Old timers like me well remember the time when a trip to a newsstand was how you got your news and ingested a quick trip through what was hot in media as heavily influenced by gatekeepers and advertisers. It had its drawbacks but it also had a certain charm, especially humor magazines that mixed art, photos and writing in a frothy brew. Although those days are long gone, a new magazine, The American Bystander is trying to make a go of it as a print publication dedicated to presenting “some of the funniest, most celebrated writers and artists from several generations, with the idea of resurrecting — and improving! — the classic humor magazine format.” Of course you can’t have a classic humor magazine without comics, and among the contributors to the first issue: Julia Wertz, Mimi Pond, Roz Chast and more. Sounds good, but the website is frank about needing to sell 5000 copies of the first issue to even be able to offer subscriptions. The first issue was successfully kickstarted, but at $25 for the first 150 page issue, it’s obviously a more modern concept of “magazine” than in the past when advertisers paid for the damn thing.
Using print-on-demand publishing and the ability of the internet to collect like-minded people, we can provide books at a fair price while paying our contributors. (Paid work, what a concept.) And they keep the rights to their material.
But we need your help. Newsstands are a mug’s game, and advertisers hate humor magazines. That’s why there hasn’t been a new one since the late 90s. The American Bystander uses a super-lean publishing model where the money comes from readers — like the old MAD, minus the newsstands. The web is our newsstand; it’s always open, and you don’t have to deal with guys nicknamed “Jimmy Three-Fingers.”
The implosion of book and magazine publishing has left a lot of established artists and writers with no way to reach the readers who love their stuff. And for younger talents, an always-difficult career is now practically impossible. We just couldn’t take it anymore, folks, we had to do something…so we created the first issue. What happens next is up to you.
This certainly sounds like a worthy project_paying people to make funny things!_and art contributors include:
With art and illustration by Ron Barrett, Kate Beaton, Louisa Bertman, R.O. Blechman, Chris Bonno, M.K. Brown, John Caldwell, Roz Chast, Seymour Chwast, Liza Donnelly, Xeth Feinberg, Liana Finck, Emily Flake, Shary Flenniken, Patricia Gerber, Robert Grossman, Stefan Hagen, Ron Hauge, Danny Hellman, Farley Katz, Adam Koford, Ken Krimstein, Eugenia Loli, Scott Marshall, Ethan Persoff, Mimi Pond, Arnold Roth, Cris Shapan, Mark Simonson, Grant Snider, Edward Sorel, Akiko Stehrenberger, Tom Toro, D. Watson, Julia Wertz, Nathan Yoder, Steve Young, and Jack Ziegler.
The project is spearheaded by Michael Gerber, author of Barry Trotter and the Shameless Parody and a contributor to The New Yorker and SNL, and other people involved have an equal pedigree. There is definitely a hole where a lavish humor magazine used to be, but can such a project survive? I haven’t seen the first issue but on paper, it looks promising.
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.