Archive for the ‘Cartoon World’ Category

Microsoft, Yahoo, Google – What They Need are Editorial Cartoonists!!

December 11, 2008

Back in the Spring, cartoonist Matthew Meskel (who lives here in the Portland area, too) and I were experimenting with a comic strip.  At some point along Swig’s path, we’re going to launch something like it as “Swiggle: the official comic strip of Swig the Social Market.”  He’s going to draw it and I and Swig employees will write it (with Matthew’s input, too, of course).  It will be based on actual things that are happening within the company.

I thought of it today because I was writing on FriendFeed that I wish websites (and other companies!) could/would hire cartoonists.  Somebody had kindly pointed me to editorial cartoons at investors.com, but that’s the online edition of the daily print newspaper Investor’s Business Daily.  If any website-only publication or social network has its own dedicated cartoonist, I don’t know about it – unless it’s the owner himself, of course.  Like Chris Pirillo writes a gag cartoon for his own site (or at least he was…I’m not sure about the current status of that).  If you know examples, please point us to them in the comments.

Of course, it would take something like a TechCrunch to afford its own cartoonist.  But I think it would be a great investment.  Cartoonists have long proven their ability to attract readers and keep them loyal. 

Imagine being a cartoonist going out on location with a company’s CEO, or to industry conventions with the marketing department, and so on.  I flew cartoonists Alan Gardner and Keefe Chamberlain to a geek conference in Seattle in August of 2007.  They drew editorial-type cartoonists of what was happening on stage.  It was an experiment that went over well.  They did a great job and we had a fun time.

Here is an example of a gag Matthew and I did about an introductory meeting I had with Marshall Kirkpatrick of Read Write Web.  I had had a second mastectomy in March and just got my new prostheses.  Nobody I knew had seen them yet.  So, yes, I really did ask Marshall this.  It’s a true story.  He was a great sport. J

2008-04-21

I think Microsoft should hire its own cartoonist!  And Google.  And Facebook.  And on and on – for company blogs and newsletters and annual reports and bathroom walls.

If nothing else, doing so will put a human face on the company and make you stay more humble and open to criticism, even if gags are only used internally.  There’s nothing like being forced to laugh at yourself to knock down arrogance barriers.

What if the CEO’s of GM and Ford and Chrysler had had good editorial cartoonists following them around and getting feedback from customers these past several years?!  Hey, we probably wouldn’t have to be bailing them out now!  And that’s no joke.

Cartoons are powerful.  They’ve taken down governments.  Unless you’re a dictator, you should be using them.  Do your company a favor and hire a cartoonist.

Editorial Cartoonists – A Great Example of a Wasted Resource

December 10, 2008

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I lifted this cartoon from my friend Alan Gardner’s blog, The Daily Cartoonist, who relayed it from Politicker.com.  It’s a shot back against a newspaper that brusquely fired their editorial cartoonist after 25 years of service.  Here’s the background story.

I laughed out loud at the depiction of his old employer’s building (and thus the newspaper itself) close to falling to ruin.  And the sentiment that this artist, Brian Duffy –respected by his peers and beloved by his readers – has chosen to view his termination as a bright new beginning is inspiring. 

However, the sad reality is that as he walks off into the sunrise, as so many local editorial cartoonists have been forced to before him, there are few places for him to go.  The collapsing market for local editorial cartoons has not been replaced.  While Duffy is extremely talented and I have no doubts about his ability to create paying gigs for himself, unless something forces change, he will likely never again be a local editorial cartoonist.  At least not fulltime.   

The absurdity of this situation is that while there is not a good market for local editorial cartoons, demand for them by readers has never faltered.  So what’s standing in the way?  As I’ve been arguing for years, the villain is the Internet’s culture of free.

