Thought I'd kick off this month's Banter by reminding you all that there are two new Bruno the Bandit T-shirts for sale, on the Shirts page, and that there's a special offer to boot: If you order any Bruno T-shirt within the next little while, you will receive a set of three "rejected" Bruno the Bandit comic strips, signed by your truly, while supplies last. What am I talking about?? Well, you'll just have to order a shirt (or two, or ten) to see for yourself.
Hmmm, my shameless huckstering in the above paragraph makes me wonder what Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes, and one of my cartooning heroes, would think? For those who don't already know, Watterson was totally opposed to any sort of merchandising for his strip, and not overly impressed by the way some of his fellow syndicated cartoonists plastered their creations over everything from lunchboxes, to coffee mugs, to greeting cards... to T-shirts.
I respect and admire Watterson's integrity. At one point, according to the Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book, Watterson was actually prepared to quit drawing C&H if his syndicate insisted on forcing a merchandising deal on him. Fortunately for all of us, they didn't. Few cartoonists would be willing to stand up for themselves in this way, and even fewer would be willing to turn their backs on the vast sums of money that Watterson could have made by "selling out".
As far as I'm concerned, no cartoonist should ever have to compromise his/her principles. But if you're not willing to stand up for your rights as a cartoonist (or anything else for that matter), don't be surprised if they're one day taken away from you. Don't expect someone else to stand up and fight your battles for you. I've never made any compromises for Bruno the Bandit, and I don't ever intend to, gosh darn it!
Thus, while I respect and admire Watterson's stand, as you can guess, I don't totally agree with it, at least for my situation. I want to be able to earn a living from drawing Bruno the Bandit, but I know that I will never sign a syndicate contract, as my strip is too "out there" for mainstream readers (which is where I'm happy to have it, btw). To earn a living drawing Bruno, I have to seek out other means. That includes allowing banner ads on my site, and some merchandising. If I had a problem with these things, I wouldn't have joined Keenspot, and I wouldn't have cooked up a deal with Shirt-Guy Tom.
Now some Internet cartoonists I know have said that they have no interest in making money off their creations. They draw their strips for the sheer joy of doing so, and couldn't care less about making any money from their work. Again, I respect and even admire that position. To me, these are cartoonists in the purest sense of the word. This is the Internet, and here you are free to do whatever you wish when it comes to your comics. I wouldn't have it any other way.
In my case, I would like to earn a living drawing my 'toons, thus, I have no problem with banner ads and some merchandising. Besides, I see no other plausible way a 'net cartoonist could hope to earn a living otherwise, aside from trying to get a contract with a comics syndicate. For me at least, that would more than likely mean compromising my artistic freedom (i.e. watering Bruno down to the point where it'd be unrecognizable), and as I said, I don't compromise.
Go to the Bruno the Bandit Message Board