The webcomics blog about webcomics

Year End Thoughts, Part Three

This may go down as the year of Webcomics: The Next Generation. Since the start of the year, webcomics luminaries such as Chris Onstaad, Phillip Karlsson, Jerry “Tycho” Holkins, and Bernie Hou have all had kids. Or, to be more precise, they were all very emotionally supportive and likely got slapped around while their wives gave birth to small human beings (in Hou’s case, twins). Maritza Campos, being made of sterner stuff, cut out the middleman and gave birth herself.

If we add in Mike “Gabe” Krahulik’s son last year, and John Kovalic’s forthcoming adoption, and Sean “Squidi” Howard’s daughter, we have a webcomickers baby boomlet. And if you’re a webcomics creator that had a child this year and I missed you, please be assured that it wasn’t intentional, and that your baby is the smartest, cutest, best baby ever.

This is a good thing, for several reasons. Comics still pretty much use an artisinal production model: a solo craftsman (or perhaps partners) labor in solitude to produce the art/craft. Artisans need children or apprentices to pass their skills on to. We’re all well familiar with how print comic strip creators end up passing their characters and syndication contracts onto their kids. Unfortunately, in many cases the children turn out to be no-talent hacks (check out the comics page of your local paper and look for the name “Browne” if you need proof). But the alternative is to have a fully industrial production model (c.f.: Garfield), which also sucks. So why is it a good thing that there are webcomics replicants?

Because webcomickers know that the newspaper comics page sucks. Many of them have been through the syndication attempts, or have actively attempted to subvert it. I can promise you, at no time did Tom Wilson ever tell Tom II, “Hey, I’m glad you’re helping me now, and when I hand Ziggy entirely off to you, you can stop writing the damn thing for 6 year olds and let your artistic sensibilities decide where to take it.” And I can also promise you, at no time will Chris Onstaad ever tell the baby, “Hey, when I’m gone be sure to keep drawing Achewood, but repeat the same three jokes over and over, and Ray can’t ever refer to his dick again.”

Because there aren’t syndication contracts that would lock a webcomic into a state of perpetual suck, it won’t be a case of the grown-up podlings merely continuing the work of the old; the creators can keep or walk away from their projects as they like, and the kids will have to make their own way creatively … but they may grow up their entire lives seeing their parents make a living from comics (or nearly their entire lives: Howard Tayler, being a plan-ahead, keep-a-buffer kind of guy, had the children all lined up before going full-time on the webcomic). That gives them something to think about when they’re growing up — comics are an actual job you can have, if you’re good enough! Ever wonder why being a cop or a firefighter runs in certain families? I may not live to see it, but I think some day there will be families of webcomics creators (or whatever the hell the medium will be in decades yet to come). And hey, if they all end up living in Northampton, some suitably mad scientist can set up a controlled cross-breeding experiment. Science!

OR! Or, the kids could just start their own comics.

Sorry, I just usually hate the idea of comics being handed off to other people. I’m one of those people who think they have a lifespan… and when that span very naturally comes to an end, new comics are always waiting in the wings.

That’s pretty much what I thought I said in the last paragraph. My apologies if it wasn’t clear.

How could you leave out the Family Circus? Talk about passing down comic “suckage” to your kid!

I don’t buy the idea that webcomic artists having children will automatically lead to more webcomics or a continuation of their parents’ comics. More often than not, especially in the case of high-risk artistic ventures like webcomics, you would probably find children NOT following in their parents’ footsteps, surely? In fact, wouldn’t you find more good webcomics being made in the future by non-webcomic artist offspring than by webcomic artist offspring?

Why couldn’t my parents have been webcomickers? Stupid doctors with their stupid science.

I think, even without the contracts, there will clearly be an economic incentive for a creator’s child to carry on a successfull comic.

There may not be legally enforceable reasons to continue the comic in the same fashion, rehashing the same old material. But the ficklness of the audience may do that for you anyway.

So we could very well see Magical Adventures in Space carried on well unto the tenth generation of cowboy poet hackers.

Jesus Christ, this is an epidemic!
(I’m also expecting my first kid in May).

I can’t wait until the next con where we call all meet up and discuss diaper brands and share tips on toilet training.

There is also a lesson here: Webcomic artists get laid.

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