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Eric: A post that damns me. DAMNS ME TO HELL!

So, here's the thing.

David Willis, who writes and draws Shortpacked, which is one of my favorite strips, is doing something very interesting with his other strip.

See... he's created a whole new iteration of his other strip, called Joyce and Walky! It's a (somewhat) new take on subscription services. He's going to post a week's worth of strips, followed by a free strip on Sundays, and an e-mail subscription to a month's worth of the actual Joyce and Walky storyline strips (five days worth a week) for a minimum donation of two dollars a month. In the meantime, Shortpacked continues to be full out free.

This interests me. Obviously, Joyce and Walky remain very popular, and this is clearly a direct sequel to It's Walky, as the "$100 Theater" was before it. In other words, Willis is working out a means to supplement his income while both producing something folks want to see and not too deeply shafting anyone. This is largely the model that sites like Modern Tales or American Elf uses, of course, though on those today's strip is always free, whereas this is directly a payfer/subscription strip.

I'm honestly curious how this will work out, and I honestly think it's a bold step for Willis to be taking. He continues to produce Shortpacked (which has some Walky alumni, of course) for free, so you can't accuse him of taking everything behind a subscription wall. (Not that I'd berate him if he did, but some folks would).

However... this is, for all intents and purposes, the new It's Walky. Walky's in the title. It stars Joyce, who's the character who was always a core component of It's Walky even going back to the Roomies! days. While it's likely a new premise (what since they don't work for SEMME any more), it's still a direct sequel.

And the It's Walky domain is one of the mirrors of the new strip.

If you look over at my sidebar, you'll notice that It's Walky is still linked over there. Look carefully. It's part of a group of three. Yeah, those. What do those have in common, again?

Oh yeah. They're the strips I don't talk about on here.

There's a reason I don't talk about them. When you post an essay like a You Had Me, And You Lost Me, you're not trying to trash the strips in question. You're trying to distill what it is those strips have that you loved, and explain why it is you don't love them any more. And then you walk away. You don't read them any more. You don't talk about them any more. You especially don't criticize them any more. It's not fair to. You've shot your biggest gun. You've said "I break with thee, I break with thee, I break with thee," and then thrown dog poop on their shoes. At that point, they have every right to expect that you will leave them alone.

(This is very hard sometimes. I have many friends who delight in keeping me appraised in the latest doings of one of those three strips. Some beg me to comment, or rant, or whatever on them. I don't. I don't read that strip any more. When I get sent links to it, I take a look, and it reinforces to me that the reasons I stopped reading are still solidly in force. However, it would do neither me nor the webcartoonist in question to break with my policy, so I don't. I just plain don't.)

On the one hand, It's Walky ended -- and I did remark on its ending. And Joyce and Walky is by definition not the same strip, and deserves to be judged on its own merits. On the other hand, I glanced through several strips of $100 theater, and... well... it seems to be setting up Joyce and Walky as a direct continuation, and I YHMAYLM'd It's Walky for actual reasons, as you'll recall. On the gripping hand, the "donations give you a month's worth of my strip," while not a new tactic, per se, still deserves to be noted and tracked.

So. I'm noting it. I'm tracking it. This is yet another interesting development in the world of webcomics in a day of interesting developments in the world of webcomics. And, as always, I wish David Willis tons of success with it.

But I still feel all dirty. Also, I'm damned to Hell now. But then, we knew that.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at August 1, 2005 2:16 PM

Comments

Comment from: Will "Scifantasy" Frank posted at August 1, 2005 2:46 PM

I thought the J&W subscription setup was interesting (barring one detail that I emailed Willis about to get a clear answer on), and possibly workable--really, though, I think it works because Roomies/It's Walky is free and he built up a fanbase. Not exactly the ideal if you're trying to start up a webcomic business model--but good for extant strips, maybe.

Though, nitpick. Isn't it twice-weekly J&W strips, not five days a week?

Comment from: Aerin posted at August 1, 2005 2:56 PM

Wow, you're a snarking MACHINE today!

Comment from: MasonK posted at August 1, 2005 3:22 PM

Will:

It's five days this week, then goes to twice a week for the pay model, assuming I remember correctly from my scan of the news this morning.

Not having even the measley two bucks a month for this, I'll have to give it a pass. Thankfully, I'll still be able to read Shortpacked (which I found gut-burstingly funny this morning).

Comment from: Tangent posted at August 1, 2005 4:02 PM

If it's really bugging you, then don't read it. Simple as that.

I mean, it's your principles. And it's basically just It's Walky rehashed. If you think restarting makes it a different comic... then it is. If you think it's too related... then don't read it, and move on to something else. There are plenty of comics out there.

Personally I didn't even know about this strip, and as it's a subscription model, I'm not going to pay to read it. But that's because I'm not big on the whole subscription model thing anyway and I never was all that attached to It's Walky to begin with.

Rob H., currently Keenless

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 1, 2005 4:38 PM

Rob -- it's not reading it that's the question. (I don't plan to.) It's tracking the subscription model's success that's the question. It goes into a grey area. A dark grey area. Grues abound.

