Ultraist Studios Blog Journal thoughts, musings and other rambling…

April 2, 2007

Paper Comics – A Thing of the Past!?!

Filed under: Ramblings — M Kitchen @ 2:54 pm

In the last comment section, Ultraist Reader Matt Campbell wrote:

i feel that paper comics are antiquated. It’s like trying to start a mail-order business in the time of the inter-tubes.

A popular opinion I can understand, albeit one that I vehemently disagree with.

In an attempt to fuel the debate (and avoid boredom at the day job) this post has been created to log the discussion. Click open the comments to read KITCHEN vs. CAMPBELL! (and feel free to join in).


  1. Okay. I get what you’re saying with this, and I’ve been giving it thought for the past 10 years. I’ll let you fire the first salvo, and I’ll do my best to counter. So, SHOOT.

    Comment by M Kitchen — April 2, 2007 @ 2:58 pm

  2. Firstly, I have a product I believe in. Secondly, and ultimately I want to make money from my product. These two statements precede any argument I have against the route of a paper comic or graphic novel.

    I am flexible with which medium customers prefer and has a profitable environment. At the moment, paper has neither.

    Comment by Matt Campbell — April 2, 2007 @ 3:10 pm

  3. Alright. There are a few things that need to be understood in the defense of paper comics.

    There are some mediums that are more in danger of becoming obsolete (cds, dvds and television being some of them) than are printed material.

    In the case of the media above, technology is getting to the point where there is little need to purchase a hard copy of the work. I would advocate that there are only 2 reasons at the moment to part with your currency to exchange it for those media.

    1). Collectibility.
    2). Convenience.

    And both of those points directly relate to comics (and other printed media).

    I could argue that a third reason is “support” although that reason is pure charity.

    NEXT reply, I’ll talk about how I see a non-profitable environment being used to cash in on big profits!

    Comment by M Kitchen — April 2, 2007 @ 3:27 pm

  4. 1). Collectibility.

    The only people collecting comics today are fanboys. With few exceptions, you cannot profit from fanboys.

    2). Convenience.

    The internet is the litmus test for convenience, not a comic book.

    Comment by Matt Campbell — April 2, 2007 @ 3:38 pm

  5. 1). Yes, you CAN profit from fanboys. In fact, I would argue that if you want to profit from your work of art, you HAVE to rely on fanboys for that profit. A casual reader is not going to part with their currency for your work. A fanboy will.

    2). I disagree. To an extent. The internet is perfect for sampling comics. At work, I spend all day with the internet open browsing comics, and interviews, and whatever else catches my fancy. However, once there is anything that is both of interest and of length, the first thing I do is print it. I CAN NOT STAND to read anything of length on the computer screen. Plus, once I have it in hardcopy I can take it with me on the train, or in the bathroom, set it on my desk, place it in my archives, etc. A real world example of this is Captain America #25. But I’ll get to that in my “Death of Captain America” post later this week… I have NEVER paid for an electronic comic once in my life.

    Now. It’s generally accepted that there isn’t much money in comics these days. However there are many artists that currently make their living in paper comics. So, the money IS there. It’s just a matter of getting good enough as an artist to secure your piece of the pie.

    Dave Sim mentioned that the Cerebus monthly comic was losing Aardvark-Vanaheim money for the last few years. So why publish it? Primarily because they were making a LOT of money on the phone-book graphic novels. So at that point the monthly was an expense. And the collection was the profit.

    There was a post today I read on THE ENGINE where a comic creator stated that to avoid losing money on a monthly comic, he decided to provide the content for free on the internet, until he had enough material to print the graphic novel collecting all the strips.

    PvP has a similar business model where they provide their comics for free on the internet. Their philosophy being, 10% of the people who read their comics on the internet will want to own the collection. So if they can reach 1 million people, that could potentially lead to 100,000 sales of the printed comic. (i may have the numbers wrong here, but I’ll research them and provide links in a future post).

