In re the last piece, here’s a direct link to my first piece for Slate in which I investigate the comics/cartoon connection with quotes from Rebeca Sugar, Kevin Lee, Annie Koyama, Sam Alden and Ryan Sands.
As a longtime reporter on the comics world, I was a bit surprised when cable animation started scooping up the alt-comix gang. Was making quirky comics about childhood abuse or a Zoroastrian look at the creation of the universe really training for animating corporate cartoons? But indie cartoonists have injected today’s cartoons with vision and new blood. And in return cartoonists are getting something very unusual: steady paychecks, which the Top Ramen–fueled world of small press comics rarely provides. There’s a new Big Two in town and it isn’t DC and Marvel—it’s the Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon.
But is any Big Two a good idea? In a world where ultimate freedom of expression is often the big payoff, talking about making money is frowned upon and selling out is the ultimate no-no. And would young indie cartoonists start aiming their risographed Fort Thunder homages towards showrunners in hopes of getting jobs? And most worrisome of all, will a path to Hollywoodland make the most talented creators abandon comics?
Since this piece came out there’s been a steady conversation about “You left out soanso!!!!” And Dan Nadel and others have a more direct conversation at TCJ.com:
Ah yes, comics eats its own. Always looking for a way to knock Clowes and Ware. Anyhow, yeah, this is very much about the money and the proliferation of networks that can take people on, as well as the emphasis on character design and cheap labor over traditionally “good” animation. It’s also a generation of young executives who grew up on the first wave of internet animation pioneered by Peter Girardi (now at Fox), Mark Newgarden, Ben Jones, et al. In fact, it’s Peter and Ben that are hiring a lot of these kids. Ben is by far the most successful cartoonist-to-animator of our generation. Unlike nearly (?) everyone else mentioned in the article, Ben is producing, hiring and creating. And, uh, Adventure Time began as an homage to Mat Brinkman and Brian Chippendale, essentially. It was a canny exploitation of what was happening in Providence in the early 2000s. If we’re starting to somehow write this as history then let’s at least get the beginnings right.
For the record, I knew about Ben Jones and other folks but even on the internet, you can’t have an article that’s too long. I’m going to post an addendum, or appendi with more people in the future.
One person who got added at the very last minute is Kris Mukai., who has an Adventure Time episode she storyboarded airing tonight! Mukai is an insanely talented cartoonist and storyteller I’ve been posting about here for years, and I’m happy to see her getting a more lucrative gig in addition to putting out her own admittedly brilliant mini-comics. I agree money ruins everything, but yay, money! Food! Rent! New shoes!
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.