Comment from: Brendan posted at August 1, 2005 4:40 PM

It'd be different if it weren't two freakin' dollars a month. You pay more for a single dead-tree title. But keep in mind that it looks like it relies heavily on continuity, throws time travel into the mix, and brings back a dead character. Can you say "Claremont land"? Plus, imagine the hell you'd go through if you missed a month...

Shortpacked, though, remains funny, and while Cerebus is beginning to rear his head, it's hard to see how it could turn into Willis being...well, Willis.

Comment from: Duff the Tragic Wagon posted at August 1, 2005 5:51 PM

Cerebus in Shortpacked? I wouldn't say it's that extreme, just that the characters and their relationships are becoming a little more fleshed out, and there's a touch more continuity, which I personally quite like.

I think the Joyce and Walky strip might be a good thing for Shortpacked, as it'll allow Willis to do the drama thing that he enjoys without forcing Shortpacked to become all depressing.

The critical thing is going to be whether it's possible to reread past months' strips, which I haven't seen confirmed or denied yet (though I haven't looked very hard).

Comment from: Coralie Coelsch posted at August 1, 2005 6:23 PM

I checked out the It's Walky / Shortpacked forum: Apparently, it will be possible to buy past months' strips and reread them as you please.

Comment from: John Troutman posted at August 1, 2005 8:12 PM

I've a feeling that this will work out quite well for David. Reminds me of when Mr. T moved Fans to GraphicSmash. It already had such a huge audience that it quickly became the number one strip there by a huge margin, and I'm sure it made T a good chunk of change. But that's the thing, isn't? Seems to me that you already have to have a large fanbase from being FREE to actually be successful at subscriptions later on.

Comment from: siwangmu posted at August 1, 2005 11:38 PM

Everyone seems to somehow be ignoring the really earth-shattering revelation here:

ERIC HAS THREE HANDS.

Comment from: miyaa posted at August 2, 2005 2:50 AM

Yes, everyone knows that, but they don't want to know what exactly is he gripping.

Comment from: John Lynch posted at August 2, 2005 3:18 AM

There's a reason I don't talk about them. When you post an essay like a You Had Me, And You Lost Me, you're not trying to trash the strips in question. You're trying to distill what it is those strips have that you loved, and explain why it is you don't love them any more. And then you walk away. You don't read them any more. You don't talk about them any more. You especially don't criticize them any more. It's not fair to. You've shot your biggest gun. You've said "I break with thee, I break with thee, I break with thee," and then thrown dog poop on their shoes. At that point, they have every right to expect that you will leave them alone.

I see no reason why you can't check in on a "YHMAYLM" comic. I keep a bookmark of them so I can see if I like them again every now and then. Although it looks like that's what you've done when prompted by friends, and you remembered why you didn't want to read it, which is fine. But if you ever do start liking it again, I see no reason why you can't snark about it once more.

Comment from: Aerin posted at August 2, 2005 5:17 AM

Like "You Had Me, and You Lost Me, but Then You Won Me Back"? I think our acronyms would get a little out of hand...

Comment from: SeanH posted at August 2, 2005 7:55 AM

Aerin, if the Internet has taught me anything - and oh, the things it has taught me - it's that acronyms can never be too long, too obscure, or too self-referential.

Comment from: marbx posted at August 2, 2005 10:15 AM

I don't like this model as much as Modern Tales. I can't see him picking up many new subscribers. If I decide I'm interested next month, paying $2 to catch up, and $2 a month to read new strips is not a big deal. But next August, it'll cost me $24 to catch up. And that barrier to entry keeps getting higher. Don't webcomics fans usually like to go through the whole archives?

miyaa, haven't you ever read "The Mote in God's Eye"?

Comment from: Merus posted at August 2, 2005 12:19 PM

I honestly don't think Willis is going for new readers with Joyce & Walky - he's said in the past that the only reason he's continuing It's Walky! is because the fans want him to and are putting their money where their mouth is. This seems to be a continuation of that.

Also, I think the YHMAYLM strips are best described as strips where you just don't care anymore. There's a difference between 'this isn't doing it for me, I'm leaving it alone for a time' and 'that's it! Don't care anymore, not looking back'.

I actually share Erik's opinion of two of those strips (Megatokyo and GPF), and what I think about those strips is whatever they're doing, I really couldn't give a crap. I also think he was a bit hasty to YHMAYLM It's Walky!, because unlike MT and GPF, IW! (acronym hell!) committed a bunch of sins in a short space of time, and you see that in the articles: MT and GPF track Erik's growing frustrations with the strips over a period of a year, at least, while Erik fell out of love for It's Walky when it started getting increasingly obscure. It hadn't yet committed sin after sin after sin, although it clearly would have, had it not been ending and essentially rebooting, and if you haven't yet been punished for going back and seeing if everything's better, it hasn't really Lost You.

From the article:

"When it finishes up, I can always go back and read the ending, and even snark about it." Erik gave up on caring how the strip unfolded, but it's clear it hadn't really Lost Him. He'd just stopped reading.

