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Author Topic: Webcomics Community Spotlight: DJ Coffman  (Read 18944 times)

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Webcomics Community Spotlight: DJ Coffman
« on: October 05, 2010, 10:21:25 PM »
DJ Coffman is the well known creator of the comics "Hero By Night" and "Yirmumah." He's worked with the band "Flobots" as well as Kevin Smith's "View Askew Productions" and the cable network HBO on set decoration pieces for "True Blood" in addition to many other well known brands and people.

Recently DJ released his first E-Book entitled "Cash For Cartoonists." In the book he documents the top fifteen ways he has learned over the years to monetize his art. At just twenty four pages it's a spare document that doesn't spend time with theory or philosophy. It lays down in a plain manner  the fifteen ways DJ has supported himself with his art and includes short anecdotes to back up his claims.

I asked DJ for this interview so we can touch on his past, discuss the present and hopefully get a bit of inside info on the future of one of the most controversial artists in webcomics.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started in art?

Well, like many other stories I was always interested in comics. When I was kid I'd trace newspaper strips like Garfield and others until I learned to draw them perfectly.
Then as a pre-teen I discovered GI JOE comics and had a weird epiphany of... "Wow, somebody had to draw these. I want to draw these too!" - That coupled with an over active imagination of playing with GI Joes and making up my own stories and character names and tales. From the ages of 7 through 12 I'd say those were the years I decided no matter what, that's what I wanted to do "when I grow up" -- I did all of the usual things for a young cartoonist, had a regular comic in the school paper, submitted my work to big companies even though I was way too young to legally work, etc. Early teens was the comic industry BOOM times of Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man and then into the Image Revolution. That really made everything seem possible when I was 16.

I was lucky enough to have some connections inside Image HQ at the time and was able to go up and visit with some inkers I knew there and really see first hand how much went into all of those books. I got to meet a lot of my "heroes" in those years, and I also got to taste a little of the disillusionment or demystification of the process which led me into drawing my own underground mini comics expressing my experiences and opinions.

Yirmumah began as a semi-autobiographical comic lambasting the likes of Rob Liefeld and many more. I'd like to say it was all in good fun, but I was 18 or 19 and actually pretty bitter. I was the typical "angry young man" who came out of the grunge era. I balked at things like "working for the man!" and said I didn't ever want to work for Marvel or DC because of what they did to Jack Kirby... it was weird, because looking back, like I said, I was only 18 or 19 and not very educated in the history of comics at the time. It's easy to jump to conclusions and paint things as corporate bad guys when you're full of teen angst. Luckily I've grown wiser over the years! Things aren't always black and white like that.

Q:  I know you probably get asked some of these questions every time you are interviewed but I'll do my best to be as original as I can. So you were into art but what led you to comics/webcomics?

It was always comics for me. And you gotta remember I graduated in 1994 so there really wasn't an internet as we know it today and it was still the old process of going to shows and submitting your work. I found that I really loved doing mini comics and selling directly to my fans around Pittsburgh. I also enjoyed success having comics in my local newspapers and there was a spell where I was submitting to the big syndicates and developing my work with Jay Kennedy at King Features who really liked one of my features called "House Blend."

So I was always doing this dance between comic book work and comic strip (newspaper) work. In late 1998, Bob McDeavitt and I started self syndicating our all ages sci-fi strip called GRAVITY to newspapers. We ended up with 55 newspapers around the country running it, and then landed with a small syndicate (Press Media) who as it turned out only seemed to have wanted our mailing list to sell other features to. In 1999 we put Gravity on Keenspace.com. We ended up ending Gravity because it was a lot of work for very little money, even though being self syndicated with 50+ papers at the time was considered a pretty big deal. Everything in webcomics then was pretty much people who didn't have money to get printed or amateurs submitting to big syndicates, or people just having fun with their hobby. But to me, webcomics were more of a new future for daily "comic strips" than they were for the comic book medium at the time.

Q: You are almost as well known for your freelance work as you are for your comics. Give us a rundown of the top ten most impressive clients you've done work for. Assuming you can name names of course.

I'm not sure about top ten, and I wouldn't want to give an order or get into name dropping. I don't even know what is considered impressive to some and not to others. But yeah, I've worked with great writers like Brian Lynch from the View Askew crowd (big helium dog forever!) We did tons of MonkeyMan comics, a full mini series, daily strips, etc. View Askew actually self distributed us through Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash before Diamond picked the book up. That was a real high point for me because Kevin Smith and his films were like my heroes for YEARS, and getting a check from View Askew (for the Movie Poopshoot Logo) was a real highlight for me in my mind. I remember thinking "Holy shit, I just got paid from the guy who made CLERKS!" Those were fun times!

It's funny though because there comes a time where you realize your heroes are just people and that everyone is really accessible if you're just cool and productive - it's really EASY to just reach out and work with many people. Beyond comics some of my other clients for spot jobs have included things for NBC, MTV, HBO, Universal, Marvel, and of course my biggest work in the past couple years has been everything I've been doing with the Flobots band. That includes everything starting out doing custom comics for them, to designing merch to becoming their full blown webmaster and social media guy. I also do a good bit of work with their non-profit group Flobots.org which works a lot with inspiring the youth of many communities. Good people!

Q: Now let's talk about controversy for a moment. Your battles with PvP creator Scott Kurtz are well known and well documented. Personally I don't think there's anything new that can be said on the subject. And your fight with Platinum Studios over payment for your work on "Hero By Night" are also pretty common knowledge. But as someone who follows you, as a fan of your work I've noticed a change in your behavior as of late. You ended your caustic, insulting and wildly hilarious comic, "Yirmumah" recently and have been seen arguing reason and logic with people. What brought about the change?

Okay. Let's talk about all that. You know years ago I was voted as the #1 troublemaker in webcomics in a Joey Manley article, that was above Scott Kurtz and Penny Arcade. I use to be proud of that, the idea that I could rile people up or get under their skin... but now, not at all.
Something many webcomic people don't know or remember is that Scott and I use to be friends or at least friendly colleagues before the whole Platinum fiasco. He never saw eye to eye with me signing up for the Comic Book Challenge and I remember him and Joey Manley coming out strongly against Scott Rosenberg... Penny Arcade even made a comic painting Rosenberg as this sleezy corporate douchebag... and here's the thing, they had never met him or known him. I had. Nothing could have been further from the truth... if anything Scott Rosenberg was one of the nicest guys in the entertainment business I had ever met. (and there are a TON of assholes out there!) He wasn't diabolical, he reminded me a lot of Tom Hanks from the movie BIG... he was a little kid in a grown man's body, and I loved his passion and  love of comics. I couldn't understand why people were always trashing him as if he were out to get you and your IP rights. Moreso, he became more than "the boss", I consider him a friend. So yes, I defended him passionately like I would any friend, and the haters never liked that, and yes, I was over the top at times in my cheerleading. Of course you'd have to understand how jazzed I was with the opportunities I had at the time, lots of big doors were opening for me. I went from doing my own webcomic in my own house to being represented by Endeavor and toasted at glitzy parties.

There was no secret that Platinum Studios had a model to exploit comic rights and I signed right up after beating out thousands of submissions with Hero By Night. I impressed some industry big wigs with my presentation and passion for my comics. We're not talking small time people here, Marc Silvestri, Gale Anne Hurd, Hollywood Reporter... nobody in that competition including Rosenberg thought a "super hero" thing would win it. If you ask him to this day he'll still say he didn't really want it, but I had such a unique spin on the genre that I had brought back something that was missing, and it just touched people in some way. So that's really where the lines were drawn in the whole debacle with webcomics drama. Scott Kurtz told me he even voted for my comic because it was the best thing there... and he only voted in a competition he didn't support because he liked me and wanted to support me.

I think it was my crazy defense of Platinum at every corner of the net that really stoked the fires of drama. I didn't like critics expounding about my contracts and details they didn't know about. To this day, no one but Platinum and myself know the deals we made, and to Platinum's credit they were willing to put in extra work for me to write a whole different contract for the webcomics. That wasn't even in the "winnings" it was just a separate idea I pitched. It was a really great couple of years, and as far as I know I'm the only webcomics guy who was paid a very handsome page rate to produce a webcomic AND full on comic book series. I really put out my best work and tried to do my best to change the minds of the Platinum Studio critics.

