You really expect people to PAY for that line?

I was drawing some Schlock Mercenary a couple of weeks ago, and was inking General Tagon’s rather square jawline. I remember looking at that line I was making, and suddenly having that disconnected, “where am I and what am I doing here?” feeling. I looked down at the line I was drawing was struck at the absurdity of the thought that folks would PAY me for drawing it. I mean, it was just a LINE, connected to another line. The line itself, seen up close, was scratchy and a little pale — a side effect of using pigment liners until they give up not only the ghost, but also any other malingering spirits in the neighborhood — hardly top-of-the-(ahem)-line stuff.

I pulled back and looked at the whole comic. It wasn’t done yet, and looked, unsurprisingly, very unfinished. Of course, even when I’m done inking my work looks unfinished. I color it to cover that up, as I’ve done since June of 2000. Looking down at it I was struck again by the thought that it wasn’t worth a day’s wage. The math is simple: if I’m going to live off of a daily comic, each daily comic I draw needs to be worth whatever money I have to earn in a day in order to get by, right? These days that’s about $100, and even then that’s with a pretty tight belt. So I looked down at that comic and thought “is that worth $100?”

Now don’t go thinking that I’m having some mid-life crisis, or a failure of faith, or anything like that. I like what I’m doing… no, I LOVE what I’m doing. Even the crassly commercial GWAVAMan is fun. It’s just that sometimes I can’t believe that I AM doing it.

Remember playing with the old “house” legos and making space-ships? This would have been 1978 or so, in my case. The transparent bricks that were the original Lego windows became “dilithium crystals,” (as a 10-year-old in the 70s what other spaceship crystals WERE there?) and every ship needed one. Later on, at age 16 or so, I realized that those crystals were the “Suspension of Disbelief” engines that allowed these funny, boxy ships to look sleek and powerful in the eyes of a 10-year old. Well, I think I need to fasten a transparent lego-brick to my desk somewhere, because this disbelief I experience from time to time certainly could use a good spot of suspending.

Yes, I expect people to pay for that line. This year the rate is $100 per daily collection of lines. Next year I’m doubling it. And people will not only pay, they’ll SMILE as they pay. See this here clear lego? PURE DILITHIUM.


23 thoughts on “You really expect people to PAY for that line?”

  1. Hah! Yeah, it’s funny – I know -exactly- what you mean. When I started in the game industry, I was a tester… I was paid to play games all day. Some tester jobs can really crappy, but this one wasn’t. I was getting paid about $16 an hour to play games. All day long, and even overtime if I felt like it.

    It was amazing to me. It was also cool to eventually get over that feeling. 😉

    1. Academia is like middle management: a little bit of knowledge can be made to go a very, very long way.

      Interestingly, I’ve heard middle managers AND academics complain that the other group is “whoring” their knowledge and experience, rather than applying it for the good of others.


  2. School is in session!

    Pencilling is the sketchy part with erasable media. There are stray lines all over, and construction lines running through the middle of everything.

    Inking is the part where ink, black, is laid down over the pencil lines you want to keep. The rest of those lines are erased.

    Coloring is the part where you add color to the image, whether through real media (markers, paints, colored pencils, etc) or digitally.

    Jeano was doing digital coloring for a year between March of 2003 and March of 2004. She injured herself (RMI) and couldn’t keep up, so I started coloring again on my own. Her work was much better than mine (compare any Sunday strip during mid-2003 to any Sunday in mid-2004), but I’m getting better (compare to this last Sunday, if you please).

  3. Howard,
    On this subject, and not entirely apropos of nothing, is it permitted to ask how much of each Keenspot Premium subscription dollar ever finds its way to you? I enjoy Schlock enough that I’d love to be able to support your work. However, I’m a little less enthusiastic about a subscription fee that gets divided among, I don’t know, a hundred authors of a hundred strips, all but a handful of which I’ve never so much as looked at.

    (I know, there’s the Schlock Store as well, and I’ll doubtless be doing a little shopping there once I get a bit better off financially.)

    1. Of course, it occurred to me somewhat later on, after reading today’s strip and following the link to Schlock merchandise, that I can buy a Schlock shirt for less than re-upping my expired Keenspot Premium anyway, and have more to show for it (particularly now that there is no longer premium coloring, so all the Premium membership buys me is week-at-a-time view and access to some premium-only comics that I’m not interested in).