I think it's two different things.

Comment from: J.(Channing)Wells posted at August 2, 2005 2:49 PM

Clearly, Websnark needs a new category falling somewhere between "Sporadically Reads" and "You Had Me, Then You Lost Me". Perhaps it could be called "Wake Me for the End" or something.

Because, as you all should know, there's no situation that can't be improved by greater complexity.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at August 2, 2005 3:30 PM

I see Zymurgy's Law works on Websnark, too. I don't know if Eric knows it off the top of his head, but I'm guessing he's going to agree once he Googles it.

Funny thing is, I completely disagree on two of the You Had Me... listings (Megatokyo and It's Walky!). And I've found enough redeeming qualities in GPF to keep reading for now. But one thing I thought that is holding true, is that those pieces are dead ends for Eric. Not so much the particular strips he chose (I mean, I'd feel the same way if he chose Questionable Content, Penny Arcade, and Superosity, to name three I personally refuse to read unless asked by certain people), but for his "never even discuss again" stance.

I mean, just pretending they don't exist anymore doesn't make them go away, or no longer worthy of comment. They are going to do things that result in some deserved attention, like this. And I think the comments on Willis' Walky! works are proof of that.

I say to just abandon the pretense of never talking about the strips again. Maybe Darlington will make his strip funny again. Maybe Gallagher will start treating fans with the level of respect they deserve for supporting him fully. And maybe Willis will finally fill in the blanks to make more sense of It's Walky!

And while I'm hoping, maybe someone, whether it be Josh Phillips or someone else, will finally draw the final few months of Avalon.

But all that aside, just admit where you've made a mistake. Nobody is going to respect you less for it, Eric.

Comment from: MasonK posted at August 2, 2005 7:20 PM

Eric is *incredibly* good at admitting his mistakes, 32, when they're pointed out.

As is clear from this essay, however, he doesn't feel like he's made a mistake.

When I get sent links to it, I take a look, and it reinforces to me that the reasons I stopped reading are still solidly in force.

For myself, I didn't start reading It's Walky! until some months after it was over. I read the entirety of the archives in three weeks (I could have read them faster, were I not behind a 28.8 connection). And, yes, there was incredible density to said archives, and if I *hadn't* read them all in one gulp, I would have had no idea who half the people in the last couple months were.

I can see why Eric had problems with the strip, is all I'm saying. I didn't have those problems in part because I read the graphic novel rather than the issues.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at August 2, 2005 8:36 PM

I don't really think so. He has admitted mistakes in the past, but I don't think he's incredible about owning up to them. Of course, I've disagreed with Eric on quite a few occasions, and have made it known. So you could just call me contrarian; it wouldn't be the first time.

However, the mistake I'm referencing is not on giving up It's Walky! - as I said, I'd have the same issue if the three comics in question were three I personally didn't like. The mistake is in refusing to reference those strips at all anymore - especially because, in the case of It's Walky!, he seems to reference it more than several on his reading list (compare the snarks of, say, Something Positive written since the It's Walky! You Had Me... versus the times Eric's brought up IW!).

I'm just saying his stance of "never reference it again" isn't working, and he should just drop the pretense of having it. I'm not sitting here, demanding Megatokyo snarks. I'm just saying that if you're going to disregard your own structure, it's time to consider whether that structure is a good one.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at August 2, 2005 11:07 PM

I'm just saying his stance of "never reference it again" isn't working, and he should just drop the pretense of having it. I'm not sitting here, demanding Megatokyo snarks. I'm just saying that if you're going to disregard your own structure, it's time to consider whether that structure is a good one.

I don't agree that it's not working - or rather, I don't recall that the pledge was to never reference it again, but to never snark it again. Eric's publicly sworn off snarking three webcomics, and he hasn't snarked any of them since each one was sworn off. Joyce and Walky isn't the same webcomic as It's Walky, or isn't meant to be, and in any case Eric didn't snark the webcomic itself but its presentation. I disagree with both you and Eric that he's done anything he said he wouldn't do.

Comment from: Merus posted at August 2, 2005 11:19 PM

Clearly, Websnark needs a new category falling somewhere between "Sporadically Reads" and "You Had Me, Then You Lost Me". Perhaps it could be called "Wake Me for the End" or something.

There is. "Why Am I Reading This Again".

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at August 3, 2005 9:46 AM

See, Paul, I think that's just splitting hairs. He has talked about It's Walky! before, and he's effectively doing it again. We can all say that this is a different strip, but that's really disingenuous. Eric can claim that he's not really talking about It's Walky!, just as he did when IW! officially ended. It's true if you're willing to stretch the truth, and I really don't think that's necessary.

Comment from: JEisenberg posted at August 4, 2005 3:12 PM

David Willis posted an update about J&W! on his livejournal.

"160 J&W! subscribers right now, which doesn't include the few dozen that are sending money by mail or the pile of queries remaining in my inbox. Holy crap."

That's $320 a month so far, for about 9 subsciption-only strips (pluse the 4 or 5 free ones he will be giving out each week).

Holy crap.

-Joseph Eisenberg

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