Why Webcomics Aren't a Fun Thing to Do on the Web
Submitted by Erg on February 20, 2007 - 16:37
Over at Fleen David Maliki has written a guest article that argues for trying to get webcomics to sell themselves as funny, interesting things on the web in general rather than comics in particular. Unfortunately this reader think it will work because they are not as accessible and easy entry as youtube videos. On the face of it this sounds like a good idea. Everybody likes funny things on the web. Webcomics are funny or interesting, sometimes even both. So everybody should like webcomics right? Its that vile label, comics that is holding us back, associated as it is with smelly fatbeards and smelly hipster kids. If we could just mainstream webcomics, then everybody who made them would be rich and everybody I tried to talk to about them would know what the heck I was talking about.
The trouble is that most webcomics are not like other fun things on the web. Flash games, video clips of kids hurling themselves into walls, pirated tv shows, porn, whiny bloggers, and music videos are not really anything like webcomics. They are mainstream. I don't need to know anything about anything to understand the appeal of people injuring themselves or girls making out. Everyone likes that. I don't even need to know anything about the whiney 19 year old exposing her personal thoughts to the world to get voyeuristic pleasure out of it. But I do need to know something about something to read a webcomic. I need to know about video games and to have read an essay before a Penny Arcade comic will make any sense at all. I need to have seen a whole bunch of movies and tv shows to get Sluggy Freelances parodies. User Friendly requires computer knowledge and understanding. And further more, most webcomics have continuity. The average "fun and interesting stuff" web user will not read the 4 years of Questionable Content archives, or the seven for Narbonic. And you need to read archives to understand most comics on the web. And some web comics are dramas, meaning they aren't even funny. Drama does not sell on the mainstream web.
Maliki makes the point of talking about these things as brands. Entertainment brands. Penny arcade isn't a comic, or even a comic and an essay. Its a brand for comics, essays, t-shirts, con, charity and a game. Great. Except nobody really uses those the non-comic/essay services who don't read the comic. The comic is the core of the site. People first go to the site expecting a comic. They stay because of the comic. Comic is the integral feature. I can't imagine telling someone about penny arcade without explaining that it is a comic. And even the brand Penny Arcade isn't a fun and interesting thing to do on the web. It is a fun thing for gamers to do on the web.
Finally, Maliki brings up Time Friends as an example of a comic that is a fun thing on the web. And its a good example. It probably could mainstream. But most webcomics are not like that. They aren't universal and aren't pick up and read accessible. First and last, the websites invovle reading many comics. Webcomics as they currently exist target niches, be it a subculture or the comics subculture in general. Not the "mainstream" I did think of some comics that could benefit from this sell. They are here and here.