As reported earlier this month, kids comics are becoming big business for both comics and traditional publsihers. Boom! Studios upped the ante this month with Adventure Time: Playing With Fire which is not only the first original graphic novel based on the Cartoon Network hit, but the first longform comic by webcomic star Danielle Coretto. Her Girls with Slingshots has been a popular webcomic for years. PW asked her about adpating to the new format and characters, and the eternal question of how to make a living making comics.
PWCW: Is Playing With Fire your first graphic novel length comic?
Danielle Corsetto: Yes! Until I finished Playing With Fire, I'd never written an ending to a story before. None of my comic strips have had a proper conclusion, and Girls With Slingshots is still going. I've drawn full graphic novel-length books before, but it was always for other writers' works—notably Jim Dougan's Crazy Papers. It turns out I am capable of writing a beginning, middle, and end, which is useful to know! Especially because I'm writing another graphic novel now (with a really great artist!) for Oni Press.
PWCW: How does working with comic strips differ from working with a long form narrative?
Corsetto: Drastically. Writing comic strips is much more of a challenge, in my opinion. You have three to five panels in which to 1) reintroduce the characters/situation, 2) advance the story and develop the characters, and 3) end with a punchline. I was initially concerned that Playing with Fire wasn't funny enough because I'm so used to writing punchlines, but the book is littered with quiet little jokes and visual comedy (thanks to our excellent artist Zack Sterling!), which I actually prefer writing.
PWCW: You've mentioned in previous interviews that superhero comics have never been an influence on your work. How are Finn and Jake different for you than other super-powered, male protagonist driven comics?
Corsetto: Finn and Jake (especially Finn) are like heroes in disguise, and that disguise is humor, which is the main trait I find lacking in superhero comics. I also think male characters with Finn's traits are much easier for women and girls to relate to. I'm happy to see that there are still boy characters being written who have less stereotypical "boy" traits; it's important to show that not all boys are the same.
When I found out I'd be writing about Flame Princess, I was giddy for the same reason. Here's a female character—a princess, even—who has inner conflict, and who doesn't always act like a quiet little girl. She laughs about farting and has solid opinions and is not a flat piece of pretty pink paper. Not all girls are the same, either!
PWCW: Can you describe a little bit how the revenue stream for a successful web cartoonist works?
Corsetto: I can describe how MY business model works! It's not the same for all of us. Girls With Slingshots has been my full-time job since 2007; I told my readers I would start updating five times a week if they could pitch in enough small donations to help me pay my bills. And it worked!
After the donations died down, I put out my first print collection of GWS strips, and my income began to rely primarily on merchandise sales. The subscription model was never an option I considered, because I didn't want to prohibit people from reading the strip solely based on their income.
I partnered with Blind Ferret in 2010. They were able to fulfill merchandise orders for me and produce new merchandise. They gave my website a facelift to make room for ad space, and shopped around for advertisers, which afforded me an enormous income boost. Handing them the reins to my business allowed me the time to produce the strip in full color and attend more conventions and signings. The overall trick to monetizing something that you're giving away for free is to be creative, pay attention to your audience, and always update on time.