This year’s Reuben awards weekend — the traditional yearly gathering of traditional comic strip cartoonists — saw some special guests from the webcomics world specially invited, like Kate Beaton, Randall Munroe, and Scott Kurtz. Kurtz has written up the weekend in an absolute must read on the changing of the guard from a world where creators live by the structured patronage of big media companies in exchange for exclusivity, to a much more fluid world where entrepreneurship is as important as content and living by your wits is literally the way to the big payoff.
It’s also a sharp portrait of two generations that have to learn what they have in common:
It took a while to break the ice, but before long we were all fast friends. Talking, drinking, laughing, arguing and sharing stories. We were all peers before the first evening of cocktails had a chance to wind down. Universal Press Syndicate was kind enough to invite us to their hospitality suite. We even got to attend a short lived after party in Jeff Keane’s presidental suite, complete with cartoonists all seated around a table drinking and drawing.
From what I observed, the members of the NCS are a community bonded in a passion for the art. In the same way that I think the webcomics community is bound by a sense of independence from traditional business models. They are all about the craft and they have a strong passion for the history of the medium. Imagine being a cartoonist and never once being asked “How do you make money at that?” It seems unheard of for someone in my position. But nobody wonders with them. The models are so traditional that they are universally understood. Ours….not so much. Everyone who approached me about the webcomics panel asked why they didn’t talk more about how they make money. “Everyone wants to know how you guys make your money.” During the Reuben Award ceremony, I overheard a couple discussing the panel at our table. “Someone asked them how they build their readership and they said ‘word of mouth’ which means they don’t even know.”