Hey, you know whose work I really dig? Shaenon Garrity¹. I have, at various times, pointed people to her own webcomics (access to which is summarized here) and her columns (similarly, here), one of which (at Comixology) has become far more regular of late and another of which (at The Comics Journal) was absent for a while in the wake of TCJ’s revamp². It’s the latter that I wanted to point you towards today.
In returning to her TCJ writing, Garrity is taking “webcomics” as her topic (a term and form looked down upon mightily in the past of TCJ, although given much more respect in the days of Dirk Deppey’s ¡Journalista!), and turns her initial commentary to something I’ve thought about in the past: preservation.
Namely, where do all those old webcomics go? I’ve mentioned previously how I will always keep certain webcomics in my personal bookmarks, hiatused or discontinued or abandoned as they may be, because just maybe they’ll be back someday, and I intend to be waiting for them. Yet how many early works just don’t exist any longer? For instance, I greatly admired Meredith Gran’s pre-Octopus Pie webcomic, Skirting Danger; don’t bother with that link, it’s parked. I’m pretty sure that Gran doesn’t think on her early works very often; this line of thought is endemic among every webcomicker — hell, every creative person of every stripe — that I know, that every piece of creative output older than [pick an interval] from today is complete shit and nobody should ever have to suffer through it.
Imagine if Picasso had felt that way as he transitioned from one style to another. Hell, van Gogh’s CSI (complete shit interval) could sometimes be measured in hours, but dang those canvases were expensive, and those paints, and Theo could always be counted on to store a few paintings at his place so it wasn’t necessarily his first impulse to burn them. But when purging the work requires no real effort (drive crashes and/or expired domains just take enough doing nothing to occur), we are in danger of losing things that we may value more in future than at present.
I think part of the reason that I own so much original art (for instance, I own pretty much all of this storyline, plus a binder full of S*P and Super Stupor panels, more Goats originals than I can count, plus OC, Dr McNinja, Skin Horse, and a dozen more) is that it spurs in me a protective instinct. Just spread it out around the world whispers the SysAdmin voice in the back of my head, so that a disaster can’t claim all of it. When I first started collecting animation art, my gallery dealer told me she’d only sell the really good stuff to people that understood they had to preserve it for the future, 1/24th of a second at a time.
Creators, you might not think all of your work is worth preserving. You might not have thought of preservation at all (in which case, you probably ought to, if only from a keeping backups perspective until you get that next book made), or you might work purely digitally, such that there is no physical artifact to preserve. Just … think about it, okay? Anybody wants to talk to me at a show about keeping an extra thumb drive of art in a safe deposit box for them, I’m happy to have that conversation. Let’s just not let work be lost because we never considered the possibility.
¹ Radness Queen of all Environs West of the Rocky Mountains. Also, happy birthday yesterday, Shaenon!
² A revamp which, I’m sad to say, appears to have left her cartoon dissections of the ongoing Cave of False Consciousness rants from last year entirely evaporated into the aether. Nada, zilch, and they were really funny, too.