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Gods Do Favors, Darwin Doesn’t

“It’s easy to become a writer, but it’s hard to stay a writer.” –Kate Wilhelm

Recently the attention of the comics internet was grabbed by Mike Dawson’s cri de coeur about the limited financial returns of a now mature career in cartooning, and the response by Savage Critic Abhay Khosla, arguing that Dawson had failed to take the measures required to succeed in the current era. I thought some of Khosla’s points quite valid, others less so. For instance, I can nearly guarantee you that Dawson wasn’t the one who decided what his book was going to sell for. What struck me as dubious about Khosla’s argument is the implication that everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.

I was reminded of another debate from some years back where both sides appeared to be correct. Mark Waid, then an executive with Boom! Studios, was making a presentation on the future of digital delivery of comics, arguing that the new world required offering a certain amount of material for free, and Sergio Aragones spoke up to question why he should be subjected to such an indignity. It’s as if you were living on Atlantis, which was known to be sinking, and the only known alternative was Shit Volcano Island, where no one wants to live because the schools are supposed to be lousy. If you are not quite so young in fact as you are at heart, you might ask just how fast Atlantis is sinking really. Waid (who may not have been the one who decided on the business plan he was discussing) on the other hand had to live with the reality that Atlantis was not sinking but developing a shit volcano, which would have to be lived with.

The problem with the Panglossian outlook is that it moralizes evolutionary forces. You would think from the way some speak of it that the purpose of evolution were to prove the unworthiness of the dinosaur, that if he had only had the foresight to become some sort of weasel he would have survived. A god if such a thing existed could pull strings and do favors to promote his opinions. Under natural selection that which lives, lives and that which dies, dies.  If the comics ecosystem requires that the cartoonist be an entrepreneur then those cartoonists who aren’t entrepreneurs will be excluded.

To all appearances we have entered into an environment in which its never been easier to disseminate your work and its never been more difficult to make a buck from it. It’s easy to see the disappearance of means by which cartoonists used to make their living and it’s difficult to see what’s going to replace them. I couldn’t say that things are going to come out all right in the end, I just don’t see how. I can’t really see casting your bread upon the waters as a business plan. And its not just a matter of digital media and that sort of thing either. For example, for 20 years or so a cartoonist used to be able to publish his work in a magazine, being paid as he did it, and then publish it as a book and get paid for it again. Somewhere along the line, however, people began to realize that everything was going to come out as a book, so they decided to start waiting for the book.

What militates against Mike Dawson’s position is his complaint that there are too many cartoonists. If we had truly entered into an era that was hostile to cartoonists there ought to be fewer of them. The gatekeepers have been removed and the magazine has an infinite number of pages. Cartooning is an art form that can get away without gatekeepers better than others. At a glance a page of bad writing looks a lot like a page of good writing, while you can tell if a cartoonist has talent or not at a glance. What amazes me is not the volume of bad work that is disseminated but the high quality of work people are giving away. If we grant that more people have the opportunity to create comics and be read, the question in my mind is, how long? I could easily see cartooning as something you do when you’re young and have to give up when you feel the need to make a decent living. I think of how long it took Dan Clowes to fully learn how to play his instrument, which I don’t think was until Ghost World. Things we had thought of as the breakthroughs before that turned out to be stages along the way.

But I often fear that I have become an unreliable narrator. I often look around at the state of the culture and feel as though the world entered into its Post-Me Phase, which will get you down. Objectively, however, I realize if you were someone who loved hip-hop and video games, a type of person who is about as uncommon as hydrogen, you might well see yourself as someone who has just lived through a golden age, in which great artists emerged, topped themselves and then topped themselves again. If you are of advancing age — and I mean, advancing like the German army — you are prone to the temptation of sour grapes. You take the good things that have emerged for granted and itch for the things that have passed away like a phantom limb. I don’t know how old Abhay Khosla is, but one reason a younger person might bristle at an older person’s grousing is a rooting interest in his own time. No one wants to think he’s living a lousy life.

