Elf Life FundRaiser: Donate or the Elf Life Archives Go Bye-Bye!

Just this past Thursday Carson Fire posted a message on his website:

I need some suggestions… where do I find the art collectors? We’ve sold one piece from the gallery, but we have to sell even more.

If we don’t start seeing a bit more activity, some more nibbles, suggestions, something, I’m afraid I’m going to have to make myself be mean, and start taking whole blocks of the Elf Life archive back offline.

Fire has been setting deadlines for sales of original Elf Life art right on through this weekend with portions of the Elf Life archives removed from public access when those deadlines are not hit. Fire is upping the ante with some hints about the next phase of Elf Life (which apparently will only happen if he hits his fundraising goals).

If I need to be this aggressive to sell art and save the series, then aggressive I shall be. I’ve already started mapping out “Elf Life phase 2”, which will be a continuation of the series, but *after* the wedding, since the wedding has me mired in an epic with no visible means of support.

The next phase of Elf Life will be called something completely different, and will put more emphasis on the relationship between Glee and Filis, and Thea’s training for battling the younger Sea Naga. It will not be a mystery about the past, as most of Elf Life has been, but a straight adventure that finds the strongest women of Elf Life on the road, doing battle with the world.

That means a more exciting, faster-paced, and dareIsayit sexier Elf Life than ever before.

Although there are no deadlines for today, Fire did updates his site with news that he is halfway to his goal.

Xaviar Xerexes

Wandering webcomic ronin. Created Comixpedia (2002-2005) and ComixTalk (2006-2012; 2016-?). Made a lot of unfinished comics and novels.


  1. To threaten your readers with yanking sections of your archive because they aren’t buying enough art or merchandise is to show a complete lack of respect for them. I can honestly see no justification for this. It’s not like he’s got to worry about bandwidth costs or anything – he’s hosted on KeenSpot, which, if I recall, even pays their artists.

  2. My gut reaction to any “cartoonist” who pulls the “BUY MY STUFF OR I’M TAKING MY STRIP AND GOING HOME!!!11!1!” card is something like “so long, don’t let the door hit you where the Lord split you.”

    Double that if they’re not even paying for their webspace or bandwidth.

    Triple it if they’re doing it because of their lack of personal financial responsibility.

  3. See, I can relate to the desire to make an income from my art, but when dealing with fans, agressiveness isn’t the way to go. Most people see it as a threat. They’re coming back because they enjoy your site. If you’re demanding they buy stuff or not darken your door, I don’t blame anybody for not coming back. The only time I’ve even seen a move like this work was Sluggy Freelance holding an immediate fundraiser. Even then, that was probably more of Pete being off with his checkbook and panicking. Only about 5% of his readers donated anyway, and last time I checked very few people had Sluggy’s numbers.

    If merch isn’t moving, there’s probably just not enough demand for it, or it’s probably not worth buying. Changing a marketing campaign or coming up with better products is a more economically sound way to increase profits. You can’t force a demographic to be nice. You have to cater to them or choose someone else to market to.

  4. What Pete did was a little different. HE said he was in trouble and asked for help. He said didn’t know what he’d do if he didn’t get the money (and, yes, said the comic vanishing was a possibility but one he hoped to find a way to avoid), BUT he also countered with offering a donation gift to those who did donate. He didn’t threaten to restrict archives.

  5. Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with trying to make some dough off your strip, but holding it for ransom? Nuh uh, bud.

    If merch isn’t moving, there’s probably just not enough demand for it, or it’s probably not worth buying.

    Word–and another factor.

    Have you seen what he’s charging for the stuff in the Gallery? Fifty bucks? A hundred bucks? Thirty bucks for a ripped-out sketchbook page? The hell!? There are big-name webcartoonists (and even some pros) whose original inks wouldn’t command a price like that! How about…no?

  6. You’re all right! It’s totally the wrong approach. Except for the part that it’s working and more webcartoonists have complained about it than readers.

