Darrin Bell is the writer and artist behind “Candorville,” a daily and Sunday newspaper strip that combines political satire, social commentary and character-based humor. Bell, 35, was staff cartoonist for the Daily Californian (UC Berkely’s student-run paper), and was a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Oakland Tribune until 2001, when he turned all his attention to his cartoons.
He earned a bachelor of political science degree from the University of California at Berkeley. His awards include winning both first and second place in the Society of Professional Journalists Region 11 Mark of Excellence Awards (2000). Bell spoke to the Chronicle via e-mail about “Candorville,” the future of newspaper comic strips, and his influences.
MICHIGAN CHRONICLE: What are the biggest challenges you face as a comic strip writer and artist, given the shrinking newspaper market? How are you responding to that situation? Are you developing more of an online presence? Would you ever consider just publishing your strips in book form and skipping the newspapers (going directly to trade format, to use a comicbook analogy)?
DARRIN BELL: The market’s shrinking, so we have to look elsewhere. My dream is that devices like Apple’s iPad will lead to a renaissance for newspapers. One of the main reasons papers’ fortunes declined during the last decade was the soaring cost of newsprint. That led to pages of content being whittled down to the point where readers had to ask themselves, “Is this even worth 50 cents anymore?”
If millions of Americans end up subscribing to their local newspapers on the iPad, not only would that eliminate the cost of newsprint and production, but it would eliminate the need to drop one comic strip in order to add another.
In the meantime, I’m trying to make my website more lucrative with a mix of merchandise sales and advertising. I operate my website on the webcomics model. My site, Candorville.com, gives readers free archives, daily updating comics and blog that they can have e-mailed to them if they want, a Twitter feed, and a presence on Facebook. I monetize the site with both Google and Project Wonderful ad sales and book collections of the type you’ve mentioned. I’ve also made it really easy for readers browsing the archives to buy an art print of any strip they like, and I’ve made it simple for authors, publishers, or anyone else to buy reprint rights for any comic they’d like to use in books, presentations, blog posts, articles, etc.
I’m also working to make my books compatible with the Kindle, and I’m eager to find out how to make my books available for the iPad. Newspapers…have to embrace (the transformation).