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In Which Jeff Asks You For Money.

Jeff Lester

Howdy! I’d like to ask you to do something for me. I’d like you to use the little Paypal button below the list of the SavCrits and give us a dollar. (Actually, if you’re reading this on an RSS feed, I’d like you to do two things for me: First, go directly to our site; then, use the little Paypal button below the list of the SavCrits to give us a dollar.)

Here’s my thinking on the subject. As of Graeme’s post this morning, there have been approximately 50 posts this month (not counting my garage sale posts or the Douglas Wolk signing pix) and there will doubtlessly be more by the time August ends this Friday. (Maybe 55 posts?) If you came across a zine in your local comic book store that had the dozens of reviews everyone’s done, plus Abhay’s smart-assery, plus Jog’s coverage of Igor Kordey’s career at Marvel, and the overview of Valérian: Spatio-Temporal Agent, would you play a dollar for it?

Let’s say I follow the public television model and only do this once every four months. Would you pay for a dollar for a zine that would then be (let’s assume) four times that size, with four times the reviews and four times the etc., etc.?

Now, I think you know right now whether you’ll push that little button and give us a dollar or not. Some of you aren’t going to give us a dollar because you don’t have to, or you don’t have paypal set up, or you can’t be arsed with remembering your paypal password, or you think if you give us a dollar today, everyone will be hitting you up for a dollar by this time next year. No matter what reasons I put forward for why you should give us a dollar–with the possible exception of me suddenly breaking into piteous cries of extreme financial distress–I think you’ve already decided whether or not you’ll give us that money. But in the interests of making this entertaining, I’ll still go ahead and tell you why you should.

Clearly, the North American comics industry has been changing dramatically over the last several years. Interestingly, and for very different reasons, the North American newspaper industry has been as well. For example, despite being essentially the only daily paper in town, The San Francisco Chronicle recently went through a rather grueling round of layoffs and cutbacks, in part because circulation numbers diminish as more people get their news and opinions electronically. In the past, I think newspapers would have, over time, come to employ fulltime critics to perform reviews of graphic novels and the comic medium as they did with other developing media. But because the newspapers are struggling to find their place in a dynamically different workplace, that’s probably never going to happen: they’re using freelancers, or they’re assigning their regular critics to cover this field. Comics doesn’t have its Tim Goodman, or its Frank Rich, or its Andrew Sarris. Despite my delight that in Douglas Wolk we may finally have our Pauline Kael, Douglas isn’t (yet) set up at the New Yorker, able to focus on educating and inspiring weekly and not having to worry about hustling for the rent. Coverage in the news about comics is still spotty, and it will probably remain so from some time until it figures out how to understand how to best take advantage of the public’s new habits. Until it does–whether as Boing Boing Media Networks or Google Press, International or Digg Universal or whatever–a rejuvenated field has little more to rely on for its criticism than passionate individuals who continue to contribute to the field with their own free time and resources.

We all do this out from a sincere passion and love for the artform, and that won’t change no matter how many people click the Paypal button. But what we do here does take time and energy and commitment, and financial remuneration has a way of making the time we clear from our schedules easier to justify, to ourselves and our loved ones, and it is my hope that it will provide the sustenance–emotionally, at least–for smart, knowledgeable people to continue to write engagingly about this medium at a good clip for some time to come. It’ll also make a strong incentive to expand the site, whether that’s adding interviews, podcasts, or merely another wave of critics for an even wider view of the marketplace.

To phrase it a bit more succinctly, Making with the clicky shows both that what we do matters, and also that it matters that we do it. Looking back on the first forty days or so of the rebooted Savage Critic, I very strongly believe both those statements to be true. So much so, in fact, I sent in the first dollar myself earlier today.

As I mentioned above, I’m thinking of a public television model for this, and one of the things they do with public television pledge weeks is they offer incentives. So the person who offers the first donation will get a DVD of Seijun Suzuki’s Pistol Opera mailed to them, and the person who donates the most by the end of this week will get a copy of Jim Woodring’s Seeing Things. If you want, I’ll even personalize each with a little critical blurb (or not, as you prefer–they’re certainly both such significant pieces of work they can get along just fine without me.)

But I’d like to think you don’t need any such incentives. It’s the last week of the month and payday is right around the corner. If you think what we do here is valuable, take a second to remember your password, and take the plunge. Although I’m only speaking on behalf of myself here, I’m sure all of us at The Savage Critic would appreciate it. Thank you.

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