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Eric: La Escuela de Afilado

Things are trending enough at this point that it's worth at least discussing the role of Keenspot in today's action packed webcomics scene. And, by derivation, the role of the large collectives in general -- since there are certain commonalities whether the collective is run by a fellow with the surname of Crosby or the surname of Manley or anyone else.

If one reads through T Campbell's History of Webcomics, one sees the founding of Keenspot as a watershed, and part of the natural evolution of the form and its conventions. It's natural to assume the form and conventions will continue to evolve, of course. However, I don't think anyone expects Keen and Co. to pack up the tent and leave town. In the same month that a number of 'Spotters have announced their moving on, we also had James Grant, in his Comixpedia interview, saying he "will give free blowjobs to get us on Keenspot." There is still a strong allure to Keenspot. There is still prestige, and opportunity, and crosspromotion, and a broader spectrum of potential growth. And, given that John Troutman took his many and sundry comics back to Keenspot recently, clearly there's still a financial advantage.

For me, I think it goes back to the joke I made a couple of snarks back. I think we need to consider the concept of La Escuela de Afilado.

Keenspot moved its corporate headquarters to a school in South Dakota, as we all should know by now. (I totally think they should have a convention there, by the way -- call it the Keen Pilgrimage or something. I mean, dude.) Metaphorically, however, it's become a school. Someone goes out and creates a strip. They build an audience to a degree, either on 'Space or doing it on their own. They get some recognition. And then they get the opportunity to do the KeenThing, and they head over.

And then they get a chance to learn, to potentially get paid (my understanding is there's a bit of a gulf between the most profitable of Keen strips and the least, but then that makes sense, doesn't it?) and to have a built in community. They get chances to build relationships with their peers, to see the way advertising works, to have a shot at merchandising either in house or one step away.

And, eventually they graduate. They get to the point where they peak in readership. They learn all they can learn. And for a while, they act as the feeders -- the people bringing in the pageviews. The people whose crosspromotion is valued because they're the ones getting fifty thousand pageviews.

It makes sense that there reaches a point where a Howard Tayler or David Willis decides to take it on the road. While some people go on to teach at the school where once they learned, most people don't, after all. And this in turn opens up new slots for new blood -- new people to learn. New strips to get the exposure and advantage that Keenspot can afford them.

And it would stun me if there weren't a block of new strips on Keenspot in the coming weeks. They should be capitalizing on this, after all. (And coopting some of the news cycle.) Two Lumps should be getting a call. The Devil's Panties should be getting a call. Yirmumah should be getting a call. And I'm sure you can think of a block of others. And some of them may decline, but others will accept.

Keenspot should be extending a public thanks to the graduating class of 2005, of course. And all the well wishes in the world. But then, they should be welcoming the Freshmen class at the same time, and building excitement for them -- even as the new independent strips should be getting excitement for their own new move. This kind of shakeup has the potential to transform all sides for the better.

Let's see what everyone's learned, shall we?

Posted by Eric Burns-White at May 17, 2005 3:13 PM

Comments

Comment from: Phalanx posted at May 17, 2005 3:50 PM

An interesting concept. I was wondering about the sudden surge of leavers, to be honest.

Comment from: Greg Dean posted at May 17, 2005 3:52 PM

Comments like "will give free blowjobs to get us on Keenspot" make me physically ill. People have no idea what actually goes on in those hallowed halls of KeenSpot Elementary. They think they're gonna get some kind of big giant paycheck, and they're going to join Keenspot, and keep hoping for their big paycheck, and it's never going to come. Everyone thinks KeenSpot is the only way to make it as an online comic - well dammit, it's just not true.

You can get just as good an education HOMESCHOOLED as you can from a public school, if not better. Just keep that in mind. Not to mention the lack of bullies.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at May 17, 2005 4:03 PM

Comments like "will give free blowjobs to get us on Keenspot" make me physically ill. People have no idea what actually goes on in those hallowed halls of KeenSpot Elementary. They think they're gonna get some kind of big giant paycheck, and they're going to join Keenspot, and keep hoping for their big paycheck, and it's never going to come. Everyone thinks KeenSpot is the only way to make it as an online comic - well dammit, it's just not true.

Well, aside from the illness I naturally feel when I envision James Grant giving someone that level of personal service, I don't agree, Greg. I doubt seriously that Grant and Hynes have any illusions about what Keenspot would give them. I think they see it as a step up, the next stage in Two Lumps's development. And at some later stage, they'd do something... you know, else.

Yeah, anyone who thinks Keenspot is the gateway to Penny-Arcade levels of success is delusional, but that doesn't mean there aren't advantages to signing on for a hitch. (From school to the army -- whoo hoo!) Certainly Real Life Adventures got some benefit from the cross promotion and you learned a thing or three while at Keen -- and then you were able to step off into the mist-shrouded Californian wild on your own.

As for lack of bullies while being homeschooled... you clearly didn't have a big sister.

Comment from: Paul Southworth posted at May 17, 2005 4:06 PM

As well reasoned as that assesment of Keenspot is, Eric, the higher-ups in the organization would take offense at being regarded as a "stepping stone" of any kind. Keenspot is quite simply Webcomic Heaven, and shall be regarded as nothing less :)

Comment from: Paul Southworth posted at May 17, 2005 4:13 PM

I would also like to point out that any fellatio provided would be performed with the express intent of becoming a member of Keenspot...compensating said knobgobbler, essentially, with a coveted Keenspot membership.

Iin other words: My mother always told me there's no such thing as a free blowjob.

Comment from: Greg Dean posted at May 17, 2005 4:16 PM

Real Life Adventures? Who's that now? :D

Okay, I can see the point. And I don't doubt that KeenSpot played a role in growing Real Life to where it is today - but not as much as they'd like to think.

