All Kurtz, All The Time

OK, so there’s been a ton written already about this Kurtz vs. the syndicates thingy, and I’ve hesitated to weigh in on it, but I ran across an article about it and couldn’t resist any longer.

According to reporter John C. Kuehner, Kurtz notes that “because syndicates own the strips, they continue to run outdated comics such as ‘Peanuts,’ ‘Nancy’ and ‘Blondie’ after their old-guard creators die.”

(Please note – This is not an actual quote from Kurtz, but one from Kuehner instead.)

True, syndicates did once, and do still to some extent, own some strips outright, but most if not all recent comic strips are owned by the cartoonist with revenue being shared between the syndicate and the artist.

I’m going to assume that Kurtz was misquoted here as he seems to be a fairly intelligent and well-spoken guy.

Here’s another thing: PVP is certainly a popular comic (I’ll be reviewing it soon) and it’s well executed, but I’m not sure Kurtz’s anti-syndication revolution will come swiftly if it ever comes at all.

An ad featuring a PVP character on Kurtz’s site for boasts 80,000 visitors a day to his site. Sounds like a lot right? And let’s assume that recent newspapers printing PVP has upped his stats significantly to, oh, I dunno, 100,000 visitors or so.

The population of people over the age of 14 in the US is estimated to be about 234 million. So that’s roughly .00004 percent of the population that visits PVP online. Or to put it a little more plainly, except for the entire population of Peoria, Illinois, no one else on the planet visits PVP online.

I’m sure to be hearing from Kurtz, Kurtz’s friends, and fans of PVP about how I suck, how my cartoons suck, and what a dumbass I am etc…

Here’s my point:

PVP is a good strip and it’s worth more that Kurtz thinks. Why he’s choosing to miss out on additional income by simply giving his work away is beyond me.

Kurtz is successful and the strip is wildly popular with its fans, but ultimately he’s selling himself and the art form short.

3 thoughts on “All Kurtz, All The Time”

  1. An interesting point Mark. That .00004 stat was eye-opening, I hadn't thought of it that way before. Makes me realize that my readership is prolly around .0000002 🙂 Cheers!

  2. Hello fellow Mark Anderson.
    I came across your web page looking up John Kurtz who I just heard of from an NPR piece.

    Ive been in the printing/graphics business nearly 30 years. I dont consider myself an artist, more of a graphics technician, but heres my .02 anyway, for what its worth, on the subject of the Kurtz business model.

    The web is here to stay. Nearly half of the cartoons in our local paper are the old syndicated Blondes, Garfield, etc.
    Perhaps the market will eventually shake them out. I believe it is more likely that newspapers will be shaken out. This is already evident by the increasing number, and readership of online bloggers. Cartoonists arent so different from bloggers. Whether it is a one liner joke, or a social commentary, they have something they want to say and hopefully be compensated for doing it. The market of course will decide compensation.

    Whether Mr. Kurtz knows it or not, he has become what David Gardner, of The Motley Fool Investment, calls a Rule Breaker. Were he a publicly traded company, he would be on the list of many shrewd investors. The two main traits of a rule breaker are:
    -A company using or creating a disruptive new technology or approach. That is, a solution that undercuts, or just bypasses, the way business is done.
    -A suspicion on Wall Street or, in this case among the cartooning community, that the companys potential is an illusion. That makes it less likely that everyone will rush out and buy it now, or in this case, immulate the model right away.

    The objective of the professional cartoonist or artist, bohemian egos notwithstanding, is the same as any widget maker- make money. Even better to make money doing something you actually like doing. Mr. Kurtz has taken his creativity and applied it to marketing, which may be more important than the product itself. By not selling the cartoon and instead, selling all that surrounds the cartoon, he keeps complete control of his product. He has created a unique and disruptive approach that bypasses the way business is done. As his and others success increases the syndicate will have to wipe the cobwebs off their own creativity or be left as recyclers.

    On another note, if you are looking for other cartoonist to review or link too, you might check out a friend and ex-employee of Zuchinni Prints, Michael L Teague. He is an excellent artist of great insight.

    Mark Anderson
    Zuchinni Prints

Comments are closed.