Saturday, September 08, 2007

Mammal Hunting

You know, you've probably heard about 'British Reserve' and haven't really believed it exists, not if you've heard the Welsh rugby crowd singing, or seen the Tartan Army's corn beef tartan arses, or Essex girls on a Hen Night (I was once chased along Edinburgh's West End by a bunch of them, all of whom were wearing huge wedding dresses complete with veils) - but I can assure you it exists. The British are more likely to offer their children a salute or a handshake, rather than a hug. Well, the same rules apply on the net and even there, in anonymity, they, sorry we, often can't quite bring themselves to say 'I love you', or 'I'll miss you', and instead offer up our 'thoughts', which is at least something and you should think kindly of it because it is difficult to be like this and to know you are like this.

So, anyway, when I first started scooting about the net I visited the places cartoonists frequent and the big deal amongst British cartoonists was 'getting their own sites' and 'whether or not to link to other people'. Now yes, it's cute, and it reveals a misunderstanding about what the net is and how it works, but whilst some of them maintained they didn't think they should link to 'the competition'; I saw it more as a fear of admitting their admiration for a fellow cartoonist.

I'm pleased to say that the younger cartoonists are more forthcoming, but trust me, look at the links on most British cartoonist's web pages, if they have any, and you'll maybe find a link to the publications they work for, but few, if any, to their fellow craftsmen - face it, centuries of repression can't go away overnight.

Okay, so the point of this preamble is the second problem that some cartoonists have, and not just British ones this time, of working together. I mean my own theory is that too many of us are psychopaths or suffering from ADD or some other ailment that leads to the strange behaviour that makes us repeat the same actions over and over again (buying paper, drawing on it, and sending the drawings to the same people week in - week out) expecting a different result - Freud was perfectly clear about what that suggested...Oh yeah, sorry, rambling again, this other problem is the inability to work together. Now I have had personal experience of this and the group I was going to be in spent, literally, weeks trying to tie one another down with 'contracts' and 'agreements'. In fact the group spent so much time debating how to dot-the-is and stroke -the-ts that it disbanded before it began.

For me that was a pity because small, exclusive, groups of cartoonists, like-minded ones, is where I think the future of cartooning lies. The small group of cartoonists that works both as a collective, like a mini-syndicate or stock house, if you will, on certain projects, but individually, as freelancers, on others. Sometimes, and Meathaus would be an example of this, the groups can be quite large and remain successful. Or they can be small and exclusive and target a particular market, such as kids comics, like the Lunchbox Funnies artists.

The cartoonists of Dumbrella and Secret Friends Society and various other groups are now meeting with some well deserved success, and I'm pretty much convinced that one of the newer groups, a promising bunch of web cartoonists who are producing some excellent work, and a not too shabby website either; The Panel Mammals, will also go pretty far.

Featuring the work of cartoonists Jarrett Osborne, Mike Witmer, Scott Metzger and Jim Tierney, the Panel Mammals survived the difficult part of agreeing to become a group of individuals and they have succeeded in creating an identity for themselves as new creative group with four very individualistic and funny comic strips, one of which features a tree, yes a tree, as the main character:

Jarrett Osborne's The Pursuit of Mandy
Jim Tierney's Jetpacks and Time Machines

Mike Witmer's Pinkerton
Scott Metzger's Tree


Jim Tierney said...

Thanks Rod. The Panel Mammals got started simply by looking around the internet and seeing what other cartoonists where doing. After seeing a few of these other cartoonist conglomerates, we said, "hey, that looks like a good idea!"

Right now we're still in our early developmental stage... Just getting a feel for how this whole thing could work out and what kind of potential it might have.

Also, it's kind of fun. Much more satisfying and entertaining than the old "work in solitude" method.

Rod McKie said...

I like the strips Jim, they're well produced and funny and the site is a breeze to navigate.

I've seen quite a few small collectives popping up Jim, including some that also exist as social clubs. I think one meets every week and draws in a coffee house, and then blogs the work. Things are changing for sure, and I think, for the better.

On a personal note, I favour the smaller groups and I think dealing with small groups will appeal to publishers as they have, usually, one person to deal with and too few members for major bust-ups. I'm sure that as space becomes a premium to some publications, a small 'syndicate' with a handful of members will appeal, and as a small collective with more exclusive material, one that could specialize in say, science strips, or cat strips, would appeal more to publishers of specialist magazines and websites.