The Comixpedia End of 2006 Roundtable
Xerexes: Webcomics are comics. The same and yet different. Or are they? How would you describe the relationship between comics and webcomics at the end of 2006?
Milikin: I think the divide between print comics and webcomics has pretty much been gone for years. I'm sure there are still some vocal print and web purists out there, and artists who want to explore things that can only be done in books or on the web, but I think on the whole everybody takes as a given that both printed paper and web sites are here to stay.
I remember when we first launched Serializer, which included then as now Matt Feazel. Some readers knew Matt as the king of print minicomics. Others knew Matt as an altweekly newspaper cartoonist. And then we launched Serializer and readers started talking about him as a webcomic artist. So those types of oversimplified, limiting labels have really been fairly useless since at least 2002 if not much earlier. And I think some of the better books of 2006 reflect this. Like Scott McCloud's Making Comics, which talks about Herge, Moebius, Lewis Trondheim, Mike Krahulik, Jeffrey Rowland, and Dylan Meconis all on the same page. Or Ted Rall turning to artists like me, Ryan North, Dorothy Gambrell, and Richard Stevens for his third Attitude book. And then Rall, in his role in finding talent for United Media again turns to R Stevens for a syndicated newspaper strip.
So I think when you see so many artists just ignoring these narrow, artificial divisions between this type of comics and that type of comics, it just becomes more clear that those walls were never really there in the first place, other than in some people's heads.
Daku: I like to think there isn't any difference. To be honest, though, webcomics have come to be the new medium for independent comics. I don't think it will be long until all the minor comic shops simply either buy their way onto the net or try to do the Ka-Blam thing. The main difference though is just the age of the two mediums. Print and syndication have been around so long that they have dynasties while we pretty much have Penny Arcade and KeenSpot. Given another 5-10 years I don't think there will be any distinction between the two.
Russell: I don't even think it'll be that long: The continuing circulation drops in the newspaper industry are probably going to force a major syndicate evolution. And webcomics and the small press are just going to keep overlapping more and more. I was at Stumptown Comics Fest in Portland this year, and webcartoonists like Chris Baldwin and Jenn Manley Lee and the Pants Press crowd were cheek-by-jowl with Oni Press, Top Shelf and Adhouse Books -- and, for that matter, Dark Horse. There was no "webcartoonist ghetto."
Tyrrell: Ever since the first volume of Flight came out, I don't think there's been any real difference, other than where the material first appeared. You've got webcomics getting reprinted, print comics being repurposed for the web, and every permutation in between.
Draper Carlson: If I'm any kind of indication (I may not be), they're progressing in different tracks with different communities with only minimal overlap. I know I'll never read something like Dicebox until it's a nice thick book, because that's how I'm comfortable reading comics, in print.
Danner: The amount of overlap really varies with the kind of comic audience we're talking about. Clearly, there isn't a whole lot of overlap between online comics and superhero comics yet. But at the same time, I have a strong suspicion that most of the people who are reading manga online are also reading it offline.
Works like Dicebox are a whole other issue, though. It's true that there isn't much overlap between readers of thoughtful, literary comics in print, and readers of online comics yet, but that's due in large part to the fact that there aren't many people reading thoughtful literary comics online at all. First off, there just aren't very many of them. And second, even those of us who do read and enjoy them aren't convinced that it's the ideal presentation for them (though that's due more to the disruptive nature of serialization than any perceived inconvenience in reading works online).
All that said, I'm not sure how much that overlap matters. To me, blurring the line between webcomics and print comics isn't about getting print readers to start reading online comics. It's about getting your work out to readers any way you can. The fact that soon readers who only read print comics and readers who only read webcomics will all be reading many of the same comics is more a testament to the idea that comics are comics are comics than any amount of readers changing their reading habits. If we can both discuss Dicebox on equal footing, then it won't matter which of us read it online and which of us waited for the eventual print edition. In this sense, the line is growing increasingly blurry, as more and more comics are using both distribution methods.
Xerexes: Give me a bold prediction about where webcomics will be at the end of 2007.
Rouse-Deane: I think even more webcomics will venture into animation. I know some of them are dabbling in it at the moment. Also, even more so, webcomics will expand off the web and into print. So webcomics will become offline and animated. I think the next big milestone for a webcomic will be a TV series!
Pellaeon: Last year I predicted people would be jealous of Tim Buckley and start making their own animations. And it happened. First with Blamimation, then a test episode of a VG Cats series, and now with PvP going to Blind Ferret. I also predicted more books, and that happened too. I didn't foresee Penny Arcade going into video game development, but now that they have, look for others to follow suit (I'm thinking Ctrl+Alt+Del and VG Cats here).
I really like the prediction of a webcomic TV series. Stranger things have happened (I mean, who could have guessed Invader Zim?) and You Darn Kid already has a potential in. Animated series are hot again, with Family Guy coming back in a major way, the return of Futurama, and a lot of cable channels looking to start including some animation in their lineup (I'm thinking of The Amazing Screw-On Head here). Many webcomics already have strong followings and could translate well to animation. Also, I predict Platinum Studios and Drunk Duck will have a far bigger impact than any of us are giving them credit for.
Daku: You Damn Kid seems obvious and having a game will be the new fad like podcasts were this year. I also see more distribution in the form of getting webcomics on your phone/media device.
Tyrrell: In addition to You Damn Kid, I know of at least one webcomic that's on the verge of signing a development deal, with a fairly major star wanting to be involved in production and voice work; call it 50-50 that we see three or four others in a similar position by the end of 2007. I also wouldn't be surprised to find that Diesel Sweeties started to let the Public At Large in on the existence of this secret world we all play in, with all the good and bad that implies. And there's a 14% chance that in a year, all of webcomics will be controlled by Sky and Winter McCloud; if those girls decide to sieze control, the best and smartest thing we'll be able to do is surrender and swear undying loyalty to their regime.
Draper Carlson: It may not happen as soon as 2007, but I expect that there's going to be an economic readjustment. The webcomic books I've seen have been relatively high-priced (often due to the use of color) and hard to find in the usual outlets due to lack of distribution. As a result, they seem to be aimed only at existing readership. I'd like to see more economical packages more readily available to new readers. (Which means more professional marketing and promotion, too. Not that what's being done is unprofessional, but there's a lot of competition out there, so it needs to be done right.)
And on a selfish note, I hope one day to see a print collection of Raina Telgemeier's Smile.
Danner: Well, I don't think I'd be going out on a limb to predict that Johanna's going get her wish, regarding Smile. I'm looking forward to that myself, and Telgemeier certainly doesn't seem to be hurting for publisher's interested in her work. And whether we see Smile that soon or not, we're definitely going to see a steady increase in web-to-print books in the coming year.
And the reverse as well -- I'm particularly curious to see what role Warren Ellis' Rocket Pirates site is going to play in moving creators across that line. I definitely agree with Johanna's assessment of the coming (and necessary) economic readjustment, but I don't think it'll happen until we have considerably more web-to-print books available.
Something I do think we'll see in the coming year is greater cooperation between the various technical service providers. For instance, it would be very lovely if users of WCN could simply click a check box to activate an account with RyanNorth's OhNoRobot transcription and search service. There are a lot of services out there that are wonderful individually, but would be golden in combination.
Powell: In one year's time, webcomics will be on the moon. More seriously, I hope that any predictions we make now will later seem to have been overly shortsighted. If, in one year, webcomics aren't further along than our best conjecture of where they will be, I think that will be disappointing. The best advancements and improvements are the ones that catch us all by surprise. And especially since this is the Internet, I think its safe to say that radical changes can and will happen faster than we all expect.
Milikin: Bold Predictions for 2007? Webcomics will help bring peace to Iraq, cure cancer and AIDS, clothe and feed the poor, end bigotry, make dick jokes.
Russell: Joey Manley will make a close study of TypePad's user interface, and Webcomics Nation will introduce LiveJournal-style site templates allowing people to make sweeping changes in their design schemes at the touch of a button.
PvP's animation experiment (which I'm looking forward to watching) will turn out fairly well and make a huge initial splash. However -- and I hope I'm wrong about this -- dramatic revenue tapering will follow, because he's asking for a lot of money for six minutes of video and he's going to have to fight a never-ending war against piracy. Kurtz will also distribute episodes via iTunes by year's end.
Wednesday White will finally debut her long-promised webcomic.
The current self-employed stars of webcomics will start being referred to as "the webcomics mainstream."
Burns: Almost certainly webcomics will be on the web at the end of 2007.