Monday, November 30, 2009

How to Get Into Webcomics - Part 1

Welcome to part one of my proposed three part series on webcomics from the fan end of things. You, the readers or potential readers of the genre, have an unfortunate scenario. You are most likely thrust headfirst into the wide sea of webcomics with little direction or information. With no map or general sense of direction you can miss out on rescue. So that is why I am here, partially to give you pointers on where to go for a good start in the genre, how to expand what you read and what to do afterwards. This week we will focus on you getting your footing, or your island but either way, lets drop the metaphors.

Nobody starts out with the same webcomic knowledge base or from the same exact point. There are too many webcomics you can start reading and heck, even if you start reading the same one that 500 other people do you can still have a different experience with it based on when you start reading or who you know that is also reading it.

I myself started out with Dominic Deegan and VG Cats which a friend linked me to. Neither of the comics were perfect but I loved that ability to discuss the comics with my friend and we made inside references to it. He read a few other comics I never got into and I started exploring more and more comics until I reached my current point. Along the way I dropped Dominic Deegan because I stopped enjoying it and VG Cats stayed because it rarely updated but it was decent enough when it did. The fact that I was also a forum member on VG Cats helped me to keep reading (but the forums have mostly trended away from reading the comic to become a separate entity which no longer focuses on the comic). Still, these two webcomics set me on my way by exploring what they linked.

Finding your own path is the most important thing because nothing sets off a potential webcomic fan like a failing webcomic. The ideal webcomic to start with is a middle aged webcomic. The creator is dedicated enough that it will most likely not end, the community is small enough to make a mark and you can feel free to be yourself without worrying about people being jerks. It is honestly more important than it sounds because a majority of trolls seem to be those people who started around trolls (people who make others angry for personal enjoyment). Another benefit of webcomics of this size is that they are aware of other webcomics. They will link to them and help you to build your own list. They will form groups and help each other become accessible at conventions and other areas. While you grow you are helping the author grow.

If you go with a big or small webcomic you face threats. If the comic is too big or too small, the ego is a threat. Authors may not update, they may decide to start other projects or they may just go and rest on their laurels. See VG Cats, Perry Bible Fellowship or one of the thousands of webcomics that are under 20 pages long with updated that are months behind schedule. These other comics often have dangerous forums for you as well. The small ones may be dead or filled with bots (which I can attest to - I had more advertising robots on my old forum than posts). The big forums can be harsh landscapes full of those “sage” posters with tens of thousands of posts where the slightest mistake causes you to fall under attack. Monetary dangers, pledge drives and such can also befall these comics killing them. If the comic starts putting out more news updates asking for money than new comics, you have a problem. If the artist makes more t-shirts than pages, you have a problem. Start with a medium webcomic.

However if you want something you can just read, that is fine. These comics are community links and community is what makes webcomics work. These are not the ivory castle of the print comics. These people are fine getting down and dirty. I will discuss community in the next section but here is my list of starter webcomics.

The List:
Nedroid - simple, random comedy
Dead Winter - zombie horror comedy
Unwinder's Tall Comics - Internet culture critique comedy
MS Paint Adventures - choose your own adventure parody
Gunnerkrigg Court - smart fantasy adventure
Allan - autobiographical webcomic

The List consists of webcomics with good communities to try, where you can begin your webcomic reading campaign.

The following list consist of good non-community webcomics.

The Strictly Reading List:
Penny Arcade - The Main Gaming Webcomic
The Adventures of Dr. McNinja - action adventure comic
Scary Go Round/ Bad Machinery - adventure comic
VG Cats - rarely updating gaming webcomic

These comics are not bad but I am simply less familiar with the communities or they are bigger communities. They are still great to read though.

When you have your webcomic list though, what can you do when you want to find more comics you enjoy, how can you reciprocate your appreciation and where will you go. Come back next Tuesday for part 2.


Tom said...

I like your "The List". I would add to it Cowbirds In Love and Buttersafe. They both fit the medium-sized category with fans and authors willing to talk to the "small people".

Unicellular Comics

Koltreg said...

I am not familiar with them like I said though so I don't want to vouch.