Clueless Idiot of The Week!
Oh, my lord.
Where to begin with this one?
Okay, there's a website called Techdirt, that seems to primarily deal with copyright issues. I hadn't heard of it, but that's certainly no reflection on the site itself. It may be wonderful, it may make an important point, and the few articles I perused seemed competently written. The site isn't the crux, here, it's just one of their writers.
Here's what happened...one of the site's writers wrote a baffling, extremely ignorant piece about Colleen Doran, whose opinions on artists' rights are lucid, well-documented, and consistent. In short, you may utterly disagree with her, but her position will come from knowing the law and years of practical activism. She's no fool, and no one's patsy. On top of that, she has the respect of the industry for her talent, her dedication, and her repeated stands against wrongs committed against both individuals and comic artists as a group.
Colleen spends time and money fighting abuses from publishers. She informs the community of upcoming litigation that could affect freelancers' lives. More than once, I have seen her dip into her own pocket to help a freelancer who has been cheated by an unscrupulous publisher.
In short, she is no message board gadabout. She gets her gloves bloodied when necessary, and usually not for her own self-interest, but for the welfare of other artists.
For some reason, this seems to piss off morons. It's inexplicable to me, but I have seen so many wannabes, just an endless supply of these jealous weirdos, post at length about her, their tiny little talents fairly quivering with rage that she dares to disagree with whatever "big-league" aspirational fantasies they might be using to prop up their self-esteem on any given day. I mean, we all get some nonsense, and comics creators are a lot of freaks and drunkards themselves, as a rule. Lord knows most of us deserve a good snarking once in a while.
But there's something very different about the crap Colleen gets. I strongly suspect a bit of misogyny in some cases. Colleen not only has talent, readers, and respect, but she's also beautiful and has the temerity to say what she thinks, and the further gall to know what she's talking about.
I won't say that's the case here. I can't see into this post's subject's heart. Hopefully, it isn't. But I've seen it enough times to know it's not uncommon, especially with Colleen.
So, just to get it out there that it takes a particular kind of oddball sad sack to really hit the sonar regarding Colleen. She takes most of this stuff with a laugh and a shake of her head and moves on. It has to be something REALLY clueless to stand out from that crowd.
Enter Tim Geigner.
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Never heard of him?
Don't worry, neither has anyone else.
And yet, if you're sniffing the distinct odor of the entitled fanfic weirdo, I'd say you're both accurate and a bit ahead of the story.
Tim Geigner (whose handle on the site is 'Dark Helmet,' really, which may explain a lot about the guy's sense of taste), has written some stories for Techdirt, and apparently acts as some sort of message board cop at the site. That probably sounds insulting, which is not my intent.
A Techdirt mod says this, "For this case study, we're actually going to discuss an experiment by someone that regular Techdirt readers may know quite a bit -- especially if you spend a lot of time in our comments. It's Tim Geigner, whose name may not be that familiar to you, but his alter ego Dark Helmet has been one of, if not the most prolific commenters on Techdirt, where he tends to play the role of comment enforcer, keeping people (including me at times) in line, when he feels anyone has spoken without thinking."
Hall monitor, monitor thyself.
Geigner has written several articles for the site, most of which seem to be of the stripe that take the position that people who complain about piracy are big doo-doo heads. Fair enough, that's a position you can make and still be a decent human being. I disagree with it, but I have certainly spoken with people I respect who articulate these positions well. My best friend in comics, Mark Waid, makes this case with some passion and smarts, and can be quite persuasive on the matter. It's not a simple case of heroes and villains, although Geigner does seem to see things that way.
The article itself is nothing particularly insightful or noteworthy. It's not written at a professional level, certainly, but I don't see any claim on the site that that kind of standard is in play, so again, fair enough.
I hate to send people to read this thing, but it might be necessary in this case.
Geigner's article, which professes to rebut an article Doran wrote for a blog called, "THE HILL," , is, rather astoundingly, titled, "Don't Blame 'Piracy' For Your Own Failures To Engage."
Here is Doran's article. Please note that it is written by someone who actually knows how to sling a paragraph, for one thing: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-bl...-online-piracy
And here it Geigner's response: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/201...o-engage.shtml
The title of this will become utterly hilarious shortly. But feel free to go read.
