Great Webcomic Minds Chat a Lot — A Session on Webcomic Awards

What happens when you put a half-dozen of webcomics' brightest and most vocal brains in a vegematic set on "inquisinate"?

Well, we put Chris Crosby, Joey Manley, Mark Mekkes, Chris Morrisson, BoxJam, and Scott McCloud in a chat room together with an inquisitive Damonk, to see what would happen. The result was a frothy milkshake of a chat interview that focused on awards for webcomics and their value or worth in the webcomics community.

If you're into grey matter milkshakes, or some cool, refreshing idea-sharing, than read on to see what these pureed brains had to say…

[Prelims]
damonk: Five more minutes, and I'm starting this puppy.
Chris Crosby: None of these problems would be happening if all of our communication was moon-based.
Mark Mekkes: It's not?
* joeymanley moons ChrisCrosby
damonk: Is that the same moon that crosby was offering Morrisson earlier?
damonk: Are you SURE you want to live there, Morrisson?
Chris Morrisson: I've had enough moon in my life so far.
damonk: Heehee!
damonk: Okay, you guys ready to go through with this?
Mark Mekkes: Sure.
Scott McCloud: Ready.
damonk: Joey, have you put your pants back up yet?
BoxJam: I am if Crosby says OK.
Chris Morrisson: I'm always ready to not shut up.
damonk: I don't want everyone distracted by your crater regions.
Chris Crosby: Joey hates Kurtz, apparently.
Joey Manley: I am not wearing pants. I have, however, settled my robe around me.
Chris Crosby: OK
damonk: Fair enough then.
Joey Manley: Kurtz and I have agreed to be each other's archnemeses.
Joey Manley: It's a friendly arrangement.
Chris Crosby: Good luck with that!

[Introductions and a Big First Question]
damonk: First off, the intro formality:
damonk: I'd like each and every one of you to chime in with a nice brief introduction — tell us who you are, what webcomic or business you are responsible for, how long you've been in the (web)comics 'business', and, finally, toss out the name of a webcomic that most recently caught your attentions. Mark, we'll start off with you, followed by Scott, Boxjam, Chris C., Joey, and finally, Chris M.

Mark Mekkes: Okay, I'm Mark Mekkes, I've been doing the comic Zortic for a little over three years.
Mark Mekkes: And, of course, I've been the chairman of the Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards for three years, too.
Scott McCloud: I'm Scott McCloud.
Scott McCloud: Um, long time print comics artist…
Scott McCloud: …nearly as long time webcomics artist.
damonk: Cool.
Scott McCloud: Don't know how well I can summarize it.
BoxJam: I'm BoxJam, been doing BoxJam's Doodle since April 99, and the webcomic that most recently caught my attention is Martin's Misdirection.
Chris Crosby: I'm Chris Crosby, cartoonist of SUPEROSITY and co-CEO and co-founder of Keenspot Entertainment.
Chris Crosby: I recently found a strip called EL GOONISH SHIVE that is nice.
damonk: And now our robed scalliwag, Joey?
Joey Manley: I'm Joey Manley, runner of numerous webcomics-themed websites, the most well-known of which is Modern Tales.
damonk: And finally, Chris Morrisson.
Chris Morrisson: Chris Morrison, author, artist, and editor-in-chief of The Polymer City Chronicles, the first newspaper with the comics on the frontpage. PCC is heading into its fifth year of circulation in January 2004, but I've been doing webcomics since 1994, starting with The Plastic Valley Report at Gamezero.com. My most recent webcomic find that I see as having much potential is Cascade Failure.

damonk: Okay, now that we're all best buddies and stuff, let's start with a question for Mark.
Mark Mekkes: Okay.
damonk: But all of you can chime in at anytime, cool?
Chris Crosby: Oh, and if I may, I forgot to say that I've been drawing SUPEROSITY for over four years and running Keenspot for over three. I always forget something.
damonk: Phew!
damonk: Good thing you said so! ^^
damonk: Mark, webcomics are certainly a presence now on the web. From their origins in the early 90s to their boom in 1999-2000 to now, we've seen a lot of evolution push the medium fast and hard. Heck, we even have a dedicated newspublication now. But of course, webcomics creators run the gamut from 'young kid who likes to doodle' to 'print pro trying on a new canvas'.
damonk: My question to you, then, is this: why did you think that webcomics were already ready for an awards event when you chose to start up the WCCA?
Mark Mekkes: I'm not sure that it was, but I did know that any award process would take time to develop and grow.
Mark Mekkes: The CCA's certainly weren't at their full potential that first year or even their second year.
BoxJam: Big dittos from Glenview.
Mark Mekkes: I think they're only now starting to show their potential.

damonk: But why start then?
Mark Mekkes: Because every area of the Entertainment business has some kind of award system.
damonk: Was there something specific about the webcomics community of then that made you think that they/we were ready?
Chris Crosby: I don't think movies are ready for an awards event yet. Movies SUCK.
Mark Mekkes: If we were to develop as an independent entity, it would be necessary to start evolving something.
BoxJam: Yeah, just like webcomics may not have been ready, but the only way to get them ready was by throwing up the flagpole to see if they could swim or drown – same thing with awards.
damonk: Fair enough.
Joey Manley: I don't think anything is ever *ready* until you try it and see if it flies. The world wasn't officially *ready* for Modern Tales until, like, the day after we launched.

