On Webcomics: The Life of Gil

By | Monday, January 06, 2014 Leave a Comment
Norm Feuti has been working on the syndicated comic strip Retail since 2006. (Well, probably since before then since it actually debuted in papers on January 1, 2006.) It's a humorous (and often cynical) look at the world of big box retailing, and it received its first collected edition late last year. In 2008, Feuti began shopping around a second comic strip he wanted to do called Gil, "a realistic and funny look at life through the eyes of a young boy growing up in a lower income family." Despite Feuti's success with Retail no one opted to pick up Gil.

Wanting to scratch that creative itch, Feuti launched Gil as a webcomic. He garned the praise of other cartoonists and gathered a pretty decent following. He ran the strip for a year, but had to ultimately cancel the strip in 2009 to free up time for other projects.

Then, almost in answer to many a cartoonist's dream, King Features Syndicate decided to pick it up after all. It began running in newspapers on January 2, 2012 and Feuti kept both strips running evidently seamlessly. I might go so far as to say, having been reading both since 2008, that Feuti did some of his best, most creative, work during that period.

But in the beginning of December, Feuti announced that KFS had decided to cancel Gil and the last strip would run on December 29. After two years, it basically boiled down to not enough newspapers picking up the strip to make it profitable for King.

Not surprisingly, there followed a number of comments from fans expressing their shock and outrage and disappointment. But what struck me was that there were several comments that suggested Feuti run Gil as a comic online... apparently ignorant of the fact that it started as a webcomic, or indeed that there was even such a thing as webcomics!
I discovered Gil a few months ago and love it. I hope you somehow continue it either online or in a book. Thanks for a great strip.
Go run a website with Gil. People have done it and made it work.
Can you somehow continue Gil online for us diehard fans? Pretty please??? I will sure miss my daily Gil fix otherwise.
Please, can someone tell me where I can find Gil, or is he discontinued forever? I finally found a comic strip I can identify with from my childhood and Gil is so cool! Please bring him back! Even online.....anywhere! PLEASE! He is my favorite!
I find this striking because these are people who seem distinctly apart from what we typically think of as comics fans. They come across -- to me, at least -- very much like a modern version of the your average American newspaper reader from the 1950s. They got a newspaper to read the news and, oh hey, there's some comics here as light entertainment... boy, that Dagwood sure is a goof! The comics were just a part of their landscape, and not as front-and-center as those of us deeply embedded in fandom see them. And for many of these commenters, Gil was was still just a part of the landscape -- not an insignifcant part, mind you, as they clearly looked forward to reading it every day, but it was juxtaposed against the rest of the content people get online. Their news, Facebook updates, cat pictures, and whatever else.

Just like the content people used to look in the newspapers for.

See, we're not talking about tech junkies on the bleeding edge of news and entertainment outlets here; we're talking about normal, everyday people who just want to read a few comics after they've clicked off the CNN website. A little levity to wash down whatever scandal is rocking the government today.

Now I don't mean to suggest that newspaper comics as we know them are doomed or anything to that effect. But what I am suggesting is that the historical comics syndicate model isn't working. And while both Andrews McMeel and KFS have other models out there (namely ad-supported free apps, and subscription-based ad-free apps) that Gil is getting canceled from low newspaper sales suggest those are not fully profitable venues on their own yet.

I think there's something to be said for a syndicate to provide an easy, consistent, online interface to comics for casual readers. And I think this is what the current syndicates are going to increasingly morph into.

Which means that what we think of as newspaper comics now will become true webcomics. In the sense that the syndicates will be primarily focused on their online delivery, and revenue generators will need to come from sources that aren't large publishers hawking hefty licensing fees.

In any event, Gil may be off the grid now, but as Feuti notes, "This is the end of Gil’s journey in newspapers, but who knows what the future will hold? Perhaps I’ll bring him back in some other medium one day." And maybe that medium will be more profitable for Feuti to boot!
Newer Post Older Post Home