Sunday Mailbag

March 23rd, 2008 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: I just read a story about Mark Cuban banning bloggers from the sports room, which of course set off crazy debates throughout the Internet about the worth (or lack of) of blogging. I know your great blog isn’t a “reporter’s blog” but what’s your take? You’ve been pretty consistent with daily updates, and you’ve added google ads and a MAD store and such… So has your blog become an important addition to your business/career (through branding and additional financial ops) or is it more of a hobby and personal fun outlet?

A: Ah. Blogging. One of the most bizarre and diverse facets of the internet…. both it’s bane and boon, depending on where you are virtually standing.

I have to say I am one of those that questions the legitimacy of blogs as journalism, thinking them much more of a “vanity press”. Still, one cannot argue that anything read by, in some cases, 50,000 to 100,000 or more people a day does not have some claim to being a legitimate ‘publication’. That is a small percentage, however.

Some blogs are “vanity press”. In comics, that term is meant to describe comic books that are self published by individual writers and artists and distributed by whatever means are available. You didn’t see many of them before the mid 90’s, because they were an expensive and difficult task to produce. Once desktop publishing came along and anybody with a PC could produce a comic book that could be outputted right to film and this printed, they became more plentiful. Cheap, overseas printing is even sparking new markets of self published comics and books full of people’s art they then can sell via the internet or at comic book conventions. It used to be that good art and writing in these vanity press books were rare because, well, the reason they had to resort to self publishing in the first place was usually because the work was crappy and no comic book company would agree to publish it. There are lots of exceptions to that, and many great comics have been self published, but as a rule they were not high quality stuff. Blogs are like that today.

It takes a whopping ten minutes for anybody to set up a totally free blog and start sharing their views and opinions with the world. Some approach it as little more an an on-line diary, while others treat it like a legitimate source of news and opinion. I have always found it more than a little narcissistic to think that anyone out in the vastness of cyberspace would or should care about the opinions and thoughts of a Blockbuster employee in Hoboken, or anyone else for that matter. The ability to easily place those opinions and thoughts out on the internet where they can be seen and read by literally the entire world seems to make people believe what they have to say is actually worth the world’s time to read. But, they can so they do. That is really doing a disservice to the majority of blogs, however. Very few are of the “look at me” variety. According to this article, only about 3% of blogs are “personal diaries”. Most are about things like technology (34 percent), culture (26 percent) and politics (25 percent).

I do think that is someone is to have a blog they ought to have something to say that is either unique or of interest to some specific group of people. “Billy’s Blog”(just pulled that one out of my head… if there really is a “Billy’s Blog”, my apologies), where we are treated to Billy’s rants about whatever he feels like ranting about is a giant waste of bandwidth for the entire world except a few people who know Billy. Blogs that concentrate on a certain subject matter and have something to say about that subject matter are different. They’ve got some purpose or focus a lot of blogs lack. It doesn’t make it any more “legitimate” than the next one, but I think it does present content of interest to more than just someones mom and buddies.

Of course thinking that makes me a real hypocrite, since here I have a blog and therefore I must think as highly of my own opinions and thoughts as those of the “personal rant” type I so readily dismissed, right? Of course I do not think any such thing. I have some experience in a fairly unique field and may have some things to say that are of interest to someone who also is either a cartoonist or has an interest in cartooning, MAD, caricature or related topics.

Make no mistake, though… my blog is pure vanity press. I make no illusions about being anything but that. There is no financial or business advantage to having this blog. I do it strictly for fun and for a change of pace from drawing all the time. I enjoy writing and this is an outlet for that. The ads and such are only to try and help pay for web hosting fees, as is the Cafe Press store. The sharing of tutorials and such are just a part of my wanting to do some writing about what I know. If anyone gets anything out of it, then that’s a bonus.

Thanks to fellow member of the ‘Usual Gang of Idiots”, writer Russ Cooper for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here. I’m running low!!!


  1. sirdrawzalot23 says:

    I agree, and I love the blog or else I would not know a lot of things about the caricature, and art world, so Thanks Tom for the blog!

  2. aardvark says:

    Tom, you make some interesting points here and I tend to agree with most of them. Most blogs tend to be nothing more than one sided conversation, or a sermon.

    The majority of your blog, for instance, is probably not much different to you standing up on a stage and giving a lecture about your life as an illustrator and your thoughts on caricature. If you were offering such a lecture locally, I for one would attend to hear what you had to say as I have an interest in the field. As you don’t offer that service to me in my location, I make do with what I have available, and that is your blog. Same could be said if you wrote a book offering the same information. I’d probably buy the book as I consider your comments on such things to be quite valid and of a good deal of use.

    There are others who type a load of ranting and raving, post in on the net and think they’ve done their bit. I’m sure that in some cases having an “outlet” helps but, generally, it’s a monumental waste of time. I have no interest in what these people have to say and if they lectured (or ranted as is more likely the case) in my city I wouldn’t give them the time of day.

    Keep up the good work.


  3. mrbill says:

    Billy’s Blog here!(actually Mr. Bill’s Journal, if you please.) Tom, you have a lot to say and I (of many) do profit from your postings. We are in a new flat world of instant ubiquitous communications, much of it not worth our time. You do contribute to the world and business of illustration. I’m glad you make the time. Hope to see you in New Orleans.


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