damonk: To everyone else, the obvious follow-up question: do you agree or disagree with Mark? Do you feel that webcomics were ready then for an award? Do you think they deserve one now?
Chris Crosby: The world still isn't ready for Keenspot! That's why we're planning to relocate to the moon!
Scott McCloud: I think Joey is right.
Scott McCloud: I think you need to try it first, then you adapt as needed.
Joey Manley: Awards are supposed to help define and strengthen the artistic achievement in a field (that's the only purpose I can see for them). If any field needs such a thing, it's webcomics!
Chris Morrisson: I agree with the sentiment, but I belive the execution is flawed. This isn't a slight against anyone involved, but the bugs really need to be worked out in the nomination process if we're going to see more new faces and less of the ones everyone already has burned into their retinas.
Chris Crosby: I don't quite know what the word "ready" means in this case, but hell yeah.
Joey Manley: I have some hard things to say about the nomination process… perhaps later.
BoxJam: CMorrison, I don't think I agree.
Scott McCloud: We had some new faces this year, at least.

damonk: do you feel that the three years since its inception, that the awards ARE adapting?
Chris Crosby: C'mon, A BEAUTIFUL MIND won the Best Picture Oscar. It's never gonna get much better than this.
BoxJam: Yeah, Scott.
damonk: And don't worry, i'll be asking specific qestions about the nomination process after. ^^
Chris Morrisson: Oh, I'm SURE that someone's gonna disagree, Box. I get a lot of that on a lot of matters.
BoxJam: I think the individual awards that used to characterize webcomics were incestuous and were the same names over and over, but I don't see that with the WCCAs.

[the WCCA – is it evolving?]
damonk: But do you feel that the event IS evolving since its beginning?
Chris Crosby: NOWHERE GIRL won Outstanding Comic, and that's the webcomic that was probably most critically-acclaimed this year, so the WCCA seems to be fancifying itself.
damonk: Nice point, Crosby.
damonk: Anyone else?
Joey Manley: On evolution: I was convinced that fan faves like MegaTokyo would blow quiet masterpieces like Nowhere Girl out of the water this year. I was wrong. This is good.
Joey Manley: Ha! Chris and I were typing at the same time. WE'RE THE SAME PERSON!!!
damonk: Do you moon with the same apparatus?
Scott McCloud: Shaw, Brosgol, Kirk-Kim… A lot of good work was recognized.
Joey Manley: You've never seen us both in the same room together, have you?
BoxJam: Some nominations/awards are frustrating, of course, but what the hell can you do? The whole world doesn't see things the same as we, the wisest 8.
damonk: Hehehe
damonk: you certainly CAN be a WISEguy, Bjam.

[Subjectivity, and Juries vs. Open-Vote Process]
Chris Crosby: I'm shocked that HOUND'S HOME and SCARY-GO-ROUND aren't completely SWEEPING the awards like a wildfire, but I guess I shouldn't be because those are my favorite strips.
damonk: That brings up an interesting point, Chris.
damonk: Since awards are very much a subjective thing, how can we accurately guage the best of the best when there are so many darn webcomics out there?
Joey Manley: A knowledgeable panel of judges should announce the nominations.
Joey Manley: There, I said it.
damonk: So you're admitting that you're a fan of a juried system?
Chris Crosby: The WebCartoonist's Choice Awards seem to have the right idea, in that they're set up pretty much just like the Oscars, it seems.
BoxJam: As soon as we agree on who's knowledgeable, I'm on board.
damonk: Now, I know that Scott is more a fan of a democratic system…
Chris Morrisson: I'm of a mixed mind on awards in general. I think that good comics should be recognized, but on the same token, the format is still so young, I think a lot of artists get discouraged very quickly and give up the pencil when they don't see themselves.
Mark Mekkes: But the only way to be close to subjective is to increase the number of judges.
Joey Manley: Chris: the Oscars require that individuals voting make their living from motion pictures. That's not possible here, but overlooking that fact and pretending it doesn't exist doesn't make the WCCA's like the Oscars.
Scott McCloud: I'm suggesting that any working webcomics artist should be involved in both nominating and final voting.
damonk: Wow, you've all touched on a bunch of good topics right there.
damonk: Maybe we should try to take them on one at a time?
Scott McCloud: You could have a separate "juried" category, though.

