Inspiration From the Comics

  |  December 21, 2000   |  Comments

With so many great Internet businesses going under and with Stephen King replacing Jeff Bezos as Entrepreneur of the Year, maybe truth is less profitable than fiction.

I have written some fiction in the past, but it's hard. It's especially hard making the fiction more outlandish than real life.

In one of my stories, for instance, I portrayed former Secretary of State James A. Baker, now current head of the Baker Institute at Rice University, as a fairly loose and crazy guy. Some of you who have watched the news during the last month's debate over who won the presidency will find my portrayal of him to be understated. (We still like you though, Cap!)

Garry Trudeau should also be familiar with the idea of truth trumping fiction. Some time ago he gave his title character, Michael Doonesbury, a business called MyVulture.Com. The idea was that MyVulture would prowl the Internet looking for distressed merchandise, then find a market for it. Had Trudeau also drawn up a patent application, he'd now be rich. (What's that, you say he IS rich? Oh well, richer then.)

It turns out that someone at The Museum Company has been reading the comics for business inspiration. (It's a lot more fun than the stock market reports these days.) Reuters reports that The Museum Company just got $8 million in funding for its dot-com to buy out distressed online retailers.

"Within the next three months the hunting will be very intense, both for the hunter and the game," said Dean Johnson, president and CEO of the dot-com, which is based in Charlottesville, Va.

There's a great lesson to be learned here. With so many great Internet businesses going under and with Stephen King replacing Jeff Bezos as Entrepreneur of the Year, maybe truth is less profitable than fiction.

We all know the kids of "The Boondocks" hate BET, so why shouldn't they come up with something better online?

What could Nancy and Sluggo do online if only given the funding -- other than put a web cam on Aunt Fritzi that is?

If the bookstore in "For Better or for Worse" went up against Amazon.com, would it scale properly? Or would it become the online home of model railroading?

Dilbert has been a profitable online property since before most of us were in the business. But we don't have to stop with the comics.

Novelists, in addition to King, such as Orson Scott Card (my personal favorite), have been online for years. Careful planning is important, however; I signed a copy of my book "Bulletin Board Systems for Business" for Card in 1991.

The more I think of it, the more it occurs to me that those who spin yarns for a living may be doing better than those who do it for venture capital money. It sure would make for better hall conversation at DEMO 2001. And let's face it, a lot of the stories spun for the VCs in the last few years turned out to be bad fiction anyway.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dana Blankenhorn

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business reporter for more than 20 years. He has written parts of five books and currently contributes to Advertising Age, Business Marketing, NetMarketing, the Chicago Tribune, Boardwatch, CLEC Magazine, and other publications. His own newsletter, A-Clue.Com, is published weekly.

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