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Now, this is how Tim views Colleen's concerns about the rights of artists to maintain ownership of their work.
"Anyway, she seems extremely angry, mixing in vitriolic and pedantic scorn with flashes that she actually understands what's happening... and then ignores it for more scorn. It's really kind of weird."
Like I say, Tim's not much of a writer, but that's okay, he doesn't pretend to be one.
Oh, wait, he TOTALLY DOES! More on that later.
But, really, Mr. Geigner? You really lack the capacity to imagine a scenario where a creator might take offense at her work being distributed carelessly by pirate sites, many of whom make a tidy profit with neither credit nor permission? I get that it may be your position that creators should be delighted about that. But are you really that surprised when a woman who has worked her entire adult life making art is disturbed to see it used to make other people money, shutting her out completely?
Is that concept so foreign, so completely alien, to your imagination?
The hilarious thing is...there's simply nothing in Colleen's post that matches the raving drooling lunacy that Geigner seems to be alleging. She's clearly not happy with these people, but she states her case calmly and effectively. Read it yourself. She's displeased, but does she seem over-the-top in tone to you? Is her case really so "weird" and "vitriolic?"
I see angrier stuff every time I read a message board. Hell, I WRITE angrier stuff every time I read a message board.
Again, Geigner is unintentionally hilarious when he says that Colleen has flashes of insight into what's really happening.
Well, by all means, Mr. Geigner, enlighten us, won't you?
After all, you MUST be a super-successful expert in both art and marketing art, right?
What? You're a complete failure at both, and all your attempts to create buzz and raise funds have ended in self-professed dismal failure?
Well, gosh! You seemed so KNOWLEDGEABLE!
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His article just gets weirder, and less informed.
Colleen says this: I made my comic series, A Distant Soil, available as a free webcomic less than two years ago. Despite assurances that the many sites pirating my work were doing me a favor with their “free advertising” I never saw a single incoming link from them, saw no increase in traffic, and made virtually no money.
To which Geigner responds, "Hold on, let me get this straight. You offered it for free, the "pirate" sites offered it for free... and you STILL lost traffic to those sites? Methinks perhaps that if you, the creator of the comic, can't differentiate yourself from filesharing sites that offer fans no connection with you, no insight into the work, no expertise in the offering, and no personal involvement with the creator, then that is YOUR problem, not the "pirates." For God's sake, people want your stuff! And you were smart enough to price the content the same as the unauthorized places! All you had left to do was offer them something the pirate sites couldn't, and you'd be home free!"
You did it, Tim! You cracked the code! Oh, my god! That's all we need to be home free! Wow!
I'd better be careful, lest some guy on a site somewhere thinks I'm "vitriolic."
Now, Tim provides no evidence that his theory is workable. In fact, the only evidence that Tim provides to contradict Colleen's piece at all is a much talked about event where Steve Leiber (a wonderful person, a great talent and a good friend) politely communed with some posters on 4chan, after being notified that his graphic novel had been put on that site for free.
Again, fair enough.
But, I'm sorry, it's not MUCH evidence. It's one instance, basically, it's anecdotal. We don't know what Steve's book was selling, but I gather it was selling almost nothing. It wouldn't take much to move the needle if a book is selling no copies. Also, does anyone really believe chatting with people on a message board is a reliable business strategy that can be reproduced?
Tim offers many opinions, and absolutely no evidence. He is consistently condescending, at one point mocking her for daring to point out that loss of sales means Colleen can't afford health insurance. In short, he is every entitled, uninformed armchair quarterback you've ever met. You know the guy who is convinced he could live your life better, do your job better, and doesn't REALLY seem to know how foolish he looks because he doesn't seem to be any good at all at his OWN job?
It gets worse. But a lot funnier.
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I'm going to say again...my opinion on this topic is going through some adjustments. I still think piracy is wrong. But I can see that people can have a contrary position and still be good people.
Tim seems to lack the ability to empathize with or even comprehend anyone who dares to feel that they should be in charge of how their art is disseminated.
