ImageText Article on Webcomics

ImageText has an article about webcomics in its most recent issue. (This is labeled as last fall’s issue of ImageText but buzzBugle reported it as recently published) ImageText is an academic publication so don’t expect the jaunty style of Comixpedia or Websnark when reading it.

It’s an interesting article, but one that is wrong in enough respects to annoy a serious observor of webcomics. More conjecture and opinionating from me after the break.

Webcomics is a difficult topic to cover let alone master. This article does make an effort to cover a lot of territory but it is flawed in two large ways. One, the authors of this article make plain that they are enamoured of the 60’s underground comix movement and consequently they try too hard to fit webcomics into that box.

When speaking of webcomics, we specifically mean comics that are made first for the web, made by an independent creator, who may be working with others, but who all have no originary print version and no corporate sponsorship.

There’s simply no reason to limit the definition of webcomics in this arbitrary fashion. Second, factually, my head is exploding with the countless number of generalizations and conclusory statements in this article that are either wrong or at best demonstrate a lack of comprehensive research. Let me point out a few of the more bothersome statements in this article.

First, I would take issue with their description of Modern Tales as possessed of “large financial support, with all the benefits that brings.” No offense meant to Mr. Manley, but there are no entities yet in webcomics, corporate or personal that are anything other than small businesses. Moreover without data from the proprietors it’s also not clear why the authors would single out MT from any of the other publishers trying to make a business out of webcomics.

Second, I would strongly challenge the repeated descriptions of comics about videogames, computers, etc as “out of the mainstream” because this is the mainstream. And not just the mainstream as far as webcomics but the mainstream for all pop culture for children and young adults.

Many webcomics are written within, and for, the hacker/geek sub-culture, and many more contain computer related themes, such as those webcomics that talk about or parody popular video games, like Tim Buckly’s Ctrl+Alt+Del (online), which appeals to a relatively small but devoted fan base.

Why is this quote wrong? Ctrl+Alt+Del probably appeals to a majority of the typical webcomic reader today and is about subject matter that is of interest to the majority of teenagers and young adults today. Moreover, Ctrl+Alt+Del is popular. It has a lot of readers, probably more than most comics in any format, book, strip or what have you.

Third, this article wants to refute the positive possibilities of the webcomic form for creativity without providing any real subtstance to the discussion. It is easy enough to cast Scott McCloud at his most McCloudian as an easy strawman and then point out that webcomics have not yet solved the world’s energy problems or some other outlandish claim. So, for example in paragrah 11 of this article, it is not enough to state that computer monitors are not unlimited in size (and therefore scrolling might be necessary!) and that there are other limits on the user experience such as bandwidth, file sizes and broadband speeds. We know that, it has been discussed and continues to be discussed with facts, theory and technical expertise to back up statements. This article doesn’t add anything to that discussion.

Having said all of the above, there are some interesting observations in this piece. It’s just frustrating that the article isn’t better then it is.

Xaviar Xerexes

Wandering webcomic ronin. Created Comixpedia (2002-2005) and ComixTalk (2006-2012; 2016-?). Made a lot of unfinished comics and novels.

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