When the pay stopped, and the deals fell apart after 2 years,  I was a little hurt with everyone ganging up to say "we told you so!" and pretty much pouring lemon juice into my fresh wounds. And that is a recipe for disaster because it makes you hate critics, especially when you're made aware of their unethical business behavior or backstabbing. I could have continued HBN without pay and without distribution or printing, but it wasn't possible for the team to continue at the time. We all had bills to pay. So there I was out of a job and looking for work... and most of all I was really hurt because it was like watching a dream die too soon. And I'd never experienced those feelings before. It really moved me into dark place for awhile. The positive side was, I really found out who my true friends were at the time. And it was only a month or two until I was working full time again with the Flobots; whose positive messages and friendship pretty much kept me from self destructing completely at the time. The support from awesome people really made me see a bigger picture, and realize my problems were TINY, petty things in the grand scheme.

These days I don't hold any animosity toward my critics or Platinum Studios. I've had a lot of time to think about it and I just realize that sometimes good things can go bad and spiral out of control; especially when you dwell in the negative sphere and it starts to snowball. Any bad behavior or sore feelings on my part were just due to being hurt and taking things personally which I couldn't control at the time. It was a painful period both professionally and in my personal life.

As far as recently having a big change of heart and behavior and focusing on positive energy, it's because I discovered the "Law of Attraction" (most people know it as "The Secret") and began putting it to use in my life very deliberately. I'm not a spiritual person, or a cult follower of any kind, and hearing about it at first I thought... this is wacky Oprah stuff! Ha! But I figured you have nothing to lose by trying the simple steps... and WOW. It's life transforming stuff. It was something I got really excited about and started sharing with close friends (who also thought I was out of my mind) but then it worked for them too. I don't know about it being some ancient secret thing, but it's something that Andrew Carnegie knew and taught to many people, and I can assure you that it works all the time, every time.

The nuts and bolts of that is... whatever you're thinking the most about, you are drawing more of to you. So if you're dwelling on negative drama... you get more of that. Bad emotions... more of that. So, think about what it is you want the most and remember that your thoughts always become things. You'll end up attracting the right people, situations and events into your life. All that said, I really don't subscribe to the folks who take the marketing to a "spiritual" thing, I think it's more of a science than anything. I definitely consider it a REAL super power that we all have, but rarely use... and how it came into my life is a really neat story for another time.

Another thing I firmly believe in and try my best to put into practice is "The Golden Rule" - Again, I don't take it from the Bible ; in fact that "rule" is older than any religious text. It's "Treat others the way you wish to be treated" - which is often confused or used to justify bad behavior by misquoting it as "Treat others how they've treated you" or "an eye for an eye" which doesn't work out well. So, the whole "talking shit" on the internet or attacking another creaotor, name calling thing is not conducive to turning the other cheek for me. I don't want that, so I refuse to play that game. Sometimes it's hard, but it REALLY does make your life better following that golden rule.

Q: Do you have any regrets regarding your career so far and if you could change one thing about it what would it be?

Definitely not! It's never good to dwell in the past. Just learn from it and keep going forward. For any failures I've had, I've learned a lot from. And the successes I've had I build upon.

Q: So let's talk about your coaching program. "Cash For Cartoonists" has been lauded by some and thoroughly trashed by others (almost all of whom did not in fact actually read the book). Let's start with the basics. Who did you make this book for... and why?

You're right, nobody that has actually read the ebook or experienced the coaching has complained about it. The exact opposite. All of the opinions I've heard match the testimonials on the page. I've been wanting to write a guide like this for a long time, but part of me before didn't want to share in the way that I use to on my old blog. I get asked for advice all the time on making money with webcomics or transitioning from print to web, and answer a lot of the same questions so I thought a comprehensive guide like this would be a great thing to put out, and something that wasn't available anywhere else to this degree.

Q: And while we're  on the subject, tell us how much the book costs, what we get  for the money,  where we can see the free preview and where we can purchase the book if we're interested.

For $47 you get the unlimited coaching/consulting and the original ebook. All the details and testimonials from those who have bought and read it are at http://djcoffman.com/cash4cartoonists

Q: Now I understand you are considering a cheaper version of the book that does not include the consultation with you?

