You’d think three-plus years into this “blogging” thing I’d be able to control my own posts better. Ah, well.
Observant readers of comics.com may have noticed a strip running yesterday with little fanfare — Steven Cloud has wrapped up his thrice-weekly association with United Feature Syndicate’s website, and Boy on a Stick and Slither will no longer be updated there. Naturally, BOASAS (as the cool kids call it) will continue as it always has at its own site, but I wanted to talk to Cloud a little about this shift, aobut what it means for webcomics vis-a-vis the syndication model, and (of course) his terrifyingly impressive beard.
Cloud: Yes. Early in the process it seemed promising, but ultimately they weren’t willing to offer me a print contract.
Fleen: Why are you leaving comics.com?
Cloud: It’s been 2 years and, with no real shot at syndication, I lost faith in the process. I began to feel constrained by the small size and missed the freedom of being independent. To be fair, [UFS acquisitions editor] Ted Rall was very supportive and accommodating. I could have stayed and switched to a larger size. There were no editorial constraints placed on BOASAS. I think what happened was that I put limitations on myself.
Being a syndicated cartoonist has always been a dream of mine, but deep down I knew that BOASAS wasn’t newspaper material. As a feature, it’s a bit too niche and “unfunny” to be a big hit with editors. Newspaper circulations are spiraling downward and the powers that be are becoming ever more conservative. This pleases their boomer-era readers, but alienates the younger internet generation. I don’t know anyone under 25 who subscribes to a newspaper. I’m sure there are a few, but not enough to sustain the industry. Newspapers are eliminating comics, not adding them. This is the reality of syndicated comics today.
Fleen: You’re the second member of Dumbrella that UFS signed; with Rich Stevens giving up his print syndication deal last year, and now you giving up the web deal, is there something fundamentally incompatible between the syndication model and the independence that webcomics creators have?
Cloud: Absolutely not. Both are valid business models and they’re not mutually exclusive. Cartoonists should consider every opportunity. Being independent feels right for BOASAS, but maybe one day I have idea for another comic that’s a good fit for the newspaper environment. The one thing I don’t want to do is force BOASAS into a safe area for the purposes of appealing to feature editors.
Fleen: What’s next for BOASAS? You have a signing with Ted Rall and Stephanie McMillan next week [editor’s note: 7pm on the 13th at Bluestockings Bookstore; McMillan and Rall also have one the previous day at Revolution Books, but what are your plans after that? Any more death-defiance in the cards?
Cloud: Yes. I’m looking forward to event with Ted and Stephanie. To be on the same bill with two of my favorite cartoonists is an honor. As for BOASAS, I’m switching to a larger rectangular size. It’s different from my original large square, but still allows me space to experiment and gives my “jokes” time to develop. I feel invigorated working with this new size. Beyond that, I don’t know. I’m not much of a planner. I want it to be fun again. I want to stop worrying about turning my comic into a business. I want to stick it to the man a lot more.
Fleen: How’s the beard doing? Keeping it in shape in case of emergency?
Cloud: The beard rages on!
Fleen thanks Steven Cloud for his time; you can meet him and his beard at the Dumbrella booth during New York Comic Con this weekend.