My Road to Webcomics

Hi, All–Special thanks to Xaviar for asking me to guest blog this week!  Thanks also to Tim Demeter for suggesting me to Xaviar.  First up, a short introduction to why I’m doing what I do:


My Road to Webcomics: 


When I began cartooning in 1994, I had never heard of webcomics.  If I had, I probably would not have been interested, because I was intent on making my way in the world of print comics. 


The comic market was still riding a massive bubble, and anyone with a comic could get it distributed.  Everyone thought there was a fortune to be made on comics, and they flooded the market with product.  It was an era of excess, and everyone with a poorly drawn bad girl comic could make a go of it.  I was doing my part by penciling, and sometimes also inking, about a dozen rarely seen comics for some equally obscure publishers.  Some of these books never made it to publication, and they stalled out in ashcan editions, or simply never made it to the printer.  In retrospect, I should be thankful, because I was learning as I went along.


I am a decidedly old-school cartoonist.  I grew up reading comics on paper.  I pencil and ink on paper.  What, then, signaled my transformation from old-school cartoonist to a webcartoonist?  Was it the potentially massive audience? The instant and worldwide distribution?  Or, was it the repressive economics of printing costs, distribution costs, and an ever-shrinking audience?  In a word, yes, it was all of those things. 


After a decade of doing comics for other people, I had little to show for it.  Webcomics gave me the opportunity to create the material I wanted produce and find an audience.  I sometimes still do freelance work for other publishers, but that is not really where I see my future.  The webcomic scene, in contrast, is the Wild West, a wide open vista where it seems that anything is still possible.  I am constantly surprised by the caliber of work that is being produced on the web.  Many webcomics are amateurish and unpolished, but many more are beautifully rendered and well written.  This is the place where the best and brightest cut their teeth, learn their craft, and sometimes go on to achieve greatness.


At this point in my cartooning career, I only print comics to have something to sell at shows and from my web store—the print comics have become auxiliary to the webcomics!  That is a complete attitude reversal in only a few years time.  Johnny Saturn is a mid-tier comic, enjoyed by 15K to 20K readers a week, yet for me the immediacy and interaction with fans far exceeds the joys of selling print comics.  I even wrote an article proclaiming the benefits of webcomics that appeared in issue 31 of Blueline Pro’s Sketch Magazine.


In the last couple of years, I have seen the public’s opinion of webcomics begin to change.  Even as recently as a couple of years ago, if I mentioned to potential buyers at conventions that Johnny Saturn was also available on the web, I  could see the shutters behind their eyes slam shut—No sale!  That has changed.  Nowadays, when you go to conventions, you may see webcartoonists next to print cartoonists.  A cartoonist is a cartoonist, after all, whether his product appears on paper, on a computer monitor, or both.  Does the webcartoonist have the same stature with convention goers as print cartoonists?  Not yet, I believe, but the disparity is quickly closing, and part of that is because the regular convention attendee is not part of the demographic that reads webcomics.  As far as the fans go, I still do not see that many fans that crossover regularly between print and the web.  This will either correct itself over time, or the print fans will continue to dwindle in numbers as the web fans multiply.


Now, three years into producing Johnny Saturn, I am proud to be a webcartoonist.  As far as I am concerned, the webcomic scene IS the new independent comic scene.