Kris Straub


  1. Two questions for you:

    1) Since you can conceptualize this non-existant success threshold, would you be so kind as to define it?

    2) Since it doesn’t exist as form of threshold, what would the definition of webcomics success be then?

  2. Webcomics success, I would measure, as being able to significantly assist your regular income with that from your strip’s, at the very least. But I think there is this sense floating around that, after you “make it,” you just draw one strip each day and then relax on your yacht. A number of webcomics “success” stories are living in apartments on $10,000 a year. Now it’s success because they don’t have another job, but they’re still working their asses off.

    In addition to that, there is some intangible credibility or notoriety that is “supposed” to come with that, and sometimes it doesn’t. Or it comes as easily with webcomics as it does anywhere else.

    I guess what I’m getting at is, you can either do comics because you like to, or you can do them because you want attention for doing one. And if you finally get 100 readers, well, you start wondering how to kick it up to 200. If you after got up to 10,000, you’d want 20,000. It becomes a joyless exercise in self-validation. But cartoonists who only want the fame don’t have the staying power, because it’s not the drawing they love, it’s the fan mail.

  3. Webcomics success, I would measure, as being able to significantly assist your regular income with that from your strip’s, at the very least.
    Doesn’t this mean that there is a “success threshold” then? How much of the differences between the haves and have-nots you outlined in your comic do you think may come from business men simply being nice to their customers?

    If it’s not that, what’s the cause of this gap in attitudes? In your opinion.

  4. If there is a success threshold, it is not what anyone believes it to be. I doubt if you asked Randy Milholland if he’d “made it” that he’d say “yes, I have.” People want to believe there is some point at which you stop and you can say “I have arrived!” but there isn’t. There is always more to do.

  5. Well, okay, but I was kind of hoping for an answer to the question.

  6. Forgive me. The answer is “jealousy, and a failure to understand the mechanisms of what is perceived as success.”

  7. But how do you know this to be the case? This is just an assumption on your part, isn’t it?

    As well, wouldn’t you consider having a large number of people at your disposal count as successful?

  8. You make a good point. I fall into the trap of checking my stats page every other day – trying to validate the late nights to finish another strip on time. There’s nothing wrong with setting a goal (like 10,000 readers) to increase your audience, but it can easily over-shadow the primary goal of doing a comic – telling your story.

    I started a web comic, because I wanted to break down the task of completing a graphic novel, but I’ve found myself – after several months – loosing sight of the original goal on occasion.

    As for monetary goals, I think aiming to cover your costs is nobel enough. At a couple hundred readers you don’t have the same burden as you would at 10,000 readers. And it costs you much more to market so you can get that 10,000.

  9. Well, where do you think it comes from? And yeah, in a way it’s successful, but it doesn’t mean you’re all done with the work you have to do. That’s my point. There is no line that, once crossed, you can say “aha! I’m one of the lucky few. I’ve done it.” Or it’s so distant that it’s not worth the guy with 80 readers and a strip about a skate park romance between a dragon and a giraffe worrying about.

    I feel like you’re being a little combative, or that you want me to say “okay! I’m making it all up! You’re right! You’ve bested me!”

  10. Yes, that’s my point. And worrying about how popular you are and how you measure up can make you miserable. I was surprised we talked about as much as we did on the Comic-Con panel about building an audience — and it was good that we did — but ultimately all you can do to build an audience is be making something that people like. And you more or less have to fall into that. You can’t engineer your fame (usually, anyway). I think if you just love doing your work, for no matter how many are interested, your work is going to be better and people will notice it.

    And if covering costs is the barometer for success, I’m there. I’ve crossed the finish line, I’m done. If you put Google ads on your page, you’d probably get three-fourths of the way there, if not all the way.

  11. If you must know, I’m asking because you’ve made your name taking aim at people in webcomics who’ve put themselves out there, yet I don’t really recall you ever going out on a limb yourself without filtering it through a fictional character.

    Basically, I wanted to see what Kristofer Straub has to say for once, not his mouthpieces Chex and The MHA.

    And honestly, all I’ve done is asked you some questions about the position you took in your comic. I admit that this is just me filling in the blanks due to your unwillingness to be forthcoming, but it almost seems as if you’ve never been asked these things about your material before.

    Sorry if it makes you uncomfortable, but I don’t think I’m asking you any questions that you should be worried about answering.

    But since you asked me, I’ll have to be honest and tell you that I make it a point to never go to cons anymore. And the cons I have attended were long before webcomics existed, so I honestly have no way of knowing if the stated politeness gap between the haves and the have-nots (to use Scott Kurtz’s description of it) is true, or if it’s a matter of personal perception on your part.

    So I’m kind of depending upon you right now.

  12. Okay. Yes, there is a thick filter, a membrane that Chex is when I deploy him to spit out my viewpoint. Sometimes I make him just like me and he’s mad about something. Other sometimes he is the proponent of dumb things that I want to decry. I always hope that I’m somewhat libertarian in my webcomics views.

    And! I will even say that it is rare to have me talk alone. Even in the Comixpedia interview they were like “I know, Chex should answer too!” And I didn’t argue ultimately, but I was looking forward to not having it be Chex talking.

    I just felt like you had some angle, like you were hoping to trip me up on some logical error I had made, and that you were hoping I’d say it before you came out and said “gotcha!” So I retract that feeling.

