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Photos from the ECCC Talk

My buddy Brad has posted some photos that “About.com” took at our ECCC talk. There are a few good ‘uns in there.

We had a great crowd for the talk — thank you to all those that came out. I was told after the show closed that we had one of the bigger audiences for the weekend. I’m always terrible as guesstimating crowd sizes. According to my brain’s spatial estimate…coulda been five people, coulda been five thousand.

So let’s just use some arbitrary unit measure and say it was “207 cubits of people”.

A Note for the British Sheldonistas…

This is a story that might only be appreciated by the Brits among us.

We went out to dinner Saturday night at one of those frou-frou restaurants where every dish contains “gruyere” or “arugula” or uses “clean forks.”


Anyway, when they showed us the dessert menu, my wife and I picked out an overly-described chocolate dish that sounded as though it was made in a 19-step, 2-day process. You know the type of restaurant description I mean: “Hand-massaged cocoa beans shaved onto a jellied bed of chocolate pudding, surrounded by a chef-kissed bed of roses…(etc., etc.)”

But when they brought it out – and this is the part the Brits will like — it was basically just “Angel Delight”.

Nuthin’ fancy about it. Just ninety-eight pence, Sainsbury’s-bought “Angel Delight”. Which, in a way, was awesome… since I haven’t had “Angel Delight” since I lived in England. But, considering that it was described as though it were the magnum opus of desserts…it made us laugh.

Sold Out!

I have some really cool news to share with you guys: The Image Comics book I co-authored with Brad,
and Scott — “How To Make Webcomics” — looks like it’s sold out! There are 100 or so copies left in the Sheldon Store, and apparently the distributor and publisher are down to their last copies as well! Which is amazing, as it’s only been out on the market for three months.

This book was a real labor of love for the four of us. A labor of love because…to be honest, we weren’t sure we’d sell all that many. But we’re cartoonists who genuinely, genuinely love the craft of cartooning, and recognize that the artform is in a changing state at the moment. Newsprint is slowly but inexorably dying, and to a great many cartoonists, the Web holds out little or no hope to replace it.

But here’s the beauty of cartooning: It is an amazing, amazing artform… an artform that has already outlasted many a change in print, distribution, audiences, and economic models. It has weathered the change from individually-sold “subscriptions” in Hogarth and Gilray’s 18th-Century prints, it has survived the death of once-massively-popular 19th- and 20th-Century periodicals such as “Punch” and “Saturday Evening Post”, and it will, I’m happy to report, survive the death of newspapers.

In America, the comic strip and comic panel have been so tied to newsprint that many cartoonists have trouble separating it from the past 100 years of newsprint success. And there’s no disputing that, in these last 100 years, comic strip print syndication has worked like magic: It has generated huge audiences, and equally huge careers and incomes for cartoonists like Capp, Kelly, McManus, Schulz, Davis, Trudeau, Johnston, Adams (…the list goes on and on). But here’s the crux of the problem: The core, fundamental product that a newspaper delivers, the “news,” is now beat to market by an infinitely faster, more efficient system. The basic function of delivering “news” (a term originally coined in English to represent “the new”) now gives you the less-new news.

Tie that to the fact that newspaper audience sizes, ad rates, and income from classifieds are all trending downward, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what will happen to newspapers. They are going away. That’s not me being hyperbolic: I’m not saying they’ll all disappear completely. Newsprint will survive in some fashion, just as radio survived by transmogrifying into an all-music format. But for comics — and this is key — for comics, the fundamental economic and distribution system which made them possible within newspapers — that of print syndication — will assuredly fail. It will fail because syndication relied on the existence of many and directly-competing newspapers, of which there are fewer each passing year. Yes, newspapers will survive in some format, somehow, somewhere. But print syndication will not survive in a way that works for comic strips and panels. Sadly, it’s already largely failing for them.

So it’s understandable that newspaper cartooning should be despondent. By the measure of the corporations that distributed, printed and profited from comics in the past…the print syndication model is unsalvageable, going forward. And there is no large-scale, corporate Web model on the horizon to replace it.

But just because that large-scale model is failing, doesn’t mean that cartooning — or careers in cartooning — are doomed to fail as well. My friends, cartooning is not only surviving… it is flourishing on the Web. Like a forest floor after a massive fire… a huge number of unique, compelling strips are popping up all over the place! Look at Achewood, Copper, Kukuburi, Diesel Sweeties, Dinosaur Comics, xkcd, Penny Arcade, Dr. McNinja, Girl Genius, Goats, Octopus Pie, Scary Go Round, or Wondermark! These are amazing, variegated displays of comic artistry. The likes of which I guarantee you have not seen in your local paper. And they’re just a sampling of the variety I could list out if I had an hour.

And over the last 10 years, I’ve seen two-to-four dozen Webcomics go from hobbies to part-time jobs, and from part-time jobs to full-time careers. I’d even hazard to say that more careers have been created in Webcomics over the last 10 years than all three major syndicates combined. Which, for a nascent comics distribution system, is pretty amazing.

And it’s a big part of why we wrote this book: It was our attempt to take all our mistakes, failed attempts, lessons learned, and course corrections from the last decade of experimentation and hand ’em to the next generation of cartoonists. To help others learn from and hopefully leapfrog our mistakes. To show them what works, what works well, and what works really well. And, gratifyingly, the book really seems to have resonated!

We were so happy to hear at Emerald City ComicCon how the book has really filled a need for cartoonists and illustrators. And, surprising to us, even musicians, painters, sculptors and artists who work online. (…that, we assuredly did NOT expect!)

So a huge ‘thank you!’ to everyone who picked up a copy, or who e-mailed the four of us with (no joke) far kinder messages than I ever received even for Sheldon. It’s exciting for me, as a cartoonist, to see the small and large impacts the book is already having for artists all over the world. It’s one of the most gratifying things I’ve ever done.

