This brought me to the topic I've been thinking about for a few weeks now: donating to websites.
I'm the kind of person who really does want to respect the artists and all that, but I can't justify paying $18 for a CD with one good song, or even $10 for a so-so movie on DVD. No, I don't get iTunes and am not planning to, because I don't have an iPod and am not planning to. (Why get a $300 piece of equipment I'm not going to use?) I'm, well, cheap. But if there's something I really like, I'll pay for it.
Chris watched Rat Race on cable so much last year my folks got him a copy for his birthday. I listened to a lot of NSync and Backstreet Boys songs via P2P when I finally realized, "Hey, I like a lot of these - I'll go ahead and buy the albums." (You can heckle if you want, I don't care - they can harmonize.) I would gladly pay for more Wizards of Sound (Lithuanian techno) except they apparently did two songs and then vanished off the face of the Earth.
But for other stuff, I won't get it. I won't buy Pet Shop Boys anymore because one album - I think it was Nightlife? - the one after Bilingual, which at least had the title track to salvage - that album was absolutely no good. I regularly bought Terry Pratchett's new releases in hardcover, but after a few duds I won't buy any more of his books. I'll wait for them at the library instead, and it's served me well.
So when it comes to webcomics and websites, I feel much the same way. Except, of course, there's a twist. It depends on whether I feel the website deserves my money.
PvP creator Scott Kurtz is doing all right for himself. His strip has some great moments, and Toly and I each bought a T-shirt from the site back in '99. At this point, I feel like he's doing OK and doesn't technically need my money. (Mac fans, go check out his "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is" page.)
Penny Arcade looks like it's doing all right too, so I'm not worried about them either. Heck, I don't even know what they do for a living, but they seem able to go to cons and play games by the truckload, so they must be doing something right. Which helps balance against the extremely uneven tone of the comics there.
InkTank Productions rocks my world. Going through the archive put me in hysterics, plus by now I'm pretty sure everyone knows my fascination with the character Wraith. The guy has a full-time job. I sent him money because his site made me laugh and be happy.
An interesting side note here: I don't bookmark daily comics, I just keep bringing them up in the dropdown history. And eventually I end up with the feeling of "Hm, wasn't there another comic I used to hit daily?" And it takes a while (sometimes weeks) before I remember what it was, which is a big sign to me that whatever site it was, it just didn't have what it takes to make me click on it repeatedly during the day until the new thing comes up. Real Life Comics was the latest victim of this. Again, it's uneven, though it's had its moments. But I think what was the final straw in the decision-making process - what made me say "He's never getting any of my money" - was that this guy, who has a full time job, asked people to donate to help him put together money for his first month's rent for the new apartment for him and his girlfriend, oh and could you send some money so he could go to cons too? Obviously someone's paying for him to have fun, but jeez - that's pretty lame to do that. If you can't plan ahead enough to save money for first month's rent, maybe you should rethink living outside of your parents' house.
Then there's other sites that won't get mentioned here, because either they didn't grab me or the comic got stupid or unbelievable in some fashion.
This sort of extends to artists as well. I like darthneko's and kiri_moth's work and am willing to buy commissions from them to help support them (and 'cause I wants my pretty pictures, I does). But Diana Harlan Stein (whose url I have lost at the mo), while doing a great Shadowrun character portrait for me, completely botched the next one, leading me to wonder if she even read any of the notes I gave her, and so I cannot and will not recommend her for any commission work and will never send her work again. (Folks, "gaunt and pale" does not somehow translate into "tanned and fat," no matter how you try to interpret it.)
If anyone has any suggestions of websites or commission artists they recommend or think deserve notice, let me know. And feel free to check out the ones I've listed above.