The webcomics blog about webcomics

Strange Day

My brain’s all over the place today. It started when I saw that my alma mater had announced one of the modern world’s greatest engineers, Dean Kamen, as commencement speaker. It’s hard to imagine a better match, and the video¹ of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s president making the announcement was clever and funny. A few hours later, an announcement was made that the same man (who had shepherded the Rose-Hulman back from a couple of directionless years) had collapsed and died.

I never met President Matt Branam, but he did impressive things in the various stages of his career and had an open-door, first-name basis with the student body. I have no doubt he was as indispensable to the current students of Rose-Hulman as President Sam Hulbert was when I studied there. My best wishes to President Branam’s family and friends.

Briefly, then, as my heart’s not entirely in it:

  • MoCCA Festival returns to the Lexington Armory next weekend, with lots of webcomics people exhibiting and/or panelling.
  • I think a lot of us think that Cucumber Quest was one of the most impressive webcomic debuts of the past year, and not creator Gigi DG is ready to print up the first two chapters. Requisite Kickstarter over here, off to a damn good start².
  • Scott Kurtz is back from the Far Antipodes and dropping some opinion about Mark Waid’s announcement of a new webcomics-model³ portal called Thrillbent. Kurtz thinks that the entry of a big-name print-comics-books creator like Waid into webcomics offers the possibility of a threat to existing webcomickers if other big names follow. I’m not so sure; Kurtz follows print comics much closer than a lot of us, I suspect — I recognize Waid’s name from Kingdom Come, but couldn’t have told you what else he’d worked on in the past ten years — and may be overestimating the degree to which big name may act as a disruptor.

    The key question is, if they start making money/careers out of the webcomics model, are they doing so by cannibalizing the existing spend-on-webcomics audience, or will they be bringing along those that already follow them. To tie it to the last item, how many people that are itching to buy Cucumber Quest in print are eager to give Waid money for his webcomics offerings and vice versa? Right now, I suspect (but hard data from which to draw proper conclusions is years off) there will be some intermingling and peeling-off of audience members, but that for the most part the Venn Diagram of Mr Waid and Ms DG’s readers will hell of look like an eight. There will likely be a few especially broad-minded readers (and I think that Kurtz will be one) sitting in that narrow overlap in the middle. Ask me again in 2017 what’s going to happen in 2014.

¹ Since pulled.

² As of this writing, more than 100% of goal in the first few hours, and a month to go.

³ That is, give away content on the front end, monetize on the back end.

I was wondering if you were going to mention Mr. Waid’s adventure into the world of web comics. I had my attention drawn through his connection to the screenwriter/producer John Rodgers rather than his print work. The chronicle of his adventure has been pretty amusing from an avid webcomic reader’s standpoint because it seems like he is banging his head against issues that have been resolved for years by webcomic veterans.

I don’t know if I agree with Kurtz’s assertion that this might draw audiences away. From my perspective existing webcomic formats provide minute escapist excursions to be enjoyed while eating breakfast or taking a quickie break. Long form comics are more like reading a book for me, requiring time to sit down and process. It is unproductive to read a single page of a comic book, walk away, and come back later. You can’t appreciate the artwork or contextualize the plot line in 5 minute chunks the way that you can with the webcomic format. Webcomics have evolved to accommodate the internet attention span and I doubt that a web-based long form comic can compete that away. The beauty of webcomics is that each tiny offering holds a wealth of artistic merit while moving the story forward within the strictures of minimalist space that can be appreciated on a time scale commensurate with hectic schedules. I think today’s xkcd comic actually makes that point beautifully. But this is only my opinion of course and I don’t expect that everyone shares my viewpoint.

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