The webcomics blog about webcomics

Wildcard? Or Permanent Fixture?

Scott McCloud did an interview with in which he asserted that webcomics are the great wild card in the art form today. Seeing as he’s written books, and is seen as a “leading scholar,” you might trust what he has to say at face value. My understanding from the interview is this: Because there are no editorial limits, and with themes and genres multiplying to fit every niche audiance, as well as the techniques that can manipulate space, there are “mutations” which are changing the art form in new and exciting ways.

Colin Reed Moon wrote a piece in opposition to the assertion that webcomics were a wildcard. His argument, to the best of my analytic reading abilities, is that webcomics are often no different than their print counterparts, that they regularly crossover into the traditional print medium, and their influence is felt in the popular culture, as with the making (his verb, not mine) of Snakes on a Plane. Thus, webcomics are not a wildcard, they are an artform and they are influential.

Both identify the trend of webcomics becoming print comics in anthologies and such. However, McCloud mentions it in terms of how webcomics are like their print counterparts, whereas Colin sees it as a sign of success. How should we take this trend of anthologies? Does it limit the freeform and free-for-all nature of the webcomic? And is the influence that Colin identifies evidence that webcomics have arrived? Or is it more evidence of the wildcard nature of the medium — that anything can and will happen?

“I don’t think anybody’s come up with a reliable head count [of those making a living at webcomics].”

Well, that doesn’t sound too hard, does it?
The Penny Arcade Guys, Kurtz, Pete Abrams. Ask Ryan North and RStevens and other dumbrella guys (if you guys at fleen don’t know how to get in contact with dumbrella, lemme know – I’ve got some e-mails). I know they don’t have other jobs, but don’t know if they’re making enough to live on.


Anyway, ask the top people like that.

Then count them.

I don’t think your suggestion is directed towards the right person, Bup.

How should we take this trend of anthologies?

I think one can get a good sense of the current status of dead tree versions from one of David Willis’ Shortpacked blog entries:

Top things said to me at my booth at Comic-Con 2006:
“Have sex with me.” (female) 3 times
“Have sex with me.” (male) 8 times
“I really enjoy your strip.” 367 times
“Your shirt makes my eyes bleed.” 678 times
“Do you have a book?” 52,392 times

Clearly I must do something about this.

Colin Reed Moon’s article doesn’t even really make sense. It seems like he just went on the attack without thinking about what he was saying.

First he spends the first half of his article talking about how long he’s been reading webcomics to establish his cred. That really shouldn’t be necessary; if you’ve got a good point nobody’s gonna care about your interweb pedigree.

The second half of his post explains that Jeff Rowland’s (surprising, unprecedented) influence on the creation of SOAP proves that webcomics aren’t a wildcard (a surprising, unpredictable factor) in the comic media.


McCloud’s article didn’t say anything that interesting or inflammatory; he never says that webcomics are small or lack influence as Colin implies. McCloud simply says they’re expanding and mutating in many unpredictable ways, making them a wildcard. That seems fairly obvious to anyone with eyes and an internet connection. All Colin does is provide evidence supporting McCloud’s (ridiculously obvious) point while simultaneously bitching him out for no apparent reason.


The dichotomy between “webcomics are a wildcard” and “webcomics are an artform” is silly. “Wildcard” vs “artform”? Did either person have anything more concrete to say?

If you’re familiar with The Innovator’s Dilemma, you can quickly identify the web as a disruptive technology. Comics creators who put their work there are taking advantage of the disruption. Comics creators who do not are likely destined to be put out of business over time.

Print is neither dead nor dying, but without the marketing power of this new technology behind it, print becomes irrelevant (at least the print of companies and individuals who fail to use the web.)

I suppose we could say that webcomics are a wildcard, in that they ride the disruption caused by the rise of the web. We can also argue that some webcomics (those that exploit artistic tools only available on the web, like infinite canvas, image-map hyperlinking, and animation) are a new artform. But there is no reason whatsoever to force an either-or distinction between art styles and market forces.

>>I don’t think your suggestion is directed towards the right person, Bup.
It wasn’t really meant to cause anyone to begin a census. I was trying to point out that McCloud often speaks authoritatively, then when asked for specifics hems and haws, even when the question is very well defined.

Here’s a crazy-assed thought, Bup:

Maybe, when he was asked the question, he didn’t know how many were earning money from their webcomic. The reasons could be multitude, but if I were to guess, I’d say he didn’t know because no one makes it a habit of calling him up.

“Hello, Scott?”


“I sold enough t-shirts today to make rent”

“Excellent! I’ll add you to the list.”

And if I had to define all (English language) comics, I’d define them as permanent fixture… to enthusiasts and no one else.

What the hell is bad about being a Wild Card?

Absolutely nothin’, brother!

By the way, you know that Comedy Central picked up Futurama for 13 more episodes right? I don’t see how you coulda missed it, but you haven’t mentioned it in OC so who knows.

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