The State-of-the-Strip Speech

Thursday, January 11, 2007 - 07:50 PM

The tenth week for the new site has come and gone, and that's about as good a time as any to take stock of the new site. We've made it through the site launch, the book launch, the holiday crush of sales and shipping, and the New Year birthday art extravaganza. And now that things are finally calming down, it's a good time to reflect on what's going right with the new site, and what improvements are coming in 2007.

For me, the greatest pleasure of the new site has been the increased interaction with readers...through the blog, the Sheldon forum, and through e-mail. As a cartoonist, you're often operating in a vacuum, sitting at your drawing desk eating M&M's while Radiohead or The Shins play in the background. But with the new site, I'm diving into way more conversations with readers, and really starting to get the sense of a community forming on our forum...and that brings a whole new joy to my cartooning that's really unexpected.

When I moved Sheldon to this independent site, it was for the express purpose of making a living from the strip. And on that front, I'm happy to report that the first ten weeks have provided enough income for four months of living expenses at the ol' Kellett house. Which is amazing to me, as my insecure side was deathly afraid that no one would even follow the strip over from Comics.com. But you did follow the strip, and you ploughed through the archives, and you showed your support at the Sheldon Store. And because of your support, I can continue to create new Sheldon daily strips for readers all over the world. And that is a wonderful thing.

So, with the future looking good, let's review some of the things coming down the pipe in 2007:

1.) Appearances:
So far for 2007, I'll be making four appearances: in Seattle, San Diego, New York, and London. I'm hoping to meet fans in 3-4 more cities, though...so if you're a convention organizer and would like to get a little Sheldon at your event, drop me a line.

2.) Teaching:
It's not 100% firmed up yet, but it looks like I'm finally going to get to use my two Masters degrees in cartooning...lecturing to university students on the art and history of the comic strip. More news on that in the months ahead!

3.) Books:
There will be one, and possibly two, new Sheldon books coming out in 2007. I've always liked the two-book system that newspaper strips use, as you get one in summer, and one just in time for Christmas. But my schedule will be a big roadblock in getting two books out, so I don't want to overpromise on that one. One book, definitely. Two books, hopefully.

4.) How-To's:
One of the things I'd like to put together are some free, downloadable teaching materials for teachers and librarians on the comic strip, on comic strip creation, and on sequential art in general. We all know how much the arts get the shaft in school funding, and I'd like to put together a little pdf day-project that educators could use with the youngin's. Have ideas on that? Drop me a line

5.) Sheldon Street Team:
On a more self-serving note, I'd like to develop a little reward system for Sheldon fans that help spread the word about the strip online, to friends, on their campus, or in their office. This is very much a nascent idea in my noggin, though, so if you have an idea on how it could be implemented, e-mail me.

6.) Paintings:
As I mentioned not to long ago, the oil painting is a go for 2007. The supplies are bought, the easel is ready to go, and now I'm just finishing up my new studio space. Look for pics of finished paintings starting in February.

7.) Strip Transcriptions:
I'll be honest, here: I'm still the logjam in the transcription process. But the good news is, you kind folks continue to plug away at transcribing them. My goal is to have the finished/approved/posted transcriptions up within the first half of 2007. So make sure you hold my feet to the fire on that one...as a fully searchable archive is gonna be awesome.

8.) Caption Contest:
In the not-too-distant future, I'm going to be holding a caption contest for a Sheldon strip, which is something I've never done before...but sort of excited to try. If it goes well, we'll do it once a year. The grand prize will be the completed original art with *your* punchline, and copies of both books. Second place will be a high-five. Third place: a kick in the teeth.

9.) Second Strip:
This is something I'm loathe to talk about until it's actually finished and ready to go, but I'm shooting to start a second strip in 2007. I actually have ideas for two more strips...but there's no way in the world I can do that, so I have to narrow it down between the two. "Which story am I dying to tell more?" is the question I'm struggling with now.

10.) Writing Projects:
My wife and I have been chomping at the bit to start two writing projects, and this year, we're finally going to write them. It's not anything you'll hear about, at least for a couple of years, but it's something we're very excited to get started on.

11.) Full-Time Cartooning:
This last one has me the most electrified: I've given my notice at my job of 8 years, and will finally be going full-bore on my cartooning, starting Feb. 5th. I'll talk more about it as we get closer to the 5th, but for now, just know that it means more time to devote to the strip, the site, and to all the projects that I've listed above. In these last 8 years, Sheldon has been created on the periphery of my life: at night, on weekends, on vacations. But now it will take center stage in my waking hours...and that should be an awesome change.

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But now it's your turn: What have you liked about the strip in 2006? About the site? What would you like to see in 2007? What projects, storylines, merchandise, or grand schemes would you like to see come to pass? Let's talk about it, over at the Sheldon forums.

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