Ah, I love the smell of new talent in the morning.
Word comes from Andrews McMeel Publishing, sponsoring a contest by Amazon, that the 10 finalists have been named in the Comic Strip Superstar contest. And I must say: I'm pleasantly surprised by just how high the overall quality of the candidates is. Or, to word it more glowingly: I'd swap out at least three of these for some of the current Post comic strips in a heartbeat. Seriously.
If you'll recall, Comic Riffs wrote about the Superstar contest back in August, noting that the ultimate winner will receive an Andrews McMeel contract, a five-grand advance from Universal Uclick and "a monthly stipend for the development of 20 comic strips that will be considered for syndication."
Now, readers will have the opportunity to vote on Amazon.com between now and Friday, Nov. 6. But I'm ALSO interested in comparing how uber-knowledgeable and sharp-eyed 'Riffs readers will vote, as compared with how the great unwashed (and unread) will vote in Amazon's balloting. So at the end of this post, you will find a special and nonbinding Comic Riffs Poll, so you can vote here for your favorite, too.
Before checking out the links to the competing strips (below), here are a few things we should note:
1. Only NINE of the finalists are eligible for the Amazon vote. Seems young mister Kory Merrit,who submitted the strip "CounterCulture," has since signed a development deal with a different syndicate and so is ineligible to compete in this contest's final round. That said: A hearty congrats, Mr. Merrit--it's truly a good thing to be in such demand.
2. The list of finalists markedly mirrors the real-life world of Big-Time Newspaper Comic Syndicate. That is to say:
(a) Women are proportionally underrepresented (only one of the 10 is a woman);
(b) Men named "Mike" or "Michael" are proportionally overrepresented (two of the 10).
(c) The very best of these strips, in my opinion, feel utterly original in their "voice" and visuals.
3. Conspicuously, only one of the 10 cartoonists lives in a true warmer-weather clime (Atlanta.) Perhaps by holding this contest at the end of the summer, this became some sort of climactically skewed competition. Your guess is as good as ours as to why so many of the Final 10 are from such places as Wisconsin, Iowa, New England and London.
[We also note: The judges included very familiar names to 'Riffs readers: Universal honchos Lee Salem and John Glynn, as well as Lynn Johnston, Mark Tatulli and Scott Hilburn. (A fourth cartoonist, Garry Trudeau had to pull out of the judging for personal reasons.)]
So without further ado, here are links to the nine eligible cartoonists and their sample strips, followed by the unofficial 'Riffs Vote so you pick your preference here, too.
Let the balloting -- and reactions -- begin.
THE NINE ELIGIBLE FINALISTS FOR "COMIC STRIP SUPERSTAR":
1. "BELLE PLAINE," by Eric Gapstur
2. "BüNI," by Ryan Pagelow
3. "EVIL TWIN," by Alexander Matthews
4. "GIRL," by Dana Simpson
5. "HEMLOCK HEIGHTS," by Todd Machen
6. "JOE 6-PACK," by Mike Floyd
7. "LIL WIT," by Andrew Paavola
8. "NUTZ N' DOLTZ," by Michael Underhill
9. "THATABABY," by Paul Trap
NOW, THE POLL FOR THIS BLOG'S SAVVY COMICS FANS: