Tag Archives: comics

The Years Of The Kat

goodhunting

This is a memorial post for Krazy.com, a domain that I registered in February of 1995, back when Network Solutions was the only domain registrar and the annual registration fee was $0. I had recently closed my computer bulletin board system, which was called the Coconino County BBS, after the home of George Herriman‘s classic comic character, Krazy Kat. In it’s place, I put up a web site that grew to be the most complete and best known source of information on the now somewhat obscure, but dearly loved early 20th century newspaper strip about a Kat, named Krazy, who loved a Mouse, named Ignatz. This Ignatz found Krazy quite silly, and showed his disdain by throwing bricks at his/her head (Krazy’s gender was never identified). Offisa Pup, the local Kanine Konstable,¬†who was in love with Krazy, arrested Ignatz every time he caught the mouse in the act. And all of this action took place against a surreally fluid landscape of mesas, monuments and moons inspired by Herriman’s love for eastern Arizona Navajo country, with it’s painted desert and monument valley.

pupslept
As my nptech crowd knows, I just got too busy over the years with other things to properly grow and manage this web site. As much as I love Krazy Kat (and my son’s middle name is Ignatz, no lie!), I have to prioritize my current pursuits. I am blessed with the opportunity to do meaningful work at Earthjustice, to blog, and to help out the nonprofit community where and when I can, as a board member at Idealware, a contributor to Techsoup, and a steadfast supporter of NTEN. There are only so many hours in a day.

Krazy.com had the distinction of being a short, catchy, .com domain name, which means that it’s sale value ain’t hay, and, while my life’s pursuits are pretty rich, I’m not. I got an offer that matched what the domain is professionally valued at, and I couldn’t afford to turn it down. It’s a melancholy moment — one of those decisions that isn’t difficult to make, but is sad all of the same, like trading in a beloved car that will cost too much to keep running.

In the more than 15 years that Krazy.com got steady traffic, from visitors that included Herriman’s great grand-daughter and Krazy Kat book cover artist Chris Ware, I built my career, got married, had a child, built a house, and lived a life that continues to be happy and rewarding. Krazy Kat is fond of singing “There is a heppy lend, fur, fur away”. My heppy lend is right here, and I’m sorry that I have to move away from my beloved Coconino County.

PLAQUE

Not all penguins are Tech-savvy

There was an interesting and disturbing article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle. Mind you, it’s an election year; there are lots of these. But this one hit a few of the hot spots in my consciousness – comic strips and technology. Berke Breathed, author of Bloom County, Opus and the short-lived Outland comic strips, was interviewed regarding the end of Opus. This Sunday will herald the last appearance of his long-lived penguin, a mainstay in each of the three strips. Breathed has a number of reasons for retiring, but among them was the following interesting assertion regarding his readership, or lack thereof:

“…I strolled into a college campus after three years of doing my strip, no one had ever read it. In fact they hadn’t read anything, unless it was something from 25 years ago that their parents had given them the books of. So I already saw that the window was closing, that it was just a matter of a few years.”

His target audience of 20-30 year olds, as far as he could tell, were completely disengaged from newspapers and, therefore, his work. But were those college students dutifully reading the paper ten years ago? Doubtful! Further, he threw some numbers and predictions out:

Breathed said his readership was 60 million to 70 million people in 1985, when Peanuts had a readership of 200 million to 300 million and Calvin and Hobbes, 200 million people. “That will never happen on the Web. Your readership drops to a couple thousand people – maybe, if you’re lucky, 10,000.”

As a big aficionado of newspaper strips, I find this very distressing, but I’m also a bit of a skeptic. I would suggest to Breathed that he is predicting the future based on a transitional phase. Newspapers, as it’s plain to point out, are having a difficult time transitioning to the web-based information world. I grabbed this article from sfgate.com, the online version of my daily paper. But I only visit that site to find specific articles or manage my vacation holds. My idea of an online newspaper is my.yahoo.com, igoogle.com or netvibes.com. Each of these sites lets me group together all sorts of information that is fairly akin to what I read in the newspaper, including comic strips. I’m a techie and an early adopter, but trends show RSS adoption growing steadily, and rss is really simple syndication, a concept that a cartoonist should latch right onto. I can grab any strip from GoComics.com as an RSS feed.

It is a different medium. It has the disadvantage that Breathed points out – a fraction of the people who are delivered his strips in the paper they purchase will willingly subscribe. But how many of those people read them anyway? I’ve gotten Cathy in my paper for as long as I can remember, but I promise you, I never read it. For now, as we transition, his actual readership is probably down. But comic strips are far from down from the count. On the web, we can subscribe to — and only to — the ones we want to read, and brilliant strips that struggle for readership will stay in circulation. This is a big improvement for the medium. It’s really too bad that Berkeley Breathed, one of our most talented practitioners, won’t stick around for it.