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Ha! I’m a ma-roon! I uploaded the print-ready TIF file rather than the web-ready GIF file for Saturday’s toonage. My apologies for that. It should be all better now on the site.

And for those followin’ along with our Saturday-Serial Storyline, here are the previous installments:



Meet “Squee”

Inspired by Flaco’s linguistic abilities, Sheldonistas Rory and Sherry have named their new pet Zebra Finch “Squee”.

Which is pretty awesome-sauce.

Here’s a picture of the little guy:

Sale: $25-Off Original Art

I’m happy to announce a $25-off sale price for original Sheldon art purchased at San Diego Comic-Con.

Sure, you can still buy your original art online at the Sheldon Store, but if you come by Blank Label Comics’ booth #1330 ( PDF of map) at San Diego Comic-Con, you can pick up that same art…for 25 fewer smackers. That’s a pretty sizable number of smackers!

But! To make sure that the original art you desire is at the convention, drop me an e-mail and let me know which of your favorites to bring!

(Note: this sale price is only good at San Diego Comic-Con.)

Followup: The Artist Bureaucrat

Spring-boarding off my post about The Artist Bureaucrat, my friend and fellow cartoonist Jorge Cham sent me a link to an excellent TED talk by innovation specialist Charles Leadbetter.

Take a few minutes to watch it, it’s an excellent presentation.


Follow-up thought to the follow-up thought: people have got to stop sending me TED talks. It’s like I’m back in High School, watching all the attractive kids go to the cool party — and I’m not allowed to attend.

Only now….um….hold on…this metaphor may not work….the attractive kids are huuuuge nerds…and, um…the cool party is, um, TED.

San Diego WebComicCon

I’m getting pretty excited about the upcoming San Diego Comic-Con. There’ll be con-exclusive Sheldon t-shirts and buttons (announcements soon!), a double-wide booth for myself and my Blank Label Comics cohorts (booth #1330), aaaand, if The Fates are smiling — the new book may arrive on time!

For those planning on coming to the ‘con and dropping by booth #1330, check this out:

Webcomicon 2007

For the first time ever, Webcomics have unified their presence at Comic Con International. “WebComiCon,” the heart of the webcomics action in San Diego, will be found in the middle of Aisle 1300, where some of the top names in webcomics — Abismo/Nerve Bomb, Blank Label Comics, Dayfree Press, Dumbrella, Keenspot, Penny Arcade, PvP, Rooster Teeth and Studio Foglio — will be assembled. With a combined readership best counted in millions, this will be a gathering to remember.

Located in a prime location in Aisle 1300, WebComiCon is a short walk away from DC and Sideshow Collectibles — and just around the corner from the Small Press Pavilion. Download our handy map (PDF) and print it out to guide you along your way.

This centralized location is tailor-made for fans of webcomics who want to see many of their favorite creators in one area. Expect to see all your favorite artists joining up for group sketches, sketch mashups, practical jokes, and a sense of excitement that only comes once a year at the biggest webcomics meetup in the world.

Other webcomics creators can be found in Artist Alley and Small Press, making WebComicCon the center of the ultimate webcomics gathering in the world. Watch Fleen.com for an updated map of all of the webcomics creators in attendance.

Why didn’t I say “Artist Entrepreneur”?

A few folks have e-mailed asking why I didn’t call it an “Artist Entrepreneur”.

Two reasons:

1.) “Entrepreneur” as a concept is bandied about a little too easily, and almost becomes lost in the business-speak of Americana. Besides, an entrepreneur thinks creatively, acts with planned impulse, moves quickly, and is on many levels a risk-taker. But a lot of these attributes are shared by an artistic temperament. What I was looking for was an opposing concept.

2.) “Bureaucrat” is a much-maligned word, but better fits what I was trying to convey. The artist I was trying to describe can not just be a pie-in-the-sky, I-don’t-want-to-think-about-numbers, fax-it-in-to-the-corporation-and-let-them-deal-with-it kind of person. Counter-balancing their artistic side, they have to be like a bureaucrat: a worker of fixed routines; a planner of repeated, steady actions. In essence, a steady worker-bee.

The Artist Bureaucrat

Today, DC Comics (home of Superman, Batman, and 3,500 lesser-known “-mans”) announced they’ll be dipping a toe online…and getting into webcomics. (The lengthy, breathy announcement can be read here.) The short of it is, DC is offering comics creators an American Idol-esque chance at getting their creation signed onto a new, online, DC contract. Tellingly, no amounts are promised: it is the DC name that’s being dangled, rather than the beer-n-pizza money which will no doubt result for the “winning” creator.

Even though this announcement mainly speaks to the current, panicked state of print superhero comics, and the resulting editorial decision to try to find something…please Lord….anything that could click with today’s audiences, DC’s move also represents a broader trend among print-based syndicates/publishers/distributors.

