The fourth in a seven-part series in which I look back over ten years in webcomics.|
As much as we loved Keenspot, there were a few of us who felt as if we could direct our webcomics careers better as part of a smaller group with more shared goals in common. Keenspot was democratic to a fault -- almost all of the issues were placed before the entire membership (which had grown to over 40 artists) before being decided upon by the leadership. Heck, that would have made ordering pizza hard... and we were trying to grow online businesses.
So, a small group of us announced our good-byes and formed Blank Label Comics: Paul Southworth, Steve Troop, Dave Willis, Paul Taylor, Kris Straub, and me. Howard Tayler, Greg Dean and Dave Kellett followed shortly thereafter.
I launched a new, weekly comic as part of Blank Label -- Courting Disaster. CD allowed me to try to hone my writing skills by forcing me to write comics that could be carried by a lone punchline -- rather than developing humor through backstory and character development. It also allowed me to focus one a week on figure drawing. Courting Disaster was an opportunity for me to -- outside of the confines of my daily strip -- challenge myself to try new things.
You can look at Courting Disaster and see little breakthroughs and trial techniques that later appear in the daily strip.
Oh, and it's fun to write gags about sex every week and draw a little cheesecake. Let's not gloss over that.
Like my daily strip, Courting Disaster appears in the Philadelphia Daily News, where it accompanies a sex-advice column. It gets sent out over a wire service, so it might also appear in a newspaper near you.
As I said before, the AltBrand Telethon for MDA was such a success that I decided to hold onto the concept for a rainy day.
Three months to the day after we formed BLC, that rainy day hit.
Hurricane Katrina brought 175-mile-per-hour winds, almost two-thousand casualties, and over $80 billion in damages. As we watched refugees huddled in the Superdome and bodies floating through flooded towns, it also brought an intense need to do something.
On September 12, after a mad flurry of preparation, I organized the Blank Label Comics Webcomic Telethon benefitting the Red Cross. Paul Southworth designed an awesome logo. Kris Straub worked his fingers to the bone writing a special updating code to handle the site's special requirements. We all worked hard, promoting, participating and networking.
We launched what was planned to be a two-day telethon to encourage donations to the Red Cross. The response was so overwhelming that the event quickly became a four-day event with over 300 cartoonists participating.
The site updated with a new cartoon every twenty minutes for four days.
During that time, the site received 8 million hits, 1.85 million page views, 109,000 visits, and 262 gigabytes of total transfer. At its peak, the site's server was handling 12.5 megabits per second.
We estimate we sent about $28,635 in pledges to the Red Cross.
Steve Troop designed a book that we sold through Lulu.com, with 100% of the profits directed to the Red Cross.
I still think that it was perhaps one of the best weeks in webcomics.
Blank Label Comics quickly established itself as a powerhouse in webcomics. Each of us had healthy readerships on our own, and together we could reach a huge chunk of the overall webcomics-reading population. Our ability to promote and market ourselves was formidable when we were all pulling together. And the behind-the-scenes knowledge sharing was phenomenal.
Unfortunately, once again, some of us found ourselves in a situation that felt oddly similar to Keenspot. We felt that our career goals and the way we went about trying to achieve those goals ran concurrent to the overall thrust of the group. Dave Kellett, Kris Straub and myself found ourselves at a crossroads.
Then Scott Kurtz called about a book he and Kris were working on.
To be continued.
Ten Years of Webcomics: Part One | Part Two | Part Three
| Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven