Art Talk No. 5
Submitted by Scott Story on November 24, 2008 - 04:03
Good Morning, Folks!
Something occurred to me Saturday night-on the web, the distinction between the comic strip cartoonist and the long-form comic artist has just about faded away. It feels like we’re all in the same boat again, and two disciplines that broke apart decades ago are finally spiraling back together. On the web, cartoonists produce sequential art to be distributed one episode at a time. Some comics are funny, some are individual story beats in a greater tale; some have continuity and character development, and some don’t. I for one think this is all tremendously cool.
Thirteen years ago, I labeled myself a “comic book penciler,” or more simply “penciler” to those inside the community of comic enthusiasts. Now I call myself a cartoonist. I once heard John Byrne refer to himself as a cartoonist, and it caught me off guard, because that wasn’t the title I figured he would bestow on himself. He’s a legendary comic artist, right? Well, he’s also a writer and inker and letterer, and he’s capable of delivering everything but color. (Actually, he might color, but I’ve never seen an example of that, so…) Then, there where the John Byrne guest strips in Funky Winkerbean. So, if “cartoonist” is good enough for John Byrne, it’s good enough for me.
I don’t call myself a webcartoonist (or webcomicker, etc.). The comics I make also get printed on paper. At this point in time, I don’t feel that printed comics are any more valid than webcomics, or less valid. A comic is a comic, and the medium of delivery shouldn’t enter into it. The web is an outstanding form of distribution, with lots of great opportunities to get the work out (RSS, email, iPhones, and so forth), but in the end it is still a form of distribution.
I don’t want to ignore the role the web has had on content, though. Print comics tend to be orientated around superheroes, horror, fantasy, and a few other genres. Web comics have been able to explore far wider subject matter, often wildly mixing genres, and free from many of the print format limitations. There are lots of reasons for this. For one, since it is relatively cheap to put out a webcomic, cartoonists can really experiment with all sorts of subject matter that wouldn’t fit into mainstream print comics. Another reason is that younger cartoonists have been attracted to the web, and these people aren’t hobbled by preconceived notions of what comics are and how they should or shouldn’t be presented.
For a short while, it appeared gimmicks might swallow webcomics. Partial or full animation, sound tracks, infinite canvas, these all proved to be more annoyances than advances in sequential art and storytelling.
Superheroes came to the web with comics, but they are a rarity in webcomics. Most superhero webcomics are parodies of print comics, and few are drawn in the same style they are presented in mainstream comics. I’d like to think “Johnny Saturn” stands out because of this.
So, there you go. In a decade of participating in the indy comic scene, I never had even a tenth as much fun or satisfaction as I have in the webcomic scene.