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The Web Is Not Enough

Once upon a time, in the dim, dark past of 1999, "having a webcomic" was its own gimmick. There were not that many of us, and most of us who were there were fairly hardcore about it.

These days, of course, it's just the opposite -- anybody with a graphics program and a few hours to kill can post a few strips and say they've got a webcomic. Lots of these people are talented but lack staying power -- they go for two weeks, discover that it's actually kinda hard, and quit. Many others are, well, not so talented and also lack staying power. A handful are people like Rich Burlew, who have talent -and- staying power, and thus become new stars of the webcomics world.

Combine that with the fact that most of the big syndicated comics are now available online, people like Phil Foglio are using the web to bypass the tedium and cost of releasing monthly issues that don't make money anyway, and so on, and suddenly just being "a webcomic" isn't particularly exciting as leading characteristics go.

In short, ALL comics are "web comics" any more.

This means you have to work a lot harder to break out of the crowd than you did back in 1999. The larger comics industry that so many of us pooh-poohed as "so 20th century" is now absorbing us, and the competition to get noticed on the web is just as fierce now as the competition to get noticed in print (or via 'zine) was back in the days of dead trees.

The "freebie page and hours to kill" model is still a great way to start and has the big advantage of enabling those who -don't- have staying power to realize it early on and get it out of their system. But at some point if you want to grow your career -- and what that might mean is the topic of another post in and of itself -- you're going to have to move on beyond that. "Having a webcomic," these days, is only the beginning.

-The Gneech

Hmmm...

glych's picture

See, for me, I get more joy from making it than I do from getting noticed for it (And I was making webcomics before 1999). Sure, I do kind of wish more people knew who I was and ready my stuff but I don't actively advertise like others do and instead concentrate my time on making my personal comics better and working towards my professional comics career. I might be quiet about my work, but that doesn't mean I'm not working.

-glych

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Panel2Panel.com

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Panel2Panel.com

We've been saying this a

Howard Tayler's picture

We've been saying this a Blank Label for a while -- we're not webcomics, we're independent comics. It's true, you know. The webcomic distinction is meaningless these days, unless you further describe what KIND of webcomic: and "syndicated," or "independent" are the two key descriptors.

As to the absorption of the web comic "niche" by corporate comics, didn't we all see it coming? It has happened with pretty much EVERYTHING on the web. There are few early adopters, many of whom are hobbyists with tech skills, and then Corporate America moves in and outshines everybody else by virtue of the bandwidth and design they're able to plunk down cash for.

That doesn't mean you can't keep doing what you're doing. In fact, it means that when you DO keep doing it your efforts are legitimized for the masses by the simple expedient of corporate efforts existing in the same space.

As to finding an audience, or making money from that audience, well... I'll argue that you have a separate problem there. Monetizing any business plan is tricky. Some folks are better at it than others.

Schlock Mercenary

recognization of the compartmentalization

robert's picture

[quote=Howard]

As to finding an audience, or making money from that audience, well... I'll argue that you have a separate problem there. Monetizing any business plan is tricky. Some folks are better at it than others.

[/quote]

...and that there is the crux o' the biscuit.

?

What's the need in a "call for action." As far as I can tell, things are going great for webcomics.

Every year the audience grows and the talent pool grows. Every year, more webtoonists get more control over their fate - whether to join an old-fashioned company or break away entirely (sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't).

And, as far as I can tell, the idea that it's harder to break out is total bullshit. I've quit webcomics and restarted webcomics half a dozen times since about 1998. Each time it was MUCH easier to grow an audience. As the number of webcomics has grown, so has the quality, quantity, and maturity of sites that help create and galvanize support for newcomers. Anyone who wants to put in the effort will find dozens of ways to show their stuff offsite, from news sites, to blogs, to forums, to guest art, to competition sites.

Maybe it's harder to differentiate yourself somewhat, but that's largely a function of the growth in the webcomics talent pool. Competition has gotten stiffer. Isn't that a good thing?

