Monday, December 24, 2007

Further Adventures in Web Comics

The New Media, whatever that means, is like the tide coming in--that is to say, you can't stop it. If you try, you're going down!

I love print. I'm a bonafide print junkie with ink for blood. I've owned a screen printing company for almost thirty years, and I've created and published some sixty comic magazines/books/graphic novels.
But, as 2008 approaches, I see that income from print based comics has dwindled steadily over the past few years. Traditional book & magazine publishing is on the ropes these days, no matter how you slice it. I've racked my brain over the past several years for a new model to bring my work to market.

Happily, I've caught the New Media bug. I'm definitely "on the bus", having done enough research & experimenting to be producing and publishing electronically.

This post will not be about the specifics of my model, the nuts and bolts details of how & why it's viable. Nope, it's simply time to direct readers to my new webcomic project, which I'm calling Tuff Toddler. I'm digging in to spend some serious ink-slingin' time here, and I invite one and all to join me on this journey into the heart of -- um -- my heart. Come around to Tuff Toddler/Cute as a Button But Tiger Tough site on a regular basis, I'll be waiting there to entertain, delight and surprise you.

Steve Lafler,
Christmas Eve 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Let's Publish Comic Books!

From the get go, I've aspired to be a cartoonist. Probably from about age 3 or 4. I saw those Max Fleisher cartoons from the Thirties in reruns on TV when I was a wee little shaver in the early Sixties, and I was sold. We are talking about very cool buggy characters, boppin' and dancing for all they're worth, essentially rapping over a funky swing soundtrack. Upon seeing the likes of that, my career choice was finalized. Why waste time on anything that does not completely captivate your imagination?

Now, I realize in the course of spilling my guts in this blog, I've gone on at length about my successful run as a self employed screen printer. True enough, starting in early '78, while still an undergrad at UMass Amherst, I got into freelancing custom printed T Shirts and have done quite well with it. But the fact is, the shirt biz has always been secondary to my focus on creating and publishing comics.

So it is that I begin a whole new phase of memoir in Self Employment For Bohemians. Having covered the salient points of running a small scale Custom T Shirt printing operation, it's time to ruminate on the other half of my life, that as a cartoonist & publisher.

Right up front, I'm going to admit that, in a strict business sense, I've needed the T Shirt business in order to pay the bills most of the time. However, the beauty of it is, the successful Shirt biz provided me with capital with which to publish, and gave me both the time and freedom to pursue my art career completely on my own terms—I've been able to create and publish cartoons straight from my heart and psyche with absolutely no concessions to the commercial sphere. Again, I may not have made millions off my comics (yet!), but in point of fact, I have sold over 100,000 comic books, magazines and graphic novels since releasing my first book, Benb & Gerald, in 1980.

So—the stage is set, in my next post I'll serve up the story of my swashbuckling leap into publishing in March, 1980 with Benb & Gerald.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Self Appointed Blowhard Gains Ascendancy!

It's my great joy in life to thumb my nose at authority and hierarchies of all stripes while happily working for myself. OK, so I have an attitude. What of it?!

Truth be told, the Vice Principal of Glenbrook Middle school, Mr. Texiera, told me that I was stupid and would end up in prison. (He'd just caught me pitching peanut M&Ms at the svelte young Mrs. Miller in the cafeteria. What can I say? She had great legs, and I had to get her attention somehow.) Although I did spend one night in jail in college, drunken lout that I was, I've happily avoided prison thus far.

So here I am, having appointed myself blowhard in charge of cheerleading impressionable folks into the self employed life, especially if they are artistically/creatively inclined. What qualifies me to do this? Ha! Nada! Chances are, what works for me would land you in the poor house (Lord knows I've done my time there). Yet I am compelled to blow my horn on this subject dear to my heart, and my overblown ego wants props for it.

What I'm leading up to here, I've actually gotten a wee bit of exposure in the overamped blogosphere lately for this here soapbox I'm crowing from, as follows:

Apparently, I received a mention for my piece on "The Win - Win Deal" in Social Entrepreneurship Today.
Two of my "Self Employment" pieces have also garnered a pair of mentions on Technorati pages, which I gotta say is an honor for a seat of the pants operator like myself. The first is in the Kaizen Business pages, and then there one on the James Alenteal site.

It's nice to get listed with thoughtful, useful sites like these. As always, I hope I can deliver just a bit of useful information about self employment to even one person out there. That is something that would make this self appointed, self employment guru/blowhard very happy indeed.

Steve Lafler

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Rich Artist

Last month, I reprinted a bunch of my early Self Employment for Bohemians stuff. Those pieces contain piles of valuable nuts & bolts information about getting started in self employment, a subject near and dear to my insubordinate, anti-hierarchy, anti-authority heart.

Right now, however, it's time to return to the lyrical, poetic side of Self Employment for Bohemians. Why did I want to work for myself in the first place? What is my motivation to be self employed? It's all about control of your time, baby. I'm an artist. What does an artist need? TIME! Time to make art. So, here I reprint a piece wherein I define success for the self employed artist:

What defines success as an artist? Money? Groupies? Perhaps fancy cars, vacations, houses, etc.? Nope, not even close, none of the above.

From the start, I’ve always paid myself generously in the commodity that an artist values above all others: Time. Plain and simple, success as an artist is defined as ample time to make art.

Yes, we are assuming that you have a roof over your head, and food to eat. Whatever scrambling you have to do to make that happen, do it as efficiently as possible with no waste—no wasted time that is!

What does an artist do? Make art. An artist, I believe, should be less concerned with their end product, and more concerned with process. Engage in the process, and you improve technically, you get real darn good at your craft. Engage in the process, and your muse finds a way to sneak boatloads of good ideas in the back door in the dead of the night. And what does a body need in plentiful supply to engage in the process of making art? Time!

The art life is not about ending up with pretty pictures. Or sculptures, films, songs, drawings, comics, whatever. It’s about the process of creating all that stuff; the journey itself, the illumination, the epiphanies encountered along the way are the true rewards.