When I started out, I got lucky. That's all it comes down to. I got spotlighted on the little mom-and-pop hosting company I was with, then a few months later, I was picked up and hosted/syndicated by Loonygames. About 6 months later, maybe a year... KeenSpot picked me up. And for a while, readership did increase - but the increase brought on by the newsbox was more like a sudden spike before traffic went back to normal. I won't doubt that I got lucky - but I know a whole helluva lot of people who have been with keenspot for years, and didn't share the same luck. People who are exponentially better cartoonists than I'll ever be, and they've been with Keen since the start - and plateaued years ago, at less-than-stellar readership levels. Some of those guys are the ones who are leaving, and I feel pretty confident that once they're on their own and can handle promoting themselves without the burden of keen (not to mention the garish advertisements keen sees fit to force on everyone), they'll do quite well. Or maybe I'm deluded. I dunno.

But I do know that the major growth for my comic has happened in the two years AFTER leaving Keenspot. Readership doubled between my Looneygames time and the end of my keenspot time. Readership has since doubled AGAIN since leaving keen, in half the time. I don't think the benefit of keenspot is in "getting readers". I don't think that at all. I think the benefit of keenspot is free hosting, and free comic management tools. Maybe you'll get lucky, have an awesome newsbox day, and get more readers. But odds are that's not going to happen.

I'm sorry - I just don't think keenspot is as big as people think it is.

Comment from: chaos cricket posted at May 17, 2005 4:24 PM

Whether Keenspot is the Mecca some webcomic artists think it is or not, it does still have a certain allure. I'll admit that I want to be on 'Spot, but then again, I'm also just a Keenspace guy, so that probably has some impact on my feelings.

Ultimately, I think being a part of a selective collective--whether it's Keenspot or Manley's various and sundry groups--carries with it a certain prestige and sense of community. Whether such a feeling is warranted or not is debatable, but since each group has a choice in what comics they support and carry, there is a bit of pride in being able to say, "hey, they chose me."

Comment from: Greg Dean posted at May 17, 2005 4:25 PM

Start your own collective. Get your friends together and make a web page. Be selective on your own. I don't think wanting to be part of the "in crowd" just because they're "hard to get in to" is really the way to go. :/

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at May 17, 2005 4:26 PM

Greg -- I'm actually reminded, briefly, of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

The SFWA has extremely strident entrance requirements. I've made a certain amount of money each year in writing speculative fiction type things, and I don't come close to meeting them, for example. (The Horror Writers of America is another story -- but I digress.) I have also had any number of SFWA members (and former members) say less than complimentary things about it over the years. They say it has been of limited usefulness to them, or the politics have been bad, or... well, a lot of stuff.

And I know that the day I meet their requirements, I'm sending them a dues check. Because I know there actually is an advantage to the SFWA, and I also know that it represents something -- a part of the dream that I've had my whole life. From an outside perspective, does that dream hold water? Probably not. But it's important to me. One day, I'll have my union card.

Keenspot has that sort of meaning for a lot of cartoonists. As does Modern Tales and the like, for that matter. These are the online syndicates.

So yeah, it's big. It's hella big. It may not change your life any more than my getting into the SFWA will change mine, but it is still an achievement. For someone who hasn't managed it, it's huge.

Comment from: Howard Tayler posted at May 17, 2005 4:33 PM

Man, what do I need to do to get into the SFWA? Now that I've been de-Keened for 6 weeks, I'm already jonesing for another community. If the SFWA is as full of backbiting and borked dreams as you say they say it is, well, it'll feel just like home. ;-)

--Howard

Comment from: quiller posted at May 17, 2005 4:35 PM

If nothing else, being Spotted will increase most webcomics visibility a lot. There are a lot of comics I never saw until they got taken up in Keenspot. Their business model may not work for everyone, but it takes a pretty big comic to join Keenspot and not see an increase in audience as a result.

In some ways, it feels a little more like a law firm. It wants to bring in people who already have clients. While they are there they increase the business as a whole, but the individual also gains access to the resources of the firm. If that lawyer leaves later on he often brings a lot of his clients with him. (The metaphor breaks down a bit since those clients would probably no longer be with the law firm, whereas there is no reason someone can't read Keenspot and non-Keenspot comics.)

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at May 17, 2005 4:35 PM

Howard -- three major market short story publications without collaborators, somewhat more with, or one solo novel off the approved list of publishers.

No, Pyramid doesn't count... because they're BASTARDS! HEARTLESS BASTARDS!

(They also don't count Star Trek novels, Star Wars novels, White Wolf based novels etc, even though they get the sales numbers. Because... um... because.)

Comment from: Howard Tayler posted at May 17, 2005 4:38 PM

So... no matter how many Schlock Mercenary books I publish, I'm S.O.L.

*sigh*

I may have to take up the keyboard and actually write without drawing any pictures.

--Howard

Comment from: Phalanx posted at May 17, 2005 4:39 PM

The thing about getting Spotted or Smashed or Manleyed is that is it's something like a "stamp of approval".

It's just nice to know (sometimes) that someone thinks your work has potential enough to take a gamble on you with their name.

You can do perfectly fine without stamps of approvals, of course... but they're still nice to have.

Comment from: Steve Troop posted at May 17, 2005 4:44 PM

Isn't that what you do now, Howard? Oh wait -- I'm thinking of Greg Dean. ;)

Naw, I'm a big supporter of both of you guys.

Steve

Comment from: Howard Tayler posted at May 17, 2005 4:44 PM

I'll get you, Troop. And your little hamster, too.

Comment from: Greg Dean posted at May 17, 2005 4:56 PM

You think you're safe just because you're four hundred miles away, Steve. But don't forget - I ACTUALLY KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE. :D

And Phalanx - this is a company that gave it's Stamp of Approval to PUPKIN, you'll recall. Does that Stamp really mean as much as it should?

