I’ve debated whether I should post this, since it is somewhat inflammatory, at least for me. But here goes…

I’m generally not a big fan of competition/elimination reality shows, so I’m kinda late to the party on Strip Search. That being said, I’m hooked.

I’m not a gamer, and neither am I a reader of Penny Arcade. I’ve tried, but it’s just not my cup of tea. (PVP I love, but not PA.) But I truly respect the creators for their achievements and contributions. They produce a quality product, just not one that interests me. Anyway, I was aware of Strip Search since the Kickstarter campaign, but maybe since I don’t care for PA, I just didn’t think I’d watch it.

However, since I’ve tried it, the show’s grabbed me on a level I hadn’t anticipated. I’m not hooked because I like any if the players (although I like many and am avidly rooting for some), but rather because I keep asking myself, “how well would I fare in that situation?” I’ve even forced myself to create a strip for each of the elimination challenges so far – within the time constraints (probably cheating because I’m not under pressure, and I’m also using my existing 3D tools – but I could draw them if needs be). I may or may not post them; I haven’t decided.

Here’s the deal… I think I would do pretty well on the show – or at least the competition.

That’s a natural response to any game show, isn’t it? Who hasn’t watched a show and said, “Oh, I’m smarter than that guy!” or “No! I would never have made that mistake!” Come on, that’s largely why people watch these things, isn’t it?

It’s also a completely unfair response. Compared to a geezer like me, even Katie, Maki and Tavis (the oldest contestants) are practically kids. What the contestants eliminated thus far seem to lack is experience. I’ve had all manner of experience dealing with setbacks and disappointment, both in my artistic career and life in general. I’ve learned to produce results under crushing pressure. I’ve emerged (mostly, but not entirely, unscathed) from interviews to which I would never willingly subject another human. I can draw passably, but have learned (or at least am learning) that artistic ability is just the tip of the cartooning iceberg. It’s possible I’ve read more books on writing than some of the contestants have read altogether. And, perhaps most importantly, I have never let go that childhood dream of being a cartoonist, in at least some capacity.

Yep. Unfair comparison. I think I could do well in the competition, but my journey down life’s road would be an unfair advantage. I’m convinced of that. I’m also convinced of something else.

Every one of the contestants – win or lose – will crush me and my strip in the arena of webcomics success.

Empirical evidence and statistical logic make that pretty clear. I’m closing in on two years of the strip, and yet my readers (each of whom I love – you guys are the second biggest reason I do this, and I thank you for sticking around!) are hardly Legion. (Truth be told, they’re barely battalion strength, on a good day… ;)) Why is that? Kris Straub, in Chapter I of How to Make Webcomics, stated, “The world doesn’t owe you an audience.” That’s a fact, and one I’m okay with. Honestly, most webcomics are niche works, and Drop the Cow may be the niche-iest of them all. I love family-friendly humour strips, 3D modeling and rendering, LEGO blocks, and information technology. And Sci-fi. And comic books. And mocking corporate America. Throw that together, and you’ve got my strip. Yeah – niche city. But, if a strip is good enough, readers will come – and stay. And many have to DtC (and I thank you all). Why not in greater numbers, though?

Ay, there’s the rub. I believe it all comes down to exposure. I advertise very rarely, and when I do, I get spikes in readership, and some folks stick around. But, one day of being associated with the powerhouse Penny Arcade engine is pretty much a golden ticket compared to my numbers. If even the early-eliminated contestants consistently produce a decent quality strip, the extra influx of readers might be enough to tip the scales of success in their favour – and more power to them; they’ve earned it. The contestant who takes the prize – they’re pretty much guaranteed success, simply through their exposure and association with the PA machine. Later on, they’re sure to gain the life experience required to make it all really work, and that’s awesome. I commend them all.

Now, whether I have what it takes to make that formula work in reverse remains to be seen.