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Jun 19, 2024
Jun 19, 2024

From the mailbag…

Thanks again to everyone who has been spreading the word about the site move. I got a good three dozen emails on Sunday from folks who had just “discovered” the site from various links — and it was great to read the excitement in their tone. Some folks seem particularly excited about the RSS feed, some about the larger strip sizes that load faster than Comics.com…but most everybody seems to be excited about the six years of strip archives.

And I can tell not just from the e-mails, but from the site logs. In the first five days of operation, the site has logged in the ballpark of 2.5 million pageviews(!) as folks churn through the free archives. I mean, I assume it’s “folks”…it could just be my mom reading the archives over and over again. And if it is, she’ll tire out sooner or later…she can’t keep up that pace.

Amid all the e-mails, a few questions keep coming up, so I thought it would be best to answer them all at once:

1.) Why are Sheldons still appearing at Comics.com? The answer is that some Sheldon readers paid through November to get Sheldon via Comics.com, and the right thing to do is to get them what they paid for.

2.) When will the free, daily deliveries of “Sheldon by E-mail” start? I signed up, but it hasn’t arrived yet. This is the result mostly of an overburdened cartoonist, and I apologize. Dumbrella Hosting has everything in place and ready to go with the free, daily Sheldon deliveries, but I need to tweak a few things in the e-mail’s “design”. My goal is to have the daily e-mails going out by the end of the week. But go ahead and sign up now, and you’ll be rarin’ to go when the first one is sent out.

3.) When do pre-orders start on the second Sheldon book? Either at the end of this week, or the beginning of next week. More news on that in the next few days.

4.) Why do birds, suddenly appear? Everytime, you are near? I believe it’s because just like me, they long to be…close to you.

Thanks all, for continuing to get the word out about the site move. High fives all around.

Strip Transcriptions / Haircut Tipping

Thank you to everyone who has been transcribing Sheldon strips. We have about 1/8th of the strips done, and so far the results are looking good.

If you haven’t tried it yet, why not join in on the patented Good Times®?

Under every strip in the Sheldon archive is the text “Information for this strip has not yet been entered. Transcribe this strip.” Click that link, and it’ll take you to the Sheldon-o-matic Auto-Fabulous Transcription System®, where you can capture the magic of each strip in text form!

This’ll let you search for punchlines, characters, and favorite strips. (For example: you can now see how many times I’ve used the word dude in Sheldon.


Here are a couple of tips when you transcribe:

1.) Use sentence case when transcribing dialogue, not Title Case or ALL CAPS.

2.) Don’t go overboard in listing props or attributes. As a general rule, just list the props and attributes that someone would ever want/need to search for, or which play a key part in the strip itself.

3.) Proofread your strip one last time before you submit it.


Next, we need to talk about “haircut tipping”. Everyone has their own preferred percentage in restuarant tipping, so we can skip over that. I know friends that think anything above 10% is absurd, and others who think that anything less that 20% is like going out to lunch with Ebeneezer Scrooge. So let’s leave all that aside and get to the trickiest tipping of all: Haircuts. What’s the verdict on this one?

‘Cause I have no clue. I just tend to grab whatever receipts and random scraps of paper I have in my wallet and awkwardly thrust them toward the person while mumbling something along the lines of “Chip-chip, old bean…”

…Is it 10%?

Zis Out-a-rage

Is it wrong that the first thing I thought of, when I read about the wine-smelling robot, was “Oh man, the poor French”?

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the hand-wringing going on in France — a general sense of national malaise and pessimism that’s being called “Declinism”. Dozens of books have been written for the French market, lamenting the current status and future direction of the country.

And when I read about a little 12″-tall Japanese robot that can recommend an awesome cheese to go with your pinot, it just seemed like the straw to break the camel’s back.

But before I sound too high-fallutin’ about the reasons why I do a particular cartoon, I need to be honest: The real reason I drew today’s strip is…it’s just fun to write for French accents. Saying “out-a-rage” just the right way in your head can keep you chuckling for a solid 10 minutes.

