TCJ ARCHIVE

The Joey Manley Interview

The Comics Journal #277 (July 2006)

Michelle Mauk's Mad Sugar ran on Girlamatic.

Michelle Mauk’s Mad Sugar ran on Girlamatic.

Joey Manley may be comics’ most far-sighted entrepreneur. Another refugee of the dot-com boom, Manley cashed out and moved into a field that few others would have considered a profitable use of time: webcomics. In 2002, Manley gathered together a diverse roster of artists and launched Modern Tales (www.moderntales. com), a regularly updated anthology site that proved more popular than he had hoped. Spurred onward by success, Manley went on to found a family of targeted websites, including the art-comics-friendly Serializer (www.serializer.net), the female-centric Girlamatic (www.girlamatic.com), the genre-based Graphic Smash (www.graphicsmash.com) and a host of webcomics-related support sites featuring news, community forums and reviews. There has been the occasional stumble or two along the way — the action-oriented Adventure Strips anthology site was unable to justify the efforts put into it and soon folded — but for a business as ambitious as the Modern Tales family of sites, the road forward has been remarkably free of noticeable bumps. Manley’s most recent venture is Webcomics Nation (www.webcomicsnation.com), which aims to do for online cartooning what LiveJournal did for online diaries. Next up: one-stop advertising services for webcomics, if he can ever find a moment to catch his breath. Manley has long been known as an opinionated fellow, and I have no doubt that the following conversation, recorded in early May, will add to that reputation. — Dirk Deppey

Transcribed by Laura Lancaster.

DIRK DEPPEY: As near as I can tell, you’re one of the very few people on Earth with the job title of webcomics publisher.

JOEY MANLEY: [Laughs.] Well, there’s a couple of us, but yeah.

DEPPEY: I mean, it’s gotta be a number of people that you can count on the fingers of one hand, though.

MANLEY: Definitely. There’s me, Chris Crosby, and I think Barry Gregory probably qualifies, whoever runs Komikwerks. That’s probably it.

Shaenon Garrity's Narbonic was on Modern Tales.

Shaenon Garrity’s Narbonic was on Modern Tales.

DEPPEY: You started with Modern Tales and you’ve got a core of, I believe, four or five sites, depending on how you want to classify Webcomics Nation, but I’m not really sure how. Is it more of a portal, or is it a service to cartoonists?

MANLEY: Webcomics Nation represents me trying to get out of the middleman business and get into the service-bureau business, because it’s (A) more profitable, (B) less work and (C) more useful to more cartoonists. Modern Tales was constructed along traditional magazine-publishing lines where, you know, there’s an editor who selects content, pulls it together in a meaningful package and then charges customers to read it and takes the money that the customers pay and splits it among the creators. Now, that last part is a little untraditional because a traditional magazine just pays a flat rate for the use of something. But the Modern Tales model is a lot of work, a lot of accounting and managing and picking and poking, especially because the business grew much more quickly than I ever thought it would, and became a much more important part of everybody’s life who is involved with it than I ever expected. The day before we launched, I hoped that maybe we would have 150 subscribers in the first year. We had 700 subscribers at the end of the first week.

DEPPEY: Really?

MANLEY: Yeah. It’s not growing at anything like that pace anymore, for a lot of reasons having to do with the price of bandwidth dropping, and with the explosion of more comics. You know, when I launched Modern Tales, it was still possible to name all the creators who were doing high-quality, interesting work online within a 10-minute period. That’s no longer possible. There’s been this explosion. So the elitism of the Modern Tales brand isn’t really sustainable in the current environment, which is why we’re shaking things up again. The Webcomics Nation model works much better in the new environment — there doesn’t have to be this middleman in there touching everything all the time, cartoonists can just do their thing. Modern Tales couldn’t possibly grow as fast as webcomics is growing. Webcomics Nation can.