Comment from: Paul Southworth posted at May 17, 2005 4:59 PM

Haha. Pupkin.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at May 17, 2005 5:02 PM

There are a lot of things I like and have always liked about Keenspot. There are also things that, to be honest, I'm less than thrilled with. All said, I'm much happier with them than I am frustrated -- obviously not everyone feels that way.

The biggest thing Keenspot gives its members is freedom. A *lot* of freedom. Not all of us take advantage of it, but it's nothing to sneeze at. That freedom, however, directly translates into chaos, something which I know has aggravated our more disciplined members, both current and past, and even manages to aggravate our less disciplined members (*cough*) from time to time.

But I like that freedom, and I guard it pretty jealously. It's a remnant of the old days, when the only way something like Keenspot *would* have worked was to let all the possible participants know up-front that they would retain complete control over their work. The problem, I think, is that comics come in expecting overseers and supervisors to swoop down on them and give them a lot of personal attention, when in fact when you arrive you are given a bunch of tools and then pretty much left to your own devices to make of them what you will.

Some of that problem is Keenspot's own doing. Some of that problem comes from people outside of Keenspot wanting it to be something it isn't. Some of that problem comes from people *inside* Keenspot believing it's something it isn't. And some of it probably comes from something I know nothing about because I don't pay attention.

But ultimately I haven't had the problems Greg has had with the place. I like the philosophy behind it, and I like the people in it... and I hope to meet the lot of them some day. Maybe at the First Annual Keenspot Pilgrimage...

Comment from: Greg Dean posted at May 17, 2005 5:08 PM

I'll admit - most keenspotters probably haven't seen or arrived at the conclusions I have. I have a different view on things. You probably have the most level-headed view of keenspot I've seen in a while. I suppose it all depends on what you expect, or what you've been TOLD to expect. I was told to expect a lot more than I got, and I was led on for years thinking I didn't have another choice. It wasn't until my friends and family showed me that I DID have other options that I realized that it made more sense for me to be away from keenspot than to remain with them.

Comment from: Zach Miller posted at May 17, 2005 5:11 PM

Speaking as a homeschooled kid, I've never even considered joining Keenspot. It's been my opinion that if I'm going to have a webcomic it's going to be on my own site where I get to choose what I advertise, and what group or groups I belong to.


Of course, I've been fortunate enough to have friends who are willing to provide hosting and webdesign. If I didn't have that it would have been a lot harder to get to where I am.


It would be nice to have the boost in readership that Keen would allow, but I think people can do pretty well on their own. All it takes is time and content.

Comment from: Chris Crosby posted at May 17, 2005 5:12 PM

I actually *couldn't* get PUPKIN that Keenspot stamp of approval. The problem wasn't a lack of trying on my part, either.

The blue-haired man foils all my plans.

Comment from: Zach Miller posted at May 17, 2005 5:12 PM

Son of a nut! Why didn't anyone tell me that preview doesn't show the breaks, but it works in the post?!

Comment from: Phalanx posted at May 17, 2005 5:36 PM

Touche, Greg. Touche.

What I meant, of course, is that in most of the cases, however, the comics that do get the stamp of approval DID do something that made them worthy (or at least get the attention of the said company heads). At least you knew that (most of the time) the comics in the lineup weren't the average doodling of bored kids out for attention that would stop updating after the 3rd page.

...

I think.

Does that mean they're the pinnacle of webcomics? Not really. Whether MT or Keenspot, webcomic collectives are simply that. Webcomic collectives. There's some measure of quality control (or at least, there is an attempt to have it) which is, at least a good thing if they can be consistent about it.

Speaking of which, I'm supposed to be working. Dammit... Mr. Burns! You and your interesting but work-attention siphoning snarks!

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at May 17, 2005 5:44 PM

And Phalanx - this is a company that gave it's Stamp of Approval to PUPKIN, you'll recall. Does that Stamp really mean as much as it should?

Oh for... Chris has already said this, but apparently it hasn't registered... so this needs to be repeated, just to make sure everyone is perfectly clear: Pupkin was never a Keenspot comic.

Comment from: Kristofer Straub posted at May 17, 2005 5:47 PM

"I actually *couldn't* get PUPKIN that Keenspot stamp of approval. The problem wasn't a lack of trying on my part, either."

You were trying hard to MAKE Pupkin a Keenspot comic?

Comment from: Danalog posted at May 17, 2005 5:47 PM

Damn, and I was just about ready to cry nepotism =P

Comment from: John Allison posted at May 17, 2005 5:55 PM

I was one of the first people to leave Keenspot so maybe I have a useful perspective on this. For me, Keenspot initially offered free hosting, some money from banner ads, and automatic updating - none of which I had had previously. By early 2002, there was no money coming in from banners (amid the internet advertising bust), the server was on the verge of collapse and the automatic updating frequently didn't work, so I had nothing to lose by moving on.

There's no reason now, financially speaking, for any broadly popular, daily updating comic to remain on Keenspot other than sentimentality, loyalty to the hard work done by Keenspot's management, or laziness verging on the torpor of near-death. I don't see any of those reasons as invalid.

The comics that Keenspot can really help are things like Soap On A Rope by Bob Roberds, talented, esoteric cartoonists whose work doesn't fit any post-Tokyopop/post-Kochalka/post-Penny Arcade demographic - niche works that benefit from umbrella exposure rather than simple word of mouth.

But the rabid desire to be "spotted" in the lower echelons, and the fact that this discussion is even taking place when 99% of the creative heat in webcomics these days has nothing to do with what Keenspot is now. It's to do with what it was in 2000-2003 - the "big beasts" of Keenspot like Greg Dean, Maritza Campos, and especially Tatsuya Ishida, not to mention the longform ambitions of Josh Phillips and David Willis (among several others), shaped contemporary webcomics.

Obviously I still get on well with Keenspot, and I have no wish to do down any of their current crop. But I can't recall any of their recent signings who appealed to me as a casual comics fan. In hitting niche strips harder and harder and ignoring the broad strokes, Keenspot's appeal to new recruits (as well as the wider audience) may dwindle. So to view it as a finishing school may be a little romantic.

