The webcomics blog about webcomics

So, Uh…Can I Have My Money Back?

Since last week’s column, I’ve been thinking more about trying to figure out what’s going on with this print edition thing–I recently found that, to my surprise, I was actually kind of ambivalent about the recent created-for-print version of a webcomic that I generally enjoy. It’s actually one of the few I read regularly, and I was kind of expecting to really like the collection in question. When I didn’t, I tried to figure out why–particularly given how much I generally like print, and also what happened the last time I asked this question.

Hence the experiment: while you might be able to figure who’s who by the end of the piece, for the purposes of this column, let’s say there’s Webcomic A, Webcomic B, and Webcomic C—but I’m going to leave out any details which would make it immediately obvious which is which. They all update regularly; A is published daily, new strips for B appear once per week, and C is on a MWF schedule. Everyone is excellent about holding to each respective publication schedule; nobody updates late.

Both A and B have been around for a long while and are well established. Though C is new enough that I was surprised that Webcomic Artist C already had a collection out (but I bought it anyway in part for comparison) it’s by someone who knows webcomics and knows the industry well and is not at all new to this stuff. Webcomics A and C have regular characters, while Webcomic B instead has a regular kind of overarching theme to each strip. Webcomic A is sort of sequential, in that reading the archives helps but isn’t totally always necessary to enjoy the new comic. Webcomic B is not sequential, you don’t need the archives to figure out what’s going on, but it’s impressive when you read a bunch of the strips as a group. Webcomic C is totally sequential, in that if you’re not reading the archives you’ll miss a bunch of narrative.

Webcomics A and B are published online in color, Webcomic C is not. All three are published in print in black and white, and though they’re all different sizes (A is the largest, at 8 1/2 inches tall x 7 wide, and C the smallest, at 5 x 7) it’s basically the same zine-style set up: cardstock covers (with color, in the cases of A and C), catchy cover designs, though A doesn’t have any identifying details (however, I doubt that it’s oversight on the part of Webcomics Artist A, I suspect there’s a reason for this omission) and, like C, both the inside front and back covers are blank. Only B really takes advantage of those inside covers.

A is 28 pages long, with 3 strips per page, and sells for five bucks. B is 40 pages, with one full strip over 2 pages (front and back), and sells for $4. C is 19 pages (the last page is bio and book information) and is also $5. None of these collections include new work; they’re all reprints of work available elsewhere. Also, none of these collections have bonus print-exclusive material, so far as I can tell.

I bought all three books—not all three at the same time–as kind of an experiment. It’s weird, because Webcomic B I’ve grown to like as much online as I do in print (though, initially, I preferred the print version), and I don’t yet have a preference either way for Webcomic C since the online and print versions feel so similar to me. But Webcomic A, in this print form, feels like something is missing. Compositionally, something is—it’s written for a different set of guidelines from how the webcomic normally appears. In both the regular form and this new form, Webcomic A is frought with references to technology and computery-type-stuff, and for me reading that on a computer screen seems like a natural place. Maybe it was just too much of a disconnect to see it in another form—print vs. online—or it didn’t translate as well to black-and-white as I’d hoped.

So, in short my questions to y’all are as follows: When you are parting with your cash for a print version of a webcomic, what criteria make or break that deal for you as a reader? (Or do you not buy them because, well, they’re webcomics…?) And have you had similar reading experiences or is my experience, at least in this case, kind of an anomaly?

My criteria is simpler than that actually: Do I like it? Do I want to help the artist out? Would it be something I’d show my luddite friends who won’t go anywhere near a computer, let alone read the latest LICD arc?

Besides, I’d buy the Pooch Cafe collection just as soon as the next SGR collection even if for the SGR book I need to call my bank, have them approve my request to make a purchase through PayPal and then wait for about 2 months for the thing to make the trip across the Atlantic.

I purchase books to help out the artist… although extra bonus material is always a good thing.

Just a quick question: why so cryptic with your opinions on the creators in question? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with honestly expressing yourself. ‘Tis a blog, after all.

Generally, yes–I very much agree with the “help the artist” purchase, but I still want it to be of good quality.

As for being cryptic, I was trying to see if evaluating these books as objectively as possible might yield some explanation as to why this book I really expected to like didn’t quite live up–in my opinion–to my expectations.

However, Webcomic A I enjoy…as long as it is in color and online. I think it loses something essential in the print form I read which made it less effective for me as a reader. Webcomic B I’m smitten with in both forms, though I skew toward preferring it in print. Webcomic C is tough in this case since online and print are basically identical. I like it, but I prefer it online because online’s free. But I like it; it’s not one of my favorites (again, it’s still new), but it could be once there’s a fuller archive.

(But that’s not so exciting, no?)

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