DEPPEY: Well, Modern Tales is still running. Are you going to be changing the base model for these other sites, or is that something for the editors of the individual sites to decide, or…?

MANLEY: There’s four subscription-based webcomics sites, and then there’s Webcomics Nation. Actually, there’s five subscription-based webcomics sites if you count James Kochalka’s American Elf, which isn’t really owned by me — I just run it for James. For the subscription-based sites, the model we have is going to remain in place, but we’re going to expand the sites to include about three-fourths more content that will be free. There will be an ad space at the top of the page, which will be mine, and an ad space along the side of page, which will belong to the artists and they can use that however they wish, so that I’m not responsible for all the accounting overhead that I am in the current model.

The first American Elf: October 26, 1998.

The first American Elf: October 26, 1998.

 

DEPPEY: The next logical question is: Are you going to be soliciting advertising? Are you basically going into ad sales, then?

MANLEY: Well, one of my next projects is a project called Webcomicads.com, which will try to be for the webcomics or the comics niche what Google Ads is for the Web as a whole. You look at a webcomics site like Dave Roman’s webcomic site, the Google ads on there don’t make sense, because they’re for things like Roman coins and Roman candles just because his last name happens to be Roman, where webcomicads.com will be a destination site for people who want to advertise on comics-related sites, they’ll browse down into their specific areas of interest, whether it’s superheroes or literary comics or whatever, and then choose to advertise there. Cartoonists will be able to charge more because these will be people looking specifically to advertise on their sites, as opposed to the scattershot Google AdSense approach. Everything I do is sort of low-key and grassroots, just because I’m not the kind of guy who has that kind of ability to move vast amounts of money around. But that is the goal. I was looking at [Warren Ellis’ online forum] The Engine, and there were these people, I would classify them as independent print-comics veterans, who are starting to get online and they were asking, “Where should I advertise my comics?”

So there’s a lot of money just within the community of people who want to advertise but who don’t know where.

DEPPEY: Well I would assume that there’s a fair amount of money, but it’s in tiny amounts.

MANLEY: Yeah, and like I said, that’s the Joey Manley way. [Laughter.] Over the past four years we’ve had a lot of people approach us, these people who want to buy me out, who are always talking about these multi-million dollar deals and this and that and blah-blah-blah. Maybe it’s because I lived through the dot-com boom and bust already, but that stuff just leaves me cold. It’s possible that there could be a way to make a big money play like that in the webcomics space. I don’t really think so, though. I think the only way would either be a Hollywood connection of some sort, or a technology orientation, a sort of Silicon Valley play, like LiveJournal or Blogger except for webcomics. Webcomics Nation is exactly that — a technology business, so that’s the direction I’m going. In terms of webcomics, I’ve had to come to terms with the reality that the most successful businesses in webcomics are solo efforts — not necessarily individual creators, but maybe just a small team, who create the work and own the work and present the work and make money from it.

DEPPEY: My understanding is that pretty much every cartoonist who is earning an actual living on webcomics is basically doing it by himself.

MANLEY: Well it depends on your definition of by themselves. I mean Penny Arcade is now a five-person corporation.

The November 18, 1998 Penny Arcade strip.

The November 18, 1998 Penny Arcade strip.

 

DEPPEY: Well, yeah, but we’re talking about one or two people with assistants to handle the business stuff, if they need it. It’s not like Keenspot is suddenly making money for all of their creators to the point where everybody has quit their day jobs.

MANLEY: Exactly, which is why I’m transitioning to the Webcomics Nation model, which gets me out of the middle and simply provides the tools that I’ve already built for my own businesses to anyone else who wants to use them. It costs about the same amount as regular webhosting, but it comes with everything you need to run a webcomics site — a commercial webcomics site in a box, basically.

DEPPEY: At its height, how many subscribers did you have going to, for example, Modern Tales?

MANLEY: Well, it’s currently at its height in terms of the number of actual subscribers.

DEPPEY: Really?

