Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Webcomics.com goes the subscription route...

DISCLAIMER:
I'm putting this here because I don't think it's appropriate to add it to my Capes & Babes site - plus, this thing might get a little long. I am going to include a link to this blog post on the Capes & Babes home page though.

Okay, so www.webcomics.com (also known as Half Pixel) has decided to go the subscription route for their content. The fee is EXTREMELY affordable at $30 a YEAR - that's really only about $2.50 a month and I EASILY surpass that in my soda consumption EVERY WEEK so for me, it's really nothing about the price. In fact, I can easily afford the $30 payment but I'm not going to pull out my credit card and pay the fee (even though it may be tax deductible).

Over the last couple of days, I've been struggling with the pros and cons of this new direction Half Pixel has taken mainly because of Brad Guigar. As many of you know, Brad graciously wrote the forward of my book, "You Can't print Flick". And, if you've ever listened to any podcast that I've been on, I talk at length about how he and Danielle Corsetto were instrumental in FINALLY convincing me to get Capes & Babes off the ground. I consider Brad a much valued friend even though, in the webcomics field, I am no where near his level. In baseball terms, I'm just beginning to (hopefully) get out of Single A while Brad has been enjoying the fruits of the Majors for quite some time.

So, if that's the case, why do I have a personal difficulty with the subscription model with webcomics.com? The truth of the matter is Brad's advice is absolutely worth the $30 a year price tag. In fact, I might even argue that's a SUPER bargain. For most people.

And that's ultimately what this comes down to... a personal choice of value and price.

I should point out that I am a contributing partner at another website that is primarily subscription-based (www.communitymx.com) so I KNOW the subscription based model can and does work. Community MX has been running for over 5 years now. The thing is, Community MX isn't ENTIRELY subscription-based. We offer free articles and content which includes my weekly "CMX Suite" comic strip. We also have a bunch of different subscription plans as well. Added to that, we have, on staff, over 25 writers, authors and teachers who have a ton of published books on web design to their credit- all of which work extremely hard at providing content for the site while also maintaining their freelance or daytime jobs. And we're compensated for that hard work via the people who find the articles worthy enough to purchase subscriptions. Thanks to Community MX, that's mainly the reason how I've been able to finance Capes & Babes from the very beginning.

With Community MX, we offer articles on web design, writing CSS and a ton of other stuff that many working web designers need RIGHT NOW. Although I'm sure there are probably quite a few CMX subscribers that aren't "professional" and just want to learn more about web design or Flash animation, the primary core of our audience are pros who want or need to learn better ways to write their CSS code or learn new and interesting things they can do with Flash Video. It's not a site where we say "subscribe to us and learn how you too can become a professional web designer - like us". Instead, it's more along the lines of "subscribe to us and learn how to become a BETTER professional web designer than you already are".

So I know a little bit about how successful the subscription model can be.
Here’s the thing that seems to give me a sense of unease about this new webcomics.com model… reliability. Maybe one of the reasons a lot of people seem upset about being asked to subscribe to webcomics.com all of a sudden is the track record of reliability. With Community MX, as I mentioned before, we have over 25 authors writing or contributing content every month so there’s no question new content will be available to subscribers when we say it will. And just so I don’t seem to be ONLY pushing Community MX here, the same can be said for lots of similar web design subscription-based sites as well like Lynda.com and so on. There is a reliable track record to these sites that keep people coming back and purchasing subscriptions.

Brad is only one guy and as much as I am utterly amazed at the amount of content he cranks out each and every month, he is only human. The man has to sleep SOMETIME. I actually enjoyed going to webcomics.com and reading submitted articles from other web creators. Heck, I even submitted a couple of articles myself. But now that the site is subscription based, I would imagine that will end. So, this will require Brad to create even more content than before since that source of content has vanished. Why do I only mention Brad? Because he’s the only one that has a track record for creating consistent content for www.webcomics.com.

And as dangerous as it is to mention this, Scott Kurtz’s track record is well known and well established. Added to that, he has already stated that he’s not going to receive any amount of the site’s subscription fee until the site is profitable for Brad. Only thing is, since he wasn’t contributing any content when the site was free - and if he’s not going receive any payment for his contributions to the paid site in the immediate future - what really has changed? If he’s not going to be paid, how much content can subscribers actually expect from him?

