you probably don't care. But these guys are like an indie band who's in it because they love what they do and I don't think it could be considered a "failure" if they don't turn a profit... As long as they can generate a fan base that makes it worth doing. After all, what's the cost, the domain name and web space?

      And, Image is hardly the only independant comic book publisher. There are quite a few who've been around for a while and do pretty well-- Fantagraphics for one (Eightball by Dan Clowes, or have you not seen Ghost World?), Slave Labor (haven to all the teens who shop at Hot Topic), Drawn and Quarterly... They may not be huge successes or household names, but they have quite a few loyal readers.

      As for "getting syndicated"... That's one route, yes. But not a likely one. The funny pages are incredibly hard to break into and editors are notorious for censoring any joke that wouldn't play on "Leave it to Beaver." An occasional Bloom County or Calvin and Hobbes slips through the cracks but that's maybe once every five or six years. And frankly, no one reads them any more anyway. There are a handful of Village Voice/Your-City-Weekly alternative papers for more eclectic strips, but that's also a tough nut to crack. It's a limited and slowly dying market and I don't think many aspiring cartoonists (who do comic strips) are even trying to go these routes any more. It's certainly not the end-all, be-all that you seem to think it is.
  • Dime a dozen. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Monday May 30, 2005 @11:54PM (#12681156)
    Is anyone not an "independant online cartoonist" these days? The only thing there's more of are "internet models" and "blog journalists".
    • It's not about the dozen, it's about the dime. I follow dozens of webcomics over time, and I don't pay a dime to do it. I expect the webcartoonists to try to make it pay better than it is now. Good luck to them. The biggest struggle is -- as usual -- small payment systems.
  • This is a great thing to hear. I've been waiting to see a bunch of artists compleatly buck the traditional system, band together and have a go at it on their own in any media. I'm sure there are quite a few in the music recording field who have tried this, but the recording industry is so entrenched right now that success would be difficult.

    The comics industry (as I understand it) still harbors an envrionment where guys like this actually have a chance. I wish them good luck.
  • by wyldeone ( 785673 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @12:02AM (#12681197) Homepage Journal
    We slahdot their server. Go figure.
  • by drsmack1 ( 698392 ) * on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @12:03AM (#12681200)
    I have not seen any consistantly funny web comics. Most are painfully UNFUNNY. What does "unfunny" mean? That means they are the opposite of funny. They suck the funniness out of other things.

    Unfunny web comics killed my inner child.
    • Gotta say that Zippy the Pinhead is probably the single most unfunny "funny" comic in syndication. It lacks even the simplest wit of Family Circus, and it can't hold a candle to Peanuts for wryness.

      It's like going to the Louvre and being told by the guardman that the hours are between 9am and 9:45 on Wednesdays and Fridays, 9am and 6pm every other day except Tuesdays on which it is closed.
    • Try: Bigger than Cheeses Least I Could Do VG Cats but I suppose it is all specific to the type of humour you enjoy. I'm also biased towards Bigger Than Cheeses because it is from Australia, and you know...
    • I have not seen any consistantly funny web comics.

      True enough, but very few things in life and art are consistently good. I like Penny Arcade, but they've had weeks full of unfunny comics.

      Sometimes I think I like PvP, but then they'll do another "Brent gets mauled by the panda" strip, and I'm reminded that it's mostly dull, recycled crap too.

      I love the quote in the summary:
      "real story ... is that a bunch of really talented guys are taking a chance, putting their necks out and trying to do this on t

    • I really couldn't agree with you more. After sifting through who knows how many comics, I've only come across three that I'll check.
    • I have not seen any consistantly funny web comics. Most are painfully UNFUNNY. What does "unfunny" mean? That means they are the opposite of funny. They suck the funniness out of other things.

      Believe me, I know what you mean. Penny Arcade? Terrible. PVP? Terrible. Sinfest? You get the idea. I don't like Pokey the Penguin or any of this bullshit. I can tolerate Scary-go-round [scarygoround.com].

      Okay man, here you go. I have the one you'll like. I hope you haven't seen it yet and dismissed it. Achewood [achewood.com]. It re

      • Look, I've even done all the work for you: the first Achewood [achewood.com]. Use the red arrow pointing to the right to go to the next.
      • I'm going to do it man!

        In case anyone is wondering what I *do* find funny; here is my favorites in order:

        Bloom County

        Calvin and Hobbes

        Far Side


        Willie and Ethel

        Sadly enough, that is all I can remember. It must be incredible hard to put out consistantly funny strips 365 days a year.
    • I have not seen any consistantly funny print comics. Most are painfully UNFUNNY. What does "unfunny" mean? That means they are the opposite of funny. They suck the funniness out of other things.

      Unfunny print comics killed my inner child.

      (Completely not joking. I have yet to see a single print comic that isn't completly unfunny. Calvin and Hobbes comes close, but cute!=funny.)
      • Real life [reallifecomics.com]
      • Phd [phdcomics.com] (perhaps not as funny to non grad students)
      • Applegeeks [applegeeks.com]

      I would include megatokyo [megatokyo.com], but it has on average been more serious and less funny lately (though I still enjoy it, and you can browse the archives for older, funnier content).