When I think of the years and years of work Colleen, or any other comics freelancer, has spent working on their art, trying to make something that moves the heart and engages the mind, the YEARS spent devoted to doing the best work one can...I find it tremendously inspiring. There are hacks in the business, like all businesses, people who merely get by, who do the minimum possible and collect a check. We're not talking about that.
We're talking about Colleen Doran, who is an artist. And YOU, Mr. Geigner?
You simply don't have a fucking clue what that means.
This is his response when she says that piracy has affected her personally, leaving her with reduced income and no ability to pay for health insurance.
"Come on now. You're a 47 year old cartoonist/artist that's been pumping out works, both for publishing companies and some self-published, since you were 12 years old. You're a GOOD artist. There's no need to make plays on our sympathies by mentioning the other things you choose to do, like "farming". That isn't what we're talking about. That kind of transparent attempt to play the victim does not move the discussion forward."
How dare this guy?
She doesn't agree with your doo-doo head philosophy, and you lecture her about a business you know jackshit about, and then insult her as well?
There's more, but frankly, it's just a huge pain to read.
So, I figured, well, this guy, this Dark Helmet dude, he must be a marketing sensation, right? He must be a complete phenom, since he not only knows Colleen's business better than she does, but also has the answers the entire industry has been waiting for. This IS the genius who came up with, "Offer more stuff for free than the pirates do," for example.
Let's check and see how that's working for the new Mark Twain, shall we?"
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Will it sound terribly shallow and obvious if I say you tell a good story?
I don't know much about comics and making money with comics, but the whole "free + bonus" is a strategy a lot of bloggers use to drive traffic and dollars, as is engaging with people via message boards (which could be seen as another part of social media, I guess).
So maybe he got his ideas from there. Then again, maybe not. I'm off to read the links now.
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Warning, this isn't going to be pretty.
Okay. Tim Geigner calls himself a "fic writer."
That in itself is a pretty fair clue that the train is about to go flying off the rails, but I did try to keep an open mind. Maybe this guy really DOES have all the answers? He says there are new business models, and that's absolutely true. He says some people are making money with free comics content and that's absolutely true as well, although I'd venture it's a fairly small handful at this point.
So, let's keep a clear head.
I went to read some of Geigner's work.
And it all became clear pretty quickly.
Geigner has to be for free distribution because no one on god's green Earth would pay for it. Holy shit.
Here's this marketing wiz's super-successful blog. Note that he has an astonishing seven followers. But at least two of them have the last name, "Geigner" and one has the first name, "Tim." So it sounds like he might have six followers, and also, one might be an actual dog.
I can certainly see where Geigner gets his snarky condescension. I mean, six followers, I'm amazed he's not telling Stephen King how to write spooky novels right this moment.
To be fair, Geigner's at a distinct disadvantage...Colleen can write and draw, like a bandit in fact. A quick read of his prose shows Tim got shafted in that department. I don't want to be any crueler than necessary, but you read a sample and tell me if you think this guy ought to be telling Colleen what to do with her art.
It reads like all too much fanfic, full of pointless, drab prose, banal characters, and no structure at all. Above all, Tim unfortunately has no ear whatsoever for dialogue, and every conversation is awkward and cringe-inducing. It is, in short, terrible.
Read it yourself at:
I get no pleasure pointing this out. But if you read three pages of this and want more, you have a stronger stomach than I, my friend.
I'm not going to further talk about the work. God knows, a lot of terrible stuff gets published, some even becomes successful. Stephanie Meyer, I'm looking at YOU.
But certainly, I can say with some authority, that Colleen Doran will always be that thing that Tim desperately wants to be. She will always be a respected creator with a serious volume of top-notch work to back up her opinions. And here, Tim is going to fall short unless something miraculous happens to his writing ability.
That isn't even the point. Here's the point.
How does this guy, who was so incredibly patronizing and insulting to Colleen Doran, market his works, since that seems to be his field of expertise?
It appears to mostly be by whining a lot and posting on a blog no one ever reads or comments on.
As stated, his blog has seven followers (possibly including himself). Most entries have no comments, or one comment. This is the marketing genius who spat on Doran's intelligent, well-considered article? Is this the bold new business model that Colleen must follow, since Tim made it very clear that he knows far better than she what is "really happening?"