Comment from: Scott Kurtz posted at May 17, 2005 6:11 PM

There is not definitive path to achive the kind of success that Penny-Arcade and myself have been blessed with. Penny-Arcade is the number 1 comic strip on the web. Tycho and Gabe are rock stars. They're popularity transcends.

I've been lucky enough to have a very broad success and I am very blessed to have been able to make a living do this for over five years now.

But in webcomics, as in publishing, comics, printing, or syndication, there are only a small number of people who can be exeriencing this kind of success. It's a pyramid, and the pyramid only supports a large number of people on the bottom.

So far, despite McCloudian efforts, there is no path that will allow EVERYONE to make it.

It's a little bit of talent, a lot of luck (being in the right place at the right time), and some common sense about which opportunities to grab a hold of when they come along.

It's lightning in a bottle, not the result of any lesson plan.

Comment from: Chris Crosby posted at May 17, 2005 6:17 PM

Kris:

I love PUPKIN, no apologies.

I love your stuff, too. Looking forward to STARSHIFT CRISIS.

Comment from: Scott Kurtz posted at May 17, 2005 6:37 PM

Eric, you HAVE to find a way to let us edit our comments.

Comment from: ItsWalky posted at May 17, 2005 6:51 PM

Hey, everyone. I'm here to be the level-headed, conscientious one. Sadly, I charge for that, so start handing me dollar bills.

See, you can make a living in webcomics outside of Keenspot.

Comment from: UrsulaV posted at May 17, 2005 6:52 PM

I sometimes think my life is a history of falling in to things through no particular virtue of my own. I applied to Graphic Smash on the strength of T Campbell saying some nice things about some Gothbat art I had at a convention. I had never heard of Modern Tales and only vaguely of something Keen. (I think I put in an app for Keenspace once, and it took an entire year before they got back to me, by which point I was doing a totally different comic...)

But anyway, stuff like this amazes me. I mean, there's this whole architecture of webcomicdom out there, which frankly, I don't know. And...yeah. So I am grateful for synopses of things like this, that relate to webcomics as a whole, and stuff like Campbell's History of Webcomics, because I would wander around oblivious to these things otherwise. So, um, thank you, Eric, for rendering this sort of thing into a handy snark form. Public service for those of us who can't remember which suffix to "Keen-" is the good one again.

Comment from: Chris Crosby posted at May 17, 2005 7:06 PM

Public service for those of us who can't remember which suffix to "Keen-" is the good one again.

Just in case my good friend Ghastly isn't reading this, I'll chime in and say the answer to that is quite debatable.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at May 17, 2005 7:23 PM

Sadly, I charge for that, so start handing me dollar bills.

I am so totally going to be the first one to stick them in your g-string.

... what? Stop looking at me. These are micropayments!

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at May 17, 2005 7:24 PM

... ouch.

Comment from: Crashlander posted at May 17, 2005 7:28 PM

The way I see it, Keenspot can't help a bad comic, and a really good one doesn't need it. But it's great for those inbetween ones. Like your first comic you do when you're fourteen that your relatives think is amazing even though the writing is barely legible and it's about superhero fish. For my part, I wish there was a magic button on my keyboard that would get me 10,000 credit-card-holding readers tomorrow, then I wouldn't have to go through the obligatory five long years of hard work to get somewhere. See you all in 2010: The Year We Made T-Shirts.

And God Bless Mother Russia!

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at May 17, 2005 7:33 PM

Dude. Don't go dissing Wonder Grunion. I am proud of my Golden Grunion Lifetime Achievement Award, too.

And no, I'm not kidding.

Comment from: Crashlander posted at May 17, 2005 7:50 PM

I'm sure it was more fully realized than my own 'Milko The Imaginary Dog'. *blushes*

Comment from: R. L. Peterson posted at May 17, 2005 7:57 PM

As a KeenSpace author, I do believe that KeenSpot still holds a lot of clout. Unfortunately, the open nature of KeenSpace is both an idealistic blessing and a curse. It allows anyone to publish a comic. On the downside, it allows anyone to publish a comic. True or no, KeenSpace has a reputation for being the shit-pile of comics on the internet, with few talented strips often sandwiched between Sonic Sprite comics, and vampire hentai pseudo-manga drawn by a bored pre-teen in their "Remedial Alphabet" classes. For the authors who make good comics, KeenSpot is not only a "stamp of approval", but it is also a way to avoid the unfortunate stereotype applied to KeenSpace comics without having to leave a free hosting service and risk going alone before building enough of a fanbase to stay afloat.

I believe that many view KeenSpot as a stepping stone because the financial gains for the authors ceases to be a good deal when they reach a certain number of page views. Then they just find a better deal going independent.

Comment from: Steve Troop posted at May 17, 2005 8:07 PM

You'd think that, huh? One of the worst things about Keen* is that the names are so similar that everyone confuses the two. So, your pile is our pile, brother. A lot of us have been trying to get the Keen Four to rebrand one or the other for years.

Comment from: Chris Crosby posted at May 17, 2005 9:01 PM

A lot of us have been trying to get the Keen Four to rebrand one or the other for years.

Good news on that front... on Monday, the Keen Four voted unanimously on what to change the name to. There should be a public announcement of the name later this week.

By the 5th anniversary of KeenSPACE (June 2005), every site should begin switching over to the new name and URL.

Comment from: Howard Tayler posted at May 17, 2005 9:12 PM

"In a bold move, we've completely discarded the old brand and named it KEENPLACE."

Okay, seriously, good on ya. I'm anxious to see how much of my vehemently proffered advice on that matter made it into the actual decision.

--Howard

Comment from: DanShive posted at May 17, 2005 9:20 PM

Personally, I'm happy at Keenspot. My readership levels have grown a great deal while there to over 15,000 unique IPs on days I update, I have a book coming out, and I like the people there.

