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Webcomics: a Medium, not a Genre Pt. 2

Thought we might continue this discussion since the forums have been renovated.

To recap: Webcomics is and should be a medium for creators to tell their stories, not unlike books, movies, theatre and video games. They are not a genre that has been defined by PvP, Penny Arcade, Keenspot and the like.

Webcomics are not and should not be just limited to stories about gamers nor a group of friends, no matter how much you have embellish them; otherwise, webcomics would fall into the same trap that current American comics has been associated with superheroes.

Once we see to it that webcomics should be treated as a medium, this should be a good chance for creators to expand more of what webcomics can do. Shall we discuss this?

I'm not fond of infinite

panvaneer's picture

I'm not fond of infinite canvas experiments in webcomics but Estancia is probably a good example of it working. (even if it does have an anime sheen and anime narrative)

We still haven't come to terms with the chapter format in webcomics, some people think Megatokyo is merely a clearinghouse for Fred Gallagher's print comic ambitions, that he isn't 'pure' or he doesn'y update often enough.

I think webcomics are more than a format, the way we approach them is determined by a haze of links anf the buzz of forums, opinions are far easier to find and rivalries are easier to enflame.

 

http://www.webcomicsnation.com/hammock/estancia/series.php

Currently building an evil robotic cat to take over the world!

http://zhi100.blogspot.com

Re: Webcomics: a Medium, not a Genre Pt. 2

spargs's picture

Altercator wrote:
Shall we discuss this?
Is that a rhetorical question? Mine certainly was. PVP and PA are the big players [sic] in the game, but I think that's probably a reflection of the fact that gamers have a large online presence, and that before PVP/PA webcomics didn't exist in a form that was massively popular. Nowdays many more non-gaming type people make regular use of the internet and are becoming aware of webcomics; this is being reflected in the rise in popularity of other genres. I don't get the feeling webcomics are treated as gamer only affairs - or even promoted in this manner. Most of the newspaper/magazine articles on webcomics I've read have been about non-gaming comics. Go to Onlinecomics and the "gamers" genre is one of the smaller sized categories (less than "college").

[url=http://www.digi-comic.com][img]http://www.digi-comic.com/images/dcLilLink.gif[/img][/url]

Uncle Ghastly's picture

A friend of mine who is a writer tried to submit a story about me and my webcomic to a newspaper. The editor damned near shit kittens when he was my comic. Needless to say, there was no story about me and my webcomic.

I've seen the term "webcomic art" used to describe a type of illustration. That kind of amaturely drawn and then CG coloured type of artwork, flat fills and gradients.

Re: Webcomics: a Medium, not a Genre Pt. 2

Tim  Demeter's picture

Altercator wrote:
webcomics would fall into the same trap that current American comics has been associated with superheroes.
TWG wrote:
Too late.
Yeah, but I don't think the damage is so entrenched, it's undoable, like it is in comic shops. I agree with spargs in that as more and more audience types jump online there's a good chance to break beyond that mold. Many gamers are early adopters by nature, so it would make sense that they're the first in the pool. Personally, I would rather deal with the stigma of webcomics being about gamers than having no success stories at all because not only does it show the world at large that this can be done as financial success, which like it not, carries some weight, but it also shows potential paths to making it your only job. Not the only ways, but there are proven models of success and that's a place to start.
Ghastly wrote:
I've seen the term "webcomic art" used to describe a type of illustration. That kind of amaturely drawn and then CG coloured type of artwork, flat fills and gradients.
As an artist first, that's a generalization I don't care for one bit.

Tim Demeter
does a bunch of neato stuff.
Clickwheel
GraphicSmash
Bustout Odds

Re: Webcomics: a Medium, not a Genre Pt. 2

timdemeter wrote:
As an artist first, that's a generalization I don't care for one bit.
I think it's hilarious!
Quote:
Once we see to it that webcomics should be treated as a medium, this should be a good chance for creators to expand more of what webcomics can do.
Creators are already doing whatever they want to do with their webcomics. I don't think there's any need to worry about them not understanding that they can make whatever kind of comics they want. If someone makes a comic about gamers on a couch, I'd guess it's because that's what they wanted to do after reading a bunch of similar comics, not because they felt they couldn't be a webcomic artist if they did something else.

<a xhref="http://www.kiwisbybeat.com" target=blank>Kiwis by beat!</a>

I agree with Rezo. I think most people understand that webcomics are just another engine for creators to express themselves, not just a medium to make jokes about giant Xbox controllers. When people ask me what I do for a living I tell them I make comics, and I post them on the internet. It's all just comics to me, with differing styles, flavours, and a new way to bring it to people.

To me, webcomics are comics regardless what medium they are in. They are still comics. Except it was distrubuted via the internet.

The William G's picture

Granted, most comic readers are genre fans and not "comics!" fans, but you'd think they'd be willing to give webcomics a shot.

But based on my experience, the stigma of "Webcomics have to be free because they are shit comics no one is willing to pay for" seems to be alive and well in some circles.


I think a part of the problem is that so many people are either influenced by, or are trying to re-create the success experienced by PvP, Penny-Arcade, CAD, VgCats and the other "successful" webcomics. Much in the same way we tried to follow in the footsteps of say...User Friendly or Sluggy. For every really unique and remarkable new webcomic there are at least 20 copycat strips. And all that stuff is vying for attention. So it's easy for the really groundbreaking stuff to get lost. But I think that it's all out there. There are a ton of comics that break the genre and define webcomics as a medium. They're just buried under a ton of peopel trying to recreate a formula. P.S...... PvP is incorrectly labeled a gaming comic. It's not. It's an office comic, a family comic, a relationship comic....but it hasn't been a gaming comic in years. And I think a lot of people label it that as a way of dismissing what success I've built. PvP has a pop-culture setting. But hasn't been a gaming comic for years.

