February 2, 2006 1:03 PM PST

Digital rebirth for comic strips

Hans Bjordahl is the quintessential new-media cartoonist.

Bjordahl, a 36-year-old program manager for Microsoft's Outlook e-mail program, has also been a cartoonist for years, first at his college newspaper in Colorado and later for the Denver Post in Colorado.

Today, you can find his weekly comic strip, "BugBash," in Microsoft's internal newsletter MicroNews, and on the Internet, where it can reach a diverse and growing audience without piggybacking on the newspaper syndicates that have long dominated the distribution of newspaper comic strips.

Like other types of entertainment, comic strips are changing with the times. As the newspaper space allotted to comics shrinks along with advertising dollars, cartoonists are looking for new ways to reach their audience. Even "Dilbert" creator Scott Adams, who has had an online presence for 11 years, started publishing a blog in October.

"Comic strips are moving away from newsprint," said Don Asmussen, a political comic-strip writer at the San Francisco Chronicle. His "Bad Reporter" is syndicated through Universal Press Syndicate in 30 newspapers. "If it's not going to appear in print, then why not move it? Animation is the future of cartooning."

No doubt, newspapers have lost many of their big comic strip names over the last decade. Famed strips such as "Peanuts," "Calvin and Hobbes," "The Far Side" and "Bloom County" are gone. Some newspaper groups like the Tribune Company, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, have cut costs by dropping editorial cartoonists, despite their popularity.

As one comic-strip writer put it: "Newspapers try to satisfy everyone and therefore they satisfy no one."

Comics online

As comics move online, the rules for reaching a broader audience are changing, and the skills those cartoonists need to reach their audience change as well.

Bjordahl, for example, maintains a blog with a small group of fans, and plans to join a federation of niche comic strips--including a paleontologist comic--that target specialized ads to his audience.

Traditional comic-strip writers also face tough competition from animated cartoons. The political satire of JibJab was a staple of the last presidential election, in many ways setting the bar for animated humor.

Traffic to humor sites, which include comic strips, grew 20 percent last year and attracted roughly 30 million unique readers, according to market researcher Nielsen NetRatings. The top sites, according to Nielsen, are sites that largely carry animated cartoons like JibJab.com and Ebaumsworld.com. The popular satire site The Onion and Comics.com, a collection of syndicated comic strips that includes "Marmaduke," are in the top 15.

CONTINUED: The animation challenge...…
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8 comments

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Cool article
There is a lot of truth to this article. I have 3 comics debuting in my pdf all digital magazine this month. <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.outcrymagazine.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.outcrymagazine.com</a>. All are extremely funny. I think the web is a great outlet for comic strips.
Posted by hadleydb (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Web Strips are Grrreat!
Web Comics are great and have been around for a while, my friend Lori turned me on to Sebastian Conley's "Seth Lives" which he created as an undergrad at Harvard ( <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.campusnut.com/comic.cfm" target="_newWindow">http://www.campusnut.com/comic.cfm</a> ). Having comics online also gives people living in different regions to get a sense of local humor. My local paper, the Seattle PI (home to David Horsey's political cartoons) and Seattle Times has also had web comics available:

* <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/comicsgames/" target="_newWindow">http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/comicsgames/</a>
*

Marvel also gives nice previews online to their graphic novels: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://marvel.com/" target="_newWindow">http://marvel.com/</a> . Their teasers got me back into buying some of the titles.
Posted by marileev (292 comments )
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Link to David Horsey
For got the link to Mr. David Horsey's Political Cartoons online: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/horsey/" target="_newWindow">http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/horsey/</a>
Posted by marileev (292 comments )
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Two Things offhand
One - this would have been a good article to have appeared,
say, five years ago. Web publishing of comics is an accomplished
thing at this point (still evolving, of course, but an enormous
creative movement for some years now) and talking about the
transition from print to Web is tacit admission that you haven't
been paying attention.

Two - Animation is not the future of comics, comics is the future
of comics. Again, this point has already played out. The tools for
animating comics have been around for years and the ones that
want to animate have become animated, leaving thousands of
regular, old comics doing their thing and being comics. The
tools and publishing media may change, but writing and
drawing comics is its own art form and is not animation and is
not going to disappear in favor of something else. Again, this is
the kind of argument that is only made by someone who hasn't
been paying attention to the actual evolution of this form up to
this point. Adding a blog to a massively syndicated comic like
Dilbert, which has been available in print and online for years,
does not constitute any kind of shift or development in the art
form OR its distribution.

You want to know about webcomics? Read some webcomics.
Posted by CAllenH (7 comments )
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old news . .
Yeah I agree. This story seems like old news to me. Are you sure this isn't supposed to be Feb 2005? or 2004?
Posted by vecctor (5 comments )
Link Flag
Webcomics are comics
I run Pixelstrips.com a webcomic community that hosts 20 comics
and has comic tutorials and articles. I see online comics as a
natural progression and tend not to refer to them as webcomics.
They are comics.

Comics online are a great way to get your work out there without
incurring printing costs and may lead to a print deal.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.pixelstrips.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.pixelstrips.com</a>
Posted by pixelstrips (1 comment )
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Nice Resource
I actually dated someone in Art School who was looking to start a strip with another grad. It is tricky translating the hand drawing to web to animation.

One of my faves animations is Angry Asian Girl - hits home...

* <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.pbs.org/searching/lela_battle.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.pbs.org/searching/lela_battle.html</a>
* <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.angrylittlegirls.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.angrylittlegirls.com/</a>
Posted by marileev (292 comments )
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