MATT BORS, whether he likes it or not, is more than a cartoonist, because he also represents a test case. Since the Portland-based artist also edits and curates The Nib, his cartooning site aptly has all the sharp hues and biting acid of a litmus test. What remains to be seen, as we study each litmus strip like a comic strip, is whether the latest change will lead to success with flying colors.
As The Nib comes up on its two-year anniversary, the site has already had an eventful month, starting with its departure from the host media outlet Medium. Bors confirms to The Post that where he goes, the Nib name and stable and standard for comics quality goes with him.
“I think we’ve shown you can bring in a real audience with this work,” Bors tells Comic Riffs, noting that that from early on, the Nib’s traffic was topping well more than a million uniques a month.
“A lot of websites are just g–damn boring and predictable right now, just churning out the same repeatable content you see every site desperately producing to bring in a reader, any reader,” says Bors, a past Pulitzer Prize finalist. “I don’t think that model stays around for long, and truly good comics can outlast this moment we’re in right now in media.”
In that spirit of spotlighting excellence, Bors has also launched a Kickstarter campaign this month to publish a bound, 300-page treasury of The Nib’s best work so far. The project is titled, “Eat More Comics.”
“This Kickstarter has been planned for months, long before I thought about leaving Medium,” says Bors, noting that the Kickstarter video was filmed a few months ago in Medium’s Bay Area offices. “This project had their blessing then, and we parted on good terms so nothing has changed there.
“When this book is out in September, The Nib will have been around for two years,” continues Bors, a Herblock Prize winner whose political cartoons are syndicated by Universal Uclick. “I want this to be a capstone for the first phase of The Nib. For the next [phase], well, I’m working furiously on building the next phase.”
The book will feature a wide range of comics journalism, editorial cartooning and visual storytelling from a host of top creators, including The New Yorker’s Liza Donnelly and Shannon Wheeler, Pulitzer finalists Tom Tomorrow and Ted Rall, 2015 NAACP “History Maker” Keith Knight, New York Times contributor Brian McFadden, the SPJ-honored Ruben Bolling, the ONA-honored Susie Cagle and The Post’s Pulitzer-winning political animator, Ann Telnaes… (I could go on and on).
“I’m really happy with the level of work we have in here,” Bors tells Comic Riffs. “It’s almost entirely work that was exclusive to us, with only a smattering of reprints.
“Some of the longer comics, the journalism and essays, really stand out as work that had an incredible reach, and wouldn’t have come to life otherwise,” continues Bors, underscoring that he’d put The Nib’s comics responding to this year’s Charlie Hebdo tragedy up against anyone else’s illustrated coverage.
And looking ahead in its post-Medium life, Bors sees change coming on many fronts.
“We’re talking about relaunching, retooling, really building a permanent Web presence in a phone-based world, and designing comics for that instead of pages,” he tells The Post. “We were plotting some big things with animation for a minute, but that got sidelined. I’d love to pick it back up and pull that team back together. [And] remember The Nib Calendar of Obscure Holidays? We should probably do another one.
“I have always had ambitions to do a regular print magazine,” Bors adds. “I actually think that can still work, and I really want to find out—need to find out—if I’m right.
“So I’m keeping busy.”
Which means The Nib, as industry litmus test, will keep busy, too, making it a worthy forerunner to follow.