The William G's picture

Kurtz wrote:
There are a ton of comics that break the genre and define webcomics as a medium. They're just buried under a ton of peopel trying to recreate a formula.
I agree with you totally on this. Then again, it's a sad fact of any medium. How many fey British dudes in lipstick did we have to suffer through trying to capture the might and the magic that was Duran Duran back in the 80s? Too damned many, that's how many! But here's the problem: Most people want comfort food, and a pat on the bum. Not fibre, vitamins and a reminder to eat well. So even if you are producing our theoretical cutting-edge webcomic, you either need to depend of great word of mouth or you have to be really fucking good. (Or both, which I call the "The Derek Kirk Kim Method")


Uncle Ghastly's picture

TWG wrote:
Then again, it's a sad fact of any medium. How many fey British dudes in lipstick did we have to suffer through trying to capture the might and the magic that was Duran Duran back in the 80s?
Or mopey suburban kids in black lipstick in the 90s trying to be Marylin Manson. And say what you will but I think A Flock Of Seagulls ROCKED! But Thomas Dolby was and always will be my King.

In any field, it take at least a decade to get REALLY good at what they do.

If someone is seven year old and drawing pretty good, I call that kid a lucky person. Because if he determined to improve his artwork, he might be even better than all of ya in a decade or two.

More bonus if he have skilled artist who is the parent of that kid. Even more bonus if he receive professional training or something.

How to get really good: Start as early as possible and try to improve your skills as much as possible.

Uncle Ghastly's picture

Kiba wrote:
In any field, it take at least a decade to get REALLY good at what they do.
Woohoo! So I'm only about 5 more years away from getting really good. That'll be sweet.
Quote:
How to get really good: Start as early as possible and try to improve your skills as much as possible.
Although keep in mind, it's NEVER too late to start. I'm 40 years old, I didn't start drawing until about 5 years ago. If you never start, well... then you'll never get good. Too many people seem to be paralysed by not just the fear of failure, but the fear of sucking. I say recognize your suck, embrace your suck and strive to transcend your suck. The truth of the matter I've discovered is no matter how good you are and how good you get 100% satisfaction is never going to be attained. In fact, the saddest day of my life as an artist would be the day I create something I'm 100% satisfied with. That'll mean I've got nowhere left to grow.

Tim  Demeter's picture

Ghastly wrote:
If you never start, well... then you'll never get good. Too many people seem to be paralysed by not just the fear of failure, but the fear of sucking. I say recognize your suck, embrace your suck and strive to transcend your suck. The truth of the matter I've discovered is no matter how good you are and how good you get 100% satisfaction is never going to be attained. In fact, the saddest day of my life as an artist would be the day I create something I'm 100% satisfied with. That'll mean I've got nowhere left to grow.
The best thing that ever happened to me was my first con portfolio review run in which I was torn several new orifices. Once you figure out that you don't rock, you've taken your first steps towards actually rocking.
TWG wrote:
But based on my experience, the stigma of "Webcomics have to be free because they are shit comics no one is willing to pay for" seems to be alive and well in some circles.
S'what I know of as well.

Tim Demeter
does a bunch of neato stuff.
Clickwheel
GraphicSmash
Bustout Odds

Ghastly wrote:
If you never start, well... then you'll never get good. Too many people seem to be paralysed by not just the fear of failure, but the fear of sucking. I say recognize your suck, embrace your suck and strive to transcend your suck. The truth of the matter I've discovered is no matter how good you are and how good you get 100% satisfaction is never going to be attained. In fact, the saddest day of my life as an artist would be the day I create something I'm 100% satisfied with. That'll mean I've got nowhere left to grow.
If I was ever 100% satisfied as an artist and completely capable of doing whatever I wanted perfectly and had nowhere left to grow, then I'd be really really happy. I'd get to stop worrying about improving and just create kickass art and comics like gangbusters. If for some strange reason I was dissapointed with the lack of ability to improve myself as an artist after reaching godlike ability, then... I'd take up music or something. Start that whole "I am sucky,better get to work" process all over again.

<a xhref="http://www.kiwisbybeat.com" target=blank>Kiwis by beat!</a>

Well, I am not an artist but a craftman. Less vaguely, I am a programmer noob.

But I can tell you this...

No amount of schooling will replace doing. Simply put, no amount of schooling will teach you more than experience. I used to make that same simple errors, now I make less. I don't think I will be a great programmer if I don't program.

If I can't improve and I have godlike ability, than I am unhappy. Nothing to explore, no new terrority to conquer, and no more knowledge to gain. That mean I will be bored. No mystery to solve but no bug to squash. So that is a big tradeoff.

I am a pretty lucky person to have someone to teach me from time to time rather than sit and look at reference book trying to figure out what it mean.

Greg Carter's picture

Ghastly wrote:
In fact, the saddest day of my life as an artist would be the day I create something I'm 100% satisfied with. That'll mean I've got nowhere left to grow.
rezo wrote:
If I was ever 100% satisfied as an artist and completely capable of doing whatever I wanted perfectly and had nowhere left to grow, then I'd be really really happy.
Well, maybe it's possible to be satisfied with your craftsmanship and not be satisfied with your artistry. I would keep experimenting with the comic form and might go beyond what a comic is, but I wouldn't just stop and say there's nothing left to do and start over with another medium. I'd fold other media in and expand what I was doing. I would like to get to a comfortable level with my skills but creatively I'll always want to push. It's all about the journey. Not that I have to worry about that any time soon. I was 42 when I started drawing almost 4 years ago. Now I need to get to a point where my kids stop telling me to quit "pulling a Piro" because I'm constantly questioning what I'm doing. :wink: I can't help it. I'm still learning.

Greg Carter - Abandon: First Vampire - Online Graphic Novel

The William G's picture

Ghastly wrote:
Too many people seem to be paralysed by not just the fear of failure, but the fear of sucking.
  That's what killed me.
Quote:
I say recognize your suck, embrace your suck and strive to transcend your suck. The truth of the matter I've discovered is no matter how good you are and how good you get 100% satisfaction is never going to be attained.
  And that's the attitude I've been trying to follow.


jdalton's picture

GregC wrote:
Now I need to get to a point where my kids stop telling me to quit "pulling a Piro" because I'm constantly questioning what I'm doing.
:D :D Best new webcomic-related catchphrase ever!

Jonathon Dalton
A Mad Tea-Party

Uncle Ghastly's picture

GregC wrote:
Now I need to get to a point where my kids stop telling me to quit "pulling a Piro" because I'm constantly questioning what I'm doing.
jdalton wrote:
:D :D Best new webcomic-related catchphrase ever!
  And it makes a great yaoi pic to attract female readers too.