7dd916dec3dc730961519c3996c3f39dHeroes of the Comics
Drew Friedman
(Fantagraphics)

Perusing Drew Friedman’s Heroes of the Comics I realized that though I’ve known most of these people by name for most of my life, aside from a few I’d had no idea what they looked like. Which is to say that the book is not merely a display of Friedman’s particular prowess, but a significant work of comics history. So what do heroes of the comics look like? They look like psychiatrists (Al Jaffee, Lev Gleason, Bob Montana, Jack Kamen). They look like the Amazing Kreskin about to uncork a screwy one (Jack Kirby, Lev Gleason, Al Williamson). They look like used car salesmen (Will Eisner, Stan Lee, Bob Kane). They look like half-forgotten 19th Century presidents (Harry “A” Chesler). They look like sages (Dick Sprang, Russ Heath). They look like shnooks (Siegel and Shuster, Sheldon Mayer). They look like whiskey priests (Mort Meskin). They look like Buddha (William M. Gaines). They look Jewish (mostly). They look like they were trying to smile and it came out as a sneer (Bill Everett, John Severin). They look like matinee idols (Mac Raboy, Dick Briefer, Dan Barry, John Stanley, Gil Kane, Matt Baker, Frank Frazetta, Jesse Marsh). They look, specifically, like James Garner (Woody Gelman). They look like wise old judges in 30s movie musicals (Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson). They look like 30s gangsters (Charles Biro). They look like plainclothes coppers in 30s gangster pictures (Bill Finger, George Roussos, William Moulton Marston). They look like semi-hip squad room detectives in 70s cop shows (Al Feldstein). They look like they should be riding the range (Boody Rogers, Graham Ingels). They look like standup comedians of an earlier day (Jerry Iger, Irwin Hasen, Al Hollingsworth). They look like they’re Graziano’s trainer (Carl Burgos). They look like bookies, trying to lay off a few bets on a prize fight that’s started to smell (Steve Ditko). They look like Bukowski (Joe Kubert). They look like Frankie Valli (Howard Nostrand). They look like Lamont Cranston, in his later years (Jack Oleck). They look like “Whoa Nelly!” Dick Lane (L. B. Cole). They look like the Elders of the Kiwanis Club (John Goldwater, Joe Simon, Alfred Harvey). They look like they’re in another business altogether (Martin Goodman). They look like executive secretaries a week before their retirement party (Lily Renee, Marie Severin). They look retired (M. C. Gaines, Bob Powell, Jack Davis, George Evans, Al Hartley). They look like pixies (Walt Kelly, Carl Barks, Ogden Whitney). They look a little crazy (Carmine Infantino, Jack Cole, Otto Messmer, Alex Toth). They look surprisingly normal, and you’re surprised (Basil Wolverton, George Carlson). They look surprisingly normal, and you’re not surprised (Wayne Boring). They look strangely satisfied with life (Creig Flessel, Jerry Robinson, Lou Fine, Reed Crandall, Joe Orlando, Will Elder, Mort Drucker). They look haunted (Johnny Craig, Harvey Kurtzman, Bernie Krigstein). They look desperate (Sid Shores, Wally Wood). They look finally at peace (Frederic Wertham).

Which is not to say, needless to say, that this is what any of them necessarily were. Friedman’s preference for drawing them as old as possible skews the sample. What it illustrates overall is that people who came of age in the 1930s modeled themselves after what they saw in the movies. If you gathered a similar gallery of the last rather than the first 20-odd years of comic books, I bet you’d find they mostly try to look like rock stars.

