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Ted Rall, Rich Stevens, others debate webcomic impact on cartooning
Editorial cartoonist and United Media’s Acquisition and Development Editor Ted Rall, Rich Stevens, creator of online and print comic Diesel Sweeties, along with web cartoonist Dean Haspiel, Raina Telgemeier, Collen Venable were at the first Graphic Novel Symposium held on March 15th to discuss the impact and viability of webcomics in the cartooning industry.
The item that generated the most discussion was the topic of “the economics of free” – making money online by giving away the comic online for free. Ted, who has written extensively on this topic last year in a 3-part article on the future of newspapers (see Future Imperfect) has maintained that giving away comics for free online has hurt the industry and made it more difficult for cartoonists to make money from their creations.
If I were in charge of the world … I would force everything offline. All cartoonists, all newspapers, no more archives, nothing. And every cartoonist would make fifteen times as much money. Giving it away, I think it’s insane and stupid.
Other webcartoonists maintained that, like the recent success of Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead who put their music online for free while selling it in stores, putting their comics online for free builds an audience and community that buys the cartoonist’s merchandise and can allow for a modest living.
The debate that followed was noted by Fleen blogger Gary Tyrrell:
Only print pays. Otherwise, you have to be in two businesses. You have to be a cartoonist and a businessman, and not many can do that.
Stevens, not quite close enough to his mic:
Great! You’re trying to keep people out [of the cartooning business] and that’s great. It’s less competition for me. If you have a story that’s compelling …
I can’t make money on t-shirts. I can’t design a t-shirt that will sell.
You can sell novels and books. You have bestsellers.
A book will only sell for 6 to 12 months. They don’t pay enough to live on.
And what kind of hours do you have to work to make a living, Rich?
Not enough! I’d work 24/7 if I could.
The rest of the blog post regarding other debate items is interesting as well as the 70+ comments that was generated. It’s an interesting read as a very successful print model of newspapers and syndication is transitioning through the emergence of the internet.