I think Format

Greg Carter's picture

The one thing all webcomics have in common is that they are formatted for screen viewing. Whether that screen be on a phone, iPod, standard computer, or whatever.

I have decided to call webcomics a format. The rest of you are on your own. ;-)

Greg Carter
UpDown Studio

Greg Carter - Abandon: First Vampire - Online Graphic Novel

Re: I think Format

Joel Fagin's picture

GregC wrote:
The one thing all webcomics have in common is that they are formatted for screen viewing. Whether that screen be on a phone, iPod, standard computer, or whatever.

Actually, I think there are very few webcomics formatted for the screen. Most are formatted for the A4 page or the newspaper and then simply put on the screen. I'm sure there are more but off the top of my head I can only think of a handful of exceptions - Penny Arcade, College Roomies From Hell and Spiders (and anything else with an infinite canvass).

For most webcomics, the web is not a genre, an artistic medium or a format, but simply a broadcast medium. It is the method by which the comic is delivered. The fact they are on the web seems to affect very little else about the comic at all.

- Joel Fagin

Webcomic Tutorials

You're thinking of the

Greg Carter's picture

[quote]Actually, I think there are very few webcomics formatted for the screen. Most are formatted for the A4 page or the newspaper and then simply put on the screen.[/quote]

You're thinking of the comic's layout. I'm saying something was done to make it screen viewable. So therefore it was formatted for the screen. The original layout/format doesn't matter. It could be made of gravy in a bowl. All that matters is that it is now formatted for the screen or you wouldn't be seeing it.

The intarwub is a broadcast medium. A webcomic is content. A webcomic is content in a particular format: A comic that is currently, but not necessarily originally, formatted for screen viewing. Therefore webcomic=format and god is dead.

Greg Carter
Abandon
UpDown Studio

Greg Carter - Abandon: First Vampire - Online Graphic Novel

I've been swayed by a thread

Gordon McAlpin's picture

I've been swayed by a thread about this elsewhere to agree that webcomics are a broadcast medium, so I agree with your point in that respect. I still stand by webcomics also being a format within the comics medium (in the artistic medium sense).

However, I disagree with this statement of yours:

"Actually, I think there are very few webcomics formatted for the screen. Most are formatted for the A4 page or the newspaper and then simply put on the screen."

I don't think that there is such a thing as "simply putting it on the screen." You can't JUST put a comic on a screen. You have to scan it, save it for the web at x number of pixels wide, you have to be aware that your lettering will not be as legible at 72 dpi as it would at 300 dpi... all sorts of things, really. To me, that constitutes formatting for the screen -- even if you do it poorly.

It's the same way that a movie has to be formatted for viewing on television when distributed through the DVD format. Sure, the movie doesn't significantly change at all, but it IS different: It's "formatted to fit your screen," as the notice says, either with letterboxing or pan-and-scan.

Multiplex is a twice weekly humor comic about the staff of the Multiplex 10 Cinemas and the movies that play there.

Webcomics: A label, not a Format, not a Medium, loosely a Genre.

Aleph's picture

I couldn't disagree more. What defines a 'webcomic' is certainly not the format-- whether what's being presented is partially animated, fully animated, presented in flash or in a scroll-screen, presented page by page or in a full-page with zoom, presented with music, really what separates a webcomic from other things on the web seems to be that the creator says it's a webcomic. There's no standardized format which is webcomic.

Saying a comic is a comic regardless is kind of naieve-- off the web, many 'comics' would barely be classed as cartoons. What qualifies as comic art offline is a world apart from what is accepted as comic art online.

There is no format to webcomics, and even less of a medium, we use the term carelessly to describe a sweeping array of possible media with which a person may deliver their webcomic. A medium is a set of materials with which art can be created-- and calling webcomics a medium is like calling gallery art a medium whether it's done by collage, oil paint, or laser light show. Putting White Ninja together with A Softer World and calling it a 'medium' is like that. Photography and scribble art, NOT the same medium, whether you hang it in the internet gallery or not.

The word genre actually comes closest because it simply means 'kind', it's a categorical description. Whatever colloquial connotation it's picked up, it still only means a loosely described genus of something, and that's the very best term you can PUT on something like this. Webcomics share some loose traits across all content genres, they are generally put together for online offerings by amateurs, whether those amateurs later turn pro or not. They are a kind of comic that can be created without a publisher or a backer, a generalized pursuit for artists who go after maximum exposure with minimal investment. But really, there are significant exceptions to all of those statements. All we are left as a connective tissue is that webcomics are presented on the internet and CALLED webcomics-- and that's not enough for a medium, format, or anything really. That's the kind of 'dunno' situation the word 'genre' was popularized to solve.

People who object to the term 'genre' as applied to webcomics generally don't know what it means, and that's not surprising, considering linguists don't even agree entirely on it. Its modern usage ranges from meanings derived from a single quote by Helen Kitchen, to meanings derived from highly specialized critical definitions that are picked to death within literary/art/film circles. But those who discuss these specialized genres know that they are discussing definitions of the specific genres and not definitions of the word 'genre'. Deriving the definition of genre from the highly specialized and strictly defined genres used by the critical community is the kind of backwards thinking I would expect of Wikipedia, but it's not sound logic. A genre can be subdivided into as many sub-genres as you wish, and any one genre can be as specific or as all-encompassing as the people defining it choose, but when you strip the word down to it most basic core, all it means is 'a kind of thing', and that's really all you can say about webcomics. They're a kind of thing. They loosely collect a variety of media, a variety of formats, and a variety of ideas. Collecting a variety of unrelated things under one generalization is what the word genre is for.

Re: Webcomics: A label, not a Format, not a Medium, loosely a Ge

Gordon McAlpin's picture

[quote=Aleph]I couldn't disagree more. What defines a 'webcomic' is certainly not the format-- whether what's being presented is partially animated, fully animated, presented in flash or in a scroll-screen, presented page by page or in a full-page with zoom, presented with music, really what separates a webcomic from other things on the web seems to be that the creator says it's a webcomic. There's no standardized format which is webcomic.

