XOXO: R. Stevens - Diesel Sweeties

Richard Stevens has been making Diesel Sweeties for 12 years, pioneering webcomics, experimenting with newspaper syndication, merchandising,crowdfunding and bacon.

The Details

R. Stevens

Project: Diesel Sweeties

XOXOing: Comics and Merchandising

Andy disavowed the word “disruptive” yesterday – and Richard has always gone with the things around him, instead of fighting them. “I draw the way I draw because of the Mac.” Shout out to the users-and-groups Control Panel in OS7. A daily comic strip models all of your character flaws.

Great early shout-out to Sam Brown and Exploding Dog — Richard’s neighbor in college! Sam started posting drawings and got Slashdotted. (75% of today’s slides will have all-caps Futura!)

But starting out to write comic books didn’t actually work out as he’d planned. He started doing it as a way of slacking off at work, and then eventually got focused on t-shirts. Paypal was new, and as long as you weren’t afraid of the post office, there was enough to make a living, and it subsidized the comic creation. If you get a cease-and-desist, you happily comply after telling everyone that the product will no longer be made available – much more effective than putting things on sale.

Then he got the call to be syndicated, and thought that his comics appearing in the newspapers would pay the bills. But people don’t care about the comics page in newspapers anymore. So having maintained the website on the side, and the t-shirt sales, kept him okay when he got out of the newspaper syndication deal. A year and a half after leaving newspaper syndication, the entire business folded.

Started working with Portland’s own “Sock it To Me”, and have played a bit with special projects like products in lieu of comics. “Marker of the Beast” and “Satanic Sticky Notes” were past October’s projects. And connecting with Andy Baio at SXSW in 2009 led to a $60,000 Kickstarter for a Diesel Sweeties ebook.

Kickstarter was gratifying because you’d never ask people for a lot of money, but people are enthusiastic so if you ask them, they’ll support you. The book was followed by a Red Robot toy. Expectations are very different from comic book readers who are used to regularly buying new issues, whereas app buyers don’t necessarily want to buy upgrades all the time.

And then, donuts.