Comics War- Whose Side Are You On?

So in the comments section of my last post, an interesting point was raised. Some web cartoonists can take an “us vs. them” mentality towards mainstream comics, proclaiming we are the future and that the comics industry as it stands right now is due for a major change. I find myself in this very camp, which is why the point came up. That got me thinking.

I’m not asking if the above is true or not, we can all argue that until our typing fingers are sore and bleeding and nothing will change today, what I’m asking is if this question is getting us anywhere?

How this came up, was DJ Coffman attended the Clickwheel panel at San Diego where part of my pro-digital comics argument was storage. Basically my point was having a huge collection of comics around my house was a pain (I happen to honestly believe that) and that digital comics solve that problem. Thing is, I worded it in a holier than thou, “Why would you waste all that space on silly books” kind of way. Needless to say, this was off-putting to a lot of the more traditional comic fans in attendance and some left.


I guess my point is, that I think a lot of us agree that comics need changing, badly. Do I think webcomics are going to be a big part of that change? You betcha. However, do I think mainstream comics are going to go away? Nope. Not to pass off DJ’s point as my own, but what do we, as webcartoonists, gain by pissing off mainstream comics institutions and fans? Answer: ZILCH. We may believe (and prove daily) that the comics audience can be expanded beyond the Marvel/DC/newspapaer strip fan, but that doesn’t mean we need those fans to go away to do just that. We just need to show them, and everyone else, that we’re bringing it, and tell them about it without getting into that “us vs them” mentality.

Webcomics is out to make it’s mark on the industry, and is doing so in great strides. Maybe one day the direct market will crumble or change radically, but in the meantime, it’s likely in our best interests to all just get along and make the best comics we can, medium be damned. If certain segments of comics fandom turn up their noses at what we do, we won’t win them over by condescending to them, and if you don’t want or need that audience, well, then you shouldn’t even worry about what they think.

Personally, I’m going to try and do better at this.




  1. Off topic note I added handy links to Digg and other social websites. If you think a Comixpedia post is deserving of wider attention please use those to let others know. Mostly to test the new buttons out I "dugg" this story – it's over at at

    (Unfortunately Digg has no good topic for comics so I wound up choosing "celebrity" under Entertainment…)Â



    Xaviar Xerexes

    Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Gnaw.

  2. This is just based on observation, but I don't find print comics diminishing. But I think it's fair to say there are changes happening. Graphic Novels and Trade Paperbacks show no sign of slowing down. For the first time, I noticed non-comic print companies (Bantam, Del Ray, Ace) lined up at the San Diego Comic Con making a presence for themselves. Barns & Nobles and Borders have hefty sections of graphic novels and manga – now categorically separated.

    And that excites the hell outta me. Is it possible that Eisner's dream of lit-comics is finally becoming a reality?

    Webcomics are great; it seems that they really benefit the army of talented strip cartoonists out there who would never get in the door of the syndicates. And the web makes a great stomping ground for long form artists to iron out their work – even if it's not the ideal method of delivery for something that would read much better in a graphic novel.

    It's my opinion that print and web comics are apples and oranges. They service two totally different sets of needs. They are both great, and they can often host the same work, but they're simply different.

    And of course, there will always be pamphlet saddle stitched books, but that format's always been more suitable for children – part of the reason comics got the stigma of only being for children. 20 pages are perfect for a young, short attention span. It's more suitable than the web, as many young kids shouldn't be here. (yeah, that's an opinion full of worms) Pamphlet comics will languish as long as kids have other fads or flashy, cheaper alternatives. Adults who collect these comics are really just holding on to some of their childhood – nothing wrong with that -but that group is also shrinking.

    The opposite is true of graphic novels. Adults have longer attention spans, and can afford the $15. Graphic Novels often contain more adult themes than pamphlet comics. And I hypothesize that as adults become lazier and more illiterate, they'll find comics of all sorts more appealing than a wordy novel. I don't blame them, they live in a world where they need to micromanage their time between work, family, and everything else. I coun't myself in that group – I've probably read more graphic novels than actual books in the last 10 years.