The word genre actually comes closest because it simply means 'kind', it's a categorical description. Whatever colloquial connotation it's picked up, it still only means a loosely described genus of something, and that's the very best term you can PUT on something like this. Webcomics share some loose traits across all content genres, they are generally put together for online offerings by amateurs, whether those amateurs later turn pro or not. They are a kind of comic that can be created without a publisher or a backer, a generalized pursuit for artists who go after maximum exposure with minimal investment. But really, there are significant exceptions to all of those statements. All we are left as a connective tissue is that webcomics are presented on the internet and CALLED webcomics-- and that's not enough for a medium, format, or anything really. That's the kind of 'dunno' situation the word 'genre' was popularized to solve.[/quote]

"Genre" may originate from the French word for "kind," but your use of it is simply wrong. You're making very naive assumptions based on overly vague dictionary definitions. Read the Wikipedia entry on "genre"... it's a half-way decent primer.

Genre is about content, not delivery systems: subject matter, technique, target audience, so what you called "content genres" was simply redundant, and your broader use of the word "genre" was simply an abuse of the English language...

Comics on the internet are webcomics -- and that operative distinction ("on the internet" vs. not) is entirely a question of "the material form or layout of a publication" -- which is to say, format.

Multiplex is a weekly webcomic revolving around the staff of the Multiplex 10 Cinemas.

Multiplex is a twice weekly humor comic about the staff of the Multiplex 10 Cinemas and the movies that play there.

I had not only read it, I criticized it.

Aleph's picture

Oh, I've seen the wiki entry for genre, and if you'd read the entire reply with some comprehension you'd have seen that I both mentioned and criticized it. It's a backwards definition derived from the highly specified genres discussed in the critical community, but your usage is a colloquialized definition and not an actual replacement of the word as it was brought into language.

What a genre is, is not defined by content or format or anything of the like, a genre is defined by those discussing it. One of the most famous statements about genre theory was made by Friedrich Schlegel, "Every poem is a genre unto itself."

If you look outside the critical community genres are defined any way they need to be-- genres of psychological theory, genres of methodology, communicative genres and others... and the only requirement for a thing to be made a genre is that it acquires a definition and name used within the community that uses it.

[quote]"When a type of discourse or communicative action acquires a common name within a given context or community, that’s a good sign that it’s functioning as a genre."

-- Miller, C. R. (1984). Genre as Social Action. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 70, 151-176
[/quote]

Please realize that when you're quoting wikipedia, you're quoting every dumbass to come along with more time than anyone really should have, and editing over each other in an attempt to be important. It's nothing but zeitgeist, and we ought to know by now how deeply misinformed and outright wrong-headed the zeitgeist can be.

Perhaps Wikipedia is more

Gordon McAlpin's picture

Perhaps Wikipedia is more handy than reliable, though I would say the "genre" entry was rather solid. Words are defined by their popular usage, not your own personal preferences.

Nevermind that for now, though. Let's take your position (that webcomics are a genre, or "kind") and run with it, just for the sake of argument:

WHAT is webcomics a "kind" OF? Of comics? Well, sure -- but what is the distinctive characteristic that sets webcomics apart from all other comics? It is the internet, which, as I pointed out before, is a matter of its material form. Is it not, then, more useful to describe webcomics as a format within the comics medium, since it makes an actual descriptive statement about the nature of webcomics?

Simply put, your definition of the word "genre" ("any way it needs to be defined") is so broad as to be utterly meaningless.

For another thing, your use of Schegel and Miller do not follow AT ALL; they neither support nor contradict either of our posited definitions for the word. If anything, they support both of our statements.

Multiplex is a twice weekly humor comic about the staff of the Multiplex 10 Cinemas and the movies that play there.

Re: Perhaps Wikipedia is more

Aleph's picture

[quote=gmcalpin]Perhaps Wikipedia is more handy than reliable, though I would say the "genre" entry was rather solid. Words are defined by their popular usage, not your own personal preferences.
[/quote]

Not mine. Literary journals, computing trade mags, scientific journals, fact is that 90 percent of the world outside the literary/film critical community has a much broader meaning. Go look it up for yourself if you don't know-- read about the genres of medical topography, the genre-defining characteristics of the 8080 chip, genre patterns in research data, this is just what I can mention off the top of my head that I know is accessible. It's all out there if you go looking.

The definition of "genre", both in its origins, and as it is applied in day to day use IS so broad as to be meaningless except with the meaning given here: a term used to classify something within a given context or community. It is known as a term of convenience for that very reason. It is a catch-all phrase. It has been used, traditionally and in the modern world, as a means of classifying things that cannot otherwise be classified. Each specific genre is as well-defined or loosely-defined as the context demands. Demanding that the word genre itself be defined in terms of any one of those brings a real problem to anybody who knows more than a few examples of genre: genres of programming do not share characteristics with genres of film or art, genres of research methodology would bring an entirely different set of requirements to the table than genres of psychological methodology or practical methodology. To define all ideas of genre by the opinions of a few outspoken individuals is what's meaningless, the word is fine on its own without having its usefulness stripped down to use only in regards to the content of a creative expression within strictly defined categories.

You might as well object to 'category' too. After all, what determines the degree of categorization is every bit as malleable and internally defined as what determines how specific or broad a genre is. Genre allows us to reach across fundamental classifications-- which are necessary to categorization-- to bring a group of ideas-- strictly related or not-- under a single header. This is done because they are to their contextual backgrounds grouped as the same /kind/ of thing, and from there on it is up to those discussing the genre to define what that kind of thing is and what its identifying characteristics are. There simply is not another word that allows us to do that.

I did not use Schegel as a means of contradicting a posited definition but as a mean of illustrating that there has never, from the very founding of the genre theory being used to excuse this wikifinition-- from the 18th and 19th centuries to now-- been an universally accepted definition of genre, not even within the literary/art context. It was never offered as anything but illustration of one of the most famous statements regarding genre theory. Schegel pointed out that every poem itself could exist as a genre. And it's utterly true to this day, genre can telescope to as narrow a definition as we like, or as wide as can be. Genre-defining works still come out today, and if genre were so strictly defined as Wikipedia would like it to be, that simply could not happen. How stuffy, how dull. Takes us back to pre-Romantic period ideas along the same vein, put forward by a similar cadre of people who sat around talking about things other people created. Time is indeed cyclical in that respect.