[EDITED: I should’ve mentioned… it looks like we’ll be going into a second printing, though I don’t know the dates ‘n times. Fingers crossed, the second printing will be out by San Diego Comic-Con.]

Contacts Update

Quick update on the contact front: You may remember that it took me 2.5 hours to get the diggity-dang things in, the first time I tried in my doctor’s office.

Now? Gettin’ ’em in on the first try.


Take that, brain, and your once-impossibly-strong inability to learn a basic task because of a stupid eye-touching phobia.

For those keeping score, that’s Dave: 1, Dave’s Brain: 0.

Haters be all hatin’…

I found this to be a fun little shot-in-the-arm, today, and thought I’d pass it along. It’s a brief YouTube video listing famous historical figures, and how each was, at one point in their life, told they’d amount to nothing.

After watching this, though, I kinda fear that I’ll be included in a similar video, 30 years from now, with the voice over: “Was told that it was physically impossible to eat six pounds of Oreos in one sitting: Dave Kellett.”

More Pics from Emerald City Comic-Con

Spotted on other’s Flickr pages…I thought I’d share more pics from Emerald City Comic-Con:

Pics of the Sheldon books at the ol’ Halfpixel booth

Pics of my three Halfpixel friends (I’m seated, and am apparently “free”)

Halfpixel’s “How To Make Webcomics” talk

Another one from the panel talk

Me, signin’ away…with a fantastic bumpkin expression on my face

Every time we signed “How To Make Webcomics”, we did an author’s one-upmanship. All of them were non sequitors, and ridiculous.

Emerald City Comic-Con

Seattle’s Emerald City Comic-Con, having come and gone like some magical fairy-tale ride of high-fives, is left now only to memory. I have to say, it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had at any single convention…and that’s sayin’ something.

Huge, huge thanks to the many hundreds of Sheldonistas who came out for the show, of whom I remembered to snap pics of but a few dozen (Click the thumbnails to see accompanying commentary). You guys made this show a whirlwind of awesomeness for me, and really made me feel at home in Seattle. Thank you for that!

Thanks, also, to the convention organizers, who had invited me out as a “Guest of House”, but who in fact made me feel like a King o’ the House, what with the bedside, single-touch, window-shade switch in my hotel room. Nothing says “You live in a Fancy, Buck Rogers Future like a bedside, single-touch, window-shade switch.” I am clearly a child, as I hit that switch a good six times, just to watch it go.

Special thanks also go out to Wil Shipley for throwing an awesome dinner party on Saturday night to honor the cartoonists behind Sheldon, Starslip, PvP, Evil Inc, and Penny Arcade. In addition to being an awesome developer, Wil throws one heck of a shindig. Thanks, Wil!

Based solely on the content of our strips, I never thought I and the Penny Arcade guys could muster more than a suspicious glance at one another. Two strips have never been less alike, and my social radar had just assumed we’d have nothing in common. But at Saturday’s soiree, Jerry and I had a great talk about fatherhood — and I have to say he’s a solid dude all around.

Lastly, my apologies to all the Sheldonistas who came out on Sunday and couldn’t get a book: We sold out of all our stock around 11:30 on Sunday morning…and the best I could do was supplement with hugs and well wishes. (Which, I think it’s fair to say, did NOT compensate.) Rest assured, though, that I am now duly warned about the level of Sheldon fandom in the Northwest, and will ship a few hundred extra books up the next time I go to Emerald City!

But overall: The weather was perfect, the Sheldonistas were more than awesome, the laughter of my Halfpixel stablemates was infectious, and the overall convention was just radness personified.

Thank you, again, to all who came out!

Added Appearance: Book Expo America, June 1st

Just a quick heads up for anyone attending the huuuuuge Book Expo America: I’ll be there Sunday, June 1st… giving out free sketches, high-fiving, and selling books and originals to Sheldonistas.

It’s my first time at BEA, so I’m sort of curious to see how it goes…see if it’s something I should exhibit at in the future. There are four, soon to be five Sheldon books — plus the “How To Make Webcomics” book — so events like BEA might be a good fit.

In any case, I’ll be there at the kind invite of my friends at Unshelved, signin’ and sellin’ and sayin’ hi. Drop by: Sunday afternoon at the Unshelved booth!

How Can We Sexy Up Uncle Ben’s Rice?

I love it when people crack open their laptops on a flight in order to tinker with the Powerpoint presentation they’re giving the next day.

The guy next to me, on my flight back from Seattle, clearly worked in the marketing department for Uncle Ben’s Rice. And he had, I kid you not, a Powerpoint slide with the headline: “Adding Sexiness to Uncle Ben’s”.

Clearly, I need to fly more. I would be a much funnier cartoonist if I got to read more marketing presentations like that. And if you’ve ever worked in corporate America, you know exactly what marketing presentations I’m talking about:

— “Tidy Bowl Toilet Cleaner: Hidden Youth-Oriented Trend Opportunities?”

— “Increase John Deere’s Q3 Tractor Earnings by Synergizing Corporate Myspace Page?”

— “Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks: 2009 Strategy to ‘Own’ the Phrase ‘They’re The Fish Stickiest!'”

(Related sidenote: How *do* you add sexiness to Uncle Ben’s? That poor marketing team is fighting a pretty uphill battle.)

Andrés Segovia

Every few months, I get into a real Andrés Segovia mood, and just put his albums on a continuous 5-hour loop while I cartoon. But I’d never actually *seen* him play until, on a whim, I searched for him on YouTube today.

Check him out playing “Leyenda”. He makes that song look easy. My God but it’s amazing to see a true master at work.