MANLEY: It’s not growing, though. It reached its height about a year and a half ago, and it’s pretty much stayed there. We still have cancellations, but new subscriptions sort of balance out the cancellations. So what we’re looking at right now is around 7,000 total subscribers to the five subscription sites: American Elf, Serializer, Graphic Smash, Girlamatic and Modern Tales. The site with the most subscribers is still Modern Tales, and it has around 2,100. There are around 900 people who are subscribed to more than one of those five sites. Those are our core customers.

DEPPEY: For a small business, that’s actually not bad.

MANLEY: It’s pretty amazing. For those five sites, not including anything else I do, we have gross revenues of around $100,000 a year.

DEPPEY: That is impressive.

MANLEY: Now, keep in mind, we’re also working with around 100 cartoonists, maybe a little more than that, so by the time I get my cut, and my web hosting company gets its cut, and all the cartoonists get their cut, they’re not making anything like a living wage. You know, not even close. That was the promise of Modern Tales; that was the goal. So, I’m really trying to rethink and revision everything.

DEPPEY: Well of course, on the other hand, you’re working primarily with small-press cartoonists to begin with. I remember talking to Donna Barr at a party that Gary Groth threw maybe six months after she signed on with you and was just so impressed that she was getting a regular check of $100 a month.

MANLEY: Unfortunately, like Fantagraphics and a lot of other companies, I’m not as prompt anymore with those kinds of things [laughter], but I’m working on it. Yeah, these aren’t people who would have ever been Penny Arcade in the real world. But that doesn’t matter, because I’m not trying to be Penny Arcade. I’m trying to create the venue for an alternative to all those four-panel gaming gag strips, and to make a case for this kind of work as a professional and commercial possibility in the same way that Miramax is … you know, it’s not blockbuster movies, it’s a real venue for real art that also has a commercial side to it. That’s still the goal and I’m still trying to figure that part out.

DEPPEY: You’ve acknowledged that there’s been a competition between the free-beer-and-we- sell-merchandise-on-the-side kind of websites vs. the subscription model that you’ve championed, and it seems to me that the former has won.

MANLEY: I don’t know if I would agree with that I would tell you that the former has some examples of success that the pay model does not yet have, but the former has not produced a Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez; it has not produced a Charles Burns. It’s not designed to; that business model does not work for high art as well.

DEPPEY: Well, more and more ambitious cartoonists are starting to get in there. I would argue against that simply because I would classify cartoonists like Chris Onstad, for example, as probably being one of the best humor cartoonists working today, and Achewood is certainly esoteric enough.

achewoodMANLEY: I can buy that Scary Go Round and a lot of the things under Dumbrella are really good, yeah. But if I’m not mistaken, they make their money more from merchandise sales than advertising. I could be wrong. And the merchandise is not free beer.

DEPPEY: No, but it’s the “free beer” that advertises the merchandise. I see what you mean, though, regarding the model’s utility to more esoteric works.

MANLEY: It demands popularity. I’m not of the opinion that things that aren’t necessarily the most popular don’t have a commercial life to them, or a potential for a commercial life.

DEPPEY: Bight, and surely the webcartoonists that are working on the free-beer model, you know, the ones that are the most successful, are the ones who basically work in demographic models conducive to drawing advertising and product sales. For example, gaming strips like PvP and Penny Arcade work partly because the cartoonists are fairly good, but also because the audience that they draw in has a lot of money to throw around on expensive electronic toys, and they’re attractive to advertisers. Cartoonists like Chris Onstad are really the exception to the rule.

MANLEY: Right In terms of business models, there’s a lot of talk around, “Is this model successful?”