    The archives: I don’t have a contract with anyone to keep my entire archives online for the rest of eternity. What you are all suggesting is actually dangerous; “once I post my work online, I do not have the right to remove it, alter it, or do anything else with it”. Most of my readers have been supportive, and understand why I’m putting a little pressure on right now; I’m about to start a new job, which will help me be more steady in the future, but I have a one time tango with possible eviction. They know why I’m pushing the sales right now. If I’m eviceted, I will be homeless and jobless, and the whole site might as well come down. Most of the flack is coming from other webcartoonists who *ahem* should probably mind their own business. 🙂

    The archives are my property. And to some extent I’m trading on them now, after five years of not-very-much-financial gain in order to make it over one crucial hump in my life. Why do you all begrudge me this? What have I done to you? Are you just being busybodies, by any chance?

    Prices: I’m encouraging haggling, instead of my past mistake of putting $30 art on auction for $10 and getting $20. I’d much rather offer it for $30 and get $20, $25, or maybe even $30. How does that make me a jerk? I may still not make my sales goal, but the art is selling better than it has in the past, and let me put this in boldface: more than one purchaser has admitted that they kept putting off buying stuff, but this finally did encourage them to buy art. This whole process has, for the most part, been friendlier and happier with my readers than many failed efforts in the past.

  7. See I’m trying to figure out why this post is even called for. Carson’s trying to raise money so he can pay his rent. He’s selling pieces that likely mean a lot to him. And he’s doing whatever the hell he pleases with his OWN FREE archive. Why is it appropriate to rip into him like this?

    Whether you agree with the practice or not, yours just seem like some lousy remarks toward a fellow struggling webtoonist. Ain’t cool, “bud”.

  8. Have you seen what he’s charging for the stuff in the Gallery? Fifty bucks? A hundred bucks? Thirty bucks for a ripped-out sketchbook page? The hell!? There are big-name webcartoonists (and even some pros) whose original inks wouldn’t command a price like that! How about…no?

    I have seen what he’s offering and it’s *cheap*. You say big-name webcartoonists whose inks wouldn’t command a price like that, but in the real world, cartoonists get paid $20 and up for convention sketches of much lower quality than this.

    The original inks of most webcartoonists are not finished work. They are often poorly finished, just-good-enough-for-the-scanner, unlettered, uncorrected half-products (including my own originals). Carson’s aren’t. They are camera-ready pages that you can hang on your wall. And they are *good*. If anything, they deserve to be priced much higher.

  9. Saying you can’t afford to continue your strip is one thing. That I Can understand. But saying, “If I don’t get money, I’m going to remove a section of the strips I’ve already done until you all pay me,” is a threat. First off, he doesn’t pay for hosting – maybe one day he’ll have to, but unless all the money he’s getting from this is being put into an account for when that day arrives, it’s not even a justified argument for him to use.

    If he’s in trouble (and I can sympathize) there are other, better ways to get donations or sales. There’s a lot to the old saying, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

    Is it his comic? Yes. Does he owe anyone to continue to update his strip? No. However, we all owe our readers something – for supporting us, for spreading the word of our comic and promoting us. Saying, “You guys aren’t givin me enough money or buying enough merchandise so I’m pulling a section of archives” is more likely to piss readers off than make them say, “Why, yes, here’s some money.” It comes off as a knee jerk reaction. How do they know that if they pay him now and get the archives back, he won’t do it again later? How many times will they have to pay to have access to previous strips?

    This is not the sort of tactic that inspires confidence, or helps readership.

    Yes, he has the right to do it. But having the right doesn’t make it right.

  10. Yeah, this amazes me. People are MORE than willing to take free content for YEARS, but not willing to help out the cartoonist when he’s ***** DESPARATE to pay his rent.