At least, it did for me.


Oh, and in case you liked today’s strip, here’s another past favorite on France.

A Few Quick Notes

My last few posts have been pretty long-winded, so today’s will be a few, short bursts:

1. It made me so nervous when Comics.com edited out my notice to Sheldon readers, telling them that the strip was moving. My huge fear was (and still is) that thousands of readers wouldn’t be able to find the strip in the move. But thanks to readers, bloggers, and other cartoonists, you’re helping get the word out that the strip has moved. Thank you for your help!
2. The book sale ends Friday at midnight. So if you’ve been digging the strip, get the book today and save six smackers.
3. Got a lot of e-mail regarding the TV show “Heroes” yesterday, so I thought this would be the perfect time to plug fellow Blank Label-cartoonist and three-time-arm-wrestling champ, Brad Guigar. Brad’s strip, Evil, Inc., chronicles a corporation run by and for super-villains, Cause You Can Do More Evil, If You Do It Legal™. It’s a great concept, whether or not you’re a comic book reader. Here’s a good storyline to start with.
4. Another sci-fi, TV-related joke today? I know, I know…that’s two in a row. But Mr. Tivo and I have been getting acquainted in those rare, free moments. And unfortunately, Mr. Tivo has been recording a lot of great sci-fi lately.
5. Mr. Tivo and I have a love-hate relationship.

2 Days…850,000+ Pageviews!

Good Lord ‘n Butter! You folks have been reading the site at a HUGE rate, and giving the servers a thorough drubbing. Thank you for that! On day one, you read 400,000 pages of the site, crashed the BLC adservers twice, and kept clicking for more…450,000 more the next day! Please be careful: support like that makes a cartoonist feel like he made the right choice in bringing his strip indy. 🙂

All the site hiccups have pretty much been fixed, so let’s turn to the fun stuff: the cool new features that sheldoncomics.com has to offer!

1.) Random Strip: Have you tried the “random” button, directly below the comic? Lord how I love this thing. If you’re killing time between classes or before that 12:30 meeting, this is the perfect way to get in a little burst of entertainment. It’s strangely addicting, too.

2.) Send to a Friend: Found the perfect strip for your cousin/friend/cat trainer, and wish you could share it with them? Send it, along with a personalized note, just by filling out the send-to-a-friend “napkin” below the strip. (It’s also a great way to introduce folks to the strip. Send ‘em your favorite strip, and get ‘em hooked!)

3.) Strip Search: Do you have one strip or punchline that you absolutely love, and wish you could read right now? Search for it, using this feature!

4.) Strip Transcriptions: The new site features all 1500+ strips. Of these, only about 1/10th have had their dialogue transcribed so that they’re searchable. You can help, by transcribing strips, using these handy-dandy instructions. It’s fun, too!

5.) Sheldon by E-mail: If you love your daily Sheldon, but can’t get to the site every day, why not let us e-mail it to you? Just fill out the yellow post-it note [above] with your e-mail, and you’re all signed up. We’ll be starting this free service next week, but sign up now so you don’t forget!

6.) Original Art: If you’ve ever wished you could buy the original art to your favorite Sheldon strip, now it’s super easy. Just click the text “Buy Today’s Original Art”, located under the strip you want, and bam, you own an original!

7.) Have you checked out the 6 years of archives?
All the extras on the site? The strip intro? The funniest video on YouTube? Click around…and check ‘em out!

Ooo…also…regarding today’s strip on “Heroes”. Heroes is a show that I completely dig, and which has me inescapably hooked.

Week to week, it’s consistently one of the most entertaining on TV, and is a master of the unexpected cliff-hanger or end-of-show reveal. And until it turns into this season’s “Lost” (and begins to metaphorically meander around the house in slippers, looking for it’s teeth), I’ll be a solid fan. But it is what it is: a blatant X-Men ripoff.