It ends up being religious talk: It has to be this way or it has to be that way, and no other way. The search for the One True Business Model: the Holy Grail. I think the advertising guys are guilty of that, I think McCloud to an extent is guilty of that. I’m a lot more agnostic than people would believe. The reason I went with subscription models when I did is because advertising was in the tubes, and bandwidth was very expensive. It’s as simple as that. Of course, the subscription model was unpopular among a certain ideological clique, so I had to defend it loudly and vociferously and repeatedly until I became the subscriptions guy, right? But just because I defend subscriptions — and I think it’s still a good model for a certain kind of comic — that’s not all I’m about I’m just going to do whatever I think is going to work and whatever I can pull off with my limited resources. That’s one of the reasons we’re adding a bunch of advertising-supported stuff on the site. If I could, I would go into the print market, but I can’t I can’t afford it.

DEPPEY: Well, there are a growing number of print cartoonists headed in the other direction. I mean you’ve got Carla Speed McNeil and Phil Foglio jumping wholeheartedly onto the Web.

From Carla Speed McNeil's Finder

From Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder

MANLEY: Well, just on Webcomics Nation, we’ve got Jay Stephens and Batton Lash and this Norwegian woman, who is apparently very popular in Europe, Ingalill Roesberg, and lots of others. Not to mention Tom Hart, Lea Hernandez and the usual Modern Tales suspects. What a lot of the print guys are doing with the Web is very logical: They’re putting their stuff online so that they can sell the books, which they already have in their basements or whatever, to people who would never go in a comic-book store.

DEPPEY: It seems to me that part of the popularity for drawing independent creators onto the Web can be attributed to the horrible, horrible nature of the market for them in print right now unless they’re signed to, say, Pantheon.

MANLEY: Well, if you think about the purpose that the periodical comic book has served in the past decade or so, for almost every publisher, it’s been as a sort of promotional loss leader for the trade paperback or, at the very least, it’s been a test bubble to see if a trade paperback is even feasible. For Carla Speed McNeil, it makes a lot of sense to eliminate the pamphlet side of things, and to use the Web to serve the exact same function, because she may not make any money from it, but she’s not going to lose the money she would typically lose printing the comic books — even if she was breaking even, and I think she said she was, it’s still a lot less hassle, and a lot less risk, to just put it online at what is basically zero cost and reach a potentially larger audience.

DEPPEY: My big concern at that point would probably be just getting my name out there and keeping it out there. The thing about having a comic book on the shelves is that people will wander by it once a week or once a month or however often you get out…

MANLEY: … if your audience is of the type that would be in a comic-book shop.

DEPPEY: Right, and that’s really what’s made the big sea change possible, the fact that the comic-shop audience has just become so inbred that it’s really kind of pointless to sit there and play that game unless you’re selling Wolverine, Batman or something that looks an awful lot like them. My question then becomes: Is there a community or a central gathering place online that can replace that?

MANLEY: There are attempts to do it. Most of the gathering places and community portals are more about the creators than they are about the readers. That’s why you get a lot of cynical people within that community saying everybody who reads webcomics makes them. That’s technically not really true. I mean all 7,000 of our subscribers don’t make webcomics. 500,000 Penny Arcade readers don’t make webcomics. Webcomics are different from comic books in that they’re more casually consumed. People read comic books because they like comic books; people read Penny Arcade because they like videogames. That’s a big difference. It’s going to be a lot less fannish and there’s going to be a lot less of a sense of ownership among this community of readers.

RIDING THE LONG TAIL

DEPPEY: Ironically, as more people get online, it seems to me that webcomics actually have an opportunity to be more mainstream than anything in print right now.

MANLEY: What about newspapers?

DEPPEY: Newspapers are suffering right now; if anything, the people making decisions in terms of the newspaper strips are in most cases even more conservative than the people making decisions for the Direct Market.

