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Having Some Serious Doubts

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 �boom� 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. I�d like to consider this an accomplishment, since I�ve seen countless other webcomic artists throw in the towel after three months when Hollywood doesn�t come knocking on their door with offers of sitcoms. But lately, I don�t know. I�ve been having some serious doubts. This is because of two reasons. First reason: manga. For a while now, I�ve noticed the craziest thing. Not only have manga sections been growing rapidly in fancy-pants mall bookstores, but I�ve spotted adolescent and teen girls swarming on this section, gobbling up copies of stuff like Love Hina and Inuyasha. I�m going to make this point again in annoying capital letters: TODAY�S 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 isn�t what �saves� comics. Instead, comics� salvation might be coming from overseas, because it�s what tomorrow�s readers and collectors are passionate about. But that shouldn�t concern us, right? After all were webcomic artists, right? We�re the new independents, right