Dave Kellet has already stated he’s not a part of webcomics.com and, really, has no interest in being a part of the site – and that’s sad because I would have loved reading multiple, in-depth articles on hand-lettering from Dave. I know he has videos on the subject but since we’re talking about an INFORMATION website, I’m talking about real, in-depth articles. Sadly, that won’t ever happen, it appears.

Kris is busy doing podcasts with David Malki and I have no clue what kind of content Robert Khoo will be providing. Those Khoo articles are actually something I would be VERY interested in reading – as I’m sure 99.9% of all the rest of the web comics community would be too. But here’s the red flag (for me)… It would seem that Mr. Khoo’s primary responsibility is still making sure the Penny Arcade machine runs smoothly and effortlessly. That’s a HUGE ship to steer and, I would imagine, requires quite a bit of time and effort. How in-depth are his contributions going to be? Can’t tell ‘cause we don’t know.

That’s why I’d rather just take a step back and see where this might be headed. It’s very much akin to why I also don’t like to buy software as soon as it is released. And, having been a beta tester in the past, I know a lot of kinks need to be worked out in any new endeavor before it hits its stride and really gets into a groove. So that’s what I’m going to do with webcomics.com – I’m going to take a step back and see if it can hit its groove without my $2.50 a month. If it vanishes within the year, then many of the questions I had will be answered. If it doesn’t vanish, than that tells me the site found its groove and might actually be worth the tax reduction next year.

But just because I decide to take a step back and see what happens doesn’t mean I’m not serious about my craft. I’ve been a working professional designer since 1992 and I have yet to join any of the many professional organizations out there like the Graphic Artists Guild or AIGA. Does that make me any less of a professional than I am now? Does that make me any less serious about the work I do every single day? Of course not. That would be absolutely silly to think otherwise. And it has absolutely nothing to do with how little or how much a subscription or membership costs. It has EVERYTHING to do with perceived valued to the individual.

Just because I don’t pick up the phone and order every single work out video that runs on television doesn’t mean I’m not serious about wanting to get in better shape. Just because I don’t purchase every “get rich” scheme that also flashes across the boob tube late at night doesn’t mean I’m not serious about learning how to make more money or being “rich”. And just because I choose not to purchase any “Girls Gone Wild” videos doesn’t mean I’m not interested in (or serious about) the opposite sex. My wife will attest to that.

It just means I don’t personally find any perceived value in purchasing any of those things.

But just like all those late night infomercials say in the fine print: individual results may apply.

Just my $2.50 cents...

Chris Flick

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Capes 'N' Babes preview image (4/7/08)...

A preview image from today's Capes 'N' babes (4/7/08):


If you've never read my Capes 'N' Babes webcomic before, you can do so by clicking the link below:


Check it out today!

Thanks!

-Chris

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Hand-lettering vs. Computer fonts...

Okay, for anyone following me on Twitter or reading my Capes 'N' Babes blog, here is the Blog post I promised. Below are the two versions of the Capes 'N' Babes strip I did for today (March 24, 2008). I have been playing around with trying to hand-letter some of the Capes strips but after a week, I still haven't gotten to a point where I'm comfortable with hand-lettering.

I know a week isn't much time but I also think the "graphic designer" in me just hates the results. I have been told I have fantastic writing skills when I do cartoons in birthday cards or other very large illustrations but I think that legibility gets a bit lost in the strip. It could be the pen I'm using or the way I'm scanning my fully completed art. I'm not sure.

In any case, below are the two versions of today's strip. First, the original:



And now the one with the replaced computer fonts:



I might some day go back to hand-lettering, but for now, I think I'm going to retun back to computer lettering...

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

What's wrong with this picture???

magazine advertisement

The other day, we got a magazine in the mail that advertised a whole bunch knick-knacks and things you generally use around the house. I'm sure you all have gotten similar ads or magazine. This one was pretty thick though so it took me a little while to get to page 117 where I saw the ad above.

