July 23, 2009


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While I'm Thinking About It

In defense of "Webcomics"

Every so often, the notion comes up that the term "webcomics" is outdated, that it holds "us" back from being taken seriously as professional cartoonists, and, most recently, that it gives an air of legitimacy to a group of self-proclaimed leaders that deserve neither that nor any other good thing that might happen to come their way in life.

Phooey on all that, I say.

Yes, certainly, the best comics on the web can stand toe-to-toe with the best comics in print (though I would never presume to put myself in that category, you can certainly feel free to do so), as evidenced by the fact both the Eisners and the Harveys have made room in their awards for them.

And yes, the main difference webcomics and their print brethren (as far as the reader is concerned) are the methods of delivery.

Of course, that's also the biggest difference between newspaper comic strips (found in some occasionally random section of the paper), editorial cartoons (found, oddly enough, in the editorial section), and comic books (found in stores with odd, sci-fi kind of names that the uninitiated don't feel comfortable entering). So, yeah, the only reason they're not called "web comics" is because the internet has made people too lazy to use the spacebar withanyconsistancy.

But--but--ninety percent of webcomics are crud! And people know that, so by just calling ourselves "comics" we can eliminate that stigma, right? Sure, except Sturgeon's Law still holds true, and 90% of everything is crud (if you want to lump me in here, feel free--just please don't tell me about it). There's at least one blog dedicated to the newspaper strip crud. Dozens exist with the sole purpose of mocking the crud that's been published in pamphlet form over the decades. If it seems like there's more crud in webcomics, it's just that the barriers to entry are almost nonexistant (if, of course, you have a decent computer and some sort of internet access), and as a result there's more of everything.

Uhm, I'm not sure that's the clearest it could be, so let's use math. If there were only ten webcomics, nine would be crud and one would, well, not. Fairly easy to find the good stuff. With a hundred strips, you'll potentially have to wade through 90 to find even one of the ten worth reading. The percentage is the same, but the numbers are higher.

With me so far?

There are tens of thousands of webcomics. Sure, a lot of them were probably two-week wonders at ComicGenesis or DrunkDuck, but they're still out there, so they still count. Good luck finding something worth reading on the first two or three-hundred tries, at least not without a good recommendation.

Any stigma attached to the word webcomics won't go away just because three letters get dropped. It takes less than a second to go from "Oh, you're a webcomic? Never mind." to "Oh, your comic is on the web? Never mind."

And the alleged leaders of the webcomics community? That's a rant for another time, perhaps.

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