    The con experience is variable. It isn’t all sunshine for the “haves” either. Sometimes they are more interested in talking to webcartoonists on “their level” and they have little time for the little guy. But by and large I find that less true than for someone who is trying to appear professional, trying to appear important.

    I hate it when anyone, big or small, says “I’m too big to bother with these little guys and little questions.” There is a time constraint, sure, but no one should feel petrified meeting a webcartoonist. I used to be scared of Scott and Gabe and Tycho.

    I guess… whether or not I personally enjoy a webcomic, I know that almost all webcomics have a value on some level, even if it’s just a hobby thing thrown together by a 12-year-old for fun. I think the biggest stumbling block for a new cartoonist is getting hung up on his readership and his pageviews and his website statistics. If you want to make a name for yourself and be popular, webcomics is the wrong venue. If you want to make some work that you enjoy, and that you want to share with some people, then it’s the right venue.

    And even if I make fun of furries or sprite users or whatever, that is what’s real and good about webcomics, that anyone can make something, at least for themselves.

    But the dark side of that is, you have a kid with some obtuse, overly-specific strip premise, or it’s plain poorly-executed, or whatever its readability issues are, and he wants to be the next Ctrl-Alt-Del, and he’s starting to compare his pageviews with Penny Arcade or even the execrable Checkerboard Nightmare, and he’s feeling envious and in need of some respect.

    If the work you do satisfies you, that’s all that really matters. Though I, as a reader, might not be able to respect or enjoy the work stand-alone. I appreciate that cutting-and-pasting Secret of Mana sprites brings you joy, and I see a great value in a person being able to tell a story they want, but it doesn’t mean I think the story is good.

    If your work is broad enough that you pick up a big audience, that’s icing. You might be lucky enough that you can subsist on that icing, like a cake frosted with money. But if your whole goal is not telling a story, is not entertaining a person for 20 seconds a day, and is being vindicated and successful and famous, it’s a tragic thing.

  13. Why thanks for answering that for me Kristofer, it was very interesting.

    I’m looking forward to finding out more abut the ideas driving MHA next month.

  14. And the “abut” in the above post was just my Canadian accent, just ignore it.

  15. I say “mixed” because there are times I’ve felt exactly the same way, but ultimately I wind up rejecting the viewpoint. Pettiness is *not* exclusive to the small-time lot, nor is magnanimity the purview of the big-timers.

    Doing anything in any branch of the entertainment industry — which I suppose most of webcomics falls under — requires at least one character trait: enough self-confidence to put yourself out there and keep going when no one else gives a damn. If you’re an author, a musician, a cartoonist, an actor… it doesn’t matter. When you start out, nobody knows who you are and nobody cares except you.

    The people who keep doing it are the ones who can continue in the face of apathy. There are various ways people do this, and one of these is to be very loud in order to attract attention. And to be honest, this behavior is something that has *worked* to a certain extent for some webcartoonists, and is seen as a successful marketing tactic.

    And even if you’re not adopting such a strident voice in order get noticed, it’s very easy to develop such a persona simply because doing the work every day lends itself to both self-reliance and sheer obstinance.

    I guess what I’m saying is that the qualities that make it possible for people to put themselves out there, and to risk being hated or ignored, are very easily warped into the qualities that make someone a grade-a primaddonna asshole. And I doubt very much that it’s more commonly found in the “small-time” areas — it’s just more *noticeable*.

    Those are my two cents.

    Christopher B. Wright

  16. Thanks for reminding me this discussion was here Mr. Wright. Because I was thinking about it the other day, and I was really hoping that Mr. Straub would be so kind as to list for us who these abrasive webcomic egomaniacs are that he met…. assuming that this comic IS based on his personal experiences.

    Because, should I ever decide to go to a con, I know I’d like to avoid these people. And I’m certain everyone else would like to avoid them as well.

    So Mr. Straub, care to hook a brother up? These names would help a lot. Heck, we could even reach out to them and show them there’s no need to be acting that way because we’re all equals on the web.

  17. Why on Earth would I do that? If I wanted people to hate me I would, anyway.

    Or I’ll list them at Starslip Crisis just to drive links there.

  18. Well, you don’t HAVE to. I just figured that since you were courageous enough to shame them through the awesome power of the monthly satirical comic, then you may have been willing to take a stand and name names.

    I admit tough, I probably could handle these guys on my own should I ever have the misfortune to run across them. But I was just hoping to avoid unessecary conflict.

  19. I think if a list was compiled of artists who were abrasive egomaniacs, well, we’d all make that list. It’s part of the development cycle. I’ve been there (maybe going there again) and I know you’ve been there.

    The thing about being an artist in the first place is that we have seriously volatile emotional states. When we write, we have to see through the eyes of many characters. We have to think our stuff is important enough to put it out there in the first place. And our moral gets crushed with every rejection or critique. Some of us get thick skinned with time, and others clam up.

    I don’t think it’s as much that successful artists are less abrasive, but more that they’ve matured. And that would apply even to an artist who wasn’t considered successful. You just don’t hear about them, because they usually aren’t all over the place posting.

    Here, I’ll start a list for you:
    Steve Harrison – Fabricari

  20. Nah, you’ll know them when you see them. Just punch them in the back of the head.

Comments are closed.