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Interview With Abstruse Goose
Excerpt from interview:
I am fascinated with comic syndication. I am even fascinated with the fascination of comic syndication. There is a level of automatic prestige that comes with some entity covering the effort and cost of putting your line art to paper. There is something about being able to pick up a newspaper anywhere in town and seeing your work printed on it. Would you like to see a comeback of the newspaper or do you prefer the death of the industry as a fitting metaphor for the death of an older generation of comic art?
I, too, am fascinated with comic syndication and with the fascination of comic syndication. I am even fascinated with the fascination of fascination of comic syndication.
There certainly is a sort of prestige that comes with being syndicated and I highly doubt that there are many web cartoonists out there that would turn down an offer (however, from a statistical point of view, you have a better chance of being an NBA star than you do of being a syndicated cartoonist). I haven't ruled out the possibility that I might some day try to do a syndicated comic, but (obviously) the style and format would have to be drastically different from that of my current comic. All syndicated cartoonists are constrained to conform their strips to the realities of the business. They all fight for the ever-shrinking plots of real estate available on the back pages of newspapers (and hence must usually limit their strips to four panels or less) while attempting to gear their content and style to a mainstream audience. Obviously, you and I (as web cartoonists) don't have those restrictions imposed on us.
// side note
However, as a side note, I believe that there is an upside to such restrictions. When I was attempting to become a syndicated cartoonist, I restricted all of my strips to four little panels. It's quite a challenge trying to cram all of your ideas into such a small space but it forces you to become creative in your presentation and it can force you into higher levels of artistic expression. It's as Marissa Mayer said: "Creativity loves constraint"
// side note nested within a side note
As another side note on the subject of syndication, I am inspired by the story of Stephan Pastis who draws Pearls Before Swine. Before becoming a cartoonist, Pastis was an attorney (for 9 years, I think) unhappy with his choice of profession. He always wanted to become a cartoonist and his childhood hero was the (late) great Charles Schultz (who also happened to be my childhood hero). He read somewhere that Schultz always drank his morning coffee at the same ice rink every day, so one day he decided to take off from work and drive down to the ice rink to meet his idol. When Schultz arrived, Pastis introduced himself and told him that he aspired to be a cartoonist. Pastis showed him some samples of his work and they ended up talking for an hour about cartooning as Schultz doled out advice on the finer points of the business. To make a long story short, this visit with The Pope finally convinced him to take the plunge and pursue his dream, and a "mere" three years later he was a syndicated cartoonist with one of the most popular comics around.
// end side note nested within a side note
Continuing on the subject of creativity and constraint, consider, as an example, Dinosaur Comics by Ryan North. Every one of his comics uses the same six panels with the same six illustrations from comic to comic. Yet his archives are littered with some brilliant gems and I imagine that part of that has to do with the creativity that flows from his self-imposed restrictions.
// end first side note
I am certainly no expert on the subject but I don't see the newspaper going away any time soon. I think that the declaration of its demise is a bit premature. Although print media will obviously continue to lose some of its influence to the newer forms of media over the coming years (decades), I believe that newspapers can survive by implementing new business models and quickly adapting to the changing environment. It's possible that a happy equilibrium can eventually be reached in which old and new can coexist peacefully (for a while).
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