As for Miller, it is directly on point-- as I said, there is no true connective tissue, no unifying format, no unifying medium which can be applied to webcomics. The only unifying element to webcomics is that, in their context and community, they are branded webcomics-- within that genre is contained flash animation, sketch art, pencilled art, gif animation, photography, clip art, and whatever else the webcartoonist puts up and brands 'webcomic'. Plenty of other things are created specifically for viewing on the internet, webcomics can't lay claim to that. Plenty of narrative storytelling is put on the internet without being branded webcomics.

Now, let's go through the quote again, slowly and carefully this time:

[quote]"When a type of discourse or communicative action acquires a common name within a given context or community, that’s a good sign that it’s functioning as a genre."

-- Miller, C. R. (1984). Genre as Social Action. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 70, 151-176 [/quote]

Webcomics, the type of discourse or communicative action. Webcomics, the common name within the context of network offerings and within the 'webcomics community'. That's a good sign that it's functioning as a genre.

That's all I offered it as, all I meant it as, and it's a perfectly applicable use.

As for a format, putting it all on the internet is hardly a format, and some comics are virtually unchanged when printed whereas others cannot be printed at all. some webcomics are podcast. Some webcomics are presented via clickwheel and others are presented in raw html. Format means the choice of materials, organization, or plan of arrangement. It derives its roots from, well, form. Webcomics do not take any unifying form, they have no common structure, they are not derived along a common plan from common materials, so the term simply does not apply. There must be more commonality within a format than without, and there simply isn't here-- being digital and being viewed via a computer is not enough to make a format out of the myriad things called 'webcomic' today.

I don't know how to put it any clearer than that, so, it's up to the reader to figure it out from there.

The hearts of our disagreement

Gordon McAlpin's picture

I apparently misunderstood where you were coming from before. For that, I apologize. Apparently you are coming from the "90 percent of the world outside the literary/film critical community" within which the word "genre" "has a much broader meaning."

Within that part of the world, you are right.

But you fail to recognize that the opposite is also true: that WITHIN 10% of the world -- within that literary/film/art critical community -- the narrower, technical definition of the word "genre" is the right definition.

And you fail to recognize that webcomics theory IS a part of that 10%.

When a word has an accepted, technical definition within a field, you ONLY use the technical definition while you are discussing matters that fall within that field, or you risk making no sense at all, which is what you were doing before. Now you've clarified.

This is EXACTLY why you should only use the technical sense of a technical term within a technical community: because you do not need to clarify yourself.

Words are tools, and technical terms are very specific tools. When you are writing a technical manual about assembling a bookcase, you don't use the word "hammer" metaphorically. And you don't use the word "genre" outside of its VERY WIDELY ACCEPTED technical sense when talking about art or literary theory of any kind.

[quote=Aleph]being digital and being viewed via a computer is not enough to make a format out of the myriad things called 'webcomic' today.[/quote]

I disagree. Obviously.

I think the distinction between print and the web is a pretty huge difference. There are ANY number of ways that print and webcomics differ:

Print is limited by page size. Webcomics have infinite canvas. Print is limited to spot or process color (extra colors quickly become cost-prohibitive, but are possibile). Web is limited to RGB, period. Print is static. Web has animation or even interactivity. Some things are possible in print that are impossible on the web, and vice versa. That, Aleph, is a substantial difference.

My own comic is decidedly a "webcomic," because I CHANGE the specific format -- in length -- every time. I simply could not do the same thing with print. It is not possible. Cat Garza, and B. Shur are doing things with webcomics that are also impossible to do in print, for many more reasons than with mine.

Your comic looks to be drawn to a fixed page size -- you're obviously eyeing a print collection someday. Your work takes no advantage of the unique possibilities of the internet. There's nothing wrong with that. But it does not make the possibilities less significant, and it certainly does not make them not exist.

Multiplex is a twice weekly humor comic about the staff of the Multiplex 10 Cinemas and the movies that play there.

OK, we've obviously reached the end of productive discussion, so

Aleph's picture

See, it's very hard to take what you say seriously, because you keep trying, oer and over, to make this about my motives, my thinking, my perspective, and you really have zero grasp on that.

[quote]I apparently misunderstood where you were coming from before. For that, I apologize. Apparently you are coming from the "90 percent of the world outside the literary/film critical community" within which the word "genre" "has a much broader meaning."

Within that part of the world, you are right.

But you fail to recognize that the opposite is also true: that WITHIN 10% of the world -- within that literary/film/art critical community -- the narrower, technical definition of the word "genre" is the right definition.

And you fail to recognize that webcomics theory IS a part of that 10%.
[/quote]

Wrong 100 percent on all counts. First, I am 'coming from' the perspective of someone who uses precise language and defends the flexibility of the term 'genre', which has been repeatedly redefined as something less flexible and less versatile. You did not misunderstand that, you outright contradicted it. In an extremely condescending and self-important manner, no less, characterizing as an abuse of the English language what you now concede to be correct.

[quote]"Genre" may originate from the French word for "kind," but your use of it is simply wrong. You're making very naive assumptions based on overly vague dictionary definitions. Read the Wikipedia entry on "genre"... it's a half-way decent primer.

Genre is about content, not delivery systems: subject matter, technique, target audience, so what you called "content genres" was simply redundant, and your broader use of the word "genre" was simply an abuse of the English language...[/quote]

Scroll up, it's right there.

I only began discussing the word genre on this level when presented with the Wikipedia definition as somehow definitive of genre's place in the English language, and that is absolutely incorrect.

Not only did I not fail to recognize that some people in webcomics tend to use the layperson's interpretation of the literary term, I acknowledged it in several places and said that this was misguided in terms of webcomics because there is no other term which allows the various things called 'webcomic' to be presented together. You failed to /read that/.

[quote]When a word has an accepted, technical definition within a field, you ONLY use the technical definition while you are discussing matters that fall within that field, or you risk making no sense at all, which is what you were doing before. Now you've clarified.[/quote]

You find me where there is any accepted, technical definition within the webcomics community-- not within the Wikipedia community, which has no application here, but within the webcomics community-- as to what defines genre in webcomics. You can't even find such a concensus in this post. The webcomics community is allowed to define its own genres and sub-genres, its own classifications, its own terms of art. Frankly, we /need/ to, because many constraints that apply to traditional art and literature do not apply here, and there is a dearth of terms for the challenges and strategies that exist here. That's the whole point of even bothering to have a community, not to have scintillating discussions about who's smarter than whom and who missed what point.

