Is the NCS - National Cartoonists Society getting irrelevant?

I saw this post by popular webcomic artist Scott Kurtz who does the “PvP” webcomic. In this a post Rube Goldberg De-Vicing he explains that after many years he is letting go of his aspiration to be an NCS member. I’ve always been a comic graphic art fan, but most (not all) of what the newspapers offer up these days in the way of daily comics is (IMO) just useless trash.

I’m kind of surprised these guys have not embraced webcomics with both hands as that is the future of their profession. Is this post just sour grapes or is the NCS really just a group of old guys who are set in their ways?

I don’t know anything about the NCS.

I do know a lot about writers groups, however, and I would place a large bet that the problems and issues are essentially identical.

All I can say is that unless you’ve been part of an ongoing battle for your entire lives to establish and maintain a certain set of standards against a marauding horde of a world that wants to denigrate, loosen, and subvert those standards, you can’t possibly understand how difficult it is to have to relearn everything about what standards are.

The web is a different world than print. If you’ve grown up in it you probably don’t see it. If you haven’t it’s so alien that the most basic language you have to deal with reality no longer works.

I don’t think there is a solution except to start over with the young and let them grow new organizations.

Not to be especially clueless but what “standards” are we talking about re writers groups? Stylistically “writing” in general is all over the board. It’s not like there is some professional standard for how to do it that I’m aware of.

Are you possibly talking about technical writing or something more defined than writing as a craft?

Not writing. Business.

Most writers groups have needed to define what it means to be a professional and therefore eligible for membership. That usually defaults to whether the publisher is a professional and the standard definition is one that pays more than X dollars in advances for a book. (This gets much more complicated in practice, of course.) It’s not just self-interest to limit membership. It’s more like unions battling for collective bargaining in order to protect workers from abuses.

But web books almost never work that way. They pay nothing in advances and devise one of 97 schemes for payment after publication. This is antithetical to everything every writers organization has painfully fought to achieve for 60 years. So how do you embrace that or compromise on that while maintaining print standards?

I assume cartoonists have a similar problem with what a professional is. Webcomics for years and years almost certainly existed in an alternate universe to that definition. Defining money out of the equation would brand him “evil” or whatever they were calling him. And by their lights they were right. And by his they were clueless. Where is the middle on that?

Yeah I see your point. He effectively gives his product away. His money (and he does reasonably well) is in merchandising and selling his comics collected together into various books to his fans.

Perhaps you could form a webcomic cartoonists’ organization–then invite the old-line cartoonists to join it?

The NCS, from what I’ve heard, seems to have always been behind the trends. It’s just that, with less barrier to entry, we are seeing more indie stuff, and the high number means that even it is evolving.

One of the most experimental webcomics I’ve seen to date has been MSPaint Adventures. It is not only experimenting with a one panel format, with all talking done below the image (including some really long conversations), but also includes every other panel being slightly animated, full out motion videos, and even interactive pertions. The story itself is also experimental. It was designed from the beginning to be a sequential story, yet the author only had a few things specifically planned. It uses a lot of time travel, which simultaneously allows for a lot of freedom and a lot of restrictions. Nearly everything in the story is either a reference, foreshadowing, or call back, and yet it still makes coherent sense. It is somewhat meta, plays with a bunch of tropes, taking them in new directions and subverting expectations. The only real downside is that the author is about as unskilled in the actual mechanics as the writer of Twilight or Eragon, but he mostly avoids his limitations with his format.

Well, that and you may not find the experiment itself rewarding. He definitely isn’t playing it safe. But it’s definitely on the edge of showing what a webcomic can be. If traditional comics could take even some of it, they would be a lot better. NCS really can’t hope to be what it needs to be today until it embraces the experimentalists.