Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Keenspot Dome Scandal: Adventures in Mismanagement

Eight years ago, webcomics were still struggling to find their way out of the womb, trying to figure out what to rip off of the print comic industry. Ripping off the jokes and the art was the easy part, but how would webcomics rip off the ability of actual cartoonists to make money? And so, the first webcomic syndicate was formed. Crawling forth from the primordial cyber-ooze, this primitive behemoth clumsily made its way forward in the world, in a spasm of inefficiency and ineffectualness. And while it was criminally worthless, it was still the aspiration of many budding webcomics, for if they could be accepted by this lurching monstrosity, it was proof that they had talent, potential, and something once mistakenly identified as "sticktoitiveness." Thus, Keenspot thrived, despite the law of Natural Selection.

While joining Keenspot became the goal of many up-and-coming webtoonists, it soon became apparent that Keenspot actually had no standards. Many of the comics that joined were incredibly ugly, horribly written, and entirely inconsistent. I don't even think popularity was a requirement, though only Chris Crosby could tell you what arcane criteria were used in selecting new additions to "The Spot." In fact, based on the list of every comic that's ever been on Keenspot, I can safely say that the only comics with any talent at all have either left for greener pastures, or suicided in a pile of their own misery.

Keenspot's greatest tragedy was never its lack of talent, however. After all, this is the Internet. People will read anything, if they can find it. No, Keenspot's worst transgression was not in its lack of talent, but in its inability to capitalize on what it had. Keenspot attempted to publish it's comics and sell them to actual comic book stores. This went over horribly, and the entire idea was all but scrapped, only resurfacing every year on Free Comic Book Day, which, as you can imagine, makes Keenspot's artists very little money.

Other forms of advertising are equally lackluster. Any advertising provided by Keenspot has been ineffective and inefficient. Most ads are placed in places where they are going to garner the least attention, so instead of being focused and powerful like some sort of laser, Keenspot's advertising can best be described as lazy and indirect, like lawn darts. Most ads are placed internally, which turns Keenspot into a whirlpool of self-destruction.

With all the counter-productive behavior Keenspot engages in, you'd think they'd have no desire or need to fire one of their cartoonists. After all, what's the point in kicking someone off a sinking ship? But Crosby has managed to cast logic to the wind once again, and has chosen to remove Kel McDonald (Sorcery 101, As We Were) from his ranks, a scant week before Christmas. Why, you might ask, would Keenspot turn on one of its own? Was Kel too talented, and therefore over-qualified for Keenspot? Although true, this was not the reason given for her termination. In fact, no reason has been given for her removal, at least not publicly. The only speculation is that Kel may have casually mentioned that Keenspot was not the bastion of efficacy and management that so many believed it to be.

Under normal circumstances, badmouthing your employer would be considered "an unwise business decision." However, when your employer does a more than sufficient job of badmouthing itself, expectations go out the window. After all, what can anyone say to make you look bad, when you've already done a splendid job of making yourself look as incompetent as possible already? Apparently that thought never entered Crosby's mind, because faster than you could say "Terrible Management Decision," Kel was out on her ass and Keenspot had not yet realized the hornet's nest it had busted open, like a piƱata of misery.

Unlike previous firee, John Troutman, Kel did not enjoy being fired arbitrarily. After airing many grievances with Keenspot, most of which were problems with their immense professionalism and extreme competence. The first response came from Teri Crosby, who essentially agrees with Kel's version of events, but hides behind the argument that Keenspot is a small company that is not well-staffed. Then comes Bobby Crosby, who claims that everything Kel McDonald, and by extension his own mother, has said are bald-faced lies. Son of the year, right there.

Bobby Crosby is the outspoken, antagonistic and often incorrect brother of Chris Crosby, and I'm not even sure he has any ownership of Keenspot, officially. He's responsible for countless numbers of terrible comics, who only end up on Keenspot by virtue of being the owner's brother. He also has an unnatural talent in showing up and arguing absurd points of view. And his arguments are about as well written as his comics are. I have to qualify that statement by saying that both are not well-written at all, because Bobby is the kind of person to misconstrue that statement and believe it was a compliment.

The argument that Keenspot is a "Small Company" is offensive to anyone with any sensibilities. Any company which has made enough money to purchase an abandoned school in South Dakota should surely have enough income to hire an accountant or at least someone with a business degree to actually manage the company with some semblance of consistency. Unfortunately, Keenspot would prefer to squander their resources and efforts on goals that are well above their current means. Instead of investing in people to make the business run more smoothly, and producing products that will grow their brand, Keenspot instead attempts to swing for the fences, trying to land TV shows and Movie deals, which go belly-up as soon as they're conceived. After all, you can't hit a home run when all you can do is bunt.

Upon hearing of Kel's firing, many other Keenspot artists have boldly quit in protest. However since all of them are still being featured on Keenspot and haven't moved anywhere, it is hard to say whether this is a genuine action or just for show, but it has prompted the Crosbys to state that they are no longer accepting any new comics. If you want to join the pool on how long THAT lasts, go ahead and send me an email.

Ultimately this whole event has highlighted just how terrible of a company Keenspot is. While a decent idea, it has been run into the ground by terrible business decisions, awful PR from its higher-profile members, and extreme apathy from anyone who sees the problem. My advice to any webcomickers, new or old, is that if Keenspot comes knocking on your door, it would be best for you if you do not answer it. They will just bog you down and prevent you from growing to your full potential.

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