["Who Juries the Jury?"]
damonk: Let's start with the pros and cons of a juried system:
damonk: Joey, why do you think a juried system would be better?
damonk: (and then, Scott, why do you think that a juried system is NOT the way to go?)
Joey Manley: I think that a juried system would be a great way to go for SOME award program. I'm not saying the WCCA should change.
Chris Crosby: They're sort of like a mix between the Oscars and the MTV Movie Awards, which is cool, because MTV Movie Awards is way better than the Oscars.
damonk: Right.
Joey Manley: Let's face it, an award, any award, is essentially elitist in nature. This is better than that. That is better than this.
Joey Manley: Or else there shouldn't be awards.
damonk: And this, by the way, is not a discussion on how to change the WCCA, but just a discussion on awards for webcomics in general.
Chris Crosby: The WCCA won't be PERFECT until there's a nationally-televised awards ceremony based around it.
Joey Manley: A juried system acknowledges that some people know more about what is good than others (a controversial position I'm perfectly happy to defend).
BoxJam: Well, with a jury of 1, we see what happens – April's Choice, Mr. Chuck Show's Award, Superosity's Award, etc, etc
Joey Manley: The jury has read more, and has read with informed eyes. Ideally.
damonk: Kinda like the Republic ideal… a society ruled by Philosopher Kings?
Joey Manley: Unideally, you get a clique giving awards to its friends.
Mark Mekkes: Boxjam makes a good point though, who should qualify as a judge?
Joey Manley: There would probably be quite a bit of that going on in a juried system (see Eisner Awards).
Joey Manley: The judges should be elected.
Scott McCloud: Who juries the jury?
Mark Mekkes: Obviously Joey and Crosby are knowledged, but they already have venues to reward their favorites.
damonk: A good question, Scott.
Joey Manley: Last year's winners could be the jury.
Chris Crosby: If the jury is anything like the one we use to choose new Keenspot strips, it'd be pretty damn screwed up. 🙂
Scott McCloud: the selection of jurors is necessarily subject to the same imperfections as the current awards.
Chris Morrisson: Having everyone who reads or everyone who authors a strip taking part in the voting is an awesome fantasy; the only problem I see is this: with as many webcomics that are out there, and as many different, obscure favorites as there are among readers, I see a wide, WIDE range of comics getting one or two nominations while the usual suspects remain at the top of the heap since they have the widest reaching readerbase. I truly believe that.
* joeymanley agrees with CMorrison.

[an Edjumacated Jury?]
damonk: one question to ask that's related to this:
damonk: Many webtoonists confess to not reading more than say 20 or so comics, though. Would such a person, if he was a winner one year, be good to have on a jury?
BoxJam: (Mekkes – are the nominations public/going-to-be for this year?)
Mark Mekkes: (Yes, they are accessible now through the list of finalists.)
Joey Manley: Let's face it, with a very few exceptions, everybody who reads webcomics makes them. This is a good thing. But it doesn't lead to a highly professional "academy" of knowledgeable voters.
damonk: Would the jury members have to fulfill certain obligations?
BoxJam: I disagree, Joey, although you're a great guy – most of my readers, I think, don't make comics.
Chris Crosby: "Everybody who reads webcomic makes them"? That doesn't seem possible.
* joeymanley could be wrong…
Chris Morrisson: As I see it, this is what I think needs to happen: the awards need to be like the Oscars. A movie doesn't win Best Picture three years in a row…neither should webcomics. Once they win, they can be eligible for other nominations, but then they're removed from subsequent awards.
Mark Mekkes: But that lowers the value of the awards.
BoxJam: CMorrison, great point — it's easy to focus on one year in movies, not so in comics.
Joey Manley: How about this alternate formulation (which is bound to cause much distress to be aimed at me): many who make webcomics are fans, plain and simple.
BoxJam: I'll cede that previous point, Joey, I don't have many readers who aren't big comic fans already.

[Comic Strips vs. Serials/Graphic novels – Different Judging Criteriae?]
(and) [Should Winners be Eligible the Next Year?]
damonk: Hmm… could one of the problems with a webcomics award be that a comic strip or series lasts more than a year?
BoxJam: The Rubens don't always capture who had the best year (yes, I'm biased toward daily strips)
Joey Manley: BJ brings up another good point, from the side: do daily strips and online graphic novels even belong in the same awards system?
Mark Mekkes: Good question.
Joey Manley: I wouldn't take Mort Walker's word on the relative merits of Love & Rockets or Hicksville.
Chris Crosby: Sure. The Emmys reward both sitcoms and TV movies and six-hour mini-series events.
BoxJam: Joey, you have made me laugh heartily.
Chris Morrisson: Sure, they can last more than a year, but I still believe, in one form or another, that award winners should step aside, and give new blood a chance to be noticed. My way is flawed, sure, but my position on the inequity of it still stands.
Joey Manley: Chris: but the same people don't vote in every category.
BoxJam: I agree, Cmorrison.
Joey Manley: If I'm not mistaken, only a small handful of categories are open to everybody to vote in. Some are qualified to vote in some categories, others in others.
Chris Crosby: Mort Walker is hip and happening and can dig it.

damonk: One suggestion I have heard bandied about a lot is the "no consecutive winners" rule.
damonk: Does this seem like a valid compromise to some?
Chris Morrisson: I agree with that suggestion.
BoxJam: The 'no consecutive winners' seems to be self-enforcing thus far.
damonk: That you could win every other year, if you were that good?
damonk: True, it seems to have turned out that way so far, Bjam.
Joey Manley: I don't know. There are still enough Wildy Popular Strips to dominate every category even with "no consecutive winners" in place. Like I said, though, that doesn't seem to have happened this year.

damonk: Now with print comics, we still see THOUSANDS of titles each year… and Alan Moore wins all the time.
BoxJam: Moore made an ass of himself, though.
damonk: And others, of course…
Chris Morrisson: *yawn* Tell me about it. That's why I quit reading comics.
damonk: So this is a problem that is not limited to webcomics, perhaps?
Joey Manley: If somebody's good enough to win, why not let them? I know that some people who were nominated in the fantasy category last year were irritated with Carson for declining the nomination.
damonk: Are print comics also problematized by the "big fish" getting all the attention?
Chris Crosby: Very few problems are limited to webcomics.
Joey Manley: Damned if you do, damned if you
don't thing.
Chris Morrisson: Absolutely not. It's widespread in any industry driven by ego.
BoxJam: Clearly, there are too many humans. Trying to be one of the final few of 6 BILLION? Get Real!
damonk: Which is pretty much any entertainment-based industry, right?