    • There are SO MANY UNFUNNY WEBCOMICS. Good indicators you're about to load the comics equivalent of a turd can be found in the advertising - use of words like "hilarious" or "random" or "insane" - suggest that whatever you're about to read will be none of these things.

      I'm not in it for the funny - if I want funny, I have Transmetropolitan and Bloom County trade paperbacks. I'm looking for non-strip long-format comics that aren't full of themselves, and that actually key into things I'm interested in readin
    • Show me a print comic strip that is consitently funny.

      That said, I've gotten regular chuckles from:

      Only Sinfest is a daily strip. The Sexy Losers is updated... apparently whenever the guy has time. Order of the Stick a M-W-F strip.

    • Hmm, i've found alot of entertaining webcomics... like real comics they're not all intended to be funny at all times, sometimes they're just a story or something more.

      PvP, Something Positive, User friendly, GU Comics (if your part of the mmo scene), clan of the cats, life of riley (entertaining, not so much funny), sinfest, sexylosers, ghastly's ghastly comic, etc...

      There's 100 bad to 1 good, but look around and you can find comic's you'll enjoy.
    • Yes. Melonpool at least is hilarious. probably the most consistent chuckle I get when the author updates regularly (which he's been doing for a while now). ShortPacked is not very old, but it's turning out nicely. I'm not really familiar with the others, although Checkerboard Nightmare seems promising...

  • While I applaud their efforts, isn't this how the RIAA/MPAA got started for music and movies?
  • I wonder how... (Score:4, Interesting)

    I wonder how Wiley will mock them this time? He sure didn't seem to think much [journalspace.com] of Scott Kurtz [pvponline.com] when he offered his strips to newspapers for free.
    • I must say, that's a sad commentary of a cartoonist that resorts to sorry in-jokes to mock other cartoonists by first name. It's pretty hard to respect Wiley's position.
  • by PornMaster ( 749461 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @12:08AM (#12681224) Homepage
    taking a chance, putting their necks out

    Umm... does this really take guts, forming a co-op?
  • by Comatose51 ( 687974 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @12:23AM (#12681305) Homepage
    Each is using his proficiency in a particular aspect of the cartooning business...

    Sounds like they also created a new team of superheroes... I give you the Blank Comic 6! Cartoonist during the day and upholder of the first amendment on the Internet by night.

  • by Mard ( 614649 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @12:25AM (#12681311)
    And as a true test of your preperations to strike out alone, we'll slashdot your server(s) and drive you bankrupt from the resulting bandwidth fees. No no, I insist, there is no need to thank us!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...for independent bands to cartoon together.

    / suck it, RIAA
  • zerg (Score:4, Informative)

    by Lord Omlette ( 124579 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @01:12AM (#12681552) Homepage
    If we can dream for a moment that David Willis won't turn Shortpacked! into another infinite loop of "I can't have sex w/ you because I love you" like his other comics, then Blank Label might actually have a decent comic. 1 out of 10 ain't that bad...

    Modern Tales [moderntales.com] has American Born Chinese, Ice, Narbonic, No Stereotypes, Odd Jobs, Paradigm Shift and Wahoo Moris. 7 out of 63.
    Graphic Smash [graphicsmash.com] has Aces High, Ascent, Digger, Fans, Gun Street Girl, Johnny Saturn, Life's a Croc, Little White Knight, Magellan, Rip & Teri, The Jaded, The Replacements and Vigil. 13 out of 31.
    Girlamatic [girlamatic.com] has Jupiter, L'il Mell, Sevenplains and The Stiff. 4 out of 23.

    • Everything on your list still spanks the shit out of Marvel, Image, and DC's offerings in terms of signal to noise. The same could be said of record labels - I liked Front Line Assembly before they turned into Just Another Haujobb Wannabe, but I'd be hard pressed to wipe my ass with the majority of the Metropolis catalogue.

      Signal to noise aside, the biggest issue facing webcomics isn't the quality of the work but the quality of the presentation. Horrible site aesthetics, whiny or distracting ad placement
    • They've got Waspi Square, so there's no doubt in MY mind that they've got at LEAST one excellent comic.
      • I have a working theory that every single Wapsi Square (or at least 95% of them) is in some way about boobs.

        At least 50% of them are blatantly so. The rest just take a little creative interperetation.

        Also, while I enjoy the comic, Paul Taylor is either mostly woman or whipped beyond belief.
        • Also, while I enjoy the comic, Paul Taylor is either mostly woman or whipped beyond belief.

          I disagree. One of the reasons I like Wapsi Square is that the characters are complex. The have strong, self-confident moments, and some obvious self-doubts. We get to see both sides. That easily resonates with every person like me who is extroverted but still feels shy and self-conscious.

