Having Some Serious Doubts
Submitted by Skyle on September 16, 2003 - 01:03
Like a lot of you, I was inspired to start a webcomic after reading McCloud's Reinventing Comics. Turning the clock a little farther back, I fondly remember the black and white Ã¯Â¿Â½boomÃ¯Â¿Â½ in comics back in the 80s, and the smaller but similar boom during the 90s, which was an even bigger inspiration to me. Not only did independent comics offer smart, original stories that differed from the good ol' superheroes, but what made them even more enjoyable was that they had a sense of community. The creators all seemed to know each other, they promoted one another's books, etc. But then, just like everywhere else in the entertainment industry, it seemed the independent scene faded from the world of comics. I look through the various comic stores in my area, and all the indies no longer exist, replaced by companies and dealmakers. A single creator with nothing but a pen, paper, and a lot of determination has no place in today's comics. This brings me back to McCloud and Reinventing Comics. I pictured the internet as the new home of independent comics. I've often argued that on the internet, a writer or artist can find and develop an audience without having to negotiate the complex and often unnecessary politics of the entertainment industry. For a while there, it seemed like I was right. During the first six months of my comic, New In Town, I steadily grew an audience. Strangely, my most loyal readers were from South Africa, but hey, readers are readers. That initial enthusiasm died down, though. With little to no hits in the months that followed, I kept the comic going. Numerous personal problems kept me from promoting the comic as I would have liked, but I continued the updates, more or less on time. It's been two and a half years of New In Town. IÃ¯Â¿Â½d like to consider this an accomplishment, since IÃ¯Â¿Â½ve seen countless other webcomic artists throw in the towel after three months when Hollywood doesnÃ¯Â¿Â½t come knocking on their door with offers of sitcoms. But lately, I donÃ¯Â¿Â½t know. IÃ¯Â¿Â½ve been having some serious doubts. This is because of two reasons. First reason: manga. For a while now, IÃ¯Â¿Â½ve noticed the craziest thing. Not only have manga sections been growing rapidly in fancy-pants mall bookstores, but IÃ¯Â¿Â½ve spotted adolescent and teen girls swarming on this section, gobbling up copies of stuff like Love Hina and Inuyasha. IÃ¯Â¿Â½m going to make this point again in annoying capital letters: TODAYÃ¯Â¿Â½S YOUNG GIRLS ARE READING COMICS. Never in all my travels and all my adventures did I ever think I would live to see the day when young girls actually read comics. Anyway, this got me thinking back to Reinventing Comics, and the image of the dollar sign snake eating its own tail (page 77). Now I wonder if the internet isnÃ¯Â¿Â½t what Ã¯Â¿Â½savesÃ¯Â¿Â½ comics. Instead, comicsÃ¯Â¿Â½ salvation might be coming from overseas, because itÃ¯Â¿Â½s what tomorrowÃ¯Â¿Â½s readers and collectors are passionate about. But that shouldnÃ¯Â¿Â½t concern us, right? After all were webcomic artists, right? WeÃ¯Â¿Â½re the new independents, right? Second reason for my doubts: Damonk and Comixpedia. IÃ¯Â¿Â½ve become very, very interested in the columns and articles written for this site by Damonk, in what heÃ¯Â¿Â½s saying, and what heÃ¯Â¿Â½s not saying. Maybe itÃ¯Â¿Â½s just me. Maybe IÃ¯Â¿Â½m reading too much into it. But it certainly seems like Damonk is holding back a lot of the time, like he really wants to let loose and unleash his fury on how disappointed he is with a lot of webcomic artists out there. If he did, though, heÃ¯Â¿Â½d no doubt lose readers, so he hides his disappointment and plays the role of the columnist out to help aspiring artists. Or perhaps not. A lot of this is me reading between the lines, I know, but itÃ¯Â¿Â½s gotten me thinking. In one column, Damonk gives webcomic artists Ã¯Â¿Â½homeworkÃ¯Â¿Â½ to read other webcomics, as if to say that most of the artists out there are unoriginal and need to study their craft before posting. In another article, he challenges manga-style artists with a series of questions about manga. I agree with the criticism that the questions are loaded, as if to trick artists into revealing they know nothing of their own craft. But what really set off my concerns was when Damonk recently hosted a group interview/chat thing about webcomic awards, in which webcomics were compared to vanity publishers. As I understand it, the idea is that you pay a company to publish copies of your book, regardless of subject matter or quality. The copies then show up at your door to try to sell or give to friends or whatever. No editing, no distribution, etc. IÃ¯Â¿Â½ve known working, professional writers who look down upon these people as the absolute scum of the publishing world. And this is what weÃ¯Â¿Â½re comparing webcomics to? So am I right about this guy Damonk? Is there bitterness and an Ã¯Â¿Â½all webcomics suckÃ¯Â¿Â½ attitude beneath the surface of his writings, or is this just my paranoia reaching critical mass? If he happens to read this, a response would be appreciated. In my own webcomic, IÃ¯Â¿Â½m in the middle of a huge, multi-part storyline where stuff thatÃ¯Â¿Â½s been foreshadowed two years ago is finally being paid off. But is there a point to all this? I just canÃ¯Â¿Â½t get a feel as to where webcomics are at these days. Are they the new independents, as IÃ¯Â¿Â½d always hoped? Are they the salvation of comics, according to McCloud? Or are they just a barren wasteland of hacks and wannabes like Damonk seems to be saying? So, thatÃ¯Â¿Â½s where IÃ¯Â¿Â½m coming from. Tell me, where are the rest of you coming from?