    Carson has tried 7 ways to Sunday to make his strip at least pay part of his expenses. I can completely see his point. Many of you have NO idea how long it takes to draw a quality art page.

  11. Perhaps he’s just sick to death of lack of support from his “fans”.

    He’s already tried honey, numerous times.

  12. I’m confused.

    Don’t KSPOT artists get a share of the ad sales?

    Doing this wouldn’t make him lose even more money?

    I guess I still don’t understand this webcomic business…

  13. I’m actually ok with the idea of Mr. Fire pulling his archives. As he points out, it’s his comic and his reader base.

    After all, without those archives, it makes it difficult for new readers to understand the plot (much like it would be if he were to do something silly like create off-line comic books with key plot elements that fall out of print). And without new readers, his subscriber base doesn’t grow. Eventually his current fan base either dwindles to nothing, or becomes something akin to the Church of Scientology where folks contribute to learn the secrets within.

    Who knows? Maybe this will give him an out. By driving away his audience he can start on a new project and really develop both his storytelling and his artwork without being tied to the same tired strip he’s been working on now for years and simply isn’t getting him the sort of return he’d like.

    Heck, I’d say don’t wait, pull the archives now! Let the grand experiment begin and see if the web becomes a better place!

  14. The last line of your message makes you the most honest webcartoonist alive.

  15. You’d probably see your “success” a little differently if you were in danger of getting evicted. If your basic needs are taken care of, then getting $5 for a few wallpapers is success. If you’re broke and about to lose your home, $5 isn’t success by a long shot.

    Also note that the original story is in error. He’s not asking for donations. He’s selling merchandise (specifically, original artwork).

  16. Regardless of what he is charging, it would seem to be too much if he only could sell one piece before this ruckus erupted. I think that may hold true even though he has sold more now, based on that the buyers may also have the motives of giving support in these times of finacial distress as well as keeping the archive free. Value is a difficult thing to measure when it comes to art, the quality of the work itself is not necessarily an important factor. I would argue that the value of original inks lie in exclusivity, which the more digital artists out there cannot achive.
    I have speculated in whether the prices of “original art” is somewhat inflated as a result of the “collectors craze” in the mid 90s, but I am not sure. Clear is that the webcomics with the more rabid, or perhaps simply largest, fanbases are able to get substantial amounts of money. PvP and Megatokyo comes to mind.

    This being said, it is his creation and it is within his rights to withhold access to the archives in order to encourage sales. It is not very different from how some webcomics that were free moved to modern tales, which quite often made some of their readers shout “sellout”.

  17. Just for the record folks I didn’t post the item about Carson to criticize him – I did it to bring attention to his sale (I didn’t know this was going on and I figured many others would not have heard of Carson’s current efforts to sell art). I don’t think there’s anything in the original post (other than perhaps the error of using the word “donate instead of “buy art”) that can be construed as a criticism.

  18. That is absurd, it is not that simple to separate a small, personal, business and its expenses from personal expenses. I assume that he has work from his home and bought material using money using his personal money as well. He is well within his rights to try to increase the revenues from the work he has created..
    It is certainly not uncommon for creators to try to incite fans to help them out in times of need, and it is not like he is asking for donations he is asking people to buy stuff. Reminds me a bit of how Fantagraphics made that plea last year that people buy their books.

  19. Well, some people are cynical soul-less SOBs. But it just seems wrong to assume that people actually give a damn. People get thrown on the streets all the time, it happens everyday, it’s a fact of life. So what makes this so different? Threatening his fan base is exactly what he’s doing. I think this situation could have been handled better.

  20. Something tells me Carson is frustrated at the general apathy webcomic readers tend to have toward art quality, a feeling I know too well. It really isn’t fun spending 10 hours on an illustration that can’t go beyond the $15 point on eBay, while looking around and seeing people throw money at more popular webcomic artists who, while (sometimes) good at writing, clearly can’t draw.

    There are a couple things I’ve come to realize about getting financial support in webcomics.

