Friday, June 22, 2012

Sparky's List

I heard this morning that Matt Groening is retiring his groundbreaking cartoon strip Life in Hell, which opened the door for an awful lot of great alt cartoonists and helped define the modern alt paper. In recent years the alts have been steadily evicting their cartoonists, uniformly citing budgetary concerns, and many great strips have bit the dust as a result.

One that hasn't yet is This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow, aka Dan Perkins. Years ago Dan's blog was the first I began reading regularly, and his bitingly satirical strip is a weekly pleasure for me. He works hard at it and is at the top of his game.

Like the rest of the artists in his corner of the industry, his income is falling, but he's not taking it lying down. He's set up a subscription service called Sparky's List, offering advance views of the strips delivered to your inbox weekly along with commentary and extras. Check it out here.

This kind of direct connection between artists and audiences has always been the most attractive potential of cyberspace for me. By leaving out the middlemen — the record companies, publishers, TV empires, movie distributors, etc. — that act as gatekeepers and profit sinks, both artist and audience get a better deal. But we have to get slightly up off the couch.

 (Just to give you an idea of what these artists are struggling to make, when I inquired about running This Modern World in Pop Rocket, Dan offered at $25 per strip. I forwarded that offer to Tim Wiederaenders* in January, and have heard not one word back since. Let's say I don't buy the argument that the toons are too expensive.)

 So if you're a participant rather than a consumer, I hope you'll consider joining Sparky's List, and watch for similar deals from artists of all sorts.

* In case you missed it, Pop Rocket is edited and published by the Courier.

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