MANLEY: One of the interesting things about webcomics is you’ve got people coming from all kinds of different traditions. They each have their own ideas about what “comics” are. The people coming from the news- paper-strip tradition onto the Web predate McCloud by several years. That group I would say probably has its locus of influence centered on Keenspot. You’ve got the people coming online who are coming out of the McCloud tradition, which is most closely aligned to the kinds of comics that Fanta-graphics publishes: Justine Shaw with Nowhere Girl, Patrick Farley, Cat Garza. There’s the manga crowd, like Megatokyo. Even more recently, and this was the last group to come on, I’ve started seeing the superhero creators come online with comics that sort of match that tradition.

mega

Now, you have these disparate groups of people in the print world, too, but they hardly ever encounter one another. The people who pay attention to the Reuben Awards for the most part don’t pay attention to the Eisners, and vice versa. But in webcomics, all these different groups are sort of thrown together, and are rubbing elbows in the same spaces. Theoretically, that’s a good thing. In practice, there’s a lot of arguments, because we don’t all have the same definition of “success,” or even the same definition of “comics.” A lot of the stuff the comic-strip guys like, I think is utter crap and I say so. I’m hated for that— I mean, hated! It’s hilarious. Saying you don’t like PvP is like saying you enjoy running over kittens with a lawnmower. I’ve never been particularly interested in the newspaper strips, even before webcomics, probably because they were so degraded and debased by the time I was a kid that I just didn’t bother, but those are the ones — the ones that basically look like an edgier version of Cathy or Dilbert, with a younger demographic, a videogame reference thrown in there — that have the most potential to make the most money right now, in part because they have the most potential to reach large audiences.

Scott Kurtz' PvP

Scott Kurtz’ PvP

DEPPEY: There’s a daily strip by Chris Muir called Day By Day, which is basically a conservative version of Doonesbury, and what’s fascinating to me about it is the fact that I’ve seen it syndicated on a lot of political weblogs. It never occurred to me that people would do that.

MANLEY: Well, when you’re online, whether it’s the podcasts or an essay or a blog or a comic, its all the medium of the Web. You hand somebody a graphic novel and they say, “Oh, thanks, sorry, I don’t read comics.”

But they’ll click a link to a webcomic you send them in an e-mail. People don’t make those kinds of distinctions the way they do when they’re deciding what kind of offline media to consume, in part because they’re mostly not paying for it.

DEPPEY: Right. Again, what’s most interesting to me about webcomics is the fact that they have the opportunity to reach people by level of interest rather than a specific interest in comics.

MANLEY: Me, too. You hit the nail on the head.

DEPPEY: One person who has bucked the trend is James Kochalka. He actually earns a living, if not solely off of American Elf, then in collusion with the books and the music. He seems to be able to support himself through a confluence of the three and I’m wondering how reproducible that is.

MANLEY: It’s more of a cult-of-personality thing with James. There may be this sort of transitional generation where people who’ve made a name for themselves in offline media are able to monetize their online presence in a way that people who make names for them-selves in online media are not. One interesting thing about James: He said in an interview on Tom Spurgeon’s Comics Reporter site that he makes more money from American Elf, because of the subscription site, than he has made from any of his other comics, even though American Elf is actually one of his least popular comics. That’s the strength of the subscription model in a nutshell.

WE ARE EXPERIENCING TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES

DEPPEY: Another open question is the effectiveness of long-form comics serialization, the model that had been used by Scary Go Round and is now slowly being implemented by people like Phil Foglio and Carla Speed McNeil, in moving from print to the Web. I’m wondering how significant a sea change that is for webcomics.

MANLEY: You’re talking about where there’s a graphic novel or something that the cartoonist releases one page at a time, right? We were doing that on Modern Tales sort of early on, and Derek Kirk Kim is the first person I ever saw doing that. He inspired me to encourage other artists on Modern Tales to do that. I had a conversation with Joe Zabel on a podcast just the other day, and he hates it. He thinks that if you’re gonna have a long-form comic, you should present it so that people can read it in the manner you intended them to, all at once, or else you’re going to be tempted to put in little cliffhangers and gags and punch lines that you wouldn’t have otherwise put in, and they’re going to break the rhythm of the story when it’s collected. I think it’s probably not an ideal way for creators to present their work to people who are not already fans. I think if you’re already a fan of Carla Speed McNeil, then you can look at it as, “I’m looking over her shoulder while she’s making this and she’s sharing her progress with me, but I’m really not reading it until I’ve bought the book.”

