Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Views on Two Views on Webcomics

Over the past few weeks I picked up and devoured How To Make Webcomics. I ended up also reading the much shorter State of the Webcomic Union by Jeph Jacques of QC. As you'd expect when reading two works assessing similar ground, I agree and disagree with points made by both sides. For the most part I agree with Jacques' apparent philosophy, but I also find myself agreeing with many of the points made by the team behind How To Make Webcomics. Both parties hold the experience and the success to make a point. I should probably give How To Make Webcomics a more complete review, and heck, I'll do that next week but for now you guys get this.

Jacques comes off as a much more open figure for the webcomics world. His review talks not about building a community around your comic of fans but building the community with the fans. Its like building a house for Habitat for Humanity as opposed to building a house to live in with your friends. Both have their values but as it stands, I'd rather be with the people I am doing the comic for than separating myself from them.

Jacques also seems to hold a better handle on the idea behind making a profit from your webcomics. Where How To team focuses on what comes off as a formula, Jacques confesses that there truly is no real format. He doesn't remark on marketing much except for the benefit of TopatoCo (which ironically works as the store for two of the people who wrote How To Make Webcomics).

I also agree that the community of webcomic fans has changed. While I never paid attention to blogs until I got my own, there do seem to be relatively few webcomic blogs or at least few notable ones. The last one I was aware of was Your Webcomic Is Bad And You Should Feel Bad which seems to have been replaced by the Bad Webcomic Wiki. (side note: apparently Your Webcomic Is Bad And You Should Feel Bad has also been deleted from Blogger) The name literally says it all, it is a wiki on bad webcomics. On the bright side it does offer positives and the format is generally cleaner than the old tirades on comics of the previous site. Trolls also seem to have died down though since the average webcomic targeted either ignores it or they erupt in a flamewar, luckily the secondary effect is much less likely.

The community of webcomic readers seem to generally be more willing to support their creators, partially because of aging which seems silly but a lot of the original webcomic readers were teenagers. Teenagers often have trouble spending money. As the age though, they are more likely to support and Jacques seems to recognize the trend (though not outwardly stating it).

The community of webcomic creators was also almost fully left out of How To Make Webcomics. Jacques recognizes the need for them. Kate Beaton for example rapidly shot to fame because of the connections (and because the comic was very good). The How To team seems to hold the general opinion that you mostly ignore other comics which can be a tragic mistake. This has led to a mentality of isolation where some confused comic artist are lead to believe that if you start teaming up or linking other people, you are losing views when in fact, you normally and often gain more.

Honestly the only points I disagree with Jacques on are the hesitance to use the term webcomic and the jab at webcomic bloggers. Both points have some validity though The term webcomic holds the negative (though less so than normal) stereotype of the word comic cooped with the negative connotations of the word web. Comic fans use the word graphic novel for a reason though.

As for the jab at webcomics bloggers, well ... as ironic as it may be, I agree that there's no real value in writing webcomics reviews other than my ego, as Scott Smith pointed out. Reviews seem to offer little to nothing of value to most readers, except for the one thing Jacques seems to forget: reviews can send readers to new webcomics they might not otherwise discover. The problem is that to my knowledge there are no major webcomic blogs with wide readerships. There are just blogs like mine that are read by small pools of people. Approximately ten people, in my case. If I gave up though, I'd do the opposite of what I need to do - practice my critical-analytical thinking and writing skills.. I am a better writer I was before and as long as you are supportive, there is nothing wrong with writing about webcomics.

All in all Jeph Jacques has made some really valid points on the webcomic industry. Whether it is the time lapse, the alternate perspective or the abbreviated writing at this time I believe he may have one of the better guides for making webcomics out there. Not to say that How To Make Webcomics does not have it's points but I will cover those next week when I review the book.

1 comment:

James said...

Reviews might not be of direct, immediate benefit to readers, but (and this is a seriously massive but*) they do encourage and promote start-up webcomics.

That early experience by a new author of finding that someone, somewhere who cares enough to write about them, might be just enough for them to persevere. Those extra few unique hits might encourage a few more comics. The result: they keep going, and maybe, eventually, the comic gets a following and the great mass of readers become aware of a great webcomic. That's when reader benefit from reviews.

In essence, reviews are part of a supportive community, and who benefits when creators are supported? The consumers!



*I had to work hard not to make a crude joke there : )