51LOPd2EChL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Masterful Marks
Edited by Monte Beauchamp
(Simon & Schuster)

In Masterful Marks Monte Beauchamp sets out to tell the stories of 18 notable and influential figures in cartooning history and proceeds to do no more than a third of them justice. If you’re looking for a series of thin Wikipedia entries illustrated by cartoonists who, while talented enough in their own right, have little or nothing to impart about the subjects they’ve been assigned, then this is the book for you. I don’t think any more than seven out of seventeen manage to evoke either the style of their subjects or the times they lived in. I can only imagine it was conceived as a primer for the utterly uninitiated. The contents page presumes a reader who must be informed that Charles Addams was “Creator of the Addams Family” or that Walt Disney was the “Creator of Mickey Mouse” or that Dr. Seuss was the “Celebrated Creator of Children’s Picture Books.”

The subjects themselves are quite intelligently chosen to show a wide swath of cartoon art: Siegel-and-Shuster, Jack Kirby, Addams, Winsor McCay, Charles M. Schulz, Hergé, Harvey Kurtzman, Al Hirschfeld, Disney, Lynd Ward, Rudolphe Töpffer, Edward Gorey, Hugh Hefner, Osamu Tezuka and Dr. Seuss. On the plus side, the novice is being introduced to the right people. On the minus, the biographies are mostly in the style of Ralph Edwards reciting the triumphs and heartaches of a victim of This is Your Life, particularly when the story is told in the second person. Even when Ryan Heshka depicts Siegel and Shuster’s career as a ’30s storybook gone sour, or when Owen Smith’s quasi-Regionalist reflects not only the times but the political atmosphere Lynd Ward lived in, the pedestrian thud of the narration drags it down.

Most of the contributors depict their subjects in their personal styles which might be perfectly lovely in their own right but whose effect is disassociation. The most extreme is Larry Day’s chapter on Walt Disney in which an old French bird reads Monte Beauchamp’s script to a young French bird (they wear berets) across a French landscape. Now, you can see the problem here. Depict Disney himself and you run the risk of a right of publicity suit; depict anything that is Disney’s or is of Disney and you face the ire of the corporation that bears his name. So, fine, you think safety requires that your route be completely abstract, wouldn’t you at least depict a countryside that evokes the Midwestern barnyard locale of his early cartoons?

So it’s the exceptions that will have to make this a worthwhile purchase. A lot of you will be buying it simply because it contains an extended strip Drew Friedman on Robert Crumb; I would. “R. Crumb and Me” is practically a Heroes of the Comics about one hero. He gives us Crumb at each and every stage of his life, and since many of his photo sources are familiar you get to see what Friedman brings out of a photo reference. He shows not only the milestones of Crumb’s career but their impact on a reader who is inspired by him and then is edited by him.

Peter Kuper and Denis Kitchen, depicting Harvey Kurtzman and Dr. Seuss respectively, demonstrate in passing how one cartoonist influences another, and how the younger cartoonists turns what he learns to different purposes. Kuper more than any other contributor manages to work the subject’s own imagery into the story of his life, and captures Kurtzman’s manic energy. Like much of the book Kitchen’s Seuss chapter gets bogged down in then-he-did-this, but at least it all seems to happen in a kind of Seuss-land. The fracturing of facts has always been Arnold Roth’s stock in trade, and in Al Hirschfeld he drew a subject who really had a quite interesting life away from the drawing board. Frank Stack has always seemed to have one foot in an earlier century, so he’s a natural to portray Rudolphe Toppfler, the 19th century pioneer of sequential art.

Masterful Marks falls short because unlike statesmen or astronauts or criminals the events of artists’ lives are almost always less interesting than what they create. An effective artist’s biography has to be to some extent a critical biography. Masterful Marks merely reminds us that a cartoonist is an ink-stained wretch chained to the drawing board, upon which he plots his escape.


