Comicon Friday – Blank Label Comics Panel

So, after missing the Webcomics 101 panel on Thursday, I was determined not to miss a single panel on Friday (except due to conflict, of course. After all, there is more than just webcomics at this con). So the first thing on the docket for Friday was to get up bright and early to attend the Blank Label Comics panel.

The panel included every member of Blank Label Comics except Greg Dean (Real Life) and Paul Southworth (Ugly Hill). At the end of the panel, the crowd got all the panelists to get together for a group picture, resulting in this fine photo (as always, click on photos for higher res versions):

The Blank Label Comics GuysFrom left to right, that's Kris Straub (Starslip Crisis), Dave Kellett (Sheldon), David Willis (Shortpacked!), Paul Taylor (Wapsi Square), Howard Tayler (Schlock Mercenary), Steve Troop (Melonpool), and Brad Guigar (Evil Inc).

The panel opened with a Melonpool Quickcast featuring all the Blank Label guys, which was pretty funny. After that, the theme of the panel was "The Death of Webcomics".

No, it's not what you think. Actually, the guys were discussing how there is a certain stigma attached to the concept of being a webcomic. How telling someone you do a "webcomic" as opposed to just a comic strip or comic book automatically marks you as an amateur of sorts, not someone to be taken seriously. But given the huge growth of webcomics over the past few years, it's just ridiculous to even think that way. There are many webcomics which are approached with just as professional of an attitude as any comic which appears in normal print. And, in fact, there are webcomickers who are just as successful if not more so than traditional print comickers. The guys at Blank Label want to eliminate the stigma associated with being a "webcomic" and really pitch themselves as "good comics which happen to use the web as their delivery mechanism". Being a webcomic should mean that you have all the quality, consistency, and professionalism of a print comic with the bonus that your comic appears for free every day on the internet, not carrying the implication that you're just some random high school kid ripping off his favorite newspaper strip or manga.

And in my honest opinion, I think these guys are the guys that can do it. They've got a perfect chemistry going on, evidenced by the fact that they say they're extremely fearful of adding any new artists that might upset "the balance". They've all got strips with a proven, solid readership and a moderate to high level of success. They've all been around the webcomics scene for quite a few years now, they've seen what works and what doesn't work, and they've still got fresh and new ideas. Sitting and listening to this panel, I really did get the feeling that given another couple of years, these guys are going to be as big as anyone out there.

I think perhaps the most striking line of the panel was when Dave Kellett commented that he couldn't think of any cartoonist who had become syndicated by newspapers after the year 2000 who was able to make their living solely off their comic strip, but he could think of about a dozen webcomickers that had done so since then. And that's powerful evidence there.

The only thing the audience couldn't get the guys to comment on was the future of Blank Label Comics. We learned a lot about their philosophy, where they want to take webcomics in general, and we all had a great time laughing at all the funny jokes (It was like seven Blank Label Podcasts crammed into one), but when it came time to talk about what's upcoming, suddenly they didn't want to show their cards any more, and so we were all really left wondering what's upcoming.

I, for one, am waiting with bated breath. This is a power team that has been assembled here, and they're ready to take the world by storm.



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