There's been much hand wringing in the cartoon world the past few weeks. Village Voice Media, publisher of many alternative weekly newspapers, has "temporarily" suspended publishing comics in all its papers due to shrinking budgets.
Max Cannon goes so far to suggest that the comics in the alt weeklies might disappear altogether, even from the internet, because, ya know, these website with comics aren't making any money!While I sympathize with the plight of cartoonists not making enough money, I find it hard to believe an artist is going to stop making art simply because there's not enough cash involved.
Tom Tomorrow gives a brief history of alt weekly cartooning.
Matt Bors has an interview with Kevin Allman, editor of The Gambit, an alt-weekly out of New Orleans.
The newspaper industry overall, both the daily and weekly "alternative" press, is in a state of total panic right now. 2008 was the worst year I've ever had, with desperate editors cutting cartoons right and left. Dailies, for all the suicidal moves they have made, at least aren't axing cartoons. They run wretched ones, to be sure, but they recognize how vital comics are. I believe Weeklies should be ADDING features and content, especially cartoons, which are both popular and inexpensive. Instead the strategy seems to be "let's give our readers LESS to read!" Yeah. Wonder how that will work out?
What makes this even more of a blow, is VVM will apparently continue to run the ubiquitious sex-advice-astrologly features that appear in virtually every weekly. It's mostly the cartoons that are being tossed off the back of the bus. Me? I'll produce THE CITY for as long as I can. I'm determined to make it to the 20-year mark, just for my own sense of accomplishment. That will be May 2010. Beyond that, who knows. If it makes sense to continue, I will. If not, then I'll close it down and toddle off to do graphic novels.
My own experience with the "industry" is on a much smaller, local scale. I started drawing editorial cartoons for The Daily Iowan in the Fall of 2002. They printed one or two a week, I wasn't paid alot, but it was something. I brought the same cartoons to The Iowa City Press-Citizen, and they started printing some, but they didn't pay. Not even a nominal fee. It was a "we're giving you exposure" gig that I did with an eye down the road, maybe somebody sees it and it gets picked up for syndication, I get rich and live happily ever after. With limited success, I did a little cartooning for Iowa City's "alt- monthly", The Little Village .( They changed publishers, I should drop them a line)
The Daily Iowan didn't like my cartoons on their pages also showing up on the pages of The Press-Citizen, so I was given an ultimatum. The Daily Iowan forced me to choose between the two papers, even though I was technically "freelancing". I went with the Daily Iowan because they were paying, but with the stipulation that I was a "staff cartoonist".
What I really wanted to do was a daily strip. The Daily Iowan is a college newspaper, and if you thought "what better venue for a local cartoonist to start a new comic strip than a college paper, especially when he's a staff cartoonist at the college paper!", you'd be dead fucking wrong. The paper ran Doonesbury, Non-Sequitor, Dilbert. I argued, quite logically, "why are you printing those comics when they also appear in The Press-Citizen? You don't want my cartoons appearing in both papers. Why don't you drop one of them and print my strip?"
I even did mock up pages and re-arranged all the content (horoscopes,crossword, etc.) so that nothing was dropped, but space was there for my strip. The editor in charge, on what I believe to be the advice of faculty advisors, refused to even consider the possibility. She wanted The Daily Iowan "Daily Break" page to look like every other lame ass daily newspaper in the country, so when she goes to get a job at one of them (good luck with that), she can show them copies of the Daily Iowan and say "See, my lame ass paper looks just like yours! Hire me!"
So I quit The Daily Iowan and started Zencomix.