I've been on the fence about this, but I'm leaning against it now. Really the price is a barrier of sorts to the people who can't afford it or aren't ready for it, I don't think they should be spending money on it if they think it's too expensive or if they think they know everything inside of it already. If you're wanting to learn how to make more money but you can't afford $47, This project isn't for them, and they've got bigger problems to be worrying about.  According to the feedback from buyers the information inside is easily worth 5 times the price of the book. And while it's true I use to give away a lot of information for free (and still do!) - This is my effort to take this to the next level and be able to give back more to the individual creators with anything they need; be it informational or inspirational. I don't want to give out just general information, so it's great to work one-on-one with illustrators and cartoonists to help them as much as I can. I've heard from some creators that this guide has just been a really great motivator and "kick in the pants" to get moving... and that in itself is worth more than the cover price for many.

Q: And how have the consultations with purchasers been going so far? Have you had any trouble keeping up? Run me through a consultation. How does it work and how many times do I get to consult with you for the purchase price of the book; and for how long?

I really love it. I'm keeping the consultations unlimited via email, but of course I can't always answer people back right away like I have been doing the past month or so. I like the idea of the readers having a direct connection to me as long as I'm offering this service. And I look forward to watching some of these cartoonists grow their business and will be reporting on that when they allow me to do so.

A basic consultation or coaching might go like this... the creator emails me an introduction or asks what I think of their game plan or ideas. I reply with my thoughts and give them ideas to add to their business plan that they may not have thought of. I also believe in going the extra mile for folks, so in one case one of the illustrators has dyslexia and it's hard to read the text on a gray background so I've created a special version for that person to help out.

One guy has a great idea to provide a really special wedding type caricature service in his local area  ( no, not drawing at weddings, I won't give away his exact plan here). But I was able to be his springboard and give him advice on how best to advertise his service. I gave him a plan to not only work with local wedding planners since he's offering a really great and COOL service, but also to focus local by advertising on the local "classifieds" channel. Many times you can get advertising on the local cable ad channel for like $15 bucks a week!

Often I get excited about someone's idea as if it were my own and start throwing more ideas at them, for instance, this guy didn't know he could advertise on Facebook very cheaply and target his local area and interests. He could spend $10 a week and only get clicks from people who were planning a wedding. It's hard to do that on other networks.

I've done over 150 one-on-one consultations since August 25th - Oct5th. Many of those folks aren't ongoing conversations because they don't need as much help, just a kick start or specialized info and I can point them in the right directions.

Q: One of the main criticisms I've seen of "Cash For Cartoonists" is that it is a mutli-level marketing scheme which is just a nice way of saying pyramid scheme. Why do you think your critics have leveled this charge?

I don't want to dredge up drama here with my critics. Nothing could be further from the truth. The only person who lobbied that accusation was Scott Kurtz on The Daily Cartoonist thread. He jumped to that conclusion after I had offered a discounted $20 version to webcomics.com members and told them that the ebook also has a built in affiliate program of 50% for anyone who promotes or sells it. They turned down the offer and turned the affiliate thing into "this must be a scam!" or bad thing. An affiliate program isn't a pyramid scheme, or scam at all. And the accusations are pretty hurtful, if not downright unlawful and libelous to make.

The reason for the built in affiliate program is this... If someone reads my book or gets some great coaching from me and then they tell another cartoonist "Hey, you should consult with DJ and check out his book" - If they sell a copy for me, I want them to make money too and I'm giving away HALF. So it's built in at the end of the ebook telling cartoonists if they found the info and coaching useful, they can get paid for sharing it too. I thought this was more than fair, and something I had never seen offered in a "how to" book for cartoonists. Especially since I want to help cartoonists earn more money, and so here's another way that I offer them that can help pay for the cost of the book itself. I was keeping it for buyers of the ebook only, but now it's open to the public and anyone can sign up to sell the ebook+coaching editon by signing up for the program here.

Q: Is "Cash For Cartoonists" connected to Third Tribe?

Not at all. The owners or other members of that community are in no way shape or form involved in my ebook or coaching program. I have no deals with them. I am a paying member of their online community, which is really awesome.

Q: What is Third Tribe Marketing and what is your connection to it?

Third Tribe was founded by some of the greatest minds in problogging and online marketing. Honest people like Brian Clark of Copyblogger.com and Darren Rowse of Problogger. It features great minds like Chris Brogan, Sonia Simone and Dave Navarro (the launch guy, not the musician) - My connection to it is I'm a paying member. I signed up to brush up on my marketing and online business stuff after realizing I was a bit out of date with the times.