    There was another post from THE ENGINE by Brian Wood, where he mentioned that once he started doing a monthly comic, his popularity sky rocketed, just because he had a comic on the shelf every month. People suddenly started to realize who he was. So in that sense, a printed comic serves as an advertisement occupying shelf space (the same reason Campbell’s Soup creates so many god awful concoctions – to take up shelf space)

    Marvel Comics, DC, Dark Horse these days primarily get the bulk of their profits from movie merchandising. Even Lucas primarily got his fortune from merchandising, not from his movies. Hence, if you create a quality print comic, you, as a by-product, create the opportunity to cash in on larger profits.

    Comment by M Kitchen — April 2, 2007 @ 3:57 pm

  6. Here is a question for you: What medium do you consider being BETTER than print to use for your own work of art (given expenses, and customer preference, and distribution)?
    What do you see as the ideal venue to create a profit from your own work of art?

    Comment by M Kitchen — April 2, 2007 @ 4:08 pm

  7. Although you have somewhat proven that a comic artist can be profitable, it’s quite an uphill battle, don’t you think? It’s like a barrel of fish with a thousand fishing poles.

    Dave Sim, Marvel Comics, PVP; They all make a monthly comic sound more like a marketing tool than a product that generates profit.

    My intent is to place TBWLH online in it’s entirety, free of charge.

    Comment by Matt Campbell — April 2, 2007 @ 5:05 pm

  8. I have some ideas one what is a profitable media, such as a graphic novel or TV show pitch – Or getting an investor. However, I won’t commit to anything until much later when it emerges from creating the content.

    I really want to enjoy creating, then concentrate on part two, the money.

    Comment by Matt Campbell — April 2, 2007 @ 5:09 pm

  9. I would argue that just about ANYTHING worth doing is quite an uphill battle. Think of Mt. Everest!

    This train of thought brings me back to Art Fundamentals at Sheridan. When Mike (what was his name, head of art fundies) gave the speech about how statistics showed only 2 people in our class would make it through the animation program. And (correct me if I am getting this story wrong) we looked at each other and said “that’s me”.

    So fishing poles be damned! One of those fish is mine!

    As for your online idea:

    This sort of thing could be argued all night. But the way I look at this stuff is; my business decisions are based on my artistic decisions. Which could be a bad business decision, but it’s my decision none the less. If you see your TBWLH work as being an online project (before being sold and making you millions) then that’s what I think you should do. Happy Tree Friends used that model and they got rich doing it (I am assuming).

    My thoughts for Spy Guy has always been that it is a Pulp culture work of art. It should exist on the fringe. It should be disposable. If it does ever catch on, then it should be rare enough that the first issue should sell for above cover price in the collector’s market. So that’s me making my business decision based on my artistic decision.

    Trying to tie this all back into the printed medium being a thing of the past: I still disagree. If you provide quality work, that gives the audience a payoff of some sort, and give them convenience (they’d rather spend $3.95 to own the real thing than deal with the hassle of downloading a pdf and print it on their crappy printer and staple it), and give them something collectible (they’d rather own the REAL first edition, then some lousy inferior knock off of no value), then you are one step closer to making your printed work of art valid.

    Comment by M Kitchen — April 2, 2007 @ 8:41 pm

  10. As for your ideas of profitable media, (such as a graphic novel or TV show pitch – Or getting an investor), care to delve into that some more? What are your current thoughts? What would be your process? What are some examples that you would use to model your approach after? I am curious. Plus I need something interesting to read today.

    Comment by M Kitchen — April 3, 2007 @ 9:31 am

  11. Pre-production for TBWLH will be a minimum of 1 year (but more likely 2-3 years) and will approach the artwork and story as a whole. Production will be 10-30 art pieces in the vein of Gustave Dore to establish the story and characters, along with smaller comic book panels to describe the actions.

    Online will be somewhat of a PowerPoint presentation; when you click on certain areas of an art piece you’ll move to the next scene. A scene of Tona looking down into the Dark Cavern will have you click into the darkness to get to the next scene. Each painting and comic panel will have 2-4 paragraphs describing the story.

    Ultimately, the production is a presentation of the product. You won’t get an entire sense of the story but will see the potential to expand on the inflection and universe. From there I will be able to present it to an investor, a studio, or do 20-40 more paintings and make it a graphic novel with the online material as a teaser.