    -You probably shouldn’t bother with donations unless you pay for your own hosting. The “If you donate to me, it’ll help me work on the comic more often!” incentive really doesn’t work that well. I’m hosted on Keenspot, and I only have a donation button because people asked for it, but even then it only gets about $20-30 a month, and I’m not really expecting more than that. Hey, it pays my phone bill.

    -“[insert name of popular webcartoonist] can sell prints for $50 apeice, and his art is average! I’m a very experienced artist, so theoretically, I should be able to sell my art for this much too!” Sounds logical, but no. No, no, no, no, no, not true, never will be true, and the sooner you get out of that line of thinking, the less stress cracks you’ll have in your BRAAAAIN in the long run. You have to work on building your audience. Build the right auience. Build YOUR audience. Don’t worry about the audiences of other comics. DON’T. STOP IT NOW!

    -Being a webcomic artist is one of the most frustrating things in the world for all these reasons and more. You just have to deal with it. But don’t deal with it in a way that alienates YOUR audience. Like REMOVING YOUR ARCHIVES. Duh.

    -Putting T&A in your comic is NOT a good way to build an audience. It makes you look desperate.

    -Experiment with print. People who read print comics tend to be more respectful to art quality then people who read webcomics. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend ever switching entirely from web to print. The printed comics industry is fucked up. =|

    Anyway, uh, I agree with everyone. Carson’s approach is totally wrong. =3

  21. -Putting T&A in your comic is NOT a good way to build an audience. It makes you look desperate.

    Elf Life’s had T&A for some time.

    -Experiment with print. People who read print comics tend to be more respectful to art quality then people who read webcomics. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend ever switching entirely from web to print. The printed comics industry is fucked up. =|

    He has been selling print comics.

  22. Are the archives still accessible to people with Keen Premium? While I agree you owe the internet at large nothing, I do think you owe the people with premium that much.


  23. Except that you don’t know how many people don’t like it and just didn’t tell you.

    Good luck in the future.

  24. Well, I do see the point these people have that even if Carson isn’t trying to be threatening, it can still appear that way to the readers.

    I also agree with Carson’s point that it’s his comic, and he can do whatever the hell he wants with it.

    I also agree with Mere’s point, that everyone’s kinda being jerks about it.

    Everyone has a point. Even me. My point is that everyone has points. It’s all pointy. Pointy pointy pointy…

  25. You just need to post a comic with huge black letters stating: DO YOU WANT TO SEE ELF LIFE CONTINUE?! Because about half your readers most likely don’t even realize there’s a problem. Apparently readers read the comic and rarely go any further. 😛 They do that to me all the time and it’s very frustrating to get a dozen emails asking: WHY didn’t you update today?! When there’s text right UNDER the image stating why.

  26. Firstly, I have to say that I don’t think anything Carson’s said is a “threat”. He’s merely stating the facts. If he doesn’t make more money than he’s making now from his strip, he won’t be able to continue it. He’s giving his reader’s a heads up. That’s hardly “threatening”.

    I know what it costs to produce a webstrip. I make an annual four-figure salary at my job. I spend as much time (sometimes more) on my strip, while my strip costs me close to a grand a year (in materials — not counting the time I put into it, which I’m not getting paid for), while I’m lucky if I make $50 a year from it.

    We don’t owe our strips to anyone. We do them mostly because we like doing it, but we certainly don’t OWE our readers anything. They’re getting it for free — and most of them with ARCHIVES — which you don’t get from the newspaper (or comic book) strips, which you ARE paying for, btw.

    Notifying our readers that we can’t afford to continue our strips without more income is not a threat. It’s a service.

  27. Well, to be blunt, it’s not their job to support him. I still fail to see how any of these tactics are going to help in the long run. Many comics, mine included, have done donation gifts and had a lot of success. Extra comics, pin ups, wallpapers… special little extras that make people want to donate. Or put a side-bar ad, like RPG World does. There are other avenues.