Of course, as soon as I saw the ad, the "dirty ol' man" in e immediately began to chuckle. My wife wanted to know what was so funny so I handed her the ad and said "Do you see anything wrong with this picture?". It took her a moment or two before SHE realized what she was looking at as well.

Congress really needs to stop focusing on Major League Baseball. If anyone is using Human Growth Hormones, it's the kid in the ad above!

Also, please check out my web comic strip, "Capes 'N' Babes". It updates every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

-Chris

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Girls with Slingshots fan art

Okay, this will probably be a quick post since it's so late. Just finished putting the final touches on this... some fan art of "Girls with Slingshots". I wanted to send Danielle a one of a kind "thank you" for the time she gave me on Sunday at the Baltimore Comic Con.
You probably won't get the joke unless you are familiar with Girls with Slingshots. And if you aren't, you really should add it to your list of web comic reads. I just discovered it a few weeks ago and if it isn't obvious by now, I'm loving the strip (maybe too much?).
Anyway, here is Hazel and Jamie at a comic book convention...

Currently listening to "Timespace" - Stevie Nick's Greatest Hits
-Chris

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

New Capes 'N' Babes concept sketches

Hey gang,

After attending the Baltimore Comic Con this past weekend and talking with Brad Guigar (Evil Inc.) and Danielle Corsetto (Girls with Slingshots), I decided to revisit and re-vamp my original web comic strip idea, Capes 'N' Babes.

I have decided to add a couple of characters that will drastically change the look and feel of the strip. I thought you all might like to see some concept sketches I just created for the two big characters I'm adding to the strip.

The first one is Roy. Roy's a werewolf. I won't go into too much details about his origins here except to say he's not your typical "turns into a werewolf every full moon" kind of werewolf.

Here's some Roy concept sketches for you all:
Original Roy sketch I did last night:



ROY #1:


ROY #2:


ROY #3:


ROY #4:


ROY #5:


ROY #6:


ROY - FRONT AND BACK:


Next Character: B.C.
BC is LOOSELY based on my next door neighbor - at least in terms of looks.

Here's B.C.:


I haven't done a lot of background writing for B.C. yet... mostly just working on his visuals right now.

Hope you all enjoyed!

Currently listening to WOLF FM (an internet radio station on iTunes)

-Chris

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Monday, September 10, 2007

The 2007 Baltimore CamicCon...

Well, the Baltimore ComicCon was this weekend (Sept. 8 & 9th). Thus far, this is been my eigth or ninth year attending the Con. Each year, it gets a bit bigger although it's still not qute as big as the Pittsburgh Comic Con, but it's getting close. How do I know? Costumes.

That's right. I said costumes!

For the last couple of years, There's been a sudden trend for people showing up in Baltimore dressed in costumes. This year had the biggest number of costumes showing up. Saw a Spider-man, Blade, one Jedi but LOTS AND LOTS of Star Wars Stormtroopers, Imperial Officers and at least three different Darth Vaders. So 2007 takes the prize for the most  costumed attendees at Baltimore ComicCon then any previous year. If this trend grows, can a costume parade/contest be very far behind?

Evil Inc.This year, I decided to go to the Con for the sole purpose of seeking out Brad Guigar - the writier and artist of Evil, Inc. A few months ago, Brad and I started up a bit of an e-mail exchange about my CMX Suite strip and he has been gracious enough to take some time out of his much busy Eisner-nominated life to give me some very welcomed tips about CMX Suite and ways that I could improve the strip. So one of my main goals this year was to personally seek him out and meet him face to face. We've had some great e-mail exchanges but there really isn't any substitute for meeting someone and talking with them face to face. It's even a bit more special when you've known the digital persona for a while but you finally get to meet the flesh and blood persona.

I had a great time talking with Brad (maybe too much as I was probably keeping him from selling more stuff - Sorry Brad!). In any case, I really enjoyed talking to him and I'm looking forward to seeing him again next month at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland. I also really appreciated "talking shop" with him as well... whether it was about web comics or the daily grind of the graphic design/web design world we both share. And as I told him before I left on Sunday, maybe by this time next year, I'll be in a booth beside him peddling my Capes 'N' Babes stuff. That has to happen as I'm really growing tired of being on the sidelines watching the game. It's time to start playing and maybe with a revamped Capes 'N' Babes, I can finally start doing that.