You keep talking about how I failed at this or that but you're failing to even read. I provided not only the sense in which I was using the word and contrasting it with the loosely applied ways it's occasionally used in this field as opposed to others. The only way I failed to make sense here is that I failed to agree with you. And that is a failure I am doomed to repeat, because your logic doubles back on itself and you reverse your position while pretending you've never swayed from it.

You can't even seem to follow the quotes you use. You snipped a piece out of this paragraph:

[quote]As for a format, putting it all on the internet is hardly a format, and some comics are virtually unchanged when printed whereas others cannot be printed at all. some webcomics are podcast. Some webcomics are presented via clickwheel and others are presented in raw html. Format means the choice of materials, organization, or plan of arrangement. It derives its roots from, well, form. Webcomics do not take any unifying form, they have no common structure, they are not derived along a common plan from common materials, so the term simply does not apply. There must be more commonality within a format than without, and there simply isn't here-- being digital and being viewed via a computer is not enough to make a format out of the myriad things called 'webcomic' today.[/quote]

You literally chopped a sentence apart and replied:

[quote]I disagree. Obviously.

I think the distinction between print and the web is a pretty huge difference. There are ANY number of ways that print and webcomics differ:

Print is limited by page size. Webcomics have infinite canvas. Print is limited to spot or process color (extra colors quickly become cost-prohibitive, but are possibile). Web is limited to RGB, period. Print is static. Web has animation or even interactivity. Some things are possible in print that are impossible on the web, and vice versa. That, Aleph, is a substantial difference.[/quote]

I did not say that there was no difference between print and webcomics differ, in fact I acknowledged within that paragraph you chopped up that some webcomics cannot translate at all to print. Which is why you had to chop it up. Of COURSE there is substantial difference between webcomics and print, DUH. You're talking down to me as if this is not something I have been saying all along, and it's entirely irritating.

But webcomics do not lay sole claim to that, and not all webcomics are unable to cross into print form and back. There are more things NOT webcomic which share the format-definition you are giving than there are webcomics which do so. There is not enough commonality within the described 'format' to call it a format. Look past your own navel and browse the web, you'll see a big wide world out there full of stuff out there with all kinds of web-centric toys in it. There's stuff that shares great commonality with B. Shur's experiments (wanna admit whether or not you got that name stuck in your head from a 'snark that actually had my name in it, while you're dropping that name as if to inform me?) which does not enter the world of webcomics at all! There's photography with poetic captions/text worked in which does not, unlike A Softer World, call itself webcomic. Homestar Runner is not a webcomic, Apocymon is. There are flash toys and cartoons and serial stories told with 3D poser models and the only thing that makes them webcomic or not is the label applied by their creators. Now go back and read the very /title/ of my first entry in this thread.

[quote]Your comic looks to be drawn to a fixed page size -- you're obviously eyeing a print collection someday. Your work takes no advantage of the unique possibilities of the internet. There's nothing wrong with that. But it does not make the possibilities less significant, and it certainly does not make them not exist.[/quote]

Absolutely, 100 percent WRONG, and this is where I leave the discussion, because rather than engaging in an honest discussion of the topic you're making these ridiculous assumptions and wasting my time.

1) If you eliminate all comics which use a fixed page size you eliminate some of the biggest names in webcomics today, which are not, to give you a hint, Cat Garza and B.Shur. I love B, I think there's a lot that's really special about those experiments, but they are not watershed figures at least at this point. Fixed page size or not is not a defining characteristic of webcomics, some comics, as we have both pointed out repeatedly, have no page size at all, some have fixed sizes. A little less than half my archive is in an entirely different aspect ratio, and totally untranslatable to print.

2) My work not only takes advantage of the power of the internet but would be entirely impossible presented in print. The way I use colour and shading would be entirely impractical in a print form, it would be far too costly and lose too much in the translation. The companion material to the work, and the interactivity for members is part of what makes the work, well, work. Part of that is still available via Churi's occasional popping up on the page, but the easter eggs and such are, I admit, down for now. I can't fault you for not seeing what's temporarily unavailable but I can fault you for making such ridiculous assumptions about someone when it has no application to the discussion at hand, it's just a cheap attempt at a dig. Not even an applicable dig. If you'd even bothered to look up a review, some crib notes for criticizing what you don't bother to investigate yourself, even Rob Howard managed to pick up on what the extras add to the experience.

3) Not only have I not rejected the possibilities of webcomics but I have throughout this discussion embraced and included them, which calling them a 'format' or a 'medium' does not. Just because I do not push all the 'infinite canvas' hotbuttons with my work does not mean that I pretend they do not exist. They simply add nothing to my particular story. I am pushing the limits of what I can do with my art, I am working towards better effects and better luminance and more vivid presentation than I could achieve working within what print can deliver in an economical way. Or in any way really. I get to go beyond chiaroscouro, I get to literally paint with light, and to my mind, that's the coolest thing I get to do.

One does not need to be chasing every bleeding-edge idea to be aware of them and one does not need to adapt every trendy methodology to acknowledge the existance of these possibilities.

[quote]Your comic looks to be drawn to a fixed page size -- you're obviously eyeing a print collection someday.[/quote]

Absolutely, 100 percent, totally wrong. I don't even keep colour archives in a satisfactory resolution for a print collection, to the consternation of my readership. That's not even a rejection of print, it's simply a concession to the realities of my resources.

The reasons I use fixed page sizes are:

  • It is much easier for me to compose a page on A3 paper and make good use of visual path than it is for me to put it together piecemeal.
  • It is much easier for my webmaster to work his magic on the entire CMS if the page size is fixed, it makes it easier for me to take advantage of the fluidity of php without running into the problems explorer has with css. It is /entirely/ a web-based decision in that respect.
  • My neurotype enjoys a greater familiarity and structure when it comes to self-expression. In plain English, I'm a retard, and we like sameness in our personal environment. I've praised Patrick Farley for being one of the few people to use sidescroll in a way that actually makes sense, that's actually a fluid contiguous narrative rather than a bunch of perfectly isolated panels stacked side to side. I've praised the interactive toys and the fluid things and the under-rated experiential side of webcomics as opposed to tinkering with their navigation. What I choose for myself is not yours to criticize, there is no format requirement in webcomics that says that in order to be a webcomic I must change my page sizes from day to day.