[Democracy Open-Vote System?]
damonk: Okay then. So the jury thing seems a little tricky. How about the democratic way?
damonk: The way that the WCCA has been going, for example?
BoxJam: That's not a leading question, is it?
BoxJam: In America, it's illegal to disagree with any statement with the word 'democratic'.
damonk: Not meant to be, honest!
Joey Manley: I should clarify: I'd like to see two separate systems, a democratic WCCA and another juried awards system. Miss USA and Miss America. Hugo and Nebula. Oscar and … um, well, you get the idea.
damonk: Okay then. Let's change the term:
damonk: An open-vote-based system?
Scott McCloud: Proposal: We're not necessarily the ones who should make these decisions. The only way any awards system can have a broad base of support is if it's rooted in all the various communities. (Modern Tales, Keenspot, and etc.)
Joey Manley: Damonk: and how is that different from "Top 100 Webcomics" sites, which are useless?
Scott McCloud: I say we identify those communities and then let each of them choose a representative to meet together in a forum (NOT chat, btw) that is publicly viewable.
BoxJam: One vote per voter, for one.
damonk: Good point, Joey.
damonk: Scott: So like a council of representatives?
Scott McCloud: Yes.
Scott McCloud: Then a second forum for everyone.
damonk: But how do you deal with the indies?Scott McCloud: For indies, that's the one place where you'd have to use your judgement.

Joey Manley: What about the large communities we don't know? For example, did anybody know that there's a subscription-based hentai site that launched before MT? I didn't, until recently.
Chris Morrisson: Yeah, and I also believe myself, that there needs to be an awards setup specifically for smaller, lesser-known strips. Eligibility would be based on the criteria that each strip would have less than a given number of pageviews per day.
Joey Manley: Or the poor souls who are plugging away community-less, like Farley, Farnon, and Some Guy On Geocities?
Mark Mekkes: The problem, Scott, is finding enough people with enough real passion to put into this kind of project.
damonk: Right.
BoxJam: I like that, CMorrison, on principle.
Chris Morrisson: Unfortunately that's the best way I could figure to do it, though pageview counts are an inexact science.
Mark Mekkes: Actually, CMorrison, I think someone is working on that kind of model.
Scott McCloud: You don't need a separate award for smaller strips — just an academy of working webtoonists.
Joey Manley: The awards should be named "The McClouds," by the way. Not after Scott (because he objects) but after the '70's TV detective.
Scott McCloud: Worst idea ever.
damonk: Ah, now THAT is something that often comes up, too, Scott.
BoxJam: Scott – I think it'd help – I'm coming from a background of college indie music, though.

damonk: But how does one decide WHO qualifies for such a title?
Chris Morrisson: I think something like that is long overdue. I think we can all agree that a lot of the bigger strips are yahoofreakingfbtasmagorical…that's great, we get it. Let's forge ahead now.
Mark Mekkes: The catch with that "smaller comic" award is how to do it without the stigma of it being the "looser comic" award.
Chris Crosby: There seems to be a lot of time and energy going into creating new events that say "Good job!" to a few people.
damonk: A "working webtoonist"?
Joey Manley: The name of the small webcomic award should be Miss Congeniality!
BoxJam: Do you literally mean 'looser'? 'cos there's bad karma right there…
Scott McCloud: Possibly restricted to those who've been online for a year.
damonk: So a one-year minimum
damonk: Anything else?
Scott McCloud: Maybe.
damonk: Should quality matter?
Scott McCloud: I repeat, though.
Scott McCloud: We need a forum, not a chat session.
Scott McCloud: And we need reps from the four corners.
Joey Manley: I can make as many forums as are needed, but we tried that once — kind of fizzled.
Chris Crosby: I don't consider an award legitimate unless it was produced by Dick Clark.
BoxJam: 'Should quality matter'? What the hell kind of question is that?
damonk: That's the thing, Bjam.
Chris Morrisson: Of course, conversely…the more awards you have, the less meaningful each ceremony becomes. There's a balance that needs to be maintained.
damonk: Who decides what qualifies as a webcomic? Or who sets these standards?

[The Homestar Runner Conundrum]
Chris Crosby: HOMESTAR RUNNER won a webcomic award this year and I went "WNUHUH?"
Joey Manley: I think that the notion of "who decides" is too cautious and careful for somebody contemplating a webcomics award program.
Chris Crosby: And I love HOMESTAR RUNNER.
Mark Mekkes: Voters, whether democratic or juried.
damonk: Where should one draw the line at deciding what a webtoonist should or shouldn't be?
Joey Manley: At some point, somebody has to point a finger and say, "This is good, this is not. This is a webcomic, this is not." And let the flamers on the boards be damned.
Joey Manley: If we want an awards system, that is.
damonk: Hmm…
damonk: There are definitely two separate camps here on this subject
Joey Manley: For example, Homestar Runner? I mean — I love Homestar Runner. But come on! I nominate Spongebob Squarepants, because there's a Spongebob website!
Scott McCloud: Joey, i think it fizzled the first time because we didn't have enough type-a sorts
Chris Crosby: Me and Joey are One.
Chris Morrisson: Webcomic awards, I feel, should adopt an animated subcategory.
damonk: Hehe.
Scott McCloud: Yeah… Homestar Runner was a nutso choice.
BoxJam: I don't think nutso nominations are a real problem, because you have to garner wide support to move ahead.
Joey Manley: I am but a single puppy in the enormous rubber suit that is Chris Crosby.
damonk: Okay.
Chris Crosby: Rock on.
Chris Morrisson: Flash animation has become big enough that I think it's earned the right.
Scott McCloud: But then it just said "use of Flash" or some such…
Joey Manley: Flash animation is at least as potentially a powerful medium as webcomics. But it ain't webcomics.

