Webcomic artists & newspaper comic artists re reserve strips and planned absences

I do love me some webcomics and the online versions of some newspaper comics. I have noticed that all the newspaper comics artists seem to have enough comics to cover their vacations or when they travel, but every time a webcomic only artist is traveling, or going to comic conventions the strip more or less stops dead.
It appears that webcomic only artist effectively have no strips in reserve, even for planned absences, and every strip is essentially done the night before it is posted.

Many of these webcomic artists monetize their strips with selling books of collected comics, merchandise, or even selling the original comic art panels online. I point this out because the more popular webcomic artists are both artists and professional business people

I guess I’m just surprised they don’t make more of an effort to cover their absences.

Well, most newspaper comics are contracted to a syndicate or to the newspaper itself. They get paid for their strips, webcomics aren’t. And some newspapers comics makes strips months in advance, which wouldn’t work for webcomics that stay topical.

When a newspaper artist goes on vacation, they reprint 10 year old strips.

When a webcomic artist goes on vacation, some friends do guest strips.

Some do. Girl Genius and Gunnerkrigg Court both update regularly no matter what the artist(s) are up to. I know Tom Siddell (Gunnerkrigg) is about a full chapter (~30 pages?) ahead of the current page and he does everything on the weekend since he also works full-time. I know less about the Foglios schedule (Girl Genius), but they’ve been in the business a very long time and offhand, I can’t remember them missing an update…maybe once? They did update for awhile only in B&W because their colorist was in hospital, but they still updated.

I also read Questionable Content, which runs like the webcomics you describe. I’d don’t mind, I find the Yelling Bird filler strips amusing. (Sometimes Jeph will do a few comics in advance of a trip, or at least he seems to do that more often now).

I think some webcomic artists stumble into full-time comic writing and if they didn’t start out with a buffer, it’s unlikely they’ll have one once their comic turns into a business. As long as their numbers stay up and fans buy stuff, there’s no reason for them to change.

Also the revenue is from different sources, for different things. Newspapers contracting artists for a daily/weekly strip vs fans buying shirts/prints/books. Fans (generally) don’t pay for to see the webcomic, so maybe there’s less incentive to make sure there’s a strip for each update day? And before shops like TopatoCo came about, most webcomic artists handled the merchandise themselves, so part of the day was spend boxing and shipping while the rest was for the comic.

I keep thinking of things! Arg. I wonder if conventions would make a difference. Most webcomic artists do several conventions a year - do newspaper artists do the same?

Newspaper strip guy here. Our lead time is pretty big because we’re usually contractually obligated to be a certain number of weeks ahead. So if we’re sick or jailed or running off with our cousins, there’s plenty of time for the syndicate to come up with an alternative.

Howard Taylor of Schlock Mercenary keeps something like a two-week reserve, and has never once missed a daily update in something like eight years of the strip. He has, however, sometimes had to work his fanny off to refill the buffer after a major trip or illness.

I usually would rather see the guest strips. What would be awesome to me is if the guest strips were actually incorporated into the story.

Modified art styles are fun. If I could draw worth anything, I’d do a comic where the art style randomly changes.

You can always tell when Trudeau is on vacation, as Doonesbury is one of the few strips that will run old strips. I’ve also seen where some other newspaper strips won’t run and the paper will try a replacement strip for a week or two, to gauge fan interest.

Not even when the servers hosting the strip were wrecked by a flood; he managed to set up alternate hosting in time for the update.

I worked on a student newspaper that ran Frank Cho’s strip “University Squared,” a forerunner of “Liberty Meadows.” Deadlines were a huge problem for him back then and it was not uncommon to see Frank roll in at the last possible second with the strip under his arm. He did every imaginable dodge to meet deadline, including xeroxed panels and lots of pin-up strips with no actual joke (Given the nature of his drawings, these were actually quite popular). One week, he got another artist to cover for him, with unfortunate results. The other artist, though quite brilliant in his own right, didn’t have the same softcore porn sensibilities that made Frank a star, and his rep suffered from the comparison.

I gather deadlines are still a major problem for Frank Cho.

I usually enjoy seeing the guest strips, if they’re available.

What I really, really love are crossover strips. Something Positive has done a few of these, and they are GREAT. I love to see the characters depicted by different artists. I also like the fan art that some webcomics have available. Sometimes the art is by other comic artists, sometimes it’s really from fans (and it really shows).