We now have the technology to shift that culture from free to “free plus compensated.”  If you haven’t seen my video which explains all of this, I’ll post it here again.  You’ll have to excuse my delivery…my thyroid cancer treatment these last several weeks has left me feeling like it’s two hours past my bedtime 24 hours a day.  Unfortunately, you can tell that even my mouth feels tired as my tongue is sluggish.  I apologize for that.  Still, I think you’ll get most of what I’m saying if you take the 9 minutes to watch it all.  That’s a major time commitment these days, so I’ll thank you in advance.

As I explain in this video, cartoonists were once treated as economic heroes.  Now they are being discarded like trash.  That’s not only sad, it’s tremendously stupid.  Cartoonists could be generating wealth for a lot of different people, if their skills were being utilized properly. 

The good news is, when I started this blog just ten days ago to attract resources to my plan, I was in need of $250,000.  I already have $50,000 of that now.  Twenty percent is a good start.  If you have a blog, please help me spread the word about Swig by directing people to this blog, as the swig.me site still isn’t finished…oh well, we can only do what we can do.  By the New Year, these months of surgery and treatments will be history, my cancer will be gone, the holiday slowdown will be over and Swig and me both can get our butts moving. J

Here’s the other side of the coin.  If we save print newspapers, editorial cartoonists can come get back to work in print, as well.  Hey, at least this video is shorter. 😉  

 

The Next Calvin and Hobbes vs. The Next Google: 5 Tips

December 5, 2008

calvin-and-hobbes 

In the cartoon world, everybody wishes to create “the next Calvin and Hobbes.”  In the tech world, it’s “the next Google.”  I think each world can learn things from the other that can help you in your efforts as you develop a comic strip or a startup idea.

Being from both worlds, here are my TIPS FOR SUCCESS:

1.  My strip/startup is all about [insert one word].

You need to find the essential human core to whatever it is you’re doing.  Calvin and Hobbes wasn’t fundamentally about a little boy with a big imagination.  It was about friendship.  One word.  Google, obviously, is about search.  Note how much stronger “search” is than “organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible.”

Find your essence.  Make sure it’s a fundamentally human one, and stay focused on it alone during development.  You should be wrapping everything else around it, like characterizations and UI design.  Make it your DNA, not something you try to tack on or discover later.

2.  Don’t be a plagiarist; forget about building a better mouse trap.

When I think about the mountains of money that have been squandered trying to out-Google Google, it makes me want to cry.  Or scream.  If you take “the next [whatever]” literally, you’re bound to fail.  Once anybody has reached the point of being the noun in that phrase, it’s too late to try to compete with them on their playing field with their ball.

Even Calvin and Hobbes’ retirement didn’t open the door to another strip that was like Calvin and Hobbes.  Believe me, tons of people tried.  There were so many C and H knock-offs hitting syndicates and newspapers after Bill Watterson quit the strip that opening the mail became a running joke about “What does Calvin look like today?”  (sometimes Calvin!) and “I haven’t seen a giraffe yet…no wait, here he is.”  Even the few good ones that came through were thrown in the trash.

Google won search years ago.  Let them have it.  Search is not the end-all and be-all of the Internet, despite what you probably think.  It’s dominated the past ten years, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something else that can dominate the next ten.  I guarantee that the next Google will not be about search.

3.  Develop it from the beginning to be mainstream.

I believe that the almost universally accepted strategy of attracting early adopters and then hoping to go mainstream is a big mistake.  You need to understand the mainstream from the beginning and develop to it.

Google wasn’t about attracting early adopters.  They created something that anybody and everybody could enjoy.  Ditto Calvin and Hobbes.

Sure, you can make a lot of money out of the mainstream.  Look at Scott Adams.  He’s become a multimillionaire and good for him.  It’s great success that any cartoonist would be very proud of.  But even Dilbert doesn’t come close to the prestige of Calvin and Hobbes.  And IMO, Facebook, Friendfeed, Twitter, MySpace…none of them can ever hope to match Google’s success, because they were not created from the very beginning to be mainstream.