[Genre Awards – Yes or No?]
damonk: Here's a simpler question to change the pace for a bit here…
damonk: Genre awards — should they be there or no?
Scott McCloud: No
Chris Morrisson: Yes.
Joey Manley: No.
Chris Crosby: Why not?
Chris Crosby: I don't give a crap.
Scott McCloud: The best comics defy genre.
Scott McCloud: Was Donnie Darko a horror movie?
Mark Mekkes: I've always been a fan of genre awards, mostly because they're fun.
Joey Manley: Because by nature of setting up a genre award, some comics automatically fit for most people. Especially people who aren't big fans of that genre.
BoxJam: *tips hat to Scott McCloud
Chris Crosby: I was nominated for the BEST SUPERHERO award last year and that was cool even though my comic isn't about superheroes.
Joey Manley: Whatever the first gamer comic, or anthropomorphic comic, or whatever, that pops into my head, is the one I will vote for. Just because the category is there.
Joey Manley: That doesn't mean the comic deserves a vote.
Scott McCloud: And it encourages people to stay within genres.
Joey Manley: (Of course, I can't vote, so that point is moot when applied to me specifically).
BoxJam: I feel like we should topple some genre statue in town square.
Scott McCloud: Not a progressive impulse.
Chris Morrisson: It's pointless to compare an adventure strip to a humor strip, et al. It's like comparing apples to carberetors.
Mark Mekkes: I agree with Scott, but there is a certain skill to giving a comic the feel of any given genre.
Chris Crosby: I also feel like toppling a statue.

Joey Manley: Annie Hall beat Star Wars for the 1976 best picture Oscar. I'll never get over it.
Chris Morrisson: Star Wars was 1977?
Joey Manley: Okay, whatever year. Annie Hall won. I remember that part.
BoxJam: I bet a juried award would have preferred Annie Hall too, though.
Chris Morrisson: Oh, ok. 🙂 I was like, "No wonder it won."
Joey Manley: Boy, was I pissed. Also when Led Zeppelin beat out Blondie for the Grammy.
Mark Mekkes: I do agree that Genre awards shouldn't have the same stature as a Best Art or Best Writing.
Chris Crosby: I remember BABE getting beat out by some crap.
BoxJam: Grammys suck – not even worth the comparison.

[Techinal Awards]
damonk: Okay then… how about the more "technical" awards? Like best BW art? Best site design? And so on?
damonk: Are they useful?
Scott McCloud: Yeah.
Joey Manley: Damonk: if there were slightly fewer of them. There seems to be a lot of overlap.
Scott McCloud: Agreed.
Chris Morrisson: You know, all this talk about webcomic awards makes me wonder…is there even a print comic award?
Joey Manley: "Best BW Art" and "Best Line Art" for example. Nominees are almost the same.
damonk: Chris: Yeah, more than a few.
Scott McCloud: The Eisner award.
Chris Crosby: The Eisners and the Harvey Awards.
Joey Manley: Chris: there are several — I know of 3. Eisners, Ignatz, Harvey.
Chris Crosby: And many others.
damonk: Yep.
Mark Mekkes: I think the technical awards are absolutely necessary…
Chris Crosby: NOWHERE GIRL was nominated for an Eisner this year, strangely enough.
Chris Morrisson: Shows how much I read the paper. I think I stopped reading when Bloom County went south.
Scott McCloud: But fewer, Mark.
BoxJam: Personal quirk – I liked Best Line Art because it allowed me to recognize the excellence of Sinfest's impeccable lines.
Joey Manley: There's room for more specification in the technical awards (despite what I said about the art awards). There could be more of them.
Mark Mekkes: Yes, I agree with that, Scott.
damonk: I agree, Bjam.
damonk: And Crosby, an excellent segue.
Joey Manley: Somebody should get an award for "Best Navigational System," for example (not MT, though, shudder).
Chris Crosby: The Ruebens are the newspaper comic awards.
BoxJam: I could loll about in one of Tatsuya's microphone leads for days.