You know, I’m sort of in the middle here. I used to be a big proponent of this, but I do see Joe’s point, that it is dangerous to the structural integrity of the work itself if you allow the way you’re presenting it to affect the way you create it.

DEPPEY: But surely that’s a matter of artistic intent rather than a structural fault of the model.

MANLEY: It’s a structural fault in that it could be more tempting to the creator, even if his or her artistic intent was not to have these little punch lines and cliffhangers or whatever, to put them in, to turn it into a gag strip, basically, just to bring back the readers every update. The way you’re presenting it can create the temptation, but if you stick to your artistic vision, then no, obviously, unless your artistic vision does involve those little cliffhangers and gags, for example, Supernatural Law, which works very well that way.

DEPPEY: Right. I mean this isn’t anything new. The move from comic book to graphic novel presents many of the same temptations that serialized webcomics in long form present. Certainly there is no shortage of fans of Marvel comics right now that are just absolutely livid over the fact that they’re getting their stories serialized in these, you know, eight-issue bursts, whether the story seems to need it or not.

MANLEY: Well, I’ll tell you, I get that problem from the other side. I don’t buy comic books, I only buy graphic novels, and right now I’m reading Howard Chaykin’s recent take on The Challengers of The Unknown so I can review it for Graphic Novel Review, and it’s not at the top of my mind that this used to be a periodical comic book, so I’m like, “Why does he keep telling us the same thing over and over and over?”

Then I realize that it’s every 24 pages or so, he tells us the story up to that point all over again in expository dialogue. So it hurts on both sides, serializing something in 24-page chunks and how that affects the storytelling flow, or in the case of Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim, he was serializing in two- and-three-panel chunks. I think we’re still early enough that someone like Kim can do that without having it fossilize into a set of tics to get the reader back every two panels, but I’m not sure that it’s always going to stay that way and that this is probably going to create a new kind of rhythm for narrative that may be unfortunate.

DEPPEY: Well, we’ll see, but of course the technology on all of this is changing as well. Are you following, for example, the move by computer manufacturers to try and develop the flat screen computer and the e-book?

MANLEY: Yeah, I’ve been hearing about that stuff since like ’96, and I’m lookin’ forward to it whenever. [Deppey laughs.] If ever and when ever.

DEPPEY: It seems to me that the only people who have been able to get anywhere close it have been the Japanese and even then only because they’re moving comics online through cellphones.

MANLEY: Well, the thing is, and this is the lesson of Bitpass as well as anything anybody ever tells you about Asia: Technology is only half of the equation. For things like this, there also has to be widespread adoption, and if you don’t have a culture that’s ready to adopt something like this in a widespread way, it doesn’t matter if the technology gets here or not. You know, back in the streaming media days, we were always — when everything was starting to fall apart, we would always assign somebody to write a story about what’s going on in Japan and sort of lift our spirits up. But what happens in Japan doesn’t apply.

DEPPEY: You’re right. They’ve got a massive culture of cellphone use in Japan, where if you don’t have a cellphone with video capabilities, you’re some kind of freak.

MANLEY: Well, and they’ve also got a mass culture of pop-culture-obsessed adults — obsessed even beyond the point that we are — so it’s a completely different thing. I think that if electronic paper ever becomes technologically feasible, what you’ll have for the first five or 10 years is going to be strictly business applications for that. I could be wrong.

DEPPEY: No that actually makes a certain amount of sense, because there’s really no pressing demand for electronic paper. It’s really more, you know, people trying to push it onto the consumer, trying to say, “Hey, here’s a desire that you didn’t know you had,” and right now it’s a pretty weak sell.

