Just before the recent San Diego Comic Con the guys from Penny Arcade, known online as Gabe and Tycho, made available a limited edition print of one of their characters, the Cardboard Tube Samurai. The high quality cel was printed on industrial grade Mylar and included a laser-etched Penny Arcade medallion and a signature card mounted on the bottom. 750 prints were made at a price of $80 per print. 250 were sold at the convention after which the remaining 500 were made available through their online store at Think Geek.
The 500 prints sold out of the online store in less than two hours.
… I’ll just pause a moment and let that sink in …
When a comic strip made for the web and published for an audience, for free, generates $40,000.00 in revenue in under two hours you know big things are going on. Add this to the recent story of how a group of web comic creators were able to band together and save a convention they hold dear by running an online fund drive in which web comic fans contributed over $34,000.00 in less than eight days and you can’t help but get a sense that this means something.
Comics being published to the web are gaining legitimacy in leaps an bounds. Fans hungry for comic content online are showing their commitment to the medium by plunking down hard earned cash. The main criticism lobed at using the web for comic distribution has been the lack of a revenue stream and because of that web comics are seen as a fringe hobby for amateurs by those in the comic print and publication industries.
Of course, a repeatable business model for a money making web comic still has yet to be revealed and proven dependable, but these stories prove that there could really be money in web comics.
UPDATE 08/13/2005 : Someone has pointed out to me that there may be some false assumptions perpetuated by this story, so in the interest of clarity and to avoid any furthering of misconceptions allow me to point out a few details. The $40k that was generated was not all profit. If you take away the cut that Think Geek gets for hosting the PA online store, the business people the PA guys need to help run their operation, sales taxes, and the considerable initial investment it must have been to actually create the high quality cels there may have been around $2,000.00 actual profit for the PA guys’ pockets.
I hope my initial point wasn’t lost, that being that this story and the Save Connecticon story serve as great examples that there are really web comic readers willing to put their money where their fandom is. It was not my intention to imply that Gabe and Tycho, or anyone else, are somehow rich or “rolling in it” thanks to their comic.
\”Could be?\” IS.
The question that should be on everyone\’s lips, though, is: does that trickle down, or is the bottom 99.9% of webcomics as cash-poor as ever?
That is a very solid point. The top two or three continue to do well, but for the rest, the money has been spent. This is great for PA though. Very cool.
The bottom 99.99% of all artists, in all artforms, from the most to the least popular, are not making money from their art.