The webcomics blog about webcomics

Slowest News Day Of The Year

Everybody’s on the way back from San Diego, or back and recovering, trying to get their work out the door tomorrow. I’ll point out the mini update from the weekend, and few things I found today to be of interest:

  • John Allison notes that today marks eight years of being his own boss. For those of you that require visual cues, that means that everything since Sipowicz showed up has been John working not for The Man, but for himself. Polite golf claps, everybody.
  • A few words of wisdom from Evan Dahm on the state of webcomicdom:

    Comics as a whole are in the process now of gaining that legitimacy, and it’s because of the people doing good work in that medium, more than any other reason. Superficial aspects like deciding to call them “graphic novels” instead of “comics” don’t help. Good work helps.

    Webcomics are … in some ways becoming the new “indie” comics, and replacing the niche filled by minicomics and zines, bit by bit. Because it is effectively free and easy to put this stuff online, it will naturally have a lower signal-to-noise ratio than print comics, and a lower percentage of good stuff — and I hope it is always that way.

    If you are making or aspire to make a webcomic, take your work seriously, be engaged in it, and believe in it. Do good work, and be consistently critical of it so you will keep improving. You have your reasons for choosing this particular means of distribution, so own it: don’t think of it as a shortcut or an excuse to do anything less than the best you can. [emphasis mine]

    I’m intrigued by the bit in bold, because I can read it several ways:

    1. Dahm likes the free-wheeling, anything-goes nature of indie comics and hopes it’s never lost
    2. Dahm figures the lower quality work is a side-effect of a constant influx of new creators, forcing established talents to keep upping their game
    3. Dahm thinks it’s easier to compete for scarce dollars when the competition isn’t very good; there are others that believe in this interpretation

    Since Dahm’s conclusion is for there to be more good webcomics, I’m leaning towards interpretation #2 for the bolded bit, but still — they all have their appeal, and it’s hard to argue with any position that says I should have more high-quality comics to read for free. So everybody get on that making more good webcomics for me, ‘kay?

  • Out of the violence that a terrorist¹ perpetrated in Oslo, one reader found comfort in a webcomic. No joke or snark here — well done, Mike and Jerry.

¹ Per the definition used by the State Department I learned in my days studying national security: Premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience. Feel free to also refer to the perpetrator as a psychotic, murdering goddamn disgrace to humanity, but I will not name him and provide the notoriety and platform that he apparently craves.

I read that quote as saying it’s pretty easy to put stuff online so a lot of crap gets on the same playing field as the quality stuff but actually publishing comics physically is a stumbling block that weeds out a lot of the crap.

What I think is sad is that a lot of people spend more time promoting their work than working on it and get popular simply because readers feel as though they are “connecting” rather than reading something that is quality. I guess time weeds them out, but a lot of really great stuff is languishing because of the popularity contest that a lot of webcomics imitate.

At the height of the 90s swing revival, Tower’s Pulse magazine interviewed three of the top band leaders. In the course of the interview, it came out that each band’s label had been holding up the others as competition that needed to be beaten. And, having admitted this to each other, the interviewees concluded that this was a ridiculous position — that their intent was not to battle for the single “swing music” slot in a CD collection, but rather to build a scene in which individual successes were collectively amplified. Low signal to noise is a sign of an actively growing culture, where newcomers might sharpen their skills on the audience drawn by the more experienced artists, contributing in turn the occasional new ideas that stave off the inward-looking staleness of a gated community.

While I can see where Interpretation 2 comes from, I see the quote as more of a reassurance, and thus a variation of Interpretation 1. In order for webcomics to have a similar signal-to-noise ratio as other media, some sort of quality control and/or barrier to entry would have to be imposed, which would result in some of the worst exploitations that corporatization brings. He’s ensuring readers that he’d never sell out webcomics’ soul to get his good webcomics.

It’s admittedly not the clearest-written post in the world…

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