MANLEY: I could see buying it for painting, a print that I would hang on my wall and change to what I downloaded; those are the kind of applications I would expect to see. People like books. I like books, books are nice, and not just because I can read them on the toilet, but because each book has its own sort of character and looking at it reminds me of what I was doing when I was reading it, and things like that. So yeah, the closer we get to trying to overthrow the book, the further I think we get from the reality of what the goals should be.

I think of webcomics as television for comics in the same way that television is similar to the movies, similar to the stage, but neither of those things. We come to it with different expectations than we do those other two things and yet we understand that the experiences are sort of analogous. Sequential art on the screen kind of serves a different function; maybe right now it’s a little more disposable, in the way that television for many years was more disposable. I think Warren Ellis was talking about the end of independently produced comic books, and repeating George Burns’ complaint that without vaudeville, the kids didn’t have anywhere to go to learn how to fail. Webcomics aren’t a replacement for what already exists, in the same way that television didn’t destroy movies, yet what already exists is likely to change because of the existence of the new thing, you know? Movies are no longer the center of our entertainment life the way they were in the ’30s and ’40s. To survive, they’ve become bigger, more movie-like, something you have an excuse to want to see on the big screen. I think print comics are going to become more print-y, if that’s a word, something you’d read in print more likely than on the screen for specific reasons. Comics like Seth’s or Chris Ware’s that take advantage of the printed form in specific ways. But I think most of the reading that happens is going to be on the screen, whether it’s a BitTorrent you’ve downloaded or webcomic you’re reading.

BITPASSÉ

DEPPEY: You mentioned Bitpass earlier. It hadn’t occurred to me until I was preparing for this interview, but I haven’t heard anything about a micropayment debate in what seems like two or three years.

MANLEY: Well, there was sort of a cataclysmic moment with Jon Rosenberg’s webcomic, Goats. He experimented with micropayments, but pulled the experiment within a week because he said not only were people not buying the micropayments, but they also were no longer buying his merchandise. I think his reasoning was something like, “People are paying me for a T-shirt because they want to participate in what I’m doing and if they can get that same feeling by giving me two cents for a comic they’re not going to buy the T-shirt, and I’d much rather they buy the T-shirt.”

From Scott Rosenberg's Goats

From Scott Rosenberg’s Goats

It was sort of one of those cataclysmic moments that sort of ended the debate about micropayments — I think unfairly. I’ve said in public that I think that Jon’s so-called experiment was a little bit disingenuous, but it effectively silenced micropayments advocates. Only in webcomics would somebody running a business feel perfectly comfortable trying something once, for one week, then declaring himself enough of an expert on it to denounce it as a failure for every use, for every artist, for all time.

DEPPEY: Yeah, well, I have yet to see a micropayments system that looked as easy to use as my credit card.

MANLEY: Or PayPal, even.

DEPPEY: I’ve even got problems with PayPal. I refuse to get a full account with them because I won’t give them my bank numbers and whatnot.

MANLEY: Well, that’s understandable. We’ve never attempted to sell anything by micropayment, and there’s a reason for that I don’t have a lot of faith in that model for the kinds of things I try to do. I do have a lot of faith in the idea that a certain kind of material will thrive online if it can be supported directly by its readers forking over cash. That can be in the form of print compilations that people buy, that can be in the form of T-shirt sales, or it can be in the form of subscriptions, or possibly micropayments. I haven’t seen a micropayment system that works for me either, and I think it’s unfortunate in some ways that the failure of Bitpass to really set the world on fire has sort of discredited the underlying idea of micropayments for everybody, always. That said, I never believed, nor will I ever believe that any one business model is the only right and good one. I think that like healthier media — television and the music industry or whatever — we can only survive and grow if there’s all kinds of different business models that support all kinds of different endeavors at all kinds of different levels for all kinds of different audiences.

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