Friday, January 13, 2017

Stripped (2014)

I’ve always started my day with the comics.  I grew up with The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes.  I now my day with Zits and Fox Trot.  I never gave much thought to them.  They’ve always been there as long as I was old enough to read the newspaper.  The future may not be as certain.  Traditional comics are dependant on a syndicate and, by extension, newspapers.  News of newspapers folding worries comic artists.  Comics, at least the ones you read in the paper, may end up going down with a sinking ship.

The documentary starts with traditional comics, like the ones I mentioned above.   There are interviews with Jeff Keane and Jim Davis.  We even get to hear the voice of Bill Watterson, who drew Calvin and Hobbes.  (This was the first time he allowed his voice to be recorded for an interview.)  There’s an explanation of how someone has a career in comics.  It’s traditionally done through a syndicate.  (The artist does the artwork and the syndicate handles the business end of it, usually taking about half of the proceeds.)

There’s stuff on the history of comics, going back to how it started.  The film focuses more on the future, as many of the artists don’t know what will become of newspapers.  The film does go into Web comics, like Penny Arcade.   Making a Web comic not only requires the artistic skill, but needs the artist to promote and monetize their own work.  (Advertising and merchandizing are the two big options, but there are other ways.)

Will the Web kill comics?  I doubt it.  I may have mentioned in another review that a manager and I were talking about maps.  He said that GPS was killing off mapmakers.  I didn’t think that was necessarily true.  People still needed maps.  People that wanted maps now want them in a different form.  It’s simply a matter of learning how to deliver your content.

Those that do traditional comics don’t seem to want to do anything Web based, as many of them aren’t that business savvy.  Ironically, Web comics aren’t bound by the constraints that bothered Watterson.  I’ve been reading xkcd for a few years now and have seen some rather large ones.  Those artists that take their strips online could expand the look of their strips if they wanted to.  It’s difficult to say if the transition would be easy.  Many strips have a following, but that following would have to be maintained.

TV didn’t kill radio.  However, radio looks nothing like it did 100 years ago, or even 50 years ago.  Programs made the transition from radio to TV and the radio stations found a new way to get an audience.  Again, those that learn how to adapt will survive.

I still miss The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes.  I remember seeing an article on Facebook that said that Watterson was making a new strip every day and shredding it.  I was so saddened and shocked until I realized that it was an article on The Onion.   I hope I can look forward to Zits and Fox Trot for a long time to come.

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