    The reason why this will take so long is because I need to get some painting skillz and brush the rust off my pencil.

    Comment by Matt Campbell — April 3, 2007 @ 10:16 am

  12. For what you’re doing, that sounds cool.
    Shane Glines said he was going to take that approach on his projects, but it ended up turning into just a series of pinup drawings. A cool pinup book came out of it, but what I really wanted to see was the Pre-Production in the way you just described it.

    So I think this has potential.
    As long as you stick with it and don’t get sidetracked.

    Though (in an attempt to add fuel to the fire of this debate) how is this process any different than just leaping into the printed format? If your primary argument is that there is no money in print, well, the same can be said that there is no money in providing your pre-production online. In fact, there is also the chance that you would be “blowing your wad” for free online, without ANY chance of payoff. People see everything for free online, and then can either rip off your ideas, or worse, decide they’ve seen enough and completely lose interest? Thoughts? (I want this discussion to last until the end of the day – it’s an interesting topic).

    Comment by M Kitchen — April 3, 2007 @ 10:29 am

  13. Ya, I’m really bad a sidetracks, hence 1+1 Studios. 1 Sidetrack + 1 Sidetrack, or 1 Drawing + 1 Drawing; it’s my choice.

    My hope in providing pre-production online is feedback and critique for a stronger product. In the unlikely event that i may blow my wad, I’ll change it to make that my point of sale.

    One thing I’ve learned about people ripping off ideas is most people have their own crappy ideas they’d rather work on.

    Comment by Matt Campbell — April 3, 2007 @ 10:57 am

  14. Though couldn’t you get feedback and critique on a printed paper comic? It’s quite common these days for artists to go back and fix / modify their “first edition” once they print the collected version, or reboot the entire series. Either way, you are left with a record of the first pass (which inevitably will become a sought after collectors item – assuming you are successful), and you actually get a shot at making a couple bucks off the paper comics in the process. And if you don’t, well, they still make for an amazing advertising pamphlet.


    I do agree with what you said; of people rather working on their own crappy ideas than stealing your crappy ideas…

    Comment by M Kitchen — April 3, 2007 @ 11:05 am

  15. ha ha ha!! Cause there’s no money in printed comics!!!!

    Comment by Matt Campbell — April 3, 2007 @ 11:07 am

  16. That’s a circular arguement because there is no money in posting it for free online either!

    Robota is a good example of an “in print” pre-production.

    Comment by M Kitchen — April 3, 2007 @ 11:09 am

  17. It’s not circular.

    My goal is to have 8-16 friends critique my work online with no intention of trying to make money. Then take it to an offline source.

    If(In bizarro world)8000 people start reading it online, then I’ll quickly change my business model to make money from them.

    Comment by Matt Campbell — April 3, 2007 @ 11:16 am

  18. An offline source, like printing it?

    Comment by M Kitchen — April 3, 2007 @ 11:19 am

  19. Only if it made money. I wouldn’t use my money for printing and distribution.

    Comment by Matt Campbell — April 3, 2007 @ 11:26 am

  20. So all you’re REALLY saying is that you don’t want to invest your own money into your own work of art. Is that it?

    If so, allow me to direct you to an essay by my bro -> click here.

    Comment by M Kitchen — April 3, 2007 @ 11:28 am

  21. 1) I have a product i believe in.

    Putting TBWLH online IS publishing my work. I can do all my work from my computer and post it on my website, free of any cost except my time.

    I don’t need to have it in my hands in paper to qualify myself as self published. A website resolves this in my psyche.

    I think on your website you quoted Chuck as saying that every writer just re-tells the same story over and over again. TBWLH is the story I’ve been re-telling forever and has taken on a deep meaning. Heaven and Hell, resisting comformity for no particularly good reason. Allowing anger and anxiety rule your choices and self-inflicted punishments.

    Just getting my story online is enough for me.

    2) I want to make money from my product.

    Using your own money breaks the rules of a good business model. It’s somewhat of a cliche, but artists ignore their business model and only concentrate on their artwork.