I can understand some people's frustrations, however. Not everyone benefits from being in a comic community environment, and Keenspot hasn't done a lot in outside promotion over the years. It needs to do more, and it WILL do more, or else I'll unleash my winged monkey minions upon the heads of Keenspot!

...of course, I'm really bad with addresses, so I'll probably wind up just stuffing the monkeys in a catapult and hoping they reach their intended destinations. But it's still a very serious threat.

Comment from: Merus posted at May 17, 2005 9:42 PM

Now I'm wondering why I never actually had any problems telling Keenspot and Keenspace apart when everyone else apparantly did.

Aah, that's right: KeenSPOT, the professional conglomerate, has the link box up the top reminding you about the 'conglomerate'. KeenSPACE, the hobby one, doesn't.

Re: Kurtz, re: editing: The inability to edit means that you have to think about what you say. Editing's sometimes deliberately removed as a UI thing, so people are forced to watch what they say and make sure they say what they mean.

Comment from: Tangent posted at May 17, 2005 10:04 PM

*sigh* Figures. I decide to e-mail Gav and Crosby, ask them as to what reasons people are leaving Keenspot and what their concerns on this are, and do an actual article on this... and you beat me to print with this rather interesting and well-written article.

Oh well. At least I hadn't actually *started* sending out interview requests yet...

Okay. I see Keenspot as an internet community of webcomickers, giving people a common place to gain readership and the like and a fairly safe place to host their comics (safe in that the creators retain all rights to their comics and the Keenspot staff seems diligent in keeping things running well). Financially it's also a useful place to be, especially at times of economic downturn.

Think of it: How many comics would have continued after the Internet Advertising Bust, if the creators of the strips were paying for server fees and trying to work out deals with advertisers and trying to drum up business/readership? I'm willing to bet that we wouldn't have half the comics out there without Keenspot's help.

Without KeenSPACE, 95% of webcomics found there would probably be short-lived affairs that showed up on Comcast's website or AOL or other such servers, and once the creator stopped paying for service, the comic would vanish into the ether. Unfortunately, Keenspace is sort of a debris field of comics, with thousands of failed comics littering its shores.

Here is an example: Acid Reflux Comic petered out some 3 years ago. The server and host name continued until last year... and then it vanished. Eventually I found it at the above site. Really, the only reason the comic exists on this current site is a fan wanted to keep it around, hoping maybe Emily would return to the comic someday.

How many comics would fade away to nothingness without Keenspace? How many echos in the void would fade away, never heard from again? Yes, Keenspace is a debris field of failed comics and comics that just aren't interesting... but it's also a community, one that allows people to start, to run with their idea.

Hell, I'd not have my Tangents review site up and running without Keenspace. Even if I built it from the foundation of my own failed comic? *wry grin*

It's good to see that the internet economy has picked up enough that some comics are going off on their own. And if things don't go so well for them, I suspect Keenspot will gladly accept back their wayward sons and daughters.

Meanwhile... what's up with the lack of Ice and No Stereotypes on Modern Tales? *sob* I'm missing my tales of artic London and evil purple cat-gods....

Robert A. Howard, Tangents reviewer

Comment from: Kris@WLP posted at May 17, 2005 10:09 PM

For what very little it's worth, I've never even considered Keen* for anything. Early on, for reasons I can no longer recall, I was a bit leery of it... but now I think it's mostly because I prefer to be my own boss, and promote only stuff I think is cool.

I'd love to have the automatic updates and standing banner-ad revenue pool that Keen has. However, to be blunt, the Keen archives system is inadequate. It's not as bad as other online comic groups (syndicates) which only allow you to navigate by months, and only by going "last month/next month" when you want to see a comic that ran in 1996. And having to promote whatever comic comes up in the queue... well, I have no problem promoting EGS, but I really don't like Superosity -or- Sore Thumbs -at all,- and I prefer the freedom, even if it means paying the $45/mth for domain and web hosting and writing every web page by hand myself.

Technically, I don't know if WLP's web comics qualify as a comics "group," since I have creative chores on three of the currently running five weeklies. There are two weekly slots open, though... and I'll consider more as soon as someone teaches me how to web-script.

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at May 18, 2005 2:01 AM

People still argue about Keenspot? That's SOOOOOO five nanoseconds ago!

Comment from: Mithandir posted at May 18, 2005 5:22 AM

I agree with Kris@wlp, for me as a creator, keenspot (and others) is just not that attractive and if they offered, I would likely reject (not that they are likely to do so, but hey ...). Sure, the crosspromotion oportunities are great and since my comic is only very small would be a great boost, but it would be impossible to do on keenspot what I do with my site now. I'm a programmer and as such like having full control over my site, to do with as I please.

Comment from: Shadowydreamer posted at May 18, 2005 6:34 AM

..wait.. I could potentiall get paid for this?!

..maybe I should start offering blowjobs for every new reader who reads daily for a month..

..nah..

Comment from: J.(Channing)Wells posted at May 18, 2005 8:31 AM

Yeah, that's not such a good idea. You'd do better cutting out the middle man and collecting money from your blowjobs directly.

*pause, think*

Okay, on consideration, I'm posting this, but under protest from my Common Decency.

Comment from: joeymanley posted at May 18, 2005 11:36 AM

The last time we had a major strip leave Modern Tales (Penny & Aggie, which, ironically enough, is now on Keenspot) I posted this note on my blog. I can't speak for the Keeners, but I'm guessing that a very similar dynamic is playing out over there.

http://www.joeymanley.com/index.php?p=129

Anyway, this is just the way it goes for large comics collectives that don't own the underlying intellectual property of the comics they present. The only way to stop this kind of thing from happening would be, newspaper-syndicate-style, to insist on owning the properties and replacing the cartoonists when they decide to move elsewhere. Which is obviously not a solution that any of us would find acceptable in any way.

