Yehuda in 2008 with headwind versus Yehuda in 2011 with tailwind
Rick Smith has laid down his pen indefinitely, and his comic strip, Yehuda Moon & The Kickstand Cyclery, is no more. Smith's comic strip covered the tough-but-rewarding life of bike store owner / cycling activist / tilter-at-windmills Yehuda Moon and other friends, including former owner (but now a ghost) Fred Banks; unibrow co-owner / mechanic Joe King, Amish fixie-rider Sister Sprocket; sometime employee, engineer, mother Thistle Gin and many others. From its start in 2008 until just last month Smith dedicated a lot of free time over three and a half years to making a successful comic, if not financially, at least culturally. Ultimately, however, Smith found it too tough to make the comic financially sustainable, and drawing and writing, in addition to holding down other jobs, became too much.
Yehuda was loved by many people, whether they worked in the bike industry, cycling advocacy or just liked to ride their bike. Having spent time Inside the interesting and imaginative world of the Kickstand Cyclery where an Amish community built exclusive frames for Yehuda's shop, where a ninja existed that threw sharpened chainrings, and where Yehuda instigated many projects of DIY bike lanes, bike share and racks, there were a lot of aspects that rang true to the issues faced by both bike stores and advocates trying to gain a toe-hold for bikes in a continent dominated by automobiles.
I will miss the daily updates and knowing that there were lots of people with a similar outlook. All the comic strips will remain available on the Yehuda website, plus you may still be able to order Volume 1 of Yehuda Moon & The Kickstand Cyclery. As soon as I found out that Smith was shutting down his shop I made an online order in the slim hope that he would actually fulfill the order. But, sure enough, I received it in the mail - a momento for a well-loved comic strip. The following is Smith's full explanation of why he quit. It offers a glimmer of hope that it will return in some form if perhaps only available for paying readers:
Thanks to everyone for their kind comments. Many of you have asked for an explanation as to why I stopped the comic. After a nice ride this morning and a few weeks away from the strip, I thought I'd share my thoughts.
I wrote, drew, and published 'Kickstand Comics' (nee 'Yehuda Moon') for about three and a half years (1,252 comics in all).
During that time, I continued to work at a full-time job (for three years) and then at part-time freelance jobs (for eight months). I would often sit down to draw comics late at night after putting children to bed, or before sunrise on weekends, in order to keep up with the daily schedule.
This routine took its toll, as a number of readers have commented above: longer storylines meandered or were not finished. I took breaks in 2009 and 2010. But more than the art suffered; I found myself becoming disconnected with those close to me. I simply had no time for anything besides work and the comic.
Drawing a quality comic strip requires time. The time it takes for drawing, inking, and coloring can be estimated and planned. Writing, however, cannot - and time for writing is what I lacked. Thus, the strip suffered.
I attempted to buy myself time by 'monetizing' the project. If the comic brought in money, then perhaps other employment wouldn't be necessary and I would be able to buy back chunks of time each day. Alas, I'm no business person. The work necessary to make a webcomic financially viable is exceedingly difficult; there are no economic models in place that can be exercised; each webcomic must discover if it's financially viable and prove itself all on its own. To do this, I discovered, takes as much (if not more) time than producing the comic itself.
I tried readership patronage. Figuring that ten percent of the 20,000 readers the strip had would support the comic with subscriptions, I embarked on NPR-like drives to muster support. But Internet users are not used to paying for content and only one to two percent of readers became patrons. THANK YOU to all patrons: your faith in the Kickstand Cyclery and the characters often got me out of bed and to the drawing board in the morning. I couldn't have continued without you.
I tried advertising and sponsorship. Google Ads helped considerably. But forging and managing relationships with sponsors takes time; and as above, time was at a premium.
I tried a few products (books, badges, Cafe Press items, etc.) but these proved to take an incredible amount of time as well. Packing products and visits to the post office sucked time away from drawing and writing. Profit margins on merchandise are also small.
To those readers who have suggested a relaxed schedule (versus the rigor of seven days a week): I only thrive and can produce when the work is constant. With fits and starts (which is what weekend breaks would bring), not only would readership numbers falter, but so would my creativity. It's just who I am.
I loved drawing the comic. But I'm at an age when I need to be planning for the future of my daughters, and this means making money. So I began resenting that I had turned a labor of love into a burden.
I went back and completed many of the strips that were missing during the break I took in 2010. I can do the same again, given time and the absence of a rigorous daily schedule. If the strip returns, with loose ends tied up and stories finished, it will likely appear behind a 'patronage wall' or in print-only format, for sale. It'd be the only way for me to avoid the burnout I experienced in September.
Thanks again to all patrons and sponsors.