          I read a number of comics regularly. Very few of them have characters that make me laugh without wanting to laugh at them.
    • Graphic Smash [graphicsmash.com] has Aces High, Ascent, Digger, Fans

      Counting "Fans" really isn't quite fair, as it's reached the end of its long and excellent run. Similarly, I wouldn't count "Calvin and Hobbes" to the credit of the UComics syndicate, because while excellent, it's reruns.

      Or are you a Chicago Democrat? =)

  • by MagicDude ( 727944 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @01:13AM (#12681554)
    Going independent is a good move for these people who look like they are looking to turn their cartooning into their primary job. However, for most internet cartoonists, I think Keenspot is still the best option for those who make 1-2 comics a week and don't want to deal with the hassle of having to maintain a server, deal with bandwidth issues, etc. The downside of working with Keenspot is that they take a big chunk of the advertising revenue that a site generates. A few weeks back, Tycho at PA had a comment about someone he knew who left Keenspot and went independent and started making triple what he used to make from advertising. For its flaws though, it seems that Keenspot (Or Keenspace rather for those undiscovered comics) is still the best place for a new cartoonist to start.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @02:27AM (#12681872)
      The cartoonist you're referring to is Howard Taylor of www.schlockmercenary.com. And he has since updated saying that the revenue from Google's Adsense is 1/3 of what it originally was, which is still better than what he was getting from Keenspot, but shows that it'll take more administration and effort than having Keenspot handle it for him. So there's a definite tradeoff and you're probably right that people who aren't willing to take on a substantial burden and aren't hugely popular are better off with an outfit like Keenspot.
  • This kind of alliance between creatives has a good history of working in the comics industry. Malibu was that kind of a cooperative at first, started by a bunch of creatives who turned to someone with passion for comics and business sense. In the end they sold to Marvel, which didn't end well, but it could quite clearly be considered a success for the people who founded the group.

    Right now the founder is doing this: http://platinumstudios.com/ [platinumstudios.com], and that seems to be going quite well. While they don't make m
  • Commentary (Score:4, Informative)

    by Robotech_Master ( 14247 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @01:43AM (#12681684) Homepage Journal
    The webcomic review & criticism blog Websnark.com [websnark.com] has some interesting entries looking at Blank Label's creation [websnark.com], its choice of tagline [websnark.com], and the webcomic syndicate from which its members departed [websnark.com].
  • by line-bundle ( 235965 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @01:46AM (#12681698) Homepage Journal
    Bill Watterson (of Calvin and Hobbes fame) did give a speech where he did talk about cartoon syndication.

    Here is the link: http://hobbes.ncsa.uiuc.edu/comics.html [uiuc.edu]

  • by solios ( 53048 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @02:11AM (#12681813) Homepage
    Groups like this are all over the place.

    Just in terms of webcomics, fleen [fleen.com] was one of the earlier "networks"... and there's also dayfree press [dayfreepress.com]. The bit of Major News, as it were, is that it's a bunch of comics that were previously keenspace "titles" peeling off- ugly hill [uglyhill.com] is the only newcomer to the batch. Keen isn't the Mount Awesome some people have made it out to be - if anything, it is to webcomics what livejournal is to drama... and these guys have all apparently realized it's time to move on.

    Personally, it's nice to see shortpacked [shortpacked.com] free of keenspace advertising feces- bullshit reduction is something I can always get behind. Joining a network looks like it's a good thing for all parties concerned, if it's something you're comfortable doing.

    My own comic [amongthechosen.com] is going into its third year without being a member of a network, without having run a single ad. I might get shit for traffic but I know exactly what I'm displaying on my site- display and control of presentation is a huge concern of mine, at least for the time being. I'm sure one of these days I'll get sick of obscurity and spend more effort on increasing project awareness than I currently am on project production. Maybe eventually, like these guys, I'll find some like-minded media creators who want to conjoin into some sort of co-prosperity sphere.
  • Logical move (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BAILOPAN ( 694545 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2005 @02:32AM (#12681901) Homepage
    I read many Keenspot comics (maybe around 10) religiously; it's a nice central place to read a bunch of stories on a regular basis. A long time ago it was slow and unstable, but lately it's been great, and has a few comics that are very professionally done.

    My big gripe is that a few of the comics that moved off are the ones I read. Now they're not in one area anymore, I probably won't read them regularly. That is of course selfish -- but I imagine other readers don't like the move for the same reason. I'd expect an initial loss of readership for these authors, except for very dedicated fans.

    On the other hand, it's a logical move for the cartoonists. Keenspace and Keenspot are great ways to jumpstart a budding talent or hobby and watch it grow. From what I can tell, the Blank Label starters quite liked Keenspot and regretted leaving it -- but now that their work has matured, they'd like to take it in a direction they can't do under Keenspot. So good for them :)
  • He's right.. Warlocks ARE a support class!
  • A few very talented cartoonists have also banded at Dumbrella [dumbrella.com] many years ago.

Today is the first day of the rest of your lossage.