23 Responses to Gods Do Favors, Darwin Doesn’t

  1. monte beauchamp says:

    Yet again TCJ misses the point of this book by a country mile. For a much more insightful and intelligent review, check out: http://isniffbooks.wordpress.com/2014/09/02/review-of-masterful-marks-cartoonists-who-changed-the-world/

  2. Thanks for your comments on the Mike Dawson piece. I think we’re in a time when people are seeing the increasing possibilities of comics as an art form while the ability to make a living from it is made more and more difficult by the changing nature of the market. So yes, we get more new artists than ever before, but, as you say, how many of them stick with it? Likes on tumblr are nice, but eventually you’ve got to make rent and maybe support a family. Comics (at least independent comics) are becoming like poetry: there are a lot of poets but no-one makes a living from poetry. When I was younger I thought that this would be a good thing, because I longed for the artistic respect of the medium. But now that I’m older and have seen so many talented people give up on creating comics, I’m changing my mind. Enthusiasm for the medium is not enough to sustain one through the decades.

  3. Tony says:

    I realized something reading this. I have no idea what Bob Fiore or Joe McCulloch look like. Then again, until last weekend I didn’t know how Bar Rafaeli’s asshole looked like either, and I don’t know if my life has improved significantly since.

  4. R. Fiore says:

    If you can hunt up the cover Dan Clowes did for the abortive History of Fantagraphics book there’s a teeny tiny caricature of me on it. I am the rotund fellow tearing what I assume is a comic book apart.

  5. Joe McCulloch says:

    SPOILER: I’m a nerd. (Blue shirt.)

  6. Kit says:

    “Your book-of/on-comics for the week, as Monte Beauchamp edits a 128-page Simon & Schuster anthology of comics about the lives of sixteen notable cartoonists. Interesting group of contributors listed – I’m definitely up for new comics by Drew Friedman (on Robert Crumb), and you can also expect Frank Stack, Peter Kuper, Denis Kitchen(!), Dan Zettwoch (on the aforementioned Osamu Tezuka) among others”

    How did Jog miss the point in this, the only other mention on TCJ?

  7. Joe McCulloch says:

    That wasn’t a review, though; I wasn’t in any position to get or miss a point, beyond the basic makeup of the contents…

  8. Jeet Heer says:

    Aforementioned Clowes cover here: http://31.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m5wp7r9bMs1qh7i74o1_1280.jpg
    Mr. Fiore, I believe, is in the background adjacent to Kim Thompson’s head. Is that R.C. Harvey using a magnifying glass on Pogo?

  9. In my opinion, Fiore is spot on regarding MASTERFUL MARKS. I think his piece is insightful and reflects both developed thoughts and careful expression of them.

    The comment here by the book’s editor kinda gets to me — just because the reviewer doesn’t like your book doesn’t mean he is “missing the point by a country mile.” I think Fiore has something important and valuable to say here and it’s a shame the book’s editor can’t hear it — although I can certainly understand how hard it must be to take in these thoughts after obviously working very hard to make this book, and probably having a strong attachment to its success in the marketplace. However, to leave this comment not saying what that missed point is seems to be in keeping with the disconnected, confused experience that I got when I read most of the pieces in this book.

    I asked my editor at TCJ to let me review the book. I guess I would have “yet again” missed the point by a country mile, too. When Dan Nadel asked me what I had to say, I sent him a bullet list of very similar points. He decided to pass, since I would just be repeating Fiore’s points. I think it’s important to note that, if I had different things to say, including more overall positive comments, the Journal would have been interested in that viewpoint. I think it’s stupid to extend a disagreement, or sense of disappointment over a review from that review to the entire publication.

    In my comments to Dan Nadel to sell him on letting me review this book, I echoed Fiore by stating that most of the pieces offer little more than one would get from reading a Wikipedia article. Yep. I said “Wikipedia,” just like Fiore — because that’s how most of these pieces read. Dreadful. The big misstep of the book is that, aside from a marketing handle, there seems to be little reason to put most of these into comics form. Where’s the love? It’s mostly dreadful — I was really shocked.

    I also agreed with Fiore that the best part is the Drew Friedman piece — it alone offers insight and perspective that cannot be gotten anywhere else. I liked that one, and the piece on Hugh Hefner, which seems to hang together better — perhaps because Gary Dumm has a wealth of experience in working with Harvey Pekar to craft smooth flowing, information filled visual narratives.