There might be, if webcomics were a format. But they're not. So bite me, and don't expect me to discuss things with you again until you clean up your style and stop going for peoples' motives and personal preferences/perspectives when you can't even figure out what those are. If you're going to go off the map and try these cheap tactics for derailing discussion, at least do them with some modicum of skill.

As for your page size, I in

Gordon McAlpin's picture

As for your page size, I in no way meant to "criticize" you (or anyone) for having a static format, so the venom of your response was unwarranted. There is nothing wrong with choosing a static format. I said as much in my post. In any case, my misplaced assumptions about your motivations (and yours of mine), or the condescension on either of our parts, are utterly irrelevant to the discussion, so I will only address the points that are relevant from here out:

Wrong 100 percent on all counts. First, I am 'coming from' the perspective of someone who uses precise language and defends the flexibility of the term 'genre', which has been repeatedly redefined as something less flexible and less versatile. You did not misunderstand that, you outright contradicted it. In an extremely condescending and self-important manner, no less, characterizing as an abuse of the English language what you now concede to be correct.

Your points revealed to me that my own definition of the word "genre" was limited to its narrower, technical use within critical theory, and that there was a broader definition to it, as well. You corrected me, I conceded.

But I do not and cannot agree to the broader use of the word "genre" within any artistic critical discussion, however.

I acknowledged it in several places and said that this was misguided in terms of webcomics because there is no other term which allows the various things called 'webcomic' to be presented together. You failed to /read that/.

No, I simply disagreed with your point.

You find me where there is any accepted, technical definition within the webcomics community-- not within the Wikipedia community, which has no application here, but within the webcomics community-- as to what defines genre in webcomics. You can't even find such a concensus in this post. The webcomics community is allowed to define its own genres and sub-genres, its own classifications, its own terms of art. Frankly, we /need/ to, because many constraints that apply to traditional art and literature do not apply here, and there is a dearth of terms for the challenges and strategies that exist here. That's the whole point of even bothering to have a community, not to have scintillating discussions about who's smarter than whom and who missed what point.

MY point was that we don't "need" to create our own classifications whole cloth, and that doing so makes no sense! The webcomics critical community is and should act as a tiny part of the larger, broader artistic critical community that has existed for longer than the comics medium itself! Why should they not? The similarities between all storytelling media are too great to set aside. How does it make sense to use a separate lexicon when there are hundreds of years of perfectly useful literary theory that we can use and apply to the comics medium, and to webcomics within that?

There ARE no constraints applying to "traditional art and literature" that do not also apply to comics: comics ARE traditional art and literature.

As for a format, putting it all on the internet is hardly a format, and some comics are virtually unchanged when printed whereas others cannot be printed at all. some webcomics are podcast. Some webcomics are presented via clickwheel and others are presented in raw html. Format means the choice of materials, organization, or plan of arrangement. It derives its roots from, well, form. Webcomics do not take any unifying form, they have no common structure, they are not derived along a common plan from common materials, so the term simply does not apply. There must be more commonality within a format than without, and there simply isn't here-- being digital and being viewed via a computer is not enough to make a format out of the myriad things called 'webcomic' today.

I did not say that there was no difference between print and webcomics differ, in fact I acknowledged within that paragraph you chopped up that some webcomics cannot translate at all to print. Which is why you had to chop it up. Of COURSE there is substantial difference between webcomics and print, DUH. You're talking down to me as if this is not something I have been saying all along, and it's entirely irritating.

I chose to take that snippet, because it summarized the point of contention, for me. The rest of the paragraph was either redundant, or I agreed with it. It served no purpose to quote the whole bloody thing.

You say, yourself: "Format means the choice of materials, organization, or plan of arrangement," and then you say that "being digital and being viewed via a computer is not enough to make a format…"

The choice of the internet as one of the materials used in creating or distributing a webcomic absolutely qualifies it as a format, in and of itself. It's a general format, sure, in the sense that television is a format, or music CDs, and it's a format that allows for a myriad of more specific formats within it, just as television and audio CDs do, but the choice of a computer is most certainly a choice of materials. You say that is "not enough." I say it is most certainly enough, for reasons I've gone into.

We are clearly going in circles now. You prefer genre, I prefer format, and we don't see eye to eye on the definitions of "genre" or what constitutes "enough" of a distinction to merit the term "format." I will be happy to leave things at that.

Multiplex is a twice weekly humor comic about the staff of the Multiplex 10 Cinemas and the movies that play there.

I guess I'm curious where

The William G's picture

I guess I'm curious where you're mostly hearing that attitude still.

Mostly around print comic sites like Newsarama, and ComicCon. Also, a couple of years ago I asked about reading webcomics on an ESL board and their view was not complimentary. Most of it had to do with the "Squinting at a 72dpi comic" thing Fabs pointed out above. But a lot of it was "they suck"

It's not as widespread as before, that's true. But it's still there. I mean, we've won a lot of converts, but we're really starting to preach to the choir a lot. At least I've noticed this.


Heh heh. Ghastly said

Greg Carter's picture

Heh heh. Ghastly said "strap-on". heh heh. heh heh.

Greg Carter
UpDown Studio

Greg Carter - Abandon: First Vampire - Online Graphic Novel

A "strap-on" by any other name...

Uncle Ghastly's picture

A few years ago I was in the Long and McQuade's music store in Toronto buying some stuff with my wife in the keyboard department. The keyboard department is this big noisy playground of electronic bleepers and bloopers. So I took the stuff I needed up to the counter and left them with my wife so she could pay for them while I got a few extra minutes in playing with some of the new toys in the keyboard department.

The sales rep rings up my purchase and then asks my wife is there anything else we need. She shrugs and turns to me and asks if we need anything else. I shake my head and say "No, we're fine" and turn back to twiddling the knobs of the keyboard I'm playing with. Then I remember something and shout out in a loud, excited voice across the crowded, noisy keyboard department.

"Oh! Wait! We need to get batteries for the STRAP-ON!"