You know years ago, in 2004-05 I was taking knowledge I learned from Darren Rowse and other probloggers about affiliates and online advertising tweeks like Google Ads and applying them to webcomics. I helped not only Chris Crosby but Scott Kurtz as well tweek their Google Ads to increase profits. These days, GoogleAds and online advertising is sort of old hat, a great way to make  beer money for web cartoonists. So I joined Third Tribe; just wanting to brush up on my business and marketing skills, but then discovered a whole other world of folks making great informational ebooks and seminars. From all of the cool advice inside and experiences of other online entrepreneurs the community inspired me to try my own ebook; sharing what I know most about... making money cartooning. And I really wanted to see more cartoonists making more money.

Q: What has been the response from purchasers so far? Any unhappy customers?

Everyone I've heard from who has bought it has loved it. No unhappy customers whatsoever. Like I said, most creators are seeing this like a nice positive "kick in the pants" - I've heard from a few who were overwhelmed with all the insight and possibilities and don't feel they're ready to step into the real money making realm, BUT... still felt like this was a huge motivator for them to begin doing so and knowing all of the possibilities open to them has really made some people, sit back and reconsider their overall gameplan. I wish I would have had something like this when I started out, as well as direct connection to the author.

Q: All right so we've covered the past and the present. Let's talk about the future. Any more books in the works?

Right now I'm focusing primarily on my work for BigFoot and Tiki in partnership with Lanikai Ukuleles. There are plans to increase the schedule and do some really fun stuff for the ukulele community which I love. Another artist I spoke with recently said the reason he loves me is because I don't just talk the talk, I'm walking the walk doing things like sponsored webcomics. Beyond the paying work, I'm also working slowly on a private graphic novel... but it's very slow! I originally wanted to be done by September but I'm just going with the flow on it now as more and more paying work increases and takes center stage for me.

Q: I understand you have been fully compensated by Platinum for your work on "Hero By Night", that the property was optioned by a media company for movies or TV and most exciting of all you've decided to start drawing it again. What can you tell us about all that?

Well I mentioned on my twitter and blog that I'm mentally ready to work on it again. It's taken a long time to come to terms with how things ended up and really allow the bad feelings to fade away from my heart and mind. I couldn't have continued HBN with those negative feelings at the front door. It's never been far from my thoughts and dreams and I miss producing that type of positive work.

Q: Pretty much everyone thought that when you sold the rights to "Hero By Night" that meant you could no longer make the comic without their (Platinum Studios) permission. When "Hero By Night" went on hiatus it was both a print and web comic at the same time. I know there's a lot here you can't legally talk about. But if you could give us some idea as to how and in what capacity "Hero By Night" will be returning I think all "Hero By Night" fans would be grateful (I know I would).

It's not as complicated as people assume. While it's true that Platinum Studios owns Hero By Night, it's also true that I have the right right to continue it as a comic series on my own as the creator of the series. The big thing that people missed in that whole fiasco was that Platinum Studios never ended HBN; we did. The creative team did as a group made that decision. The creative team being Myself, Jason Embury the colorist and to some extent James Patrick as the writer of the ongoing series (although he was cool either way!) The bottom line was we couldn't keep producing it at the level we were without our contracted pay. We were left with the unhappy choice to keep doing it for free and not be able to pay our budgeted bills or spend the time doing other paying work. It was a painful decision to make, but not one that Platinum Studios made, everyone there wanted us to continue at the time in any way we could hang on. We just couldn't hang on.

Q: Will James Patrick be returning to "Hero By Night" as well?

I've made the decision that I'll only restart it with the original team, so YES! James and I go way back, and we had some VERY cool stories plotted out that we weren't able to get to.

Q: I read a statement from you that since you won't be getting paid by a studio to make "Hero By Night" that you will have to find other ways to monetize the comic and I heard hints of the dreaded "subscriber model" in that statement. Considering how universally subscriber models have failed in the past what do you plan on doing differently and how do you think you can make it work?