    OK, that should be enough bloated opinions to float for a while.

    Steve "Fabricari" Harrison

  3. I'd like to think that maybe those monthlies could be brought to the kiddies via thier most used form of entertainment- their computers.

    And let's hope the graphic novel sales in book stores just keep going up, becasue that will get more book publishers in the game, and I think having more publishers and more distributors invloved in the biz could be very healthy for everyone. Â

    Tim Demeter does a buch of neato stuff.

    Reckless Life

  4. "I think a lot of us agree that comics need changing, badly."

    To what goal? A comic in every pot? Watercooler discussions over the latest appearance of Dr. Madblood? Granny dressing up like Powergirl? Universal love of the comics as we love them? It'll never happen.  Any discussions held about comics/ webcomics are held within this context:

    1- It's by geeks for other geeks. The same way BET is for suburban white kids. If you don't fit within that demographic, the material wont be written for you to understand/ enjoy, you'll probably think it's retarded anyway.

    (EDIT) 2- Geek culture ("Fandom", if you'd like) is the idoltry/ worship of consumer products. Spidey is a product to be sold, Star Wars is, even Maus. Geeks are to be sold to. Their entire personal identity is based around comsumer products. Hollywood descended upon ComicCon because they realized that there was a huge collection of people who'd buy what they had to sell and would be grateful for the opportunity to give them money.

    3- Geeks are fiercly "brand" devoted. So it's not that the X-men crowd wont read a webcomic. It's that they wont read a webcomic that's NOT like their favorites. Not to say there isn't overlap, but geeks tend to stay within their own clubs and see them as superior to others. This is and always has been an aspect of fandom and will never be gotten rid of.Â

    The "Us VS Them" mentality will always be there. Be it "art vs hobby" or "DC vs Marvel". And since it's for geeks, the simple act of stating something as honest and non-insulting as "I dont like Comic X/ This aspect of comics" WILL piss off someone.

    Tim, unless you spent your entire time politicking and telling people what they wanted to hear, you were bound to piss off someone within ear-shot. Some folks are really good at lobbying for their cause, and some are just a little too honest. You chose to voice your views honesty (I say it's because you're a creator first and foremost) and got flamed for it. Thus is the way of the geek.

    My advice Tim: No saleman is honest. If they were, they wouldn't sell anything. When you shill for Clickwheel or even Graphic Smash, you should keep this in mind: You are telling people that they and their choices are superior to everyone else's, and buying what you have to sell will show that off even more.

  5. Aren't you describing the fan base for direct market serialized superhero comic books? Isn't that a declining market (in terms of absolute numbers)?

    Comics is already much broader than that shrinking group – there's newspaper comics, indy comics and… webcomics all of which are read by many people who never read comic books.  I appreciate D.J.'s point not to dismiss that crowd – despite shrinking in size it's still a vocal and loyal customer base.

    When we talk about the future of comics, I talk about it like someone else might talk about the future of books – we want it to remain a viable medium both economically and artistically. I would never limit that vision to solely the economics and artistic choices of DC and Marvel though…


    Xaviar Xerexes

    Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Gnaw.

  6. I'm describing all geeks everywhere. From Star Trek fans to indy band fanatics. All of these groups hold an extreme attention / obsession to a consumer product as the basis of their lifestyles. The average geek is no different from Paris Hilton.Â

  7. I'm not convinced that geeks present any problem for the medium. The problem lies with the casual reader. Comics lost their casual readers when kids stopped picking up comics at the grocery stores while Mom stood in the check-out line. When my four year old son is faced with the choice of playing an interactive spongebob game on the computer or reading a sponge bob comic, paper or web, there's no contest. Let's not fool ourselves. Comics filled a niche for kids that was later filled with games.