      1. Early on in PREMIUM’s history, the revenue from subscribers was pro-rated to cartoonists based on the same exact ratios derived from page-views of non-subscribers. Thus Sinfest always got the largest chunk, even though few subscribers actually read Sinfest.

        The entire year Jean was coloring for me I got no extra revenue from Premium — or at least none that Keenspot was able to declare for me. This is one of the reasons I stopped doing the special features.

        I’ve been led to understand that the disbursement is fairer, now. Half of the money goes to Keenspot (as with ad revenue), and the other half is spread among the cartoonists based on page-views from PREMIUM subscribers. I’m not going to bring back the special features for Keenspot, though. Call me bitter.


  4. I went out in the garage and found some of those clear legos. I stuck them to both his drawing table and his computer. Even if my delivery method was lacking, hopefully the sentiment means something.

    1. Isn’t dilithium what they give to certain people to help them mellow out? ];-)

      I was just musing at Mr. Tayler’s timeframe — when he was building Lego spaceships, I had been in business or working for more than a decade. And my current company had already been founded.

      It’s neat to be around such young people! Inspiring! ]:-D

      But in fact, suspension of disbelief is a vital skill, and one to be treasured. It enables you to ignore the odds long enough to beat them.

      Knock ’em dead!

      ===|==============/ Level Head

  5. They even came up with better “Suspension of Disbelief” crystals a whiel back – the shiny silver ones from the Aquazone sets.

    One of those was at the heart of every Lego spaceship I built.

    1. I don’t think I ever saw an aquazone set. I always used those little printed spaceship-console panels that came with the newer sets for suspension of disbelief. If the pilot thinks it’s a spaceship, then it’s a spaceship. Of course, I built most of my lego spaceships about a decade and a half later than the esteemed Mr Tayler.

      These days I rather welcome having people with children visiting — it gives me the opportunity to haul out the bin of lego and build spaceships again. It’s a pity I can’t afford any of the robotic lego. That would keep me out of the way for weeks at a time.

      1. Well, control panels were obviously necessary in the cockpit. The SoD crystal would sit in the heart of the hyperdrive module in the rear, in one of the nifty little vertical-box-with-hinged-door parts.

        Separate from the sublight engines (cone pieces) with fuel tanks and hoses, naturally.

        1. Very few of my spaceships had a hyperdrive, most of them were fighters. I *did* build a mothership once (two detachable fighters, crew of about six — used about three-quarters of my entire lego collection) that had a hyperdrive, but I used a translucent green dome for that.

          Ah, the memories.

  6. I know you know this, but maybe you need to hear it. It’s not the line. It’s never been the line. It’s the soul of what you’ve created. It’s the spirit of the characters. That’s why we care so much when one of them dies.

    That’s not a snub, btw. I can’t imagine a better way for him to have gone. Bravo.

    Anyway, don’t worry about the lines. They’re just there to keep the funny from spilling out all over the website.

  7. Allow me to redo your math. $100 per strip divided by…um, how many fans does Schlock have these days, anyway?

    Starting over: $100/#ofFans = $0.x per fan per day.

    I’m sure we’re all willing to pay that. Get those books published and give us a chance to prove it.

  8. Current Music: China Dolls, “Muay Nee Kah”

    I think I have this track. “Chinese Eyes”? It certainly sounds like what they sing. I would like to get more China Dolls music but last time I tried (online) I couldn’t find any sites in English. Where did you get it?

    Ah, Lego spaceships. About the same time I did the Millenium Falcon out of Lego. Indestructible. I had to chew it to get it apart. This was when stress testing new designs involved throwing them down the stairs.

    Now, I think I saw a rumour about a black Schlock T-Shirt. Time to go a hunting.

  9. You think you have problems believing you’re getting paid for this gig? Imagine how the guy who does Something Positive feels!

    I guess he has a whole shed-load of transparent lego bricks.

  10. Incidentally – for me, at least – the majority of the lines that I’m willing to pay money for are the ones that make up the words. The art in Schlock Mercenary has gotten quite good, but it’s the story and the humor that have absolutely sucked me in…

    (I remember when I was 6 or 7, inventing a game with my friends, which consisted of assembling Lego vehicles which contained, somewhere inside them, a single 1×1 piece loose in a cavity. We’d ram the vehicles against each other, and the first one whose loose piece exited the vehicle lost. It was a brutal game… I recall scraped knuckles, jammed fingers, and the occasional broken Lego.)

Comments are closed.