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Captain Nihilist asks, “What’s so bad about calling them ‘webcomics’?”


I’m probably going to end up making an issue out of a non-issue here, but the topic is fairly interesting and, as more independent artists migrate to the web, is probably going to get more press in the coming years. Comic creators are, after all, totally anal when it comes to proper terminology.

Should we still keep calling comics on the web “webcomics”?

A few bloggers have brought up that they just do not like the term.


I’m speaking to YOU, Mike Perridge.

On his banner, Mike (codename: MPD57) displays the following motto on the banner of his blog:

Webcomics don’t even exist as far as I’m concerned. Comics remain comics whether in print or online. Each medium presents it’s [sic] own opportunities and challenges but comics remained untouched at the centre.

Big words, MPD57. Let’s not forget that MPD57 is British, and his countrymen call sausages “bangers” and cigarettes “a politically incorrect slur about homosexuals.” If we let the British come up with an alternative term for webcomics, no doubt they’ll come up with the name of a heinous sex act and pass it off as some cultural quirk. Wouldn’t that be the dog’s bollocks!

Clearly I have a personal stake in the debate, since my site is called “The Webcomic Overlook” and I don’t want to lose the $15 I spent registering the web address. But I also think it’s a good term, and we should stop worrying and learn to love “webcomics.”


Why it’s OK to love the name:

1.) The alternatives aren’t actually better.

Take the terms “digital comic” and “online comic.” It has a nice sound to it, admittedly. However, how in the world is this any better than just saying “webcomic”? The latter term is two syllables less. And we know that no one likes to say the longer word when a shorter one exists. Do people go around saying, “I’m gonna borrow the automobile”?

The only redeeming merit is that those terms do separate “comic” and identify it as part of a family. This would be analogous to how vertically challenged people prefer to be called “little people” rather than “midgets” or “dwarves”: the “people” at the end means that, above all, they’re still human and deserve the same respect.

However, doesn’t “webcomics” already have “comics” tagged at the end? I mean, it’s not like you’re going to click on a link and arrive at a photo gallery of little people (provided that the site owner was being forthcoming).

If it really bugs you, you can always call them “web comics.” See? Problem solved with the inclusion of a tiny space.


2.) The traditional terms don’t work too well either.

I mean, why get your panties in a bunch when comic professionals have been drenched in flop sweat over what to call their pages and pages of pretty pictures?

  • Comics – It shares the name with comedy. You won’t believe how disappointed I am when Comedy Central airs “Last Comic Standing.” They even use a word balloon as a logo, for God’s sake!

    In addition, there are people who read print comics who pooh-pooh the term. The connotation is that, despite all the “comics aren’t just for kids anymore” articles, people think that comics are still just for kids. That’s a little inaccurate: the public sentiment is that comics are for man children who really need to grow up.

    STILL, despite its shortcomings, “comic” is still the widely accepted term, holding court over all other pretenders to the Nomenclature Throne.

  • Graphic novels – The term was popularized by none other than Will Eisner himself (though he didn’t invent it). I’m sure this started out as a way to legitimize the comic industry. However, “graphic novel” reeks of pretentiousness. It always reminds me of that MST3K skit where Tom Servo (played by Kevin Murphy) huffily retorts “It’s a graphic novel!” every time Joel says “comic.” I’ll let Alan Moore explain:

    It’s a marketing term … that I never had any sympathy with. The term ‘comic’ does just as well for me. … The problem is that ‘graphic novel’ just came to mean ‘expensive comic book’ and so what you’d get is people like DC Comics or Marvel comics — because ‘graphic novels’ were getting some attention, they’d stick six issues of whatever worthless piece of crap they happened to be publishing lately under a glossy cover and call it The She-Hulk Graphic Novel….

  • Funnies – not only does it fall prey to the whole issue with “comics,” it also sounds terribly archaic. Does anyone still call them “the funny pages” anymore? I thought we were calling them the comics section.
  • Sequential Art – no one knows what the hell this means. Seriously. Say you talked to someone on the street an you said, “I’m reading this great ’sequential art.’” That person is going to say, “What?” And you’ll be forced to say, “Uh, I mean a comic.” You could’ve saved yourself a pointless side conversation!

3.) There actually IS a difference between webcomics and print comics nowadays.

Taking MPD57’s original statement, it would also be wrong to refer to books on tape as “audiobooks” and online journal entries as “blogs.” After all, what’s the difference … other than the medium? Because it’s handy. And you get a better idea of the product that’s being delivered to you. I don’t want to be saying things like “this comic I read on the Internet” all the time.

Remember, brevity is the soul of wit.

I have no idea what the statement means in context to my discussion about “webcomics,” but I think Shakespeare said it and that guy was the bomb-diggidy.

Now, there are claims that “webcomic” sort of denigrates the product, as if it was something not up to par with “comics.” Where would you get that impression? Frankly, I don’t think webcomics have ANY sort of reputation yet! Mention it to someone, and they’ll probably say, “I’ve never read webcomics before! What would you recommend?”

If you get, “Webcomics are for babies and man babies and I don’t want anything to do with them,” likely they already hated comics anyway, so you wouldn’t have won any prestige points for changing up the term.

Now, if “webcomics” eventually become strongly equated with demeaning qualities (like “midgets”), I can see the need to boost marketing value with a name change… but that’s the perils with using any term, now, wouldn’t it?


4.) Sometimes you have to roll with what everyone’s calling it or you’re going to end up looking like a pompous fool.

Seriously. I wasn’t to happy when everyone started calling it “email”, but that name totally stuck. If I started calling it “online mail,” I will get dirty glances, a raspberry, and possibly everyone sending my online mail address to spammers. I also wasn’t too thrilled with “spam,” but there you go.

In closing, can we all agree that “webcomickers” is a terrible term? Who coined this? I mean, do you call print comic creators, writers, and artists “comickers”?

No, of course not.

Because it’s STUPID.

* – Images from I Can’t Stop Thinking, Scott McCloud.

Posted in The Webcomic Overlook, webcomics