[Nowhere Girl and its Everywhere Awards]
(and) [Print Comics vs. Webcomics – Parallels, or Subordinates?]
damonk: What are we to make of Nowhere Girl being nominated for Eisner awards?
damonk: She's not the only one, incidentally.
Joey Manley: We make merry!
damonk: Jason Little's Shutterbug Follies is being nominated for a Harvey, I believe.
BoxJam: I got an award for best navigational system! (Comdex software on a handheld)
Chris Crosby: I think it's weird.
Joey Manley: The Ignatz has a whole category devoted to webcomics.
damonk: And Kochalka is being nominated, as well (though for his print work of course).
Chris Crosby: I thought the Eisners were for print comics.
Joey Manley: Roger Langridge was nominated for his print Fred the Clown, all of which appeared online on MT before it saw print. Sigh.
Joey Manley: For an Eisner, Langridge, I mean.

damonk: I guess my question is this: Should we be happy that the print comics awards are recognizing the value of webcomics? Or does it even matter?
Chris Crosby: None of this matters very much. They're just awards.
Chris Morrisson: I firmly believe in the division of web and print; it's why I don't sell strip compilations.
Joey Manley: It matters to a business like MT, looking for people used to paying for comics. I'm not sure it matters to most webcomics, though.
Scott McCloud: It matters.
Joey Manley: MT would like to appeal to those print comic book readers.
BoxJam: IT got me some readers.
damonk: Right.
Mark Mekkes: It's tough because it's bridging the mediums, and we need to decide just how independent we are as an artform.
Chris Crosby: It's just dandy.
Scott McCloud: Awards serve – at best – to promote good work and promote the creation of new good work.
Scott McCloud: Unless its the Grammies.
damonk: Ha!
Joey Manley: I think of webcomics as the third primary form of English language comics (strips and the comic book/graphic novel cluster of artists and businesses being the first two).
damonk: Poor Grammies.
Chris Morrisson: I personally feel, and this is just my own very personal opinion, that when a webtoon bridges the gap to dead tree format, it loses the one thing that made it unique: the fact that it was web-based.
Scott McCloud: Depends on the comics.
Chris Crosby: I respect the Oscar because it's frightening looking, but no others.
BoxJam: 'Toto' won best album right about 20 years ago.
Joey Manley: Web-basedness isn't very unique, though. There are more webcomics than print comics!
Scott McCloud: Same diff made the transition okay.
Scott McCloud: Toto…brrr.
Chris Crosby: The web is just a delivery method, like paper and ink is.
* damonk cleverly avoids mentioning how much he ALWAYS loved that "Africa" song
Chris Morrisson: Right, but the whole of the webcomic movement has become a microcosm in itself. It's different from the generally impersonal print medium.
Mark Mekkes: No, Joey, but are webcomics a division of the print industry? Or are we a unique industry?
damonk: Morrisson, why is that, you think?
Scott McCloud: Unique industry.
Scott McCloud: Same medium.
Joey Manley: I know how many people read "Same Difference" the week it completed. I don't have permission to tell you, but I will say that far more people read it than the latest issue of Batman.
Joey Manley: Webcomics is larger than print comics.
BoxJam: True, CMorrison, but from a strictly practical point, is it useful to ensconce webcomics from everything else?
Joey Manley: At some point, print comics is a
sub-industry of webcomics.
Chris Morrisson: Instant access, to fans, to other artists. This is assuming the artists take time to hit their forums and answer their e-mail.
Scott McCloud: A point not yet reached.
BoxJam: I just signed a doc to let Crosby pitch B'Jam as TV fare.
Chris Crosby: Webcomics is only larger than print comics because hundreds of thousands of people also draw webcomics. 🙂

Chris Morrisson: Yes, I believe webcomics SHOULD stay ensconced on the web, where they began, where they belong.
Joey Manley: Agreed. But it's happening. Used to be, all the "repurposing" was from print to the web. Now Sluggy, MegaTokyo, Derek Kirk Kim, are going the other direction.
Joey Manley: Chris: I meant in terms of Derek's audience for "Same Difference", which puts the Grant Morrison audience to shame.
Chris Crosby: Joey: True, though Grant Morrison's audience pays a fee.
Joey Manley: So does (some small portion of) Derek Kirk Kim's audience — for his serializer comic (plug plug plug).
Chris Crosby: More people read "Same Difference" than the latest Batman? Batman is selling 150,000+ copies an issue these days thanks to Jim Lee.
Joey Manley: Chris: yep. Many, many more.
Joey Manley: Just that one week, though, the week it ended, and was linked on memepool, slashdot (I think), and so on.
Chris Crosby: Every copy of Batman is read like three times according to DC's ad agency. That's like 500,000 people!
Mark Mekkes: Sure, that's what they want you to believe.

[Webcomics as Vanity Presses]
damonk: But — and forgive me for making an English Major reference here…
damonk: A webcomics artist and a print comics artist seem to be treated differently right now — kinda like back in the Augustan age. The print comics are like Alexander Pope and the traditional "professional" writers/poets, and the webcomics are like the Grub Street Writers. And the "pros" like Pope — for lack of a better term — made fun of and berated them like gangbusters.
damonk: Grub Street Writers, by the way, was a term given to ANYONE who wasn't a pro who got his/her stuff self-published.
Chris Morrisson: Right. A print comics artist is classified as "eccentric" whereas a webcomic artist has "inflated ego".
Mark Mekkes: I feel so bohemian.
damonk: Nowadays, we call them vanity presses, I guess.
damonk: SO… all that to say: are webcomics artists all vanity press people? Since they are all self-publsihed?
BoxJam: More than they're comfortable admitting.
damonk: Or are the rules different due to the Internet revolution?
Joey Manley: Self-publishing is more respectable in comics than most other fields. Punk rock being the only other field I can think of that this is the case.
Scott McCloud: I will accept the term "vanity press" when we call the other method "greed press".damonk: HA!
Chris Morrisson: For me, and again, this is a very personal thing…if you start something for free, like an online comic, don't switch ships in the middle of the cruise and expect the boaters to pay for the return trip. Either keep your stuff where it was, as it was, or create something new if you want to go in the print direction.
Mark Mekkes: But groups like Modern Tales and Keenspot do at least present some form of editorial support.
Chris Morrisson: Oh, webcomicing is all about ego. Artists are all about ego. Artists spend their time creating things that essentially say "look at me".
Scott McCloud: True.
BoxJam: My wife got poetry published and used a pseudonym to remain anonymous – not sure if that's relevant or not.