 

Commies.

I'm still trying to figure

The Gneech's picture

I'm still trying to figure out what the next step is, at least for myself. Part of the reason I posted this was to see what other people thought on that very topic!

It's not intended as a "call to action" so much as "an assessment of the situation". When I have a plan, I'll let you know! ;)

-The Gneech

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www.suburbanjungle.com -- The life, loves, and career of aspiring supermodel and ferocious predator, Tiffany Tiger

www.mopsy.com -- NeverNever, the story of the faeries at war with humanity, and of the humans who just don't notice

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www.suburbanjungle.com -- The life, loves, and career of aspiring supermodel and ferocious predator, Tiffany Tiger

www.mopsy.com -- NeverNever, the story of the faeries at war with humanity, and of the humans who just don't notice</&

Interesting article, but it

Fabricari's picture

Interesting article, but it leaves me asking, "And?" Without a call for action, this article is, well, kinda depressing.

Is the next step to make better comics? Create more comics? Explore new mediums?

I like the comparison to small press, though. Really all that's changed since the small 'zine days is that we now have a much larger audiance. And that motivates artists to stay in the game like nothing else. And the longer that more of us stick with webcomics, the better craftsmen we'll become.

Steve "Fabricari" Harrison

Curious...

Erg's picture

What big corporate power is absorbing webcomics? Platinum? Marvel and DC? Fantagraphics and Top Shelf's extensive web empire? What I think is happening is less that webpublishers are squeezing out self published comics but rather web cartoonists are expanding into the print and conventional markets, having proved themselves on by successfully self publishing on the web.

I do think Foglio is part of the future though. We are probably going to see web released "pamphlets" (for lack of a better term) and then collection on paper instead of the printed style funnybook to collection.

It's not "a big corporate

The Gneech's picture

It's not "a big corporate power" -- it's the industry as a whole. My point isn't that we're being put out of business by the Big Boys (because obviously we aren't) -- it's more that the Big Boys have decided that they like our playground and are moving in.

-TG

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www.suburbanjungle.com -- The life, loves, and career of aspiring supermodel and ferocious predator, Tiffany Tiger

www.mopsy.com -- NeverNever, the story of the faeries at war with humanity, and of the humans who just don't notice

--

www.suburbanjungle.com -- The life, loves, and career of aspiring supermodel and ferocious predator, Tiffany Tiger

www.mopsy.com -- NeverNever, the story of the faeries at war with humanity, and of the humans who just don't notice</&

Jaw Jaw

Erg's picture

Or at least they are talking about moving in. DC, Marvel, Fantagraphic are not here. Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware are not here. Heck, Kurt Busiek isn't even here. Who are the big boys? I love Phil Foglio, but he seems, well, average sized to me. The fact that it is harder to break out of the crowd now comes from the fact, in my mind, that there is so much competition from other webcartoonists. The big boys aren't here so much as fifty thousand littleboys showed up and started sucking air too. I fully acknowledge I may be wrong. And I am not a creator. but I am looking at the same thing and seeing something pretty different.

We're talking about

The Gneech's picture

We're talking about different big boys -- I'm thinking of King Features, United Features, etc. The realm of "comic strips" rather than "comic books".

You definitely have a point about fifty thousand littleboys, but to a certain extent that problem is self-correcting, as they tend to fall out just as fast as they show up. A lot of webcomics connoisseurs I've spoken to won't even look at webcomic that has less than three months of archives.

-TG

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www.suburbanjungle.com -- The life, loves, and career of aspiring supermodel and ferocious predator, Tiffany Tiger

www.mopsy.com -- NeverNever, the story of the faeries at war with humanity, and of the humans who just don't notice

--

www.suburbanjungle.com -- The life, loves, and career of aspiring supermodel and ferocious predator, Tiffany Tiger

www.mopsy.com -- NeverNever, the story of the faeries at war with humanity, and of the humans who just don't notice</&