I think we may be coming to the era of the breakaway solo star -- there have been solo stars in webcomics all along, of course, but the "breakaway" solo star is somebody who, like, say, Sting or Gwen Stefani, makes a career first as part of a group, then goes on to even bigger success on his/her own. Joining a collective isn't the only way to become a solo star, and maybe not even necessarily the best way, but it does happen.

I feel pretty strongly about this.

I'm restructuring my business around this idea, by the way.

Details to follow later this week.

Joey

www.moderntales.com

Comment from: Jamie posted at May 18, 2005 12:41 PM

Clan of the Cats has absolutely everything going against it to be a success in webcomics. It's rarely funny, it's not anime, it's not a comic strip format, it's not a gamer, it's not geeky, it's BIG, it's complex, but itĚs still doing pretty good, and I have to give Keenspot partial credit for that. I'm not making a living off it alone, but it's a LOT better than it was a year ago.

Keenspot is not the end all be all of webcomics. No one should ever think that, but for someone like me it is perfect. I donĚt want to be a salesman. I donĚt want to be a coding guru. I just want to draw comics.

Comment from: Ghastly posted at May 18, 2005 1:39 PM

Public service for those of us who can't remember which suffix to "Keen-" is the good one again.

Just in case my good friend Ghastly isn't reading this, I'll chime in and say the answer to that is quite debatable.

I'd have to say that the major differences between the two are Keenspace has over 10000 hosted comics with a hell of a lot that don't update while Keenspot has under 100 hosted comics with a hell of a lot that don't update.

Now as for the "blowjobs" I'm pretty sure that comment was a playful exaggerations. Why would people still want to be Spotted? Well until about a year ago the main reason would have been "better server" but I have to admit that Space, thanks to it's admins Kisai and Kelly has been almost perfectly stable with just a few hardware kaplooies once in a blue moon instead of weeks of hardcore suckage month after freaking month. People who complain of Keenspace's unreliability clearly wern't there for the dark days.

Spot does offer great promotional opportunities but it's still no guarentee of fame let alone riches. Even on Keenspace there's business opportunities to be had, you're just on your own building them. You don't even have to draw a white Jesus having sex to get them either (it just helps if you do is all).

Some people seem to think there's a respect and recognition factor that goes along with being on Spot. That's not really the case unless you're talking about the respect and recognition that comes from riding on the coat tails of Michael Poe and Tatsuo Ishida. To be honest anything with "Keen" on it already has a reputation that's more likely to work against you rather than for you.

Keenswag seemed attractive at one time but let's face it, you can merchandise just as well on Space or anywhere else for that matter if you're willing to work at it.

Publishing may have been an attraction at one time but there are so many POD services now competing for your work that it's not really that big a deal anymore.

I'd have to agree that I think most of what makes people want to be Spotted is a hold over from the days when being Spotted actually meant something. Those days are pretty much gone now. That doesn't mean there can't be great things to be had by being on Spot or that Spot won't face a new golden age again at some future date.

To be honest I think more could be accomplished for Keen if it would take serious stock of its assets on Space and Spot and work them all together for the benefit of Keen and its artists. Instead of working Spot against Space and trying to seperate them I think a stronger organization could be built by better harmonizing the two branches to better exploit the assets. It'll mean putting aside egos and differences on both sides of the fence to work together for a common good which may be why, in the end, it's doomed to failure.

So I guess the difference, in real terms, is there really isn't much of a difference apart from perceptions.

Comment from: Paul Southworth posted at May 18, 2005 2:41 PM

"Keenspace" isn't an equal branch of "Keenspot". It's a free hosting service. The idea is that Keenspot comics have to meet some kind of standard, while anybody with a crayon, a Denny's placemat, and a scanner can post on Keenspace. How would it behoove Keenspot to lower and/or throw away their standards by embracing a service that has none? It's not a matter of egos, it's a matter of setting limits to maintain a certain amount of professionalism. Keenspot has low enough standards as it is, let's not negate them altogether.

Comment from: J. Grant posted at May 18, 2005 3:46 PM

Boy howdy, one little offer for fellatio and everyone goes bananas.

First off, Typekey can blow ME. I had to install Opera just to post this.

I'm sure most people aren't used to my sense of humor, and my little off-color comment in the interview appears to be making some ripples in the intarweb pond.

GREG: Man, I end up making you physically ill a lot. Maybe my next tattoo should be a Surgeon General's warning.

The tone of the comment should not have been taken as "I, J. Grant, am on my knees begging to suck dick to be on Keenspot." It was more of a "I would really like to be on Keenspot" taken to an over-the-top exaggeration. I also like the word "blowjob" a lot, and feel that much like Ghastly's comic, it should get more exposure.

I am quite aware that moving to Keenspot is neither a financial miracle nor the apex of webcomicry. Too many friends have regaled me with their horror stories.

The main reason I'd like to be on Keenspot is because... well, it's there! It's like being an actor and wanting to move to Hollywood. It's like being a hooker and wanting to move to Amsterdam. It's just a notch in the old belt. Would I want to move to another service or go solo if I felt Keenspot was dicking us? Absolutely, but for now I'd like to see Two Lumps on there. Keenspot would only be the final home for TL if they earned it by playing fair with me and Mel, simple as that.

As for starting ANOTHER collective.... good lord, no. Another factor in the Keen choice is that I have no more time. At this point I'm working on another fiction novel, do TL, and work a full-time network admin job. I don't need to sacrifice even 1 more hour of the day. If someone else wants to foot the time spent, then more power to them.

KURTZ: We meet again, Scott, but this time the advantage is.... er. Eh.

I'd like to get this crap perfectly clear and on the table, where everyone can see it: My goal has never, ever in Webcomics been to be #1 on the internet. That wasn't my goal with FLEM, it isn't my goal with TL. When it all comes down, you can change the scope of your view no matter what - PA may be #1 on the web, but compared to the readership of, say, Marmaduke, they're still heavily lagging.