    Your brother admits in his essay that his book has the potential to flop. This to me sounds like an insane business model, because his work and story are incredible.

    Comment by Matt Campbell — April 3, 2007 @ 11:51 am

  22. 1) I agree with everything you say here; but your original point was that there was no money in comics because they are antiquated. I still disagree with that (to a certain extent).

    2) My primary point here is that if you don’t have a tangible product, you’re not going to make money off it anyway. What you’re talking about above is pre-production. Okay. I get that. But EVENTUALLY to turn a profit, you ARE going to need a tangible product. In whichever media you decide. And at that point we come back to the original discussion dilemma. Assuming we established there IS (at the very least) the potential to make some money off comics, why NOT decide to print a story in comic (or other printed media) format? If an investor told you they’d print your comic, would you do it?

    And limiting your answer to “cause there’s no money in it” is cheating.

    And saying “because I don’t want to” is valid, however renders your original comment that started this thread moot.

    Comment by M Kitchen — April 3, 2007 @ 12:10 pm

  23. OK. This isn’t fair. Matt is just trying to take away my crown for having the most comments on this blog. He’s probably passed me already, just from this one post. I better step in.

    My whole thought on putting “development work” in print is that if you put it off any longer, chances are nothing will ever come of it. Everyone I know has show pitches that they are working on, but maybe 1 or 2 percent of those people ever finish them so that they are in a pitchable state. (my figures are probably way off, but you get the idea). And out of those people that actually create a presentable pitch, I only know one guy that anything came of it, and that consisted of him practically giving away his idea to a studio, and in turn, he got to work on his show. That’s crap.

    I figure that I might as well create something that has potential for a profit, and I can get off my butt and do something with, like go to conventions and promote. If I run into someone, I can give them a comic to read. I can use the comic as a pitch for a show, and if it gets picked up, the studio or whoever gets less to fuck with, because they are buying rights to a character, not rights to an idea. If you approach someone with an idea, they will want to change it to make it theirs. If you approach someone with a finished book, they probably won’t think about making it theirs. Their mindset will be different.

    And, with a comic, it is perfect, because you can explore different stories and characters without a huge financial loss ($2000 to print 5000 comics is pretty cheap and not much of a risk if you ask me). You have to spend money to make money. If not, why would anyone invest. I like the idea of financing it yourself, because then you don’t have to answer to anyone. Heck. That’s why I’m doing this, because I’m sick of taking orders from other people.

    And, I still have the option of selling out for millions of dollars, if I ever get the chance.

    Comment by Blair kitchen — April 3, 2007 @ 1:13 pm

  24. I definitly have a bias against comics. Me sitting at a table at a comic convention would be a disaster! You also make a good argument against a pitch.

    Comment by Matt Campbell — April 3, 2007 @ 1:39 pm

  25. Oh come on Matt. You’d fit right in. Maybe you should join us for a few, and sign your Apocolypse comic. (I’ve stll got my signed copy! “Boba Fett lives”) In the long run, you just have to do what feels right. For some reason, I picture myself having a studio, and in the front entrance, and the washrooms, I have copies of the Possum lying around. I have to print comics, just so that vision becomes a reality one day.

    Comment by Blair kitchen — April 3, 2007 @ 1:45 pm

  26. “Uh, this makes no sense and there are a lot of spelling and grammatical errors…”

    “I made it when i was 17.”

    “And how old are you now?”


    “Uhhmm… yeah…I can really see your hairline receding.”

    Comment by Matt Campbell — April 3, 2007 @ 2:20 pm

  27. This is why I base my business decisions on my artistic decisions. If you think “a comic isn’t right for this” then that’s your decision and you can stick to it. I think that is valid. I think comics (and other print media) are a relevant medium for all the reasons Blair mentioned. Plus, comics are cool.

    And don’t knock the hair comments. I was getting that back when I was 17… < start flashback sequence >

    “Uh, this makes no sense and there are a lot of spelling and grammatical errors…”

    “I made it when i was 17.”

    “And how old are you now?”


    “Uhhmm… yeah…I can really see your hairline receding.”

    Comment by M Kitchen — April 3, 2007 @ 2:35 pm

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