Here, Geigner speaks to his imaginary and unresponsive audience, dreaming of a world where people are hanging on his every bit of prose, and dying to participate in the rich tapestry of his fertile creations.
"I recently did a writeup on a comic creator over a Techdirt, a creator who seemed very angry with people who were distributing her comics for free online. One of the things I suggested was to release small bits of her content regularly and ongoingly...and then I realized that my hypocritical ass wasn't doing that myself!
Now, I have the disadvantage of currently needing to work two jobs in addition to my writing (because, hey, who wants a social life?), but screw the excuses, I should practice what I preach to the best of my ability.
So, question: which universe I've created would any/all of you like to see me release regular content, either in the form of a serialized story or short stories?
1. The "Echelon" universe
2. The "Midwasteland" universe
3. Something original, damn it!
If you guys actually want something with one of these, I shall commit to releasing stuff for you regularly. Who knows, maybe it'll build into something I can put together in a book! And, continuing an earlier idea I expressed, I'd welcome "fan involvement" in the stories as well! "
Dear Mr. Geigner: YIKES.
Are you SURE you should be making fun of people who actually know what they're doing, and have actual readerships, and quit begging strangers for tips on how to write fanfic decades ago?
Almost done. It's like a car wreck, I don't want to look and I can't turn away.
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I don't find Mr Helmet to be such a clueless lunkhead, unfortunately. On the whole I think he's right... if you're talking about people that do comic strips.
The problem is that, frankly, drawing comics is hard goddamn work and a committed professional ALREADY makes less an hour than a waiter in a busy restaurant.
A solid page rate might net you 5 grand a month... if you work 80 hours a week. I'm not saying nobody makes more than that but I'm saying that seems about typical for a serious working artist who doesn't smash sales records and also doesn't skimp on their work.
That's not a life of tremendous financial stability. That isn't someone who has time to "connect" with fans or offer insight and if that person is farming, it's not leisure activity.
Comic book artists can't afford to take many risks or spend effort on marketing their work in the way Geigner proposes. It's an insane amount of work for the return compared to, say, web comics where you can pop a few clipart samples you've made as vector drawings into a four panel template you've created and do that five times a week.
The work Colleen does is fucking slave labor and it's a miracle that anyone gets a living wage for it. People don't get that about comics art but it's ultimately no less fucking laborious than trying to crank out five Da Vinci forgeries a week by the time you factor the pencilling, inking lettering, writing, and sometimes coloring.
People assume that because it's pen and ink (and sometimes color) that it's immediate, that it's a sketch. That isn't the way most western comics artists work or are trained to work and it isn't what they do.
I think the Geigner/Doran conflict here is not fueled by an ignorance over the web or piracy on Geigner's part though.
I think Doran is trying to market her work on the web. I think Geigner doesn't fully understand or appreciate what that work is.
To Doran, every page of content represents a full day's work when you factor in all the steps involved. To Geigner, I imagine he'd think she was crazy for spending a full day producing a page of content and his assumption is that anyone selling online is using assembly line approaches and shortcuts to generate a lot of content, focusing on being first, offering more, giving a bigger, splasher experience with more connectivity and hammering people with as much new stuff as possible.
I think Geigner does know a thing or two about marketing content online but I also think there's no way in hell Doran or any traditional comics artist can reasonably use the internet to sell what they've been doing in print.
The methodical work ethic of even a modest 1960s workhorse artist who traces stock art is too much for the internet.
Painterly technique doesn't work. You can fake painterly technique maybe but you can't really approach the work that way anymore.
If the most successful comics pirating site ever made ad revenue off of giving the comics away for free and all that ad revenue were distributed out, the artists would probably make $20 a page. Bottom line, even the freeloaders are too small an audience. And any professional work you do? Will get pirated.
I think the most viable model, honestly, is to figure out tricks to mass produce work at a couple pages an hour and focus on volume. The shift towards glossier pages and sharper colors or more artfully rendered pages is a dead end anywhere outside the print market and that print market will shrink and what's replacing it won't pay you an hourly rate that allows you to spend more than an hour on a page unless you're a huge sensation.
