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Why American Elf Is Important To Webcomics

Derik Badman has a review of the second collected volume of James Kochalka's webcomic American Elf in print. (I wrote a review of the first volume of American Elf which you can read here)

We don't write as much about Kochalka as we did in the earlier years of Comixpedia, but that is really no reflection on the creativity and importance of his work (instead I tend to think it shows the growth of webcomics as a whole). I think Kochalka is important to webcomics for a couple of reasons. Kochalka's self-enforced construct for American Elf (one comic a day capturing a moment therein, without any compulsion to build an overarching storyline), turned out to be such a natural fit for the web that he both inverted his entire publishing strategy for the comic (he now publishes everyday on the web and then collects the work for print in these large volumes), and he also inspired a whole movement of "journal webcomics" that roughly followed his construct.

It's entirely possible

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

It's entirely possible this unofficial RSS feed for American Elf is unwelcome by Kochalka, but it's been up forever.

I hadn't given any thought to the continuing subscription model for AE. When it started it was part of the original Modern Tales wave of subscription based sites (although it was the first solo comic in Manley's arena to do so I think) and now it's kind of out-lived them all. I have to wonder how much of that is conscious choice versus inertia on Kochalka's part?

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Xaviar Xerexes

On second thought, let's not go to Comixpedia. It is a silly place.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

When I moved my other sites

Joey Manley's picture

When I moved my other sites over to mostly-free, I asked James if he wanted to do the same, and pointed out the successes of merch-based comics like those on Dumbrella (where he has friends). He told me in no uncertain terms that the subscription monies he earns are an important part of his income, and he had no plan to change that now.

So, yeah, conscious decision.

In Modern Tales land

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

Is anyone besides Kochalka doing a solo subscription site still?

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Xaviar Xerexes

On second thought, let's not go to Comixpedia. It is a silly place.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Dozens of people are running

Joey Manley's picture

Dozens of people are running subscription comics through WCN including Chris Onstad and Joshua Hale Fialkov, but I don't touch those transactions (they're strictly between artist and reader, with PayPal the only middleman taking a cut), I don't know how well they're doing, or not.

I guess I wasn't thinking of

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

I guess I wasn't thinking of WCN (just legacy MT). But good point - I suppose at some point it would be interesting to see how people using the WCN sub feature (and other sub sites) are doing.

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Xaviar Xerexes

On second thought, let's not go to Comixpedia. It is a silly place.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

One of the reasons WCN

Joey Manley's picture

One of the reasons WCN exists is so that cartoonists could launch these kinds of services on their own, and they wouldn't have to be Modern Tales products, with me in the middle taking up limited oxygen.

Interesting.. Thanks.

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

Thanks - I really have no idea if Kochalka would make more money or not with a different strategy but given how many different projects he juggles he may not have time to do the extra stuff some other strategies require.

It's also not clear how big of an audience American Elf would get if it was free.. (it's more HBO then NBC)

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Xaviar Xerexes

On second thought, let's not go to Comixpedia. It is a silly place.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Its easier

Erg's picture

Kolchaka was able to build his brand early on at Modern Tales and then with his site. Now that the strip has long running readers and prestige, it may be less time consuming to simply use one, perhaps slightly lower revenue stream to fill in the income gaps between the release of his various print works and his music. Going to free and making money would require a whole lot of non-comic related work.

The print webcomics

Derik Badman's picture

I wonder what it says about me or the strip that I never read American Elf online, only in the print collections. I'll pay for a book but not for the webcomic? Partially, but the lack of an RSS feed (which I guess would release the content and make the subscription model not very workable) pulls it out of my normal reading mode (no rss feed on a webcomic and the odds of me reading it are almost none).

Derik A Badman

Things Change: http://madinkbeard.com/comics

Blog: http://madinkbeard.com/blog