Typing that made me feel dirty.

I've known since the beginning that the odds are against any webcomic author. So what? We could bandy back and forth for years about whether there's room at the top. I disagree very strongly with your statement that "only a small number" can have that kind of success. Rather, I believe that only a small number have the drive and energy to MAKE that kind of success. What you have to do is get a good strip going, update it with regularity, and make with the funny. Find me a strip that truly did this and failed.

Good seeing you at CAPE, btw.

All in all, I'm glad I got so many people talking about blowjobs. We need to decriminalize the hummer, make hot sausage popsicles readily available to the public! Remember, when blowjobs are outlawed...

Tune in next time when I find a surreptitious manner of using the topic of felching. Thank you.

Comment from: RKMilholland posted at May 18, 2005 4:38 PM

James had to explain he was exaggerating with his blowjobs comment... wow.

More and more I realize most webcartoonists take this shit way too seriously.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at May 18, 2005 4:45 PM

I never had the impression anyone actually thought that James was offering blowjobs in exchange for a place at Keenspot. It just got turned into some kind of weird metaphor for being very, ah, enthusiastic about the prospect of getting in.

Comment from: Greg Dean posted at May 18, 2005 4:50 PM

Oh come now! I knew you were kidding about the actual ACT of giving a blowjob. Blowjobs rank very highly on the list of funny. I myself offer them for much more mundane daily affairs. "Man, I will suck your dick if you run to taco bell for me." That's not what I was taking issue with.

I was taking issue with the image of KeenSpot as this be-all, end-all solution for people. There are not only other ways, there are BETTER WAYS. Keenspot, despite what you have been lead to believe, is NOT guaranteed to grow your readership. There's a chance it might, sure. But there's just as good a chance that it might do absolutely nothing for you, and in the end, you're sitting there with advertisements for "Sexy Singles" as well as other comics that you may or may not abhor sitting on your page, with no ability to sell or place your own ad spaces, and little to no money coming your way. THAT'S what makes me sick - it's not you, J. Grant.... it's the idea, and you're hardly alone in thinking it.

Comment from: Kristofer Straub posted at May 18, 2005 4:53 PM

James, in all honesty, I was going to ask you for a blowjob.

Comment from: J. Grant posted at May 18, 2005 5:12 PM

Take a number.

Comment from: J. Grant posted at May 18, 2005 5:14 PM

Greg Dean just wrote the words "I will suck your dick".

One more item off my "things to do before I die" list.

Comment from: Greg Dean posted at May 18, 2005 5:17 PM

Is the list entry "Get dick sucked by Greg Dean", "Suck Greg Dean's dick", or "see Greg dean offer fellatio to a hypothetical dude"? Cause if it's one of the first two, we may have a bit of a problem. :P

Comment from: RKMilholland posted at May 18, 2005 5:21 PM

After his "Give Randal Milholland a reacharound" item on the list, I suggest a restraining order.

Comment from: Ghastly posted at May 18, 2005 5:30 PM

"Keenspace" isn't an equal branch of "Keenspot". It's a free hosting service. The idea is that Keenspot comics have to meet some kind of standard, while anybody with a crayon, a Denny's placemat, and a scanner can post on Keenspace.

What the fuck!? Keenspace is a free service? Then why the hell did I have to give a blowjob to get on it.

Damnit Crosby you won this round.

I'm not saying Keenspot has to lower its standards, what I'm saying is there is potential and talent going unexploited on Space that could be better used to serve Keen and the artists by better management of Keen's assets which won't happen so long as Spot maintains a "we're better than you because we're Spot and you're not" attitude. Yes there's a lot of shit on Space. There's no shortage of it on Spot too for that matter. There are only a few comics that really have any serious readership on Keenspace and they're not really any different from any of the comics on Spot quality wise.

Less than 5 percent of the comics on Keenspace generate over 90% of its traffic. I had about 2.5 million pageviews last month which was roughly 10% of all the pageviews on Keenspace. 25 million pageviews is a hell of a lot of potential not being utilized. Not many of those pageviews were coming from the Denny's placemat and crayon crowd. In fact almost none were. Without the promotional benefits that come from being on Keenspot (on Space we don't get a free ride on Ishida and Poe's fame) Space is almost pure meritocracy.

Yes yes, tonnes of crap. A sickening amount of crap. Enough crap to choke something that eats crap like it was candy. But for the most part completely ignored crap. Ignored, that is, except for when people want to use examples to put Keenspace artists down.

Comment from: J. Grant posted at May 18, 2005 5:31 PM

GREG: It's the last, but the first two sound like good entries! Thanks! I was running low.

RANDY: I crossed that off my list almost three years ago. Behold, the power of roofies.

Comment from: Ghastly posted at May 18, 2005 5:33 PM

Is the list entry "Get dick sucked by Greg Dean", "Suck Greg Dean's dick", or "see Greg dean offer fellatio to a hypothetical dude"?

Wow, those were the three top entries in my search string statistics for my comic last month.

Comment from: Kris@WLP posted at May 18, 2005 7:04 PM

Wow. 2.5 million pageviews in one month.

On the one hand, I'm jealous; all WLP's website, webcomics or otherwise, generated a total of 570,000 page requests in April. The five currently active WLP web comic index pages: Chocolate Milkmaid (42,029), Misadventures of Chichi-chan (30,612), Peter is the Wolf (20,821, plus anything from 100 to 2,000 for the gen-aud version), Stellar (20,007), Sex Puppies (10,878). I feel so... so unimportant.

On the other hand, WLP's April bandwidth was 81 gigs. Multiplied by a factor of five... 405 GB in one month... that's 140 over my monthly allotment... at $1 per two GB overage fee... $70 per month in overage fees.