And I have no problem with that, per se. Shakespeare lifted from the Decameron, after all…creative “reimagining” isn’t new. But what does make me chuckle is chatting with folks who never read X-Men — or who have never been introduced to the broader Marvel idea of the “persecuted mutant” — and who think Heroes is the most brilliant concept ever birthed upon the world.

I tell ‘em…“Small Wonder”. Now THERE was a show that broke creative ground.


PS: The beta-test at the Sheldon store ends tomorrow, so make sure to get your purchase in. And remember: when you treat yourself at the Sheldon store, you’re directly supporting the strip you love. So grab yourself a copy of “Pure Ducky Goodness” at $6 off: it’s the perfect time to show the love.

Day Two: Electric Boogaloo

Thank you to everyone who e-mailed or posted with kind words about the move to these new digs. I didn’t realize just how much some of you despised the pop-ups, site design, and limited archives at comics.com…or I would’ve left ages ago.

But forget about the old stuff, let’s talk about the new stuff!

1.) STORE SALE: To test out our new packing-and-shipping procedures, we’re having a $6-off sale on PURE DUCKY GOODNESS

That price is the lowest it’s gonna go before the holidays, and it only lasts until Friday…so get your copy on the cheap before it returns to the normal price.

2.) BREAKING THINGS IS GOOD NEWS: On day one, the volume of folks plowing through the Sheldon archives broke the Blank Label adservers. That’s a good thing! A really good thing! The BLC ad system regularly serves ads to 20 million + webpages a month…so you did good by breaking it in one day! Thanks for loving the strip as much as you do — that means a lot to me.

3.) SITE HICCUPS: We’re fixing all the little hiccups from day one, but do let me know if you find anything that looks out of place.

4.) PLEASE KEEP SPREADING THE WORD: You may have heard that Comics.com edited out my notice to Sheldon readers, telling them that Sheldon was moving. That could mean thousands of Sheldon readers can’t find the strip in the move. Please don’t let this happen. Help get the word out by posting on your blog, your site, and your favorite bulletin boards, telling folks that Sheldon is now out https://sheldoncomics.com.

Trust me, your help can make a difference.

And more than anything else, thank you. Thanks for the kind words, thanks for sticking with the strip through the move, and thanks for being such exceptionally hip and attractive people.


PS: Sale! Woo-hoo!

The New Site

Welcome to the new Sheldon site!

I haven’t been this excited in a long time – and based on the e-mails and posts I’ve been getting from Sheldon readers – you folks are, too. The new site is finally here! And with it, Sheldon is casting off the archive limitations, pop-ups, slow-loading times, and small-strip sizes that we’ve all come to dislike at the syndicate.

Instead, you’ll be getting:

– Free access to 5+ years of Sheldon strip archives
– Larger-sized Sunday and daily comics than previously
– Faster loading times than previously
– Free daily delivery of Sheldon by e-mail
– Free RSS feed
– Free “Send This Strip to a Friend” feature
– “Jump to a Random Strip” feature
– Ability to search the archives by dialogue, punchline and more
– No pop-up/pop-under ads
– Daily blog
– Direct links to the Sheldon forum, store, new featurettes, and more

The site design is meant to represent the organized clutter of a cartoonist’s desk and, like any new site – will undoubtedly have it’s lovers and it’s detractors. Give it a few days before you take a firm stand, to see if it does or doesn’t grow on you. Personally, I love it, and can’t say enough nice things about it’s designer, Kris Straub. He’s good people.

I also can’t say enough good things about the folks at Dumbrella Hosting, who are responsible for all the cool features above. Professionalism, thy name is “Dumbrella Hosting”.

And, lest they be forgotten, to the dozens of web cartoonists who have inspired me in these past few years: strips like PvP, P-A, Unshelved, Goats, Dinosaur Comics, Achewood, Overcompensating, and most especially my compadres-in-arms at Blank Label Comics. Cartoonists like these have shown a traditionalist hold-out like myself what’s possible when you take the reins of your own creation, and I thank them for it.