4.  Know who all your different customers are and design in their various needs.

Almost all cartoonists who would like to get rich in syndication make the mistake of thinking comic strip readers are their primary customers.  They aren’t.  Newspaper editors are.  They’re the ones who buy the comics.  They’re the ones who are the gatekeepers and who supply the compensation.

This is why “we can worry about the business model later” is such a fallacy.  To me, that’s like building the Trump Tower without concern for the need of plumbing or electrical, thinking you can add it in later.

Whether serendipitous or deliberate, advertising is part of Google’s DNA.   If you don’t build in the business model, you don’t have a business much less the next Google.  If you don’t understand the needs and limitations of newspaper editors, even if “end users” would bust a gut laughing over your cartoons, you’ll never have the next Calvin and Hobbes.

5.  Remember that what’s most important is not what you think.

If you gathered people to judge a group of cartoonists’ ability to create a Calvin-and-Hobbes-type success, their criteria would undoubtedly be how well the cartoonist draws.  They would be overly impressed and carried away by great art and underwhelmed by a cartoonist who draws relatively poorly.  And the group would likely pick the wrong guy. 

Sorry, it’s not the art that’s most important.  It’s the writing.

I believe this is why there are so few successes with venture capital.  Non-geeks judging geeks are too impressed by the technology.  Perhaps geeks judging geeks are even worse! 

Sorry, it’s not the technology that’s most important.  It’s the anthropology.

Why is it the writing and the anthropology?  Because it’s people using the product that matters most, and they care about their own desired end result, not whatever it is that brought them to it.  They want the easy laugh.  They want the easily found document.

Scott Adams beat out business cartoonists who can draw much better, because of his superior writing. Twitter is beating more technically sophisticated (and reliable) micro-blogging platforms because of anthropology. 

The next Calvin and Hobbes will be superior in both writing and art.  The next Google will be superior in both technology and anthropology. 

Too bad Silicon Valley only respects the former.  They’ve left the latter to be fallen into by accident.  But that’s okay…it just gives me more opportunity to create the next Google myself. 😉

I hope this helps when developing your own endeavors.  Good luck!

 

Dawn’s Plan: A Success Story

December 4, 2008

 

A few years back, I was editing several cartoonists who were creating comic strips for my own online syndicate called Full Tilt Features, as well as for any other places they wished to put them.  IOW, I never asked for exclusive rights, and many of the cartoonists had their own websites, sold the gags to magazines, submitted the strips for newspaper syndication, and so on.

We had a private forum where we could exchange information, support each other, and just socialize.  One of my cartoonists was a newly retired art teacher named Joe Schmidt.  You might call Joe a character himself.  He loves to talk, and I could always count on Joe for long, joke-laden notes to liven up the forum.

In reading Joe’s posts, it became apparent to me that next to cartooning, RVing was Joe’s passion.  So I suggested that he create a comic strip about RVing.  He did.  Now that comic strip runs regularly in an RV magazine.  He’s also been able to spin it off into other paid workAnd the big news is that he was given this month’s cover!:

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Doesn’t it look great?  Covers don’t happen very often for cartoonists anymore, so it’s a big deal in cartoon circles when somebody lands one.

I’m proud of Joe’s accomplishment, and am gratified by my own tiny contribution to it.

My point of all this is to remind you that success is a lot more likely to come when you incorporate your passions into whatever it is you’re doing.  “Where your heart is, there shall your treasure be.”

This is an important tenet behind my plan to help the economy.  Which do you think would provide more economic growth and more stability over time: great numbers of people working jobs they don’t like, or the same number of people earning a living doing what they love to do?

I would rather be served a peanut butter sandwich by a person who is passionate about peanut butter than an entire steak dinner by somebody who doesn’t like to cook.

As his editor, I can tell you that Joe increased the quality of his strip substantially when he made the change to an RVing theme.  Now, that strip is providing for his material good and also providing pleasure to an audience.

That’s what Swig is all about.  Remember!  SW: Share the Wealth.  IG: Increase the Good.  😉