Ouch. Glad I don't have to pay that. }:-{D

Kris@WLP (note to self: the planed WLP website re-design needs to cut down on pipe)

Comment from: mckenzee posted at May 18, 2005 8:56 PM

Wait, this didn't help me at all...

I'm on KeenSpace, I'm not interested in KeenSpot, but I do need to decide where to launch my pending alt-history murderous panda anime webcomic, Bearcats of Mandhu.

Also, my blowjobs are not negotiable. I am, however, collecting Red Vines for UrsulaV.

Comment from: Chris C. posted at May 18, 2005 10:28 PM

At one point wasn't Keen looking at pitching some of its creator's comics to TV/Movie people to see if something would stick?

Comment from: joeymanley posted at May 19, 2005 12:45 AM

This looks interesting.

http://www.blanklabelcomics.com/community/memberlist.php

Also this:

http://www.blanklabelcomics.com/?page_id=3

Joey

www.joeymanley.com

Comment from: Chris Crosby posted at May 19, 2005 1:25 AM

At one point wasn't Keen looking at pitching some of its creator's comics to TV/Movie people to see if something would stick?

Yes. We're currently more active than ever in doing so (though that's not necessarily saying much).

Comment from: Howard Tayler posted at May 19, 2005 2:47 AM

At one point wasn't Keen looking at pitching some of its creator's comics to TV/Movie people to see if something would stick?

RANT ON:

As a participant in that first pitch to USA (was it USA? I forget), I assure you that it was both embarrassing and uncomfortable. The rep was disinterested, the pitch was done in a crowded booth on a crowded convention floor, and none of us had been coached in pitching things.

We were pretty excited by the opportunity, but completely unprepared for it. Opportunity knocked, but we couldn't figure out how to work the door.

Chris, I'm pleased that you're "not necessarily saying much." I'd hate to see another group of hopefuls embarrass themselves in front of a bored no-name network rep who wonders why this super mini-syndicate can't afford a conference room somewhere.

:RANT OFF

--Howard

Comment from: Sonictail~ posted at May 19, 2005 3:02 AM

I'm sorry to say this, but from a purely PR position having six comics leave at this close a margin is too big a coincidence. Is there some kind of secret underground headquarters for webcomics over there in the states or something?

On a more serious note, why is there so much talk about having to replace those that have left? Yes there are certain webcomics that will benefit from going up to keenspot (exterminatus now would be one of those, and thank god for the devil's panties getting a hoy) But wouldn't the current people on KS be better served by the attention that can be placed on them due to six heavy hitters leaving?

and yay, space loses a S and gains a L, meaning we have KP for the shortened version, now if any of you know some of the other meanings of that acronym doesn't it remind you of cleaning up the crap? Then again I read more KeenPLACE comics more than KeenSpace

Comment from: gwalla posted at May 19, 2005 3:03 AM

Joey: Both of those links give me errors: one "file not selected" and one "not allowed"

The fact that apparently vast numbers of people regularly get Keenspot and Keenspace confused has always seemed weird to me. But by now I'm used to the fact that most people on the Internet are dumber than me.

Comment from: Chris Crosby posted at May 19, 2005 3:51 AM

Howard:

Unlike our meeting with USA Network's Edwin Zane (who then held the title of "Director, Creative Affairs") at the 2003 Comic-Con, all of our Hollywood dealings are now being led by experienced film and television professionals as opposed to yours truly.

That said, we obviously would've gotten a conference room if we did it again (or if someone had suggested it initially). I'm sorry the opportunity to pitch your webcomic to a top cable network was not organized perfectly. It was the first time any of us had done anything like that.

Comment from: SuperHappy posted at May 19, 2005 4:25 AM

Okay...

This press about people going indie lately is painting some pretty rosy pictures. Personally, I think working in webcomics is a lot like working in print comics (sadly). While it's a little easier to get your name out there, there's still the multitude of lame readership trends and other random acts of discouragement to deal with.

girly has more or less languished for the past six months since leaving Keenspot. I'm doing what I can, but there really isn't that much TO do. I don't hate it or anything. Hosting it on my own server, making mt own scripts, and having complete control over everything is something I enjoy, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss the occasional Newsbox and check from Keenspot.

It ain't a perfect company, but the help it provides really ain't something to be sneezed at, and I really wouldn't recommend dismissing it unless you do a comic about videogames, indie rock, or you have a porn site to back your ass up.

I'm not trying to make it sound like I have it really bad or anything. I really, realllllly (seriously, you have no idea) enjoy working on my comic. The fact is, I have it... not bad.... But not great either. I'm just trying to give y'all an example of how leaving Keenspot might not = happiness and puppies.

Anyway... fellatio?

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at May 19, 2005 8:25 AM

Without the promotional benefits that come from being on Keenspot (on Space we don't get a free ride on Ishida and Poe's fame) Space is almost pure meritocracy.

Silly Ghastly.

We also get a free ride on Campos and Darlington's fame.

Comment from: Grumblin posted at May 19, 2005 5:18 PM

people forget that most readers do not give a hoot about [i]where[/i] a comic is hosted, or who it's associated with.

As long as what tickles your particular flavour of [i]daily light entertainment[/i] ends up on your screen on time, without a barrage of banners and popups flooding your system, most people are quite happy.

Comment from: Tangent posted at May 21, 2005 4:57 AM

Gwalla: I had tried those links initially and they worked fine. They had a list of a dozen webcomics and their creators (of interest, it included Howard Tayler *and* his wife as seperate entries), including Wapsi Square, Schlock Mercenary, I think Melonpool, and Shortpacked/It's Walky. I wish I'd done a screen capture so I still had it on file.

I don't know if someone did it as a joke or if this is actually signs of a new, more exclusive webcomic collective forming.

Robert A. Howard

http://tangents.keenspace.com

Comment from: Bobby Crosby posted at July 6, 2005 1:47 PM

"Pupkin" is obviously a trillion times better than "Real Life" or any other comic ever on Keenspot.

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