    I also found the stories to be mostly uninspiring and dull. They almost all follow the same pattern — someone is born, they discover a love of cartoons/comics, they struggle, they succeed, they die. Shoehorn in obligatory last panel saying something trite about their influence. Ugh.

    The writers have mostly stayed disappointingly superficial and failed to go into what actually makes these people, and their work, worthy of our attention and admiration. I wouldn’t give this book to a person considering a career as a cartoonist. To do so would, I think, be profoundly discouraging to them — and, well… it would be missing the point by “a country mile.”

  10. R. Fiore says:

    Beauchamp is a fine editor, one of the best, and a great hand at marshaling talent, but I think Masterful Marks is just a misfire.

  11. Bob Levin says:

    Brilliant prose. And them points weren’t bad neither.

  12. Mike Hunter says:

    Yes, “brilliant prose” indeed. R. Fiore’s consistently fine, but I don’t know whether the stars were in a particularly felicitous alignment, or my antennae were more attuned than usual, but his three pieces here seemed even more impressive than usual.

    In the first critique, we get perceptive insights a-plenty (“The problem with the Panglossian outlook is that it moralizes evolutionary forces. You would think from the way some speak of it that the purpose of evolution were to prove the unworthiness of the dinosaur, that if he had only had the foresight to become some sort of weasel he would have survived…”; “No one wants to think he’s living a lousy life”), enriched by Fiore’s obviously well-read (far beyond the fields of 4-color, that is) intelligence and beautifully flowing verbiage.

    Writing of “Heroes of the Comics,” that magnificently exuberant “So what do heroes of the comics look like?” section — “They look like half-forgotten 19th Century presidents (Harry “A” Chesler). They look like sages (Dick Sprang, Russ Heath). They look like shnooks (Siegel and Shuster, Sheldon Mayer). They look like whiskey priests (Mort Meskin). They look like Buddha (William M. Gaines)…” — goes on and on and ON, yet never ceases to delight with apposite and often hilarious comparisons: “They look surprisingly normal, and you’re surprised (Basil Wolverton, George Carlson). They look surprisingly normal, and you’re not surprised (Wayne Boring).”

    As for “Masterful Marks,” my bookcases are enriched by many (easily over a dozen) gloriously superb books Monte Beauchamp’s edited. Yet Fiore’s dissection rings true, his critiques are clearly argued, the examples of unhappy decisions woefully frequent. It is not reassuring that this book is so far afield from Beauchamp’s usual editorial terrain. Unlike the many extraordinary issues of “Blab!”, for instance, where brilliant artists and comics creators pretty much “did their own thing,” comics biography, especially within the parameters noted, all — if I understand correctly — working from MB’s scripts, is a challenge of a different color.

    As with the preceding critiques, Fiore wraps up his coverage of “Masterful Marks” with a summation that is magisterial, perceptive, lucid, and finely phrased…

  13. R. Fiore says:

    Gawrsh. Anyway, another thought I had about taking the advantages of the present day for granted: If in 1980 I could have seen my personal library today I would have thought I was heading to a world of wonders. Whole shelves full of Krazy Kat and Dick Tracy and Li’l Abner and Captain Easy and life size collections of Sunday pages — all these would seem more than could be hoped for. (At the time I might have sniffed at the shelf of Peanuts and said to myself, “Little Orphan Annie?”) This would be particularly so since classic newspaper strips have always been my No. 1 interest. The thing is, that does nothing for contemporary cartoonists trying to make a living. The question is whether cartoonists can live on book collections the way novelists do, at times. That and self-marketing ancillary goods.