All of this is just talk for now. I can say I'm not interested in trying models that have failed for others. I think there's a way that a subscription model could work for Hero By Night fans and I'm interested in devising a whole new model for delivery of a long form comic. I'm not a big fan of the page a day or every M-W-F model as the pacing is slower. I think a comic like HBN would be better read and enjoyed in one sitting as if you were getting the full issue on the stands. I'll look to bridge the gap between fans who want to support us directly and a new way for online retailers to make money as well with our work.  The way I devise new plans is by thinking about what I, as a comics fan, would be willing to spend or how I would support the creators if I were an HBN fan.

Q: Will the existing archive for "Hero By Night" be available at the site where the new comics are published or will new readers still have to go to Platinum's website for the older comics? For that matter, will the new comics be published at Platinum's site?

In some capacity all of the old material will be available to read on our new site. Most likely as downloadable PDF content though. Again, I'm not very keen these days on comic book stories doing the page a day model. While that can be great for ad profits, I really don't like ads or things taking away from the experience of the story. I can't imagine turning a page in a print comic and having ads flashing at me and distracting me from the story. I hate that.

Q: There have been a lot of changes in the webcomic world over the last ten years. There are so many comics and so many new service providers. Everything is so new and yet in a constant state of flux. The old ways of popularizing your webcomic simply don't work as well as they used to but all the work associated with all those old ways (consistent updates, compelling story, great art) are still required. What do you think is the best way for a webcomic to get noticed among the throngs?

First, it depends on your niche or topic you're working within. Define that first, then do the other things with your niche foremost in your mind. Who are you trying to talk to? If you're doing a parenting comic and your reaching out to college students, you're crossing your wires there. Just putting out consistent updates, compelling story or humor and great art, isn't enough to grow the audience you'll be happy with. You'll need to learn about creative marketing and search engine optimization (covered in my ebook) - Ask yourself this... if you don't have a twitter account or facebook account and you haven't searched those networks to find the people you think would dig your strip... why not!? Twitter search is a HUGE thing you could be using to let specific people know about your work. Even if you contacted 10 people a day, it can spiral into TONS of people linking your work and spreading it.

FREE ADVICE: Here's some great advice that's seriously worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars.... Ask yourself this... why don't more webcomics have MAILING LISTS? Why don't YOU? Most people think they're outdated and old school, and that's a HUGE mistake, especially if you're just starting out. Big comics like PvP and Penny Arcade don't need them; but you do. Here's why. Learn how to manage a good mailing list using MailChimp and cool autoresponders. Don't just see your mailing list as a newsletter to let people know the latest on your work, you can setup a mailing list to manage your "super fans." The first step is offering something extra to fans of your work. Maybe it's a weekly exclusive comic or cool bonus art. You don't want to use this list to spam them or give them boring newsletters. Deliver some awesome bonus stuff to them that they'll enjoy. Also, instead of tracking raw unique users on your site who you really don't know if they're true fans or not, track your mailing list subscribers. It's a great way of knowing just how many of the TRUE fans you've made. They cared enough about your work to sign up to see more. When the time comes to sell something, they'll be the most likely to buy from you; but again I must stress to never take advantage of that list to spam them.... remember the ABCs... Always Bring Content! If you have a cool book or piece of original art for a "first come first serve" auction, make sure you only mention this if you've delivered some cool bonus comic or content to them. Your super fans will reward you and support you all the way. This goes beyond standard "hope marketing" of your work. Utilizing a mailing list you can really stack the deck in your favor.

Q: What do you see for the future of webcomics.

I still see "webcomics" as more of a replacement for the daily comic strips in newspapers than anything else. There's a reason the most successful webcomics are humor based strips. What will really be interesting is the commercialization of webcomics. When you'll see more and more brands and news sites picking up comics exclusively to increase their readerships. It's basically just the SAME model local newspapers had when they were competing. Some papers would have Garfield, some wouldn't. While we won't see that happening with the big players now, I could see being the fan of a certain webcomic that you could only read over on MSNBC.com or CNN.com or NYTimes.com. Webcomics can do for those companies what old school comic strips and editorial cartooning did for many papers.

Q: Comics and Webcomics are cousins with a lot in common. As print as a business model becomes less and less viable, larger corporations like Marvel and DC are slowly making overtures to an internet model. They're hamhanded and not serious right now. But even the New York Times publisher recently admitted that the days of printing a hard copy of the newspaper were numbered. What do you think will happen when big comics companies can no longer survive on a brick and mortar, comic store, retail model and start taking webcomics seriously? Will we be in trouble? Will they?