damonk: But in print comics, most people who call themselves print artists are being paid… while most webcomics artists are NOT.
Scott McCloud: Yet.
damonk: Right, a very good point (and clever nod to that BitPass system and such!).
Joey Manley: There are about four MT-related artists who are making more than $250/month. That's still not enough.
damonk: Right.

[Revenue = Success = Proficiency = Jury Prerequisite?]
damonk: now, to bring this back to awards, kinda…
damonk: Should THESE people, these who are making money due to (deserved?) popularity and such…
damonk: Should THEY be considered for a jury?
Scott McCloud: One from each camp.
Scott McCloud: But NO JURY.
damonk: Or as a certain level or bar upon which we can set to determine an academy eligibility?
Mark Mekkes: Does making money qualify them as experts?
BoxJam: Mort Walker makes money. Jim Davis makes money.
Joey Manley: I think, thinking of those 4 people, they'd be less likely to see the value in some pretty valuable stuff.
Chris Morrisson: I think that in time, a few online comic artists will be getting paid for licensing their stuff to formats it has no business belonging in, will end up tanking, and the artists will spend the rest of their time apologizing for it. That's MY plan, anyhow.
Scott McCloud: Just a committee to figure out how it could run.
Chris Morrisson: Nah. The ability to earn money from a comic doesn't mean that the artist has better judgemental ability, or that the comic's even good.
Joey Manley: If only people making $250/month or more from the webcomics are on the committee, MT will have quite a few seats. Who else? Kuuuuuuuuurtz, Gabe & Tycho, maybe Rosenberg, Pete Abrams, Fred Gallagher — that would be a weird committee.
damonk: Hehe.
Chris Morrisson: Psht, you'd hafta go higher than that. Even I make $250 a month, and I'm lower-echelon.

[Final Bits 'N' Pieces]
damonk: Okay… final questions, then — and you can answer briefly if you choose.

damonk: Should there still be an awards event (or two or more) for webcomics? does the community need it?
Joey Manley: Yes.
Chris Morrisson: Yeah.
Mark Mekkes: Yes.
BoxJam: Yes. Need? Ehh. Benefit from? Yes.
Chris Crosby: Yes. No.
Scott McCloud: Yes.
Scott McCloud: I think that Shaenon Garrity, Joey Manley, Someone from Dumbrella, Pants, Big Gaming Comics, etc. should get on this in a public forum.

damonk: Should these awards be trying to recognize more lesser-profile comics?
Chris Morrisson: Yes.
Joey Manley: They should be trying to recognize the BEST comics, regardless of popularity. Which means that they should take pains to find the good stuff, even if it's not popular.
Scott McCloud: Yes.
BoxJam: Well, ideally the award should ignore readership.
Scott McCloud: Double yes.
Mark Mekkes: I'm with Boxjam here.
Chris Crosby: What Joey and BoxJam said.
BoxJam: I love you guys!

damonk: How could voters better educate themselves to vote?
BoxJam: Reading comics.
Joey Manley: Maybe an American Idol elimination round for each category … (grin).
Chris Crosby: Read the full archives of SUPEROSITY.
Mark Mekkes: And how can an award process encourage the voters?
damonk: Or, in other words, how can we encourage cartoonists to read more comics?
Joey Manley: American Idol has all the answers.
Chris Morrisson: By actually bothering to read comics other than the ones on their favorites lists that they click out of sheer habit.
Scott McCloud: I have a great suggestion that would break my hands if I tried to type it all.
Scott McCloud: *sniff*
BoxJam: Damonk, that's not a fair question.
damonk: True.
Joey Manley: I think the existence of Comixpedia has helped motivate people to broaden their comics-reading habits.
Mark Mekkes: Scott, I'd love to hear it from you later, email me at your leasure.
Scott McCloud: We need a forum, guys.
Joey Manley: Forum should be on Comixpedia, not talkaboutcomics.com.
damonk: Scott: Remember that this is for a 'Pedia piece. ^^Scott McCloud: Sure.
damonk: Somehow, I'll actually be making this into a feature inteview! O_o
Chris Crosby: You should edit out all of my comments for length.
Scott McCloud: Mine, too.
BoxJam: Mine, too.
Chris Crosby: And format it for your TV screen.

