Bill Watterson, creator of the legendary Calvin & Hobbes, in a rare interview with Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum curator Jenny Robb:
I can’t really picture the average person going to the trouble of curating his own little comic section, much less reading a new and unfamiliar strip for months to build up a relationship with it. There’s so much other content available—instantly and all for free—that there’s no reason to stick around if you’re not immediately enthralled. We consume everything like potato chips now. In this environment, I suspect the cartoonist’s connection with readers is likely to be superficial and fleeting, unless he taps into some fervent special interest niche. And that audience, almost by definition, will be tiny. It’s a very different world from the days when everyone in America knew who Popeye, Dick Tracy or Charlie Brown was.
Though he probably has a point that the audience for a given comic may never again reach the sizes common in the pre-internet era, I think the rest of this statement is inaccurate. There are lots of people enthusiastically following cartoonists’ work today – my guess is, way more than there were in Calvin & Hobbes‘s heyday. And new comics are finding success all the time, with their creators forming extremely strong connections with their readers (ask Ryan North or Kate Beaton or Joey Comeau/Emily Horne, or some other cartoonists who aren’t from Canada).
I’m sure the world of cartooning has changed a million different ways over the last decade or two, but on the whole I suspect things are much better now – for creators and for readers.
There’s a lot of other good stuff in the interview. Bill Watterson is a great guy whose work I love, and Robb also spoke with Richard Thompson, a longtime Washington Post institution as creator of, among other things, Cul de Sac.
Mea culpa. It wasn’t Apple that kept the comic out of the Comixology app:
Turns out, however, Apple wasn’t to blame, at least according to ComiXology CEO David Steinberger. He wrote that it was ComiXology, not Apple, that made the decision — although it was based on the startup’s understanding of Apple’s policies. Steinberg also insisted that the decision wasn’t based on sexual orientation: “We did not interpret the content in question as involving any particular sexual orientation, and frankly that would have been a completely irrelevant consideration under any circumstance.”
Where in the pre-digital age supply and demand principles were ruled by material constraints, here the problem is far less simple — material constraints enter the picture, yes, in the form of added servers and more bandwidth purchased from a telecommunications provider — but efficiency of design is also as important. And all of this would have been avoided if both industries weren’t so intent on stopping piracy that they’re shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to actual convenience and customer service.
This doesn’t all come down to DRM, but it’s a big part of the problem.
Earlier today, Vaughan (best known for Y: The Last Man), issued a statement saying that Saga #12 would not be for sale through Comixology or any other third-party app on iOS. “As has hopefully been clear from the first page of our first issue, Saga is a series for the proverbial ‘mature reader,'” he wrote. “Unfortunately, because of two postage stamp-sized images of gay sex, Apple is banning tomorrow’s Saga #12 from being sold through any iOS apps. This is a drag, especially because our book has featured what I would consider much more graphic imagery in the past, but there you go.”
Wow, is this stupid. Click through for the bonus stupid: Apple’s still selling the same issue in its own iBookstore.