I was checking out the comics syndicate site uComics (www.ucomics.com), the online home to such well known print strips as Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, Ziggy, and many others. While poking around I came across something that sounded like a great opportunity for aspiring cartoonists. They have a feature called Comics Sherpa whereby aspiring cartoonists and comics artists can submit their own work to be displayed on the uComics.com site alongside their already well established strips.
I thought this sounded like it would be an amazing opportunity for someone trying to break into the comics business. Here we have a syndicate not only accepting submissions for work, but making the process democratic by displaying the submitted work to their audience and soliciting feedback. The site hints that those submitted strips that become popular via the web would have a chance at being picked up for syndication. Here’s a quote from the Comics Sherpa site, “We’re confident that the next Larson, Trudeau or Watterson is out there, waiting to be discovered! So we’ve enlisted the help of our uComics.com users to read up-and-coming-strips and post their feedback.”
Here’s where the sherpa takes a wrong turn. I dug a little deeper for details so I could post this great opportunity to the blog only to find that this is a pay service. That’s right, the potential cartoonist is expected to pony up ten bucks a month to show their comic on the uComics.com site. Huh? Isn’t that supposed to work the other way around? Not only do you have to pay as a reader to see the comics on uComics.com, but the comics creators have to pay to populate the site with the very content they are selling to their users.
I’ve been encouraged in the past by the big comic strip syndicates’ efforts to find a viable business model for using the web to publish comics. But this little scheme has me a little upset. It seems like a suckers game, trying to take advantage of someone who doesn’t know any better. The kicker? In signing up for this “service” you also have to agree to consider uComics.com’s syndication contract, should your strip be considered worthy enough, above any other offer you may get as a result of having your strip on their site.
For less then the money they’re asking for here you could start your own site and not be locked into any kind of non-compete contract. I think the general idea here has potential, open up the submission process at the syndicates to make the choosing of new comics more open, but the way these guys are going about it just seems really sneaky and underhanded to me.