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August 7, 2014

Go, Read: Abhay Khosla’s Mike Dawson Follow-Up

Here. I'm coming late to this in Internet time. The writer, critic and comics-maker was responding to this response to his original critique, which was a response to a Mike Dawson post about his frustrations with how to put together his comic.

imageI think there's some compelling material in there, and I urge people to engage the ideas rather than impressions of tone or making theses issues bandied about an opportunity to compare and contrast the two personalities involved. There are important issues involved here, maybe none more important to an arts industry. I am once again grateful that Khosla doesn't feel it's necessary to affirm Dawson, as a lot of our comics arguments seem to make that a priority to their detriment.

I'm also not 100 percent convinced that this can be reduced to Dawson having to be a better businessman on his behalf. That may be the case here, that may not always be the case with everyone. It's really easy to say "do business better" to solve a perceived business shortcoming, the same way we sometimes assume every comic that does well has great PR, so every book that doesn't needs some of that great PR. Additionally, it's worth remembering that Dawson wasn't talking about become a thundering success, his standard is to sell a couple thousand works, not 50,000. I think that has an effect on the we should process what he's saying. It could be that this is a failure of art, rather than commerce -- it possible this may not be a good enough book, as the general audience judges books, to have more than the sales it does.

What I hope is that 1) aspiring cartoonists or struggling, working ones will look at the numbers provided by Dawson and realize that that has been the result for him, 2) that we do begin to question whether or not cartoonists advocate for or approach their business models in a reasonable way, 3) that we also question whether or not those entities that work on a cartoonist's behalf are holding up their end, both individually and collectively, 4) that we engage with the issue over whether or not asking every artist to be a skilled business operator in a barren junkyard is best for the art form, and if not, begin to work on other models. We do a very bad job at these things in part because we don't ask these questions until five, ten, twenty years into a supposed career, with all the commitment that's involved. You can't throw people at a wall to see what sticks without breaking a lot of people. Professional development and industry development need to become greater priorities.

Update: Mike Dawson has written a second essay as well, many of you wrote in to say. I think it's good at clarifying his initial position.

I'm a bit confused by his comments that indicates he's not reading Khosla's second post and that others are welcome to and "I look forward to reading all of the bestselling books that you'll be writing now." There's no magic formula for this kind of thing, and I can't imagine that even if there was Abhay Khosla would have that formula. I doubt anyone believes that riches are on the way just for reading what Khosla has to say. My direct reaction was even that some of them as applied to Dawson are flat-out wrongheaded. I still appreciated reading them. For example, even if you disagree that $20 is -- or ever should be -- a barrier for people to buy unknown comics work, it's worth finding out someone else thinks this, and it's likely that person isn't alone. One of the reasons I get so dismayed that comics arguments get so personal and so about winning the argument of something rather than solving the problem of something that we tend to shut down and stop listening as soon as we find our side.
posted 12:05 am PST | Permalink

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