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The Final Word On Creator/Audience Boundaries?

Just about one year after producing the final word on helpless women in superhero comics, Randy Milholland tops himself with the definitive comment on how creators and audiences interact. Check out the looks of shock, horror, and sadness in that silent catgirl panel when told that they, the consumers of free entertainment, don’t own it. Okay, countdown to the debate on authorial intent begins … now!

  • Consensus among the former ADSDAQ-running webcomic creators I’ve spoken to is that it’s not just webcomics, it’s the ad network circling the wagons and cutting back clients blindly in these uncertain economic times. Seems to me that a dictat like “no comics” would block high-value advertisers from some highly valuable demographics, but as I don’t run an ad network, I’m not aware of the full decision-making process that’s going on. If anybody from ADSDAQ would care to contact us with their side of the story, we’d love to hear from you.
  • Along the same lines, there was an interesting comment in our previous ADSDAQ story regarding hidden keywords in the site code for The Book of Biff. Biff creator Chris Hallbeck was unaware of the situation and was upset to find hidden spam links in his site, the result of a WordPress hacking. Lesson to be drawn from all of this: the ComicPress template is great, but the underlying WordPress structure isn’t bulletproof and there are bad people out there. Make sure you’re patched up, and take a look through your source code every once in a while for stray references to boner pills.
  • New webcomicker meme: draw yourself with Zac Efron! So far, I enjoy Nedroid’s take on Efron the best, because he’s dreamy. Nedriod, I mean; to be honest, I’m not sure who Zac Efron is. I also suspect I’m happier that way.

Confidential to Mr Personality: My cash offer for that Super Stupor original stands. You know where to find me.

Authorial intent doesn’t factor into this particular debate, really. Entitlement issues don’t touch on what an author might or might not have intended — they touch on a reader asserting their interpretation is the controlling one.

Jason, in the strip, is of course right. Creators are not beholden to their readers. Reader expectation isn’t a contract and creators can ignore it. They’ll do what they want to do, when they want to do it. But that doesn’t stop a reader from interpreting the work however he or she pleases. If someone gets stuff out of a given work the creator didn’t intend, power to them.

It’s when they start expecting the creator to toe the line on their interpretation that the trouble begins.

Oh, and the other side of the argument: the catgirl, in the last panel, is exercising the ultimate right of any reader or indeed any fandom. If a creator goes too far in subverting expectations, the readership retains the right to stop reading. Which, in some cases, is what the creator wants more than anything, mind.

Specifically, in cases when the readership has gone on a cannibalistic rampage through a comic convention.

And yeah, readers are free to leave, and they’re free to complain about leaving (though not necessarily on the webcomic’s forum, but that’s a different can of worms). Having said that, I expect webcomic artists tired of constant fan complaints from a vocal minority to save the fifteenth panel of that comic and post it where necessary.

^complain about the *comic* they’re leaving.

^ Complain about the *comic* they’re leaving. Sorry.

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