The Webcomics Examiner has a new article up called "A Shrinkage of the Center". Joe Zabel was nice enough to ask me for comments on the idea of the piece but of course I’ve been too swamped to sit down and extract some rational thoughts from my brain to respond properly.
Maybe the difficulty I had with articulaing a response was in how that article framed its questions. I’ve never been part of "the comics community" or fandom generally. I recognize that there is a tribal aspect to comic book fandom – much more so than any other type of comics readership. I don’t think webcomics has every really had that aspect to it. Largely because unlike comic books webcomics have not coalesced around a specific genre and I doubt that webcomics ever will (or just as importantly get tightly linked to a genre in the larger public mind).
The other way to think of community is more about the creators and whether they share ideas, etc. My perception on this is that there has never been one community of webcomic creators. There used to be far fewer webcomics creators and so perhaps it was easier to look in on all of the various groups of people, but I just don’t recall a moment in time when everyone was unified or together or something.
The fact of the matter is that it’s easier to compare webcomics to literature or music than comic books to sort out what’s going on. Nobody expects every author or musician to be in the words or music community. Instead there are communities built around common interests like genre, experience, age, whatever. A lot of creators will pay attention to multiple communities – but some will burrow into just one and some will ignore everything at all.
That doesn’t mean that a general interest site for webcomics like Comixpedia is flawed – it just means it’s a bit unrealistic to expect us all to feel like we’re part of one webcomics community. I know I’ve used the term "webcomics community" myself, but obviously there are different ways to use the word community. A community can be a very tight-knit group of individuals like a single street or it can be a more diverse group like an entire city. As webcomics grow in size an scope it can’t help but become more like an entire city.
If we’re talking about "webcomics community" it’s better to understand that there are all kinds of communities out there and that at a place like Comixpedia we’re engaged in some intra-community discussion, but also inter-community discussion. We’re all "of webcomics" but different communities essentially have different customs and speak different languages to some extent.