  28. This is the typical bash the poor starving webcomiker article. Those of Us who know Cars know he’s not threatening anyone. He’s trying to be realistic. But, those of you who know nothing about him are quick to slam him. SHAME ON YOU.

    As for his artwork being substandard, I would compare it to 90% of all syndie comics and say: the artwork is better, the writing is better, the whole concept is better.

    Some people feel so inadequate that they have to beat on some one else to feel better about them selves. I didn’t think this website stooped to such behaviour. It’s sad.


  29. I forgot to put my name on this. I’m the MYSTERY ARTIST.

    Also, it seems I got off on a rant that may or may not have anything to do with Carson’s decision. Sorry about that.

    josh l.

  30. This makes me confused. He puts his comics for free for five years, and when he takes them down he’s suddenly a jerk?

    So what he should do is take down ALL his archives and move to a suscribing pay site.

    Unless all the cartoonists at ModernTales and Scott McCloud are jerks too.


  31. Basic needs?

    So your defense of him is that he started the web comic, he puts a lot of work into it, so readers should pay his rent? I’m sorry, that doesn’t wash.

    The man has absolutely no hosting costs. Elf Life is a business, his rent is a personal expense. Two different things. But now that his personal finances are in disarray, he’s trying to guilt the readers, his business customers, into paying his personal expenses.

  32. I have to disagree that archives are essential to understanding the plot.

    All of my favorite newspaper strips as a kid were serial strips, and as with every other newspaper strip, there were NO archives. If we were lucky, we found a few musty papers in our grandmother’s basement which could fill in a few days from the past two weeks — if that. Did it detract from the story? No way. Did I not understand “Dick Tracy” because I’d missed the first 35 years of the strip? No way. Was “Li’l Abner” any less humorous, because I had 32 years of missing archives to hinder me? Not at all.

    And regarding comic book archives — in case you haven’t noticed, they’re not free, either. You generally wind up paying a handsome buck for back issues (if you can find them) — unless, of course you wait twenty years for 50 volumes of multi-issued reprints to come out (in B&W, nonetheless).

    Archives are no guarantee by comic strips or comic books. And they’re certainly not free in the newspapers or comics, either.

    And lack thereof, does not hinder appreciation for the story — assuming the story is well-written in the first place.

  33. Eugh. This is a tough situation. I can see where people are coming from, taking it as a threat, but then, the guy really needs money, and in my opinion, if you can afford to give money, you really should. But it’s hard. I know the Top Web Comics guy had to sell it eventually because nobody would donate, and he was totally broke. But the problem being the fact that you own webspace does not mean you should rely on it to support you in any way.

    It’s a hard one.

    Seriously, though, I hope the guy comes into some money soon, I myself am broke, so I can’t help him.

  34. Nice this to say when you are MISTER ANNONYMOUS. Put your name to it, coward.

    LAZY gives you the big middle finger.

  35. Besides, who cares about elf life anyways? Much better webcomics out there.

  36. Maybe it’s just me, but something about angry responses pointing blame at other people just screams “guilty conscience”

    The sad truth is, when someone pulls silly crap like this, there are going to be a lot of people (like me) who don’t have the gonzos to tell them that they’re being a jackass straight to their face, but there’s a lot of fans who will defend anything their great and powerful leader says. Example: Some people will say “Jar-Jar was just Lucas trying to reach into a stronger demographic, he wasn’t just trying to appeal to kids to sell more toys, and shame on you for insinuating that!”

  37. Every last one of you who posts “it lacks respect” or “selling out” etc etc can go HANG. The guy is one step away from being on the STREET, and you want him to pay for hosting of a FREE ARCHIVE that he’s footed the bill for YEARS on by.

    I could go on, but those of you who have a CONSCIENCE, already know they are ungrateful for their reactions. The rest of you… grow up.

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