So, why the move first to comics.com…and then away from it?

It’s simple, really. For me, newsprint had always been the promised land. I’m part of that last generation of cartoonists who grew up reading newspapers. For us, newspapers still exhibited some unquantifiable siren-song, even though I knew logically that the industry was shrinking, and that younger readers were abandoning it in droves.

Despite all that, I wanted to see Sheldon in print. And in a different age, when newspapers were still the hard-charging, competitive businesses
they used to be, the strip *might* have launched. But for a long while
now, it’s been clear that syndication just wasn’t going to happen, and
that even if it did, that the money would not be strong enough to live
off of. On that point, I’m not naive: the money from syndication has never been good
in my professional lifetime. In fact, from everyone I’ve talked to, recent years have shown it to be increasingly difficult for new strips to gain a foothold. I haven’t heard
of a single new cartoonist, syndicated since 2000, who has been able to
make their sole living off their strip. Not one. And let me tell you, as a lover of the artform, I desperately WANT that statistic to be wrong. (…and if you’re a cartoonist making their living from your first, syndicated-after-2000 strip, please e-mail me. I want nothing more than to be wrong, here.) But sadly, in an age where a beautifully drafted strip like Franklin Fibbs only gets into 12 papers…it doesn’t surprise me. The market overall is in frenetic retrenchment mode as continued year-over-year drops in readership and ad revenue batter newspapers.

Am I saying that no new newspaper strips will ever bring their creator a full-time living? Certainly not. I’m sure there will be 3-5 more strips that can achieve that. But newspapers are on the cusp of an exponential-curve of declining readership and advertising. When the reading vision of the Baby Boom generation starts to go in 5-10 years, newspapers will be decimated. The younger generations will never replace the audience that’s being lost.

Syndicates already know that. Even more, they’re preparing their business for it. As one editor (for a different syndicate) told me just a few weeks ago: his corporation knows that newspapers are experiencing a 5% annual decline, and that the industry can probably only support buying their strips for 5-10 years more. That’s why, in his words, his syndicate is positioning itself more as a “talent agency” – a la William Morris or CAA – selling their creators’ works across multiple mediums.

Will it work for them? I don’t know. As the husband of a TV writer: I’d much rather sign up for William Morris’ 10% agent fee than a syndicate’s traditional 50% fee. Especially if syndicates are going to be replicating the services of a traditional talent agency.

Where once I might have been sad about the death of print, the growth of webcomics has me incredibly optimistic. Creators are taking full control of their businesses, establishing direct ties with their readers, and making a living doing both. Comic strips have already shown themselves to be very popular online, as everyone knows. And among that popularity, it’s also increasingly clear that cartoonists don’t “need” a syndicate when working in this different
medium: with the cost of creating and distributing strips trending toward zero, and online gross income leveling at a modest level for most, a few-person operation is actually preferrable to being tied to a corporate entity. Syndicates may, in some ways, be a hindrance to the viral growth of a comic strip: their sites lack the blogs, the forums, and all the touches of personlized web use that’s spawned 6 million YouTube videos, 50 million blogs, and 100 million MySpace pages.

And so,I’m taking the reins on Sheldon once again…with a helluva lot of excitement.

And in the next few days, I’ll be talking about the new stuff coming down the pipe for the strip, such as the second book collection (…just two weeks away!), upcoming appearances at the Charles Schulz museum, and more.

But in the meantime, I want to hear your thoughts on the move, the new site, and the future of Sheldon. Let’s hear what you have to say!


PS: Don’t forget to spread the word about the new URL: https://sheldoncomics.com

The Silmarillion

…I’ve actually started this book 3-4 times, and never got past the creation cycle at any attempt.

If you’ve read all the way through it, my heartiest congratulations: you’ve reached a level of nerdery to which I can only aspire.