  14. Two things:

    I’ve posted some comments on what I’m calling “Dawson’s Dilemma” here: http://comicbookgalaxyblog.blogspot.com/2014/09/galaxy-newsbrief-090714-its-unlikely.html

    Secondly, R. Fiore’s comments on Masterful Marks could not be more on the money. He gets the book’s strengths (well, strength, the Crumb piece) and weaknesses (everything else) exactly right. The book is almost a complete misfire, and the editor’s defense of it here indicates that its problems were written into its DNA — it was never going to work. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea, just that the execution is sorely lacking. I would have loved for the book to be as good as I hoped it would be before I had the misfortune of actually reading it. I hope someone is inspired enough by its potential to try their own hand, with a little more imagination and a lot more effort at creating a work worthy of the idea.

  15. Re. Drew Friedman’s Robert Crumb story, which I haven’t read other than the first three panels: Crumb is left-handed, not right-handed. Didn’t Friedman at least watch the documentary Crumb? That shows plenty of lefty action.

  16. Mike Hunter says:

    Most of Khosla’s criticisms (as, indeed, Dawson’s complaints) should be aimed to the publisher who priced his book so as to discourage buyers, their people who wrote such muddled copy. “Gibberish” is right; that gushy verbiage tries to appeal to everyone, yet ends up confusing rather than enticing.

    Surely a basic rule of marketing a product (whether widget or creative work) ought to be to clearly, succinctly express what the product is; so that prospective purchasers aren’t surprised, or uncertain about what it is they’re being asked to pay for. (That last factor is why working within genre can provide such an assist.)

    Speaking of confusion, a TCJ critique about Dawson’s “Angie Bongiolatti” ( http://www.tcj.com/reviews/angie-bongiolatti/ ) brought this reaction from yours truly a couple of months back:

    ———————–
    Both the cover image, and the entire writeup (able though it was) [a comprehensive description of the characters and plot], made “Angie Bongiolatti” seem an utterly humorless exercise.

    So what a surprise, then, to scroll down to those three pages of the comic. And discover that characters that came across like such unappealing cliché’s [are] particularized, humanized and satirized by Dawson’s cartooning…
    ————————

    The cover fails to accurately capture the spirit of the book; and a supplied description of the story (see both at http://www.amazon.com/Angie-Bongiolatti-Mike-Dawson/dp/0988814943 ) is humorless and dreary. Where is there a hint of the warmth and satiric quality one encounters in Dawson’s inside pages?

    Despite my being a voracious reader of comics (mainstream and alternative pretty evenly split, until about 4 years ago), Dawson was not even a blip on my radar; if I’d read anything by him previously, it failed to make much of an impression*. So Khosla’s saying to Dawson “you hadn’t really made a name for yourself” is certainly true for this particular comics aficionado.

    And, if you’re not a known quantity (except to a comparative few), then marketing becomes all the more important; with a cover and ad copy that accurately express the mood of the work. And a plot that that can be succinctly “pitched” to prospective buyers:

    —————————
    “So what’s [your book] about?” a friend asks you. You say, um, er, well . . .

    Summarizing your story in a sentence or two is one of the hardest things to do, whether you’ve published ten books or none. Don’t forget, we established writers have to pitch our books too, when we’re interviewed on TV or radio. It’s not easy. But it’s essential, and not just to sell a book. I’m convinced that if you can’t “pitch” it in a sentence, you don’t have the story figured out yet. Simple as that.

    Years ago, when I was struggling through [a] first draft…I had lunch with an editor. “What’s your ‘What If?'” he asked.

    I had no idea. My “What If”? I’d never thought in those terms. But he was right; every book starts with a question that, in the end, it answers. Call it a Hook…call it a premise. It’s the thing that sucks the reader in and makes him or her want to know what happens next….
    —————————
    http://www.josephfinder.com/writers/tips/whats-a-hook-the-art-of-the-pitch

    *Oh yeah; he did this: http://www.tcj.com/mike-dawson-day-two/ . (Which I’d forgotten about. ) Therein, Dawson ponders, “I can’t tell if this comic I did…is any good…”

  17. D.D. says:

    I’m sorry, I made it about three paragraphs in but I can’t take another tortured, wrong analogy to evolution when describing capitalism. A century plus of that is enough, don’t you think?