The trend I’m talking about can be seen in today’s NY Times article on the subject. In one paragraph, you can see a particularly revealing — but unsurprising — corporate admission: this online push is more about snatching up (early, nascent) works for later exploitation in other, bigger media:

“The company, a division of the Warner Brothers Entertainment, part of Time Warner, views the initiative as a chance to increase its library of intellectual properties, which can be lucrative as films, television shows and toys. DC Comics will also have the right to print the comics in collected editions.”

Short version: We can no longer make enough money in print to make this work, from a corporate standpoint. Our only hope is to snatch up the rights to 10,000 creations, in the hopes that we can turn one of them into a three-picture deal.

That’s painful to see, as a lover of comics as comics. But for a company like DC, which has to pay two marketing guys, three saleswomen, a licensing gal, three lawyers, four secretaries, a VP of finance, and a janitorial staff…they’re essentially admitting that printed comics don’t pay the bills anymore. They only work as a loss-leader for securing that three-picture deal or a contract with Electronic Arts.


A lot has been written about Andrew Keen’s new book “The Cult of the Amateur: How The Internet is Killing Our Culture”, about the dangers of free, online content — where every amateur and creator has a voice, and where paid, professional journalists and content specialists no longer have the economic underpinnings to compete against their “free”, online competition. Keen’s argument is that this free, user-created or repurposed content will create a dumbing down of news reporting, a diminishment of TV and movie budgets, and the removal of economic incentives for creative work and long-term reporting that take significant time and investment.

For journalism, I think the crux of Keen’s argument might have some merit (wrapped as it may be in a dash of paranoia)…but I’m far, far less concerned about the creative world. And DC’s announcement today is why. Online, the creative world of comics is flourishing in ways not seen for decades. DC’s move is an acknowledgement that the submissions they’re vetting — that the whole print medium they’re vetting — may not be as compelling as what’s being read online. Genres, subgenres, and entirely new voices are breaking out. But the twist of it — and where a lot of media critics like Keen get it wrong — is that no mass-market hits are being created. And that confuses the heck out of them. After 60+ years of post-war, mass-market, gen-u-ine hit-making… media analysts don’t know how to quantify that…so the pros making a living online end of getting lumped in with the 13-year old posting his comics on a free-hosting site. We are all, apparently, the Cult of the Amateur.

And that’s where the discussion consistently goes off course, I think: the assumption that the removal of a corporation from the process removes the “expert” status of the creator. Am I less of an “expert” on comic strips, because I left the auspices of United Media syndicate? Do my two Masters degrees in the art and history of cartooning suddenly become worthless? My 12 years of daily cartooning go out the window? The quality of my work diminished? No. Not at all. But a lot of Keen’s book will tell you that I’m now in this amateur class of creators.

Here’s the truth of it: the removal of a corporation doesn’t remove my “expert” status, nor make me less of a creator….it only removes my hit-making ability. Sheldon will never have the reach of Dilbert, and that’s the bottom line. It will never have the marketing and sales muscle to get in front of 10,000,000 people. If anything, I’m closer to the busker playing guitar in the metro station than to Stephen King — as I lack the support staff of 78 corporate employees to implement “synergies” and Burger King toys to get Sheldon more eyeballs. But the quality of the work, the professionalism with which I approach it, and the consistency upon which you can rely for decades to come…none of that has changed. And for the tens of thousands of people who read the strip everyday…Sheldon is just as much an “expertly” created strip as the one brought to them via their metro paper or a globe-spanning media corporation.

So, regardless of what “The Cult of the Amateur” might say, creators like those behind PvP, Unshelved, Girl Genius, Goats, and Schlock Mercenary are experts in their field. They are professionals, making a living from their work. They just do it on a different scale than a lot of media analysts are used to. A scale that may not support a corporate overhead — but which supports the creator themselves.

What that creates is the rise of the Artist Bureaucrat. These are the artists who run their own ships — from the editorial, to the sales, to the pr, to the production, to the fulfillment. They are solely responsible not only for the artistic vision of their creations — but for bringing it to market with all the tasks that that entails. (…”Real Artists Ship”, as Steve Jobs once said.) It’s a lot of work, and a lot of mastering fields and specialties you didn’t know before. But the payoff is…we don’t need things like DC Comics’ terrible, terrible, terrible online contract.

I’m smiling about that. I’m happy to be in “The Cult of the Artist Bureaucrat”.

Monday! Back in the office!

If you’re just returnin’ to the office on Monday, give yourself another five minutes of non-work, and check out the last few days of strips — especially Saturday and Sunday’s strips. I done drawed ’em real gud.

News From The Head Office: Starslip Book!

As you probably know, my favorite strip for a good two years now has been Starslip Crisis, by my brother-from-another-mother, Kris Straub. It’s a hilarious, intelligent, action-packed sci-fi strip that takes place in an art museum housed in a former (but recently recommissioned!) battleship. There’s layers upon layers of great story-telling in the strip, and if you’re a Sheldon reader and sci-fi fan, I think you’ll really dig it.

And for those already enjoyin’ the strip — and for those willing to trust my opinion — I come bearing good news! There’s a new book collection for the strip that gathers the entire run in one go:

So support good comics! Pick up the book today, here!