For Comic Books and things like Marvel and DC; I still don't think they get the webcomics model or scene and it won't work for them. BUT the advances in delivering comics digitally have been great. What I'd like to see is a service where I don't have to use an App or player; I just simply subscribe to what I like and it's delivered right into my "inbox" - Nothing can really be done about brick and mortars shops that only survive through Diamond's Distribution system going under. That ship is sinking fast. Comic shops who want to survive will have to change into becoming more like "the real life meeting place" for comics lovers.

Imagine a shop in your neighborhood where you could go and download exclusive content into your ebook reader or ipad, and then you could also plunk down 20 bucks on a nice trade of your favorite story lines. I'm actually optimistic that this digital boom can really make BOOKS special again. Especially after decades of the speculator market destroying the print comic book industry. But none of that changes the fact that for the next 20 years there will still be a massive amount of people who "want to hold the BOOK in their hands." So digital will replace the "floppy" and serialized installments for now. But we'll always want a nice big book to take with us. The nice hardcover books really make the comics seem more important. In my humble opinion.

Q: How many webcomics do you read every day? Feel free to mention names. I'm sure they won't mind.

Honestly I don't read as much as I use to. When I do I check out my good friends works like Nate Piekos "Atland", and Adam Black's "Locus." I still enjoy strips like "Diesel Sweeties" and Tom Brazleton's "Theater Hopper", all of Joe Dunn's work and the folks at DigitalPimp.com - Mostly I just stumble through webcomics links from twitter and I love discovering fresh cartooning and something that's not trying to ape Penny Arcade or some other style.

Q: How often do you attend conventions and to your mind what are the best conventions for a webcomic artist to attend? I know that depending on the genre you draw your comic in there can be big pluses and minuses to certain conventions so I'm just asking generally for information on positive experiences you've had.

I used to do a lot of bigger shows, even before "Hero By Night", but being so busy and having a big family and responsibilities makes scheduling kinda tough for me these days. What I do suggest to creators is really go to as many local conventions and groups meetups as possible and contribute to your own scene. I haven't done that as much as I'd like to, and I'm really just focused on Pittsburgh area shows for now. I'll hopefully be attending PIX in October, and New Dimension Comics Pittsburgh Show in November.

Q: Have you had any "crazy fan" moments and if so how did you handle it?

The old Yirmumah fans could get kinda crazy, but nothing I couldn't handle. I had one guy show up at my house once as if my home were my convention table and he was just stopping by to tell me how much he liked my work. That was the creepiest experience I ever had, because I do like my privacy and remaining incognito in my local area. Along those lines, when I was front page on all the local papers for winning comic book challenge, people in my area assumed I had won a million dollars, so we had strange cars driving past the house slowly, and my post office lady told me there were people asking whereabouts I lived or for my address. Kinda creepy and scary. We ended up moving and I try to stay pretty private locally.

Q: You have given a positive review of the print on demand site "Spreadshirt." In my experience the vector requirements made them almost impossible to use since I'm not trained in the use of Adobe Illustrator or the conversion of static images to vector (and neither are many webcomics creators). Do you recommend any other services or vendors to webcomics creators? Feel free to mention names. I'm certain they won't mind.

Actually you can upload Bitmaps as PNG files and the quality is great! You can do full color images as PNG files, with transparent backgrounds and it works out well. I've never been a big fan of vector art.

Q: Any final thoughts or desperate confessions you'd like to make?

I'd just like to reiterate to all cartoonists and creators to stay positive and keep following your dreams and what makes you the happiest. Don't dwell in a negative sphere. Take it from someone who has been there and done that and can tell you from experience that more good things will come to you when you focus on good things. Some people say I'm just "lucky", but I want you to know that there is absolutely no such thing as luck.

Thanks for the info DJ. There's a lot of webcomics out there and a lot of us don't know what we're doing. Banding together, sharing information and dragging what we can out of experienced veterans like yourself is what Webcomics Community is all about. I hope it wasn't too painful.

Until DJ launches his next project you can keep up with what he's doing by following him at his blog or on twitter.

« Last Edit: October 06, 2010, 09:11:46 AM by Rob »