  18. Drew Friedman says:

    The only panel where Crumb is drawing with his right hand is on the top of the opening page, when he’s a young boy, beginning to draw, still figuring things out. All the other panels in the strip that show him drawing, he’s using his left hand.

    And yes, I’ve watched the documentary “Crumb” many times.

  19. Thanks for explaining, Mr. Friedman.

  20. Mike Hunter says:

    ————————–
    D.D. says:

    I’m sorry, I made it about three paragraphs in but I can’t take another tortured, wrong analogy to evolution when describing capitalism.
    —————————

    Um?

    “…one morning…we were to feed some bananas to the chimps…We would break the bananas in half and try to put them directly in their mouths…otherwise the dominant chimps would simply grab all the bananas out of the hands of the others and run off…”
    http://www.skjtravel.net/welcome/index.php/bio/137-aluma

    As a human analogy, the second cartoon: “Whoever can, swims, whoever is weak, goes under” (A quote from Schiller)
    http://anappendage.blogspot.com/2013/02/george-grosz-from-abrechnung-folgt-aka.html

    …is this analogy straightforward enough?

  21. R. Fiore says:

    D.D. (Daredevil?) is mistaken. The Darwinian force I’m talking about here isn’t capitalism, it’s technology. For the longest time the product of each advance in technology has been perceived by the public to have a higher value than its predecessor. An LP was perceived to be worth more than a 78, a CD worth more than an LP, a DVD worth more than a videocassette, a Blu-Ray disc worth more than a DVD. This string was broken with electronic transmitted digital media, which is perceived by the public to have less value than its predecessor, even if it’s the medium they prefer. As if that wasn’t enough, digital advertising is perceived as having less value than advertising in other media, even as online media become ever more dependent on advertising for revenue. Much electronic classified advertising is perceived as having no value whatsoever. In this Darwinian crisis the capitalist is just another beast on the plain fighting for survival. Capitalists have seen record album sales decline by half, and DVD sales wither away as well.

    Cartoonists are particularly challenged in this environment because periodicals have been their primary road to their readership. They often prospered from the concentrations of wealth created by capitalists. When there was a proliferation of advertising-supported free weeklies at least half a dozen cartoonists built careers around syndicating strips to these papers, which would be planted in the back to draw eyeballs to the small ads.

    I must say I was made somewhat uneasy by Alan David Doane’s faith in my knowledge. I must warn you all that Funnybook Roulette is often an information-poor environment. I have never made a living through creative endeavor in any way, shape or form. If I say I don’t see how cartoonists are making a living that doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. Abhay Khosla knows more about that stuff than I do. For all I know Kickstarter and the like can provide a popular web cartoonist with the equivalent of publisher’s advances. There might be something I can’t imagine.

    Defeatism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. A day job can easily be a way of not being an artist. A writer I knew named Mel Gilden once observed that when he was trying to be a part-time writer he could always find time to go out to dinner or watch TV but could never find time to writer, but when he quit his job to freelance full time he could never find time to do that stuff because he was too busy writing. I think the game would change if someone could come up with a foolproof means of copy protection. I don’t know if that’s even possible, but I’m sure people are doing their damnedest to find one. The advice I would give a young person about future entry into Square John jobs is while you’re schooling make sure you get at least a Bachelor’s Degree. The working world has decided college degrees are the absolute measure of human worth and you’re not going to talk them out of it. My theory is that they’ve all hired “college graduates” who could hardly write their names, and they figure someone with only a high school diploma might forget to breathe.

  22. D.D. says:

    Technology isn’t evolution either, and in fact you are talking about capitalism, because technology is defined by its mode of production. This isn’t really something requiring lengthy argument – I think this essay would have gone fine without drawing the pseudo-scientific analogy. Just pointing out the error.

  23. D.D. says:

    As for Mike Hunter, no, that example does not prove capitalism is the same as evolution, and I’m really curious what made you read it that way.

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