damonk: But the question still remains:
damonk: If there are THOUSANDS of comics out there… and say HUNDREDS of REALLY GOOD ones… how do we get voters to know MORE than just the "big folks"?
BoxJam: Darwinism.
Chris Crosby: Mind control.
damonk: Ah!
damonk: Finally, a sensible answer!
Chris Crosby: Like in BATMAN FOREVER with Jim Carrey and the TV box he made that Bruce Wayne said was too dangerous.
damonk: ^_~
Joey Manley: There are hundreds of thousands of books published every year. Sometimes little-known books win the Pulitzer or the National Book Award or whatever. But Stephen King and John Gresham rarely do.
Scott McCloud: Seriously guys, there is a way to pull it off. It would involve an extended recommendation system that didn't compel voters but informed them.
Chris Morrisson: I think that some popular comics tend to stay that way because people go there out of habit, even long after the strip has trended downhill. But most people won't bother expanding their horizons because they're comfortable going to their usual haunts, regardless of content quality.
Joey Manley: How do they manage that?
BoxJam: Does Batman really think about flapping bats?
Chris Crosby: YES, DAMMIT.
Chris Crosby: I will not answer that question again.
BoxJam: Yeah, lots of comics, both web and
print, go into cruise control, and that sucks.
Mark Mekkes: Yes, Scott, but that brings us back to the question of a juried intervention.
Scott McCloud: By soliciting recommendations available in a central database.
Scott McCloud: Not a jury, no.
Mark Mekkes: Then who?
Scott McCloud: Those recs would have no force.
Joey Manley: It was kind of telling that the MegaTokyo nominations listed both of the creators … Fred had been doing the strip solo for that year. I wonder if people are even paying attention, or are just voting blindly out of habit?
Chris Crosby: I think it should be based around a Man on the Street poll, like they do on late night talk shows.
BoxJam: How about if we get G_d to tell us the best? Then we could replace beta-hat with the true beta?

Joey Manley: Gotta go, gang.
Mark Mekkes: good luck!
damonk: I think we can end this here folks.
BoxJam: See ya, bud.
Mark Mekkes: Thank you everyone!
damonk: Thanks for all your answers, guys.
Chris Crosby: We done?


Damonk is the Editor in Chief and the Executive Editor for Reviews.


More Details
.

8 Comments

  1. Great chat session. A lot of really good ideas there. About the last comment: I disagree. I love Tycho and Gabe to death (they happen to be personal, IRL friends of mine) but I don’t think they really belong on a webcomic panel anymore. Penny Arcade is not really a webcomic. It’s more of a commentary. Kind of like a blog with a cartoon tacked onto it. There is a reason that Tycho’s newspost is before the comic. You really wouldn’t understand the comic if you didn’t read the newspost sometimes. I think that chat session had just the right amount of brilliance. Good for you, damonk.

  2. Maybe awards should be limited to the groups they belong in. Like, awards for the KeenSpot comics, Modern Tales, KeenSpace, ect. That way, it is easier to look at all of them rather than scrambling to figure out nominations over the entire world wide web.
    But, another thing I found about the WCCA is that there wasn’t too much, news wise, to tell people to start the nomination process. The first year was, even though it was experimental, fairly quiet if you ask me.

  3. There are very few things that I’m interested in less than webcomic awards, but I thought my BATMAN FOREVER-related comments added an incredibly large amount of class to the whole thing.

    I wouldn’t have minded seeing Kurtz and Tycho and Gabe participate.

  4. For a juried system, the jury should read all comics with a certain amount of nominations. They should also set up a rubric for judging each category. That would make the judges more informed than even the Webcomic writers/artists.

    If there are too many good comics open for nominations, they can split up the comics and only have everyone read comics that match a certain standard of quality on the rubric.

    Readership and popularity, and repeat votes should not be an issue. The issue is quality. If you give attention to the other issues, then you lessen the award. High standards encourage people to work harder. Voting should be confined to the work that was done during the time period the awards recognize, basically that year.

    There are so many good comics out there that are hard to find, that need to be found. But perhaps an award system is not the answer. Awards are designed to recognize an elite few. However, people want to read the extremely good many. One solution to this problem might be to have a system like http://www.onlinecomics.net, holding just about all the comics out there. It would have judging, but would judge each comic individually, not focus on proclaiming the best one. This would show more “extremely good comics.” It could also have annual judging, like awards, for more publicity. Could be a juried open-vote, or Web-comic creator only system.

  5. It seems to me that the problem with judging webcomics is based on one thing:

    There’s NO amatuer/professional divide.

    Most people do webcomics for free, or virtually for free. Unlike a movie, a CD album or whatever, almost no capital has to be pulled together for producing a webcomic. So you get a mix of people passionately serious about their comics, and others who aren’t. You get the 8 year old that just learned MS Paint and the 40 year old graphic artist trying to make a difference.

    It’s the beauty of webcomics, of course. Virtually free distribution and no editors means that the work goes right from the artist to the reader. And a professional and an amatuer can be equal in quality.

    But what this also does is make a whole heap of crap that someone – be it a jury or an open voting system – has to wade through to find something worthwhile.

    There’s really only one way to solve the dilemma of the amateur/professional divide. Charge for entry.

    Something as small as $1 or as large as $10 would at least get rid of anyone who doesn’t even take themselves seriously. Of course, people who couldn’t raise the funds would complain, and some good comics might not do it because there’s money on the line, but it should eliminate a lot of the nonsense that normally gets submitted.

    What the people in charge of the award did with the money is up to them, though they should be upfront about it from the start. It could be used as a donation to charity (CBLDF?), or perhaps split between the winners, or kept to keep the awards going.

  6. You guys would not have wanted me in this chat session. Nor would you have wanted Gabe and Tycho.

    It’s for the best we weren’t invited.

Comments are closed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *