After nearly two years of debilitating cuts, the community of alternative-weekly cartoonists suffered another setback when Village Voice Media (VVM) suspended publication of all comic strips.
This is a devastating blow to cartoonists such as Max Cannon, Tom Tomorrow, Jen Sorensen, Derf, Lloyd Dangle and others. They see this as the beginning of the end of their industry, or so they say on their various blogs and message boards.
Derf (creator of “The City”) wrote, “We have reached the apocalyptic final struggle for the future of cartoons.” Tom Tomorrow (“This Modern World,” which can be found in CityBeat) has been commenting on what he perceives as a general lack of appreciation for alt-weekly cartoonists: “The only way cartoonists could get even less respect would be if we presented our work in the form of handmade knit doilies thrust upon random strangers on the street.”
And then there's Max Cannon (“Red Meat”), who wrote the central essay of the debate. It's an open letter called “The Alternative Comic Apocalypse Has Begun,” which starts with Cannon complaining that he has “slaved for many years” to bring us his comic strips.
Now, I love alt-comics as much as the next guy, but, really, Tom Tomorrow, you don't get no respect? Let me see if I can't find a waah-kerchief for you to bawl into. And Max, dude, did you actually say that you “slaved” over your work? Are you for real? You're not picking cotton under a blazing Mississippi sun, man. You're not digging ditches in pools of raw sewage. You draw cartoons. If cartoon-drawing is anything like column-writing, you sit at your desk with your wine and your weed—Big Sonic Chill dripping its pollen from your speakers—and an expensive computer doing all your heavy lifting.
Max Cannon averages $15 for each cartoon sold. Multiply that by the 70 plus newspapers in which Red Meat appears, and you get more than $1,000 per strip.
I won't reveal how much my column earns, except to say that it can't even buy me a small bindy of coke and an hour with a bottom-dollar street hooker. I have to choose one or the other, so don't tell me about hard times, Mr. Maximillian McWhinyFace!
Not that I'm complaining. I am grateful for this column and its modest earnings. Because there are a bizillion artists out there, writing, drawing and sculpting in obscurity, never to be paid a dime for their labor of love, or receive fanfare—going out of their effin' minds every day craving something that resembles an audience or a paycheck.
“The stark reality,” continued Cannon in his “Apocalypse” post, “is that very soon, there won't be any of your current favorite alternative comic strips for you to read at all—not even online. Here's why: none of us make our living from our website.... Our websites are like a free gift to you....”
Well, thank you so much, Max-o. Thank you for this gift that allows us, your humble subjects, to frolic in the electronic treasure trove of your genius.
You keep a website because it makes good business sense. You keep it to maintain a presence on the web. You keep it because, like most artist-writer-sculptor types—you need to be seen. You are the classic example of a narcissist, and the more you hawk the idea that your website is for our benefit, the more it proves what a wildly unchecked egotist you are.
Get this. Some cartoonists have even taken to asking for donations, such as Lloyd Dangle (“Troubletown”), who wrote that his website will now have to be viewer-supported. “That's why I've added the Donate button,” he explained.
Well, how 'bout that? A mother-jumpin' donate button!
Dude, Lloyd, don't you see the folly of your ways? You are asking strangers—who are probably broker than you—to support your little hobby so that you won't have to go out and get a real job like ditch-digging or cotton-picking. If I were a ditch-digger or a cotton-picker, and I saw your donate button—oh yeah, I'd donate something all right.
In defense of alt-weekly comic-strip writers, most of them understand why the newspapers need to make cuts. They just don't think it should be them who gets cut.
“… [C]omics always appear in the top five of what readers turn to first….” argued Max Cannon in “Apocalypse.”“Weeklies should be adding… cartoons, which are both popular and inexpensive,” complained Derf on his blog.
And Jen Sorenson (“Slowpoke”) wrote that if comics disappear, “they'll just stop picking up the paper.”
These cartoonists are all carriers of a disease that I call Adult Onset Self-Importantitus, which causes the sufferer to have delusions about their value to their employer and to society.
Heed these words, Max, Jen, Tom and everybody else who stumbles upon this paragraph: You are all expendable. No matter how smart, how capable, how integral you think you are, you are not. And the sooner you understand that, the sooner you'll lose your Go-ahead-and-try-to-make-it-without-me attitude—the sooner you will stop looking like the tantrum-throwing child-mayor of Bitterville.
Perhaps you don't care what I think. But I tell you what, I will never view those cartoons in quite the same way ever again. The next time I read “This Modern World” or “Red Meat” or whatever, no matter how funny it is, it will only be funny with an asterisk.
Write to email@example.com. For more, visit www.edwindecker.com and pull the, um, “donate” lever.