    However, there is a new kind of casual reader. It's the adult working in an office reading webcomics between tasks, and it's the adult buying graphic novels to take on an air plane or set next to the night stand.Â

    Even though the 5 years someone collected comics as a kid felt like an eternity with those never ending summers, most people will be adults far longer than they were children. Sounds absurd, I know, but the casual comic reading adult is going to spend a whole lot more money on graphic novels than a fad obsessed kid who will eventually burn out on his/her hobby.

    The collection geeks that you worry so much about are really just a loud minority of who should and could be buying and reading comics. Aside from those of us who create them, I think most readers of webcomics would consider themselves mild mannered readers – hardly obsessed.

    OK, I'm gonna stop, I keep deleting major tangents. :)Â

    Steve "Fabricari" Harrison

  8. As far as creators go, I don't think there's necessarily that big of a gap between webcomic creators and print comic creators. These cartoonists can move back and forth between the world of the web and print at ease. Plus, the material they create often bridges the web/print divide and lives in both worlds.

    For fans, however, there is a divide. Print comic fans generally have low regard for webcomics, and many assume webcomic creators simply aren't good enough for print. At one time, that was indeed often the case. The so-called "geeks" and "nerds" that make up the print audience just don't intersect with the web audience that much. Their demography is as different as their preferred modes of reading.  Both groups of readers are bright and have good imaginations, but there the similarity begins to end.

    What you can't argue with is the numbers, though. In print comics, most indy books turn 500 to 1500 units. (There are exceptions, but few and far between.) Webcomics vary in number of hits per day, but I would venture to say that they have more readers per week or day than print comics do in total. I don't know the average stats of the average webcomic, but we do sometimes hear the average daily range of popular webcomics, and they are measured in the tens of thousands.

    Were do I fall in this debate. I come from the world of print, but these days I'm firmly in the webcomic camp. I still read some print comics, though.

  9. I think Xerexes got it right… it's about the MEDIUM. I'm not necessarily just looking to not discount the mainstream comic book market readers, but It's always been funny to me, that YES, people are sick of "Super Heroes" in comic books, because that's what the comic market has been force fed all these years and those are the big money makers from those big companies in other media as well—- but over her in webcomic land, that same mentality transfers over a bit– Someone, please name me a SPIDERMAN or BATMAN or any iconic type Super Hero Webcomic that takes itself seriously and isn't a parody or satire of some sort? — I can't do it…. but that's what's funny– you hear people like Warren Ellis or Darth Manley say things like they don't want to see things like Super Heroes sent in, they want to see the FULL spectrum of ideas ,etc… but they're pretty much cutting that off right out the gate– no super hero comics— and so, none really exist, do they? I mean iconic types. It's a shame. Sometimes I almost feel like they're telling Super Heroes to go drink from the Super Hero only fountain. And that's sad to me… it's almost like forgetting where you came from. I'm always let down when I hear young creators hear the name Eisner and think it's just some award you can win.

    There's a new day coming for WEBCOMICS, its right around the corner. I'm thinking big.. like a revolution. I know some will scoff at that, but I think something BIG is coming–REAL big. Something that can empower creators independently, allow them to make money, and do what they love if they're good at it.

  10. Guess this article was a sucess in it got some thinking going. Prepare for my subsequent posts to be totally disapointing by contrast.

    WG- You're right I am a creator first, it does effect my disposition and I don't plan on changing that. Feel free to hold me to that.

    Tim Demeter does a buch of neato stuff.

    Reckless Life

  11. Who said all salesman were liars? SAM WALTON WASNT A LIAR! And now his legacy can be felt every 12 miles or so! hahahah

  12. Well, I never said anything about them being a detriment. Though you of all people know how I feel about fanboys. But as it stands, what I described is fandom in a nutshell. And these are the things that anyone seeking to sell comics has to remember.

  13. [quote=joeymanley]

    Warren Ellis or Darth Manley say things like they don't want to see things like Super Heroes sent in

    I have never said any such thing.



    Ok, you didn't say it in that press release, ut you have said it in a podcast interview and elsewhere that you're no fan of the super hero genre.– And I remember a conversation with you when you first launched Modern Tales and were taking submissions, before "Graphic Smash" about how you wanted to avoid "hero" stuff.

    Just saying.

  14. I did used to say that I was not a fan of superhero stuff. That’s a far cry from saying I don’t want there to be any superhero webcomics. I’m not required by law to be a fan of anything.

    Besides, that was in the past. I am always willing to admit when I’m wrong. I’m now a big fan of Invincible (I’m buying it in the big hardback collections, though), Brubaker’s current take on Captain America, Morrison’s Seven Soldiers and All-Star Superman, and Rick Remender’s Fear Agent, which isn’t technically a superhero story, but might as well be. I also kind of like that comic you did the back-up story for, with the superhero and supervillain who are unknowingly room-mates. I bought it because of your back-up story, by the way. You should tell the guy that.

    I never, ever, ever said that I didn’t want superheroes on Graphic Smash. The editor of Graphic Smash is on this thread. He started this thread. Surely if I’d have said such a thing to him, he’d remember. Because, you know, he, um, has been doing a superhero comic on Graphic Smash for years now.

    Thanks for giving me this opportunity to clear up your misunderstanding!

    [edit — after re-reading your post, I see that you were saying I said I didn’t want “hero” stuff on Modern Tales, not Graphic Smash. I don’t remember saying that, and do not believe that I did. The Modern Tales launch was highly publicized all over the Internet. If I said that, Google would surely find it. Let’s see if anybody can post links to these things I am said to have said.]


  15. no no– you said that to me via email, and I clearly remember it. — Hey, Im not saying you need to like hero comics or whatnot… Im glad you're coming around to things like Invincible, etc… it was only a couple months ago that you were in that podcast saying how you would avoid comic book shops and stuff– so I think that's where I get that you've always sort of segregated the fields a little, even though you've tried to bridge them recently– the thing with Ellis might help you on that regard.

    So, for the record, Joey Manley does not hate Super Heroes! Wee!Â

  16. Just for the record. That crack about comic book shops and porno shops was a joke. Maybe you’ve heard of them? Jokes?

    Now that we’ve cleared up the earth-shattering issue of whether or not Joey Manley hates superheroes, I’m going to bed.

    Thanks again.


  17. It didn't sound like a joke to me, it sounded lik you were being honest.

  18. Warren Ellis avoids talk about amateur superhero stories. They're not permitted on THE ENGINE, and he said they'd be unwelcome on Rocket Pirates. But as far as I can tell it's for practical reasons, not a prejudice.

    I think he doesn't want to take the chance of reading something and then subconsciously using it in one of his own stories. Or it could be that he's just sick of superheroes, having worked with them for years. Either way, it seems reasonable to me.



  19. Coming from the world of literary fiction, I see the world of comics following two paths in the future, and possibly in both directions at once.

    The first thing to realize is that all distinctions and 'sides' are arbitrary. Splitting people up into 'print' and 'web' creators is one way to look at it, but I think a more useful division is 'professional' and 'amateur' — where a 'pro' is someone who can and does get hired to make comics as their primary job, whether on the web or in print. These two camps are in contention, because of what is known as the Long Tail — the amateur creations that have only a small number of readers. When you add up the Long Tail readers, they outnumber the mainstream readers, simply because there are so many more amateur efforts than there are pro creations.

    Right now it's difficult for amateurs to make money, but that will not always be the case. In written fiction the Print On Demand business is allowing amateur authors to make guaranteed profit on every book sold, even if the number of books sold is in the single digits. Print on Demand comics are gaining in popularity, and this is a direct threat to the traditional comic publishers. The Long Tail for readers who want quirky amateur stories will outproduce professional works someday, and that could depress the pro print market. We may not have any animus towards the professional print world, but we could end up destroying them.

