A Farewell to Arse
Well, I’m packing it in. It’s been a year of columnizin’ here at Comixpedia, and while in some ways there are more things to be said, basically it was a long year of saying the same thing over and over again.
And my name’s not Dalton Wemble. Like that wasn’t obvious.
This was maybe going to be the Big Reveal, where I pull off my mask and show that I was really Farmer McGruder, and I would have gotten away for it if it weren’t for you blasted kids, but upon reflection, that sort of makes it look like the whole exercise was a big PR scam, like that campaign trail book by X a few years back.
I don’t remember who X was, so way to go, Slick. That sure worked out for you.
On the other hand, if I tell everyone that this was a pseudonym and don’t then reveal who I actually am, I look like a wuss sitting behind a fake name to sling crap at everyone else.
But the point is there’s no gain either way: I tell everyone who I am and I’m a gloryhound, I don’t and I’m a coward.
And the other point – what I think is the more important one – is that it doesn’t really matter who says this stuff, does it? What matters is it gets said.
In the end, there’s only one point worth making. There’s only one point that carries all of these words and words and words:
We need editors.
That is all.
And I say this with love. The hardest thing about doing the column was being relentlessly negative about a subject that I basically have very positive feelings about. Webcomics are like an endlessly-opening flower of artistic achievement and boundary-pushing thought, and the proliferation of webcomics by the thousands has in many ways done a lot to raise the overall bar of creativity and artistic standards. This isn’t about toiling away in your basement to produce chapbooks for the local comic shop to flog for fifty cents, this is about potential global audiences and a vast, easily-accessible and largely enthusiastic and supportive peer group. It’s an awesome medium that I firmly believe is only going to grow in popularity, scope and depth. So churning up bile every month to spray around the room was a bit of a chore at times; to be frank, after the six month mark, it felt like the one-note joke had been sounded too many times.
But damn it, it had to be done. And it has to be done. Over and over and over again.
Because the boon of webcomics as an art form – unlimited canvas, potentially huge audiences, low production costs and no artistic restraints – is also its bane. While giving an entire planet total artistic freedom to futz around and be creative results in a lot of creativity, it’s also like giving a class of six-year-olds crayon boxes and telling them to go to town: there’s the potential that one of them might produce a Van Gogh, but odds are good you’ll spend so much time wading through the gibberish scribbles that you’ll lose any desire you had to find the Van Gogh in the first place.
We need editors.
We need editors because we aren’t half as funny or clever or brilliant as we think we are. We need editors because for every Internet creator, there’s an Internet sycophant waiting to stroke their ego and tell them that even their worst drivel is touched with genius. We need editors because most comics that start off strong generally just spin into blathering messes.
We need editors because for the most part we could be telling great stories but, blinded by the possibilities and the throb of our own egos, we’re only telling decent ones.
And I know this goes against the creative grain. Editors are up there on the "most reviled" list along with politicians, record executives and serial killers. They’re viewed as hangers-on, talkers-not-doers, vampires, hurdles on the track of creative brilliance. And at their worst, they’re all these things.
But a brilliant editor is the best thing that can ever happen to a brilliant creator. And if you look at the state of webcomics today, you’d have to be blind not to see a number of brilliant works that are right now spinning into self-indulgent oblivion because nobody is on hand to ask the creator what the hell the story they want to tell is. There are forums of clamoring fanboys and girls cheering every squiggly line, but no critical minds working hand-in-hand with the creators to help them refine their stories, clarify their art and tell great stories as opposed to merely interesting ones.
We need editors because absolute power does not breed absolute corruption. It just breeds absolute laziness. Let’s face it: if you had the power of a god, would you be arsed to take over the world or would you just hang out and have awesome sex all the time while eating tasty fried food and not getting fat? Yeah, me too. And that’s what we’ve got here. Creators with the tools and space and audience to give them absolute power – absolute freedom. They have the genius to create, but without the equal genius to refine, the genius to create can often mean nothing but fascinatingly intricate irrelevance. We could be building whole worlds, but instead we’re having sexy trans fat fun, which I think is important as well – but by Jesus and John Coltrane, people, we could be building worlds.
A year of columns later, I’m tired of being bitchy. But it seemed like the best way to get the message across; the best way to channel everything negative I hear about webcomics into one forum that would at least help people develop thicker skins, if not actually make a case for more effort and less artistic whim-indulging. I don’t know if it made any difference. I hope it did.
I hope this will inspire at least one or two people to think about the story they’re telling and what they want to convey, rather than just churning out mildly popular drivel on a daily basis. I hope this will convince somebody to start getting ahead of schedule and having their stuff vetted by somebody whose opinion they trust. I hope this will result in, in some minor thousandth of a percentile, in a slight increase in rigor across this whole wonderful kaleidoscope.
We’ve proved we have the talent, the gumption, and the stick-to-it-iveness to be as viable a medium as any other. TV, comics, radio – we’re there, or we’re nearly there. Now we just need the goddamn rigor to be an art form rather than a college pastime.
Thanks for listening. I love you guys. I mean it.