There’s a word that’s been slipping from more and more reader and creator lips lately when it comes to webcomics. An "S" word.
To my mild surprise, it isn’t "suck".
Or even some good ones like "stellar", "slick", "silly", "sausages", "snuffaluffagus", "sequential", or that frisky fan favorite, "sex".
With the prototypal birth of micropayments and the growing number of subscription-based webcomics and e-comics services, the word that’s most been giving lips the slip is that verbal finger flip, the howling wolf-cry of "Sellout!"
We’ve actually discussed this here before, but it seems that few people were listening. With the coming of BitPass and Modern Tales‘ latest subscription arm (Graphic Smash), once again we are hearing voices raised in anger, in revolt against this "selling out" of artists all over the webcomics spectrum. They cry betrayal, they scream greed, they rant about a lack of respect for the readers and fans.
Unfortunately, people seem to have forgotten what the hell "selling out" actually MEANS. It means someone who started with a certain vision has gone and sacrificed/changed said vision in order to get more market approval/returns. It means that someone who explicitly stated a certain belief or who openly followed a specific cause has betrayed it completely. Nowhere in the definition is there any mention of a person who starts out drawing who then decides they want to try to make an honest living from it.
If, say, the creator in question had started their "glorious art career" with incredible visions that were adored and worshipped by the art community, and THEN said creator completely turned against their vision with a future project that is NOTHING like said original vision, and said new project clearly and transparently was designed SOLELY to take advantage of a certain market demand? THEN I’d consider coining them a sellout.
However, someone who’s trying to claw their way up to pro status from the bottom floor does NOT qualify, because they weren’t offering the pretense of being paragons of virtue to begin with. If someone never explicitly stated in the first place that they’re against making money with their art, they CAN’T rightfully be called a sellout.
Rather than cry foul when a creator switches from free to a pay-comic, you should be thankful that you got so much gratis "sample material" in the first place â€“ be grateful that you weren’t being charged from the get-go. And if you really ARE serious when you say "I LOVE your comic, dude!" you should be willing to back that statement up with more than petty excuses when the creator asks for a mere pittance in return for their quality entertainment. Seriously, does it not sound hypocritical when someone says, "Dude, your comic is SOOO good! It’s the first thing I read every day! I think you’re the best! But wait â€“ I canâ€™t believe that you’re suddenly asking me to PAY you a few bucks a year for this now! I’m really disappointed in you and I’m gonna stop reading… you suck!"?
No one who has the luxury time of being able to read webcomics is SO poor that they can’t spare a few dollars a year. If you can afford to buy chips and soda to snack on while reading, if you can afford to spend god-knows how much on Magic: The Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, if you can plop down money to buy cigarettes or beer or that ticket to go see the Maple Leafs or Britney Spears or Britney Spears wearing a Maple Leafs jersey… then you can afford to invest a few bucks to help your favorite artist buy new pencils and stuff so he can keep entertaining you.
An interesting tidbit: most who are properly accused of being sellouts are those who accuse others of selling out while saying that they‘d never sell out, and then who turn around and do so as soon as they are presented with a similar opportunity.
Calling someone a "sellout" just ’cause they are trying to survive in a thankless world only proves even more as to how THANK-LESS the world, and all of its whining selfish inhabitants, can be.