September 29, 2011


For about three years, I gave my cartoons for free to the website for a magazine. Much like when I stupidly posted comics on The Huffington Post, I was told I would get lots of "exposure" for this, and it would help lead to better (formerly known as "paying") opportunities. This year I decided that after never hearing from them about opportunities, thoughts of paying for cartoons, or even a thank you, I would just stop sending them comics and see how they would respond.

That was in January. Today, I got this form email, as did several other cartoonists I know.


My name is [redacted] and I'm currently an art/web intern at [redacted]. I'm emailing you because we're currently looking for a few more cartoonists to produce work for our website, [redacted].com. Since I know you do a lot of illustrating, I was wondering if you might know of any aspiring and/or up-and-coming political cartoonists interested in the opportunity for some extra exposure! If so, do you think you could send me their names and contact information, or perhaps give them mine? It would be such a help, and I would greatly appreciate it.
Thanks so much for your assistance, and let me know if you have any questions!

Okay, look. I don't even know how to handle the print versus web debate anymore, if there even is one. We're all webcartoonists now. I have nothing bad to say about the successful people who have forged a career out of the new income model--merchandise, book sales, ad revenue, and so on. People like Scott Kurtz and Kate Beaton and Jerry Holkins are living proof that yes, you can work your ass off and profit off having incredible talent. But emails like this also prove that the internet has made a huge shift to an exploitation-based economy. "Aspiring" and "up and coming" artists need to understand this. 99 times out of 100, "you'll get exposure" means "we think your work is great; we hope someone else will pay you cause we're never going to." And the further along the digital superhighway that the line between exploitation and "paying one's dues" is blurred the harder it will be to discover great people. I have too many friends who lost their jobs because newspapers folded and don't know what to do because websites don't offer living wages, if they offer any money at all. I have too many friends who just gave up entirely, either by choice or because feeding a family turned out to be more important than "doing it just because you love it."

I want to be clear here that this isn't a plea for help for myself. I'm not asking for donations or even saying this as some kind of pitch to sell myself, my books, whatever. I don't have a "career" in cartooning. I make enough from book sales to pay for the site and, well, printing more books and I really, really do mean it when I say that knowing you are all out there enjoying them is the best thing I get out of this. Nor is it some kind of statement that I think all cartoonists/artists/etc. should automatically be paid to do anything. I've never thought I "deserved" money for my shitty little cartoons and I consider myself lucky to have had some sort of a day job that actually pays the rent while I dick around with drawings of kittens and Hitler.

Of course you have to work for free sometimes. Of course you have to earn your success. And as I've seen so often at an amazing theatre I volunteer at in Atlanta, of course you can do art just for the love of doing it. But we're all so very screwed if we ignore the damn difference between making that choice and being compelled to do it by people who both A. could treat you better and B. should know better. My point is that there are both immediate and long-term effects to allowing your work to be instantly devalued just because it's on a GIF instead of wood pulp.

I know dozens of people who did have careers out of this. Maybe you think they "deserved" their pay. Maybe you don't. Regardless, telling them to "adapt" as if it's a switch on a machine somewhere is insulting and cynical. Pretending they're not in trouble, no matter who you want to blame for it, remains simply cruel. Newspapers and magazines aren't being replaced by other publications with relative budgets. They're being replaced by websites that pretend "exposure" is a thing that will change when it clearly will not. Whether you like them or hate them, agree with it or disagree with it, you can't ignore that the model of the internet is this thing we used to pay people for we now expect for free. It is, in fact, the stated business model of the Huffington Post, whose namesake literally laughed at the people who wondered how much of the nine-figure payout she got for their work went to them.

So, yeah. I get emails like this all the time. And maybe you are an aspiring cartoonist who wants some exposure. My response to you is, go for it if you really want to. But no one "offering" exposure is really going to give it to you. It's not going to make you better or worse. It's just a nice thing that's being said by a magazine or website that simply doesn't want to pay you, never plans to, and never will. If you choose to accept that, so be it. I wish you the best of luck.

In the meantime, if you could maybe just do me a slight favor and not piss on the graves of my friends who it didn't work out for, that would, at the very least, show a little bit of professionalism this debate has been lacking.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 7:46 AM

September 28, 2011

Presented without comment

Sarah Palin opens mouth, words come out.

"Is a title worth it?" she asked, rhetorically. "Does a title shackle a person? Are they someone like me who's maverick? I do go rogue and I call it like I see it and I don't mind stirring it up in order to get people to think and debate aggressively."

"Is a title and a campaign too shackle-y?," she continued. "Does that prohibit me from being out there, out of a box, not allowing handlers to shape me and to force my message to be what donors or what contributors or what pundits want it to be? Does a title take away my freedom to call it like I see it and to affect positive change that we need in this country? That's the biggest contemplation piece in my process."

Palin expressed a concern about "being caricatured" if she runs...

Posted by August J. Pollak at 1:06 PM

September 26, 2011

"Debating an Execution"

Latest comic - click here!

In two separate Republican debates, the audience cheered when it was noted that Rick Perry oversaw more executions than any other governor in America, and then booed when the moderator acknowledged a gay soldier. It would be interesting to see which response the average teabagger would choose if they could only have one. (The answer, realistically, would be "whichever one I think pisses off random liberals I've never even met," of course)

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Posted by August J. Pollak at 5:27 PM