The entire keyboard department goes quiet for a moment as every musician stops playing with the synths infront of them and turns their eyes towards us and then it errupts in an explosion of laughter at my expense. There was no point explaining I meant "strap-on MIDI controller keyboard", inside I knew they already knew that. Nothing I could say would replace the mental image they were all having of my wife doin' me prison style with a big wonking strap-on.

We made our purchase and I slinked humbly away only to be known amongst the staff from then on as "Strap-on Boy".

Webcomics: A format, not a medium

Gordon McAlpin's picture

I agree with Kiba. Webcomics are more accurately described as a FORMAT of the comics MEDIUM, not a medium in its own right. The format allows for things that the popular print formats (i.e., the comics magazine) does not, but it is not so different that it makes ANY sense at all to consider it a separate medium -- just as theatrical movies and TV are different FORMATS of the same medium (film).

Multiplex is a weekly webcomic revolving around the staff of the Multiplex 10 Cinemas.

Multiplex is a twice weekly humor comic about the staff of the Multiplex 10 Cinemas and the movies that play there.

A good point but...

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

I think it's a good point although debatable.

For example, is everything that consists of words the same medium?  Song lyrics, poetry, prose, stage/screenplays and journalism?  In my mind terms like format and genre always have blurry edges and are not immune to shifting attitudes among artists and society.  In other words they're not immuteably objective.

And just to pick on your tv/film example (although I do get it) - most of neither is on film anymore (either video or purely bits on storage medium).  But if you redefine your point to say something like well tv and film are both essentially motion pictures then yeah I get it.

____

Xaviar Xerexes 

I am a Modern Major Generality.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

I don't think some parts of

Gordon McAlpin's picture

I don't think some parts of that first comparison you make are all that appropriate. Stage and screen plays are blueprints for a final product; they're not the finished product and (despite the incessant reading of scripts in school) they are not intended as such. Same with song lyrics. Poetry is a different medium from prose, because of its aural aspect -- one that can be adopted by prose, but is not the aim: that is to say, poetry is intended to be read aloud, among other reasons. Ideas in prose and verse are conveyed differently -- through different mechanisms -- so the fact that they use the same building blocks is irrelevant. (And so-called "prose poems" are just prose.) Journalism and prose (and essay, etc.) are the same medium.

As for TV/film, that is what I meant -- but "film" IS the proper name for the medium. People go to "film school," not "motion picture school," after all. The fact that the term "film" is now antiquated because SOME are no longer on film anymore is neither here nor there, just as the long-since-disassociated relationship of the word "comics" to "comedy" has no bearing on the fact that "comics" is the most commonly used term for the medium. For better or for worse, words' definitions are dictated by their usage, not their origins.

Of course, all of these points are debatable.

Multiplex is a weekly webcomic revolving around the staff of the Multiplex 10 Cinemas.

Multiplex is a twice weekly humor comic about the staff of the Multiplex 10 Cinemas and the movies that play there.

Submitted by Ghastly on Fri,

Xaviar Xerexes's picture
Submitted by Ghastly on Fri, 2006-01-20 08:02.

 
And say what you will but I think A Flock Of Seagulls ROCKED! But Thomas Dolby was and always will be my King.
 
 

Um, no and yes. 

 

____

Xaviar Xerexes 

I am a Modern Major Generality.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

C'mon man, Wishing was a

Uncle Ghastly's picture

C'mon man, Wishing was a pretty cool song.

Of course now that Thomas has been acknowleged I have no choice but to post a photograph of myself with the AZ-1 midi strap-on that once belonged to (and is autographed by) my man Thomas Dolby.

Behold my keytar glory!

It's only natural to want to touch a keytar this sexy.

daaaaaaamn! that's too cool

cayetano garza's picture

daaaaaaamn! that's too cool for words!

year of the rat

Blinded Me With Keytar!

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

Excellent picture!

 

Still not budging on Flack of Skeeballs though... 

 

____

Xaviar Xerexes 

I am a Modern Major Generality.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

 Submitted by TWG on Thu,

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

 Submitted by TWG on Thu, 2006-01-19 23:05.

Granted, most comic readers are genre fans and not "comics!" fans, but you'd think they'd be willing to give webcomics a shot. But based on my experience, the stigma of "Webcomics have to be free because they are shit comics no one is willing to pay for" seems to be alive and well in some circles.

 

Maybe that attitude is alive and well but it's nowhere near as widespread as it was in 1999-2000.  It feels like it's gone almost completely now in the general public's mind to the extent the public is aware of comics at all. 

I guess I'm curious where you're mostly hearing that attitude still. 

____

Xaviar Xerexes 

I am a Modern Major Generality.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

You still run into the

Uncle Ghastly's picture

You still run into the "clearly if a webcomic artist is of any notable talent I will be able to purchase their work in any bookstore" attitude a lot.

Print (and not self published or POD print at that) is still seen as the measuring stick of what is good and what is not by a lot of people. Not much to be done about it. Let the masses have McDonalds, I'm gonna pop into O'Niell's for a Pugger Burger.

You still run into the

Fabricari's picture

You still run into the "clearly if a webcomic artist is of any notable talent I will be able to purchase their work in any bookstore" attitude a lot.

I lost track of this thread, but this seems as good a place as any to pick a fight. I think you're generalizing. It's not that a lot of people use it as a measuring stick, but rather that they, and myself, WANT the comics they love to be in print.

As much as webcomics are accessible, they are still ephemeral. Not for a lack of archives, but because there are simply TOO many comics. Print comics are more lasting and intimate to the reader, I think. Sitting within arms reach on my bookshelf is a lot more intimate than logging in and squinting at 72dpi art.

Until technology gets to the point where portible handhelds can match print (And I believe they will after 50-some years) I still prefer my Bathroom Shelf Graphic Novels.

The relationship between a reader and a print book is a lot weaker than the relationship between a reader and a webcomic. The only thing a webcomic has is volume due to accessibility. Due to being free. That's why webcomics must be free. If you charge for them, then you've just killed the one major benefit of webcomics.

And with sites like LuLu.com, there really isn't much excuse not to print.

Bah, I lost my train of thought - just wanted to play with Xerexes new forum toy a bit. I'll move along now. That should be enough flame bait for one day.

Steve "Fabricari" Harrison