The print market: shrinking. The new market: less money in it. The ultimate solution IMHO is figuring out how to recycle every penstroke and mass produce competent content on a minimum of effort.
I don't think there's a future for drawing on an 11"x17" space at one to three pages a day, in general, except maybe as an ultra niche thing or a novelty supported by a mix of big characters and entertainment studios.
Even without pirates getting a single hit, you can't monetize the amount of work Doran puts into a page of content anymore at a fair wage in the world to come. Period. I think the solution is making sure you exploit every page of effort in every way possible, including art recycling and writing so that every sequential frame that can be merchandised or reused is.
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His story didn't show up on that link and there's NO WAY I'm downloading it. I read that article a little while ago, the dude is a major tool. I'm glad you're putting him in his place, but at the same time it seems like you're almost expending too much effort to do so. Like breaking out an AK to hunt weasels.
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Here is where Geigner pulls out all the big marketing guns, with an 'Experimet (sic)."
He uses Kickstarter to try to raise funds to complete his novel.
Now, I think Kickstarter is an awesome idea, and I believe our own Benbo folks use it on occasion get comics projects out there. Nothing wrong there at all.
But this is your genius marketing campaign, Tim? Really? Something someone else set up and created, and which you fail to use effectively, by your own admission?
When pledges weren't coming in from his blog (to be fair, this modern P.T. Barnum's website averages five hits a day), Tim somehow got Techdirt to give a tepid endorsement to his endeavor.
Surely this raised the necessary funds?
No, it did not.
In fact, he could not raise even 10% of his modest, meager target, despite the help of a popular website.
I think someone just got hit by the irony bus.
So big deal, right? A guy doesn't know what he's talking about. A guy who is all mouth and no knowledge writes an article about how everything would be great if people listened to him, and faceplants huge, embarrassingly so, when he has to produce results.
Right, I agree. And I'll go further. Maybe I'm wrong about Tim's writing. Maybe "Echelon" is a work of genius I am too dim to appreciate. And credit where credit is due, he appears to have written a novel, something a lot of people attempt and few achieve. Good for him.
And if it made him happy, and his friends happy, and some fanfic readers happy, good for them, that's genuinely delightful. I have nothing against fanfic, and some good writers dabbled in it at some point. And I'm not anyone who has the right to insult anyone else on how they make art or for what purpose. I can only judge the final content.
So, let's say you disagree, and Geigner's work is as good as he thinks it is.
We still have a guy with absolutely no understanding of how the print industry works, no knowledge of how the comics business works, and no experience whatsoever as a published creator as far as I can tell, not just disagreeing with Colleen Doran, but being incredibly snide and insulting about it.
More than that, we have a guy who can't seem to market his OWN work to ANYONE, under any circumstances, by any measure of success, telling Colleen with considerable scorn what she SHOULD be doing with her life's work. He has ALL the answers, you see.
In short, the guy got a TINY TASTE of what professionals struggle with every day, and failed completely. Not only did he not have the answers, he didn't even know what the goddamn questions were.
Maybe there are people who would like his book. Maybe there's an audience out there that could be dedicated Geigner-philes. Except, we'll never know, because even with all the tools and expertise of the free content model, all this stuff that Geigner is touting, he couldn't close a sale, couldn't even make people aware that his stuff exists at all. In short, he spoke huge, and when it came down to it, his efforts didn't even blip the radar. It's the princess and the pea, except the princess slept like a log the whole night through.
It wouldn't be irksome at all, except that techdirt does seem to be, from what I see, a pretty good site. They seem to make a fair case for their position, there's a lot of information, and most of the writing seems pretty lively. Even Geigner's articles are mostly informative, if a little less mature than the rest.
It does seem to present itself as an authority on these issues. And Geigner's article will likely be up there for a long time to come, a superficial and thoughtless and poorly-evidenced rebuttal of a much better article written by someone who not only actually FOUGHT the wars Geigner is going on about, but who actually knows the topics at hand.
And that seems mightily unfair.
Mr. Geigner, you own Ms. Doran an apology.