Cartoonists Enter the Newsletter Biz

Article excerpt

Several syndicated comic creators produce cyberpublications that are e- mailed to their readers several times a year

Some comic creators now have a subscriber base outside of newspapers -- with free e-mail newsletters.

The number of cyberpublications tied to syndicated strips is hard to determine. Yahoo! Groups (YG) represents a handful of them, and some cartoonists self-distribute e-mail newsletters, which tend to be all or mostly text.

Probably the first e-mail newsletter for a major strip was started in 1994 by "Dilbert" creator Scott

Adams of United Media. Two others were begun by King Features Syndicate creators: Michael Jantze ("The Norm") in 1996 and Hilary Price ("Rhymes With Orange") in 1999. There are also newsletters for, among other comics, "For Better or For Worse" by Lynn Johnston of United, "Monkeyhouse" by Pat Byrnes of Tribune Media Services, and "The Big Picture" by Lennie Peterson of Universal Press Syndicate.

The "Dilbert" newsletter has a huge list of 400,000-plus subscribers. There were 39 issues between 1994 and 2001, with five or six planned for this year.

"I wanted to directly connect with 'Dilbert' readers so I could get feedback on the strip and they could get information about new 'Dilbert' happenings -- books, Web site, TV show, licensed stuff, etc.," said Adams. "I figured that if I could make the newsletter entertaining in its own right, and free, then people wouldn't mind the not-so-subtle commercial elements."

United, which syndicates "Dilbert" to 2,000-plus papers, handles distribution.

Adams said he likes the newsletter because "I have few editorial pressures for timing or content. It's wonderful and rare for an author to have such a direct channel to so many people. …