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Posted at 2:40 PM ET, 02/12/2010

The 'Riffs Interview: 'PvP' creator Scott Kurtz speaks today at Macworld

By Christian Hettinger


Among Scott Kurtz's gifts is his talent for turning heads and raising eyebrows.

This afternoon, Kurtz, creator of the webcomic "PvP," will speak at Macworld at San Francisco's Moscone Center. The provocative title of his main-stage session: "He Wants to Kill Your Newspaper: An Interview With Webcomics Magnate Scott Kurtz."

Comic Riffs recently caught up with Kurtz to ask about his creative and commercial hopes for the new iPad; what constitutes a webcomic "magnate"; and whether he, indeed, is really out to kill our newspapers:

MICHAEL CAVNA: So do you really want to kill my newspaper -- even my print comics section? And like Craig Newmark of "craigslist," are you perhaps helping to kneecap some aspect of print newspapers as an intended consequence of pursuing your 21st-century business model?

SCOTT KURTZ: I don't want to kill newspapers. Anyone who tells you that the internet is killing newspapers is full of it. Newspapers don't have to die in order for my business to succeed. Same goes for the opposite. My largest source of reliable income is selling print collections of my book. My most reliable revenue streams are based in the same traditional models that syndicated cartoonists have been employing for years. Newspapers are dying concurrent to us, not because of us. The title -- as well as the T-shirt it's stolen from -- is intended as a sarcastic comment on the subject.

MC: You're billed at Macworld as a "webcomics magnate" -- what are the metrics (from "reach" to profit) necessary to declare oneself a "magnate" of webcomics? And would even, say, alt-cartoonist/skeptic Ted Rall acknowledge that the world of webcomics has a magnate?

SK: "Magnate" is a title that [Chicago Sun-Times columnist/moderator] Andy Ihnatko bestowed on me when he wrote that session description. I would never call myself a magnate, and I'm not sure I'm comfortable with other people describing me that way, either. But Andy invited me to sit with him on the main stage at Macworld and answer a few of his questions about webcomics. If I must suffer such compliments for this privilege, I will endeavor to suffer them with as much dignity as possible.

MC: Do you think the iPad and like devices -- as well as iPhone apps such as "Net Comics" -- significantly affect webcomic readership?

SK: I don't have any real metrics about how mobile browsing has affected my business. I know that more and more people are using mobile devices to access the Net. So anything I can do to facilitate people enjoying "PvP" on a mobile device will ultimately benefit me. To that end, we're releasing an iPhone app ... that makes it easier for people to read "PvP" on the go.

I'm less excited about the [iPad] and more excited about the content partnerships Apple will have attached to it. That's what I'm excited about, an iTunes for books and comics. I want to be a part of that. I want a presence there.

MC: Will you briefly characterize your thoughts on the Webcomic vs. Syndicated Comic "Debate." Meaning: Do you see this as a genuine battle -- as two distinct warring sides -- or is this all hew and cry from many sides, as everyone adjusts to the comics industry's "musical chairs" of shifting business models?

SK: For years, newspapers have been subsidizing syndicated comic strips, providing them with a captive audience and allowing them to claim paper readership numbers as their own. In return for this, the syndicates have provided papers with safe content that's neither appealing nor provocative to a younger audience in the slightest. These practices are starting to bear bitter fruit. Newspapers suddenly don't want to pay as much for content that doesn't bring in new readers and syndicates can't attract exciting talent with the rates they're being offered.

Now if a syndicated cartoonist wants to get into an argument with me over this, they're welcome to, but it won't be very productive for either of us. I'm making a living with my comic strip despite that fact that I'm not charging anyone to read it. That's possible because my job doesn't end with the strip itself. Syndicated cartoonists tend to think of themselves as artists, Web based cartoonists tend to think of themselves as publishers or creators of "micro-media" (a term Robert Khoo coined).

MC: What's the biggest influence "PvP" has had so far on the comics industry -- from creators to readers?

SK: I can't imagine what my influence has been. I've been able to pursue my childhood dream of being a cartoonist through self-publishing on the Web, and I've tried to help a few others learn how to in the process. If that means that a few more childhood dreams are being met in the world... well, then, that makes me feel awfully good about my adulthood.

By Christian Hettinger  | February 12, 2010; 2:40 PM ET
Categories:  Interviews With Cartoonists, The Webcomic  
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Nice, measured interview - hope we get to see the Macworld interview online.

Posted by: ahallatt | February 15, 2010 2:07 AM | Report abuse

Great to see your business head working in a forum where beyond-comic readers can appreciate it Scott; and have to applaud your closing quote

"If that means that a few more childhood dreams are being met in the world... well, then, that makes me feel awfully good about my adulthood."

Long may you have success and help / show / fairly-charge others to enjoy the same.

Posted by: CuriousPencil | February 16, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

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