Bandit's Banter

For the second month in a row, I'm starting off another column with a birth announcement.  This time, congratulations are going out to my good friend Mike Dominic (whose webpage you can see by clicking here), and his wife Michelle, for the birth of  Tala Violet, their second daughter, and little sister to Raven Rose.  Actually, as of this writing, little Tala hasn't arrived yet, but she is overdue, and thus should be putting in an appearance any day now.  So, rather than hold off doing the latest Bandit's Banter any further, I figured I'd get my congrats in early.

In other news, as Professor Farnsworth from Futurama would say, "Good news, everyone!"  If you'll recall, in last month's column, I talked about the upcoming Dragon*Con, to be held from June 28th to July 2nd in Atlanta, Georgia, and how I'd like to go.  I mentioned that, to raise money for the trip, perhaps I'd consider auctioning some of my original Bruno comic strips, if the interest was there.  Well, some of you did express an interest in helping me out, but you don't have to worry about it after all, as I'm going to Atlanta!  Help has arrived in the form of my older brother Bob, who, upon reading about my hopes and possible plans to attend the convention, decided to buy a ticket for me, as an early birthday/Christmas gift.  So, thanks very much, Bob!  I don't know how I'll ever make this up to you, but I will.

This will be my first trip to the U.S., actually.  I live here in Newfoundland, and have only been off the island twice, both times to go to mainland Canada (and one of those times for an eye operation, which somewhat put a damper on any enjoyment I may have had from the trip).  I am really looking forward to this trip, as I'll finally get to meet many of my fellow Plan Nine  cartoonists, as well as Dave Allen, the publisher himself.  And I really hope that many of you, my readers, will be there, as I'd love to meet you.  If you're gonna be at this year's Dragon*Con as well, then for gosh sakes, drop by the Plan Nine booth, and say hello.

And, there's even more good news to pass on.  As you may have noticed, Bruno the Bandit is now proud to be a Keenspot comic strip!  I recently moved from the Big Panda server to Keenspot, and am looking forward to a long and prosperous relationship with these folks.  For those who still don't know, Keenspot is an online comic strip syndicate of sorts, created by cartoonists, for cartoonists.  It was created by two of my fellow ex-Panda mates Chris Crosby, who draws Superosity, and Darren Bleuel, creator of Nukees, along with Darren's friend Nate Stone.  In my humble opinion, by forming Keenspot, these three gentlemen may have done more for the whole genre of comic strips than even they may now realize.

You see, the whole idea behind Keenspot is to help online cartoonists like myself possibly make a living from our comic strips.  Many of us Keenspotters have tried to go the traditional route, i.e. submitting our work to the regular comic strip syndicates.  In most cases (certainly in mine) the syndicates turned their noses up at our work, as it wasn't "mainstream", or "marketable" enough.  Thankfully, we now have the Internet, which has provided us with a way to bypass the syndicates and newspapers, and get our comics out to you the readers.  Until recently however, there was really no way to make any real money from our comic strip creations.  There have been a few notable success stories, such as User Friendly, and of course, Sluggy, but for the most part, doing our strips has mostly been a labor of love (which of course, it should always be, regardless of whether you're making money or not).

Still, it would be nice to be rewarded financially for our efforts, and the formation of Keenspot is a bold step in this direction.  The great thing about the 30+ comic strips that have so far come together under the Keenspot banner is that this allows for a lot of "cross-pollination" of our readers.  Bruno readers are now being introduced to all the other Keenspot strips they may not have been aware of, and readers of other Keenspot strips are being introduced to Bruno.  Thus, every strip should gain a few new readers.

The money that we make is coming from revenues generated by banner ads placed on our pages.  How much each cartoonist makes is determined by how many ad-views his/her comic strip generates.  Actually, revenues are split between the cartoonists and Keenspot, with the Keenspot revenues going towards further promotion of our strips.  Make no mistake, Keenspot is only going to get bigger and bigger, and the Keenspot cartoonists who continue to produce good work will prosper.

But best of all, Keenspot remains "hands-off" editorially!  Our comic strips remain our own.  There will never be a "Keenspot editor" to tell me what I can or can't put in my comic strip.  Unlike a regular syndicate, these guys actually appreciate and value comics that are a little (heck, a lot) more daring, more edgy, and not afraid to contain content that would never see the light of day on any of today's newspaper comics pages.  Keenspot strips stand on their own merits, not on what a bunch of editors will allow.  If you can attract and keep a regular readership, that's what counts the most with these guys.

This makes me wonder if we, as cartoonists, have any further use for the regular comic strip syndicates?  Keenspot lets us do our own thing, and if we can attract the readers, we will be rewarded, possibly to the tune of earning a living with our strips.  Our strips never become the property of Keenspot, and they don't sign us to ridiculously long-term contracts.  I am free to leave Keenspot any time I please.  I'll be interested to see how the big syndicates react to the appearance of Keenspot on the scene.  They'll probably just ignore us, thinking we're a bunch of amateurs... until it's too late, and they see that a lot of the best new cartooning talents are signing on with us (or going their own way, like Sluggy) instead of only playing the Syndicate Sweepstakes with them (i.e. submit your work to a syndicate, in the hopes that your strip will be the 1 in 5000 that they choose to syndicate).  I know some people would scoff at this.  In some comic strip newsgroups, I still read the opinions of people who declare that online comic strips aren't worth reading, as they aren't syndicated yet.  Granted, just because a comic strip is online doesn't make it a great strip, either.  But for my money, the best of the online strips are as good as, if not better than, the best the syndicates have to offer.  And you the readers seem to agree with me, as online strips are surging in popularity.  There is a growing demand for comic strips that go beyond what the newspapers will publish, and Keenspot is here to meet that demand.  As for those who'd still scoff, I say, let 'em scoff!  Just as long as they stay out of our way...

So, for any cartoonists out there, should you submit to Keenspot?  I say, why not?  I cannot guarantee however, that they will accept your strip right off the bat.  But even if they don't, don't get discouraged!  This doesn't prevent you from setting up your own webpage, and publishing your own comics anyway.  If you do this, and are able to attract a fairly large following on your own, then re-submit, and there's a pretty good chance that you will be accepted.  You will have proven that your work can attract an audience, and they will be more likely to accept you.  Hope I'll see you in the Keenspot lineup one day.

As always, if ya got something to say about this month's Banter, whether you agree with me or not, don't hesitate to rattle my cage.