Girls with SlinghotsThe other person I'd like to mention very specifically is Danielle Corsetto. Danielle not only shares the same name as my daughter but she also writes and draws Girls with Slingshots. I just recently discovered Danielle's work from an interview that was posted on Comic Book Resources. I don't know... maybe I'm weirdly attracted to people who are doing web comics AND are graphic designers or currently working in the design field. Danielle was a graphic designer who is now doing Girls with Slingshots full-time - just as Brad is a newspaper guy - so maybe I'm drawing inspration from them. If they can do their strip five days a week and still do the "real job gig" thing, maybe I can too.

Anyway, as with Brad, I specifically sought Danielle out. I made my introductions on Saturday and came back on Sunday and had a great conversation with her as I was asking for some real world advice. Danielle, thanks for taking the time out of your busy sketch log and sitting down and sharing with me some things that worked and didn't work for you. You didn't need to do that - especially from a guy you only just met the day before. I hope my questions didn't backlog you too much. But I want you to know all of your answers were greatly appreciated and will definately be put to good use.

This year was very unusual for me in the sense that I almost never seem to make it a habit of actually conversing with the people I very much admire. I don't know why. Maybe there's a bit of starstruck crap in my head... maybe there's some sort of "Wayne's World - we're not worthy" thing going on... I don't know, but what I do know is that one person I was really looking forward to seeing (again) was Mike Wieringo. He normally attends every Baltimore Comic Con since it's (almost) local for him but with his sudden death a few weeks ago, maybe there was something that finally clicked in my head that said "Dude! Time is wasting away. If not NOW, WHEN, stupid???". And so I tried to make it a point to force myself  to introduce and talk to people I admire - not as "superstars" but just as regular folk who are genrally interested to meet people who admire their work. The strange thing is, online, I'm never hesitant to strike up a conversation or e-mail exchange with another artist that I like or admire. One of those people that I've had planty of online conversations with is Franchesco. Last year, I did a caricature of Franchesco and Joe Pekar and posted it online to a forum they both frequented. I met Joe Pekar last year and talked to him a bit and he remembered it. This year, I did the same with Franchesco and he too loved it as well. He even asked another fan to take our pics together (I have one too but need to get it developed) and we chatted for quite a bit.


On the last day, I made it a point to stop by the Image booth and talk to Kris Straub and Scott Kurtz. Every year, I say the same thing... I'm going to talk to Scott and introduce myself but for a variety of various reasons, it never seemed to work out but this year, Sunday afternoon seemed to be an ideal time to talk with them. Sometime last year, when Kris and Scott were having fun with their Aviators, I had posted a stupid little thing on this blog where I thought Kris - in Aviators - sort of resembled on of the characters form Reno 911. It was just a silly thing to amuse myself since, as a caricaturist, I really did think Kris' facial structure resembled the character from Reno 911. Kris doesn't look anything like the actor from Reno except when he's wearing those Aviators. Anyway, he was a good sport about it and even posted a comment on my blog about it. He was even more of a sport as I talked to him about it on Sunday - which is always tricky because, as a caricaturist, you never know how someone is going to react to your humorous take on them.



My big bragging moment with Scott came when I introduced myself and he commented that he was, indeed, familiar with my work. That was a pretty big shocker for me as CMX Suite is a tiny little web strip that not many people seem to know about. I've sent him a few e-mails here and there but I know how popular he is so I never expected any reply or anything. Besides that, CMX Suite was always designed for a very specific target audience. I think I always understood it was going to be very limited in what I did - or could do - with it. It's still fun to do but if I take anything away from my brief moment of talking with Scott (as well as everyone else this year), it's that I really DO need to do my own stuff. And maybe... just maybe if I get off my lazy butt and really apply myself to Capes N Babes, the next time I meet and talk with Scott, he'll be more then just familiar with my work.


Curently listening to How Far We've Come, by Matchbox Twenty

-Chris

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