    The second path for comics to follow is in the other direction. As technology improves, it will be easier to read comics on portable devices. The 'comic book palm computer' doesn't exist yet — hell, the 'written novel palm computer' is only barely adequate and doesn't appeal to a lot of readers yet. But someday it will come, and professionals will start selling to it, including the ones who typically have serviced only the pro print world. Then there won't be any difference between 'print' and 'web' — it'll all be 'digital'. The question is whether hired pros can exist in such an environment, as the companies who typically hire them may not be able to subsist on the profits from easily-pirated electronic works. It may herald the golden age of independants and small collectives. We'll see.

    Eventually the distinctions will all blur. There will be pros for whom comics are their primary income, and amateurs for whom it's a hobby, and both camps will be able to release their creations simultaneously in both printed and electronic form. The dividing line will be quality — where the pros will win, as they have incentives like being able to afford to eat.  🙂


  20. Johnny Saturn is a serious webcomic that is not a parody or deconstruction that is web based. The art is detailed, realistic, and not amateurish. The story is serious, with symbolic and mythological overtones.Â

    I think it's sad that superheros are automatically ruled out as the "enemy." To me, that's like saying "blues is all played out, so no more blues songs," or love songs, or rock songs, or whatever. That kind of sentiment rules out people with different voices, and what they would bring through the genre.

    I don't know if Warris Ellis would allow my strip on Rocket Pirates. I respect Ellis work, especially Authority and Planetary, so I have to admit it would hurt a bit if he read my stuff and it didn't pass the "I dig it" test. But, it's his site, and you have to respect his individual desires for how he uses it. I won't find out, of course, because at this point I have no plans to try to take Johnny Saturn anywhere, at least till possibly after February.

    But, I digress.Â

    As usual, I follow what DJ says closely, but I would argue that there is a place for intelligent, well-drawn superhero work the web. Not many people attempt this, but there is a place. To my knowlege, it's just me with Johnny Saturn, and Scott Reed with Champions of a Lost Universe, and Todd Nauck's stuff. If there are others, I'll be glad to hear about them.



  21. [quote=scottstory]

    As usual, I follow what DJ says closely, but I would argue that there is a place for intelligent, well-drawn superhero work the web. Not many people attempt this, but there is a place. To my knowlege, it's just me with Johnny Saturn, and Scott Reed with Champions of a Lost Universe, and Todd Nauck's stuff. If there are others, I'll be glad to hear about them.[/quote]

    There are a whole lot more if you take out the 'well-drawn' criteria. Amateurs can dish out stories every bit as deep and engaging as professionals, if you're willing to overlook their untrained artistic talents. My own comic fits into the category of 'intelligent, new type of superhero comic', but I am, alas, no great artist. 🙂

  22. a). Comic book shops and superheroes are two separate topics — I get plenty of altcomics at The Zone in Louisville, Kentucky, and I get my Invincible hardcovers from Amazon. So there.

    b). Get over it already. Jesus Christ. I can’t believe I’ve let you drag me into defending my personal buying habits.

    c). Still a fan of (some of) your work!



  23. [quote=scottstory]I would argue that there is a place for intelligent, well-drawn superhero work the web. Not many people attempt this, but there is a place. To my knowlege, it's just me with Johnny Saturn, and Scott Reed with Champions of a Lost Universe, and Todd Nauck's stuff. If there are others, I'll be glad to hear about them.[/quote]

    I'm with you all the way on this one, Scott! You can add my superhero webcomic Shades to your list. It's most definitely not a parody, I believe it's intelligent (some may disagree but it's certainly meant to be!) and I have no problem in describing it as well-drawn since I'm merely the lowly scribe, not the artist.

    Anyone seriously looking to create a diverse range of webcomics in a particular "grouping" would do well to put strict limits on the number of gag-strips, elf-centric fantasies, anthropomorphic fairy tales and slice-of-life commentaries. Nothing wrong with any of those in themselves of course, but – for anyone who has looked at the range of comics available on the web – it's clear that those are the genres of which there is an over-supply. Serious superhero titles are few and far between and should be encouraged by anyone who believes in diversity.

    But that'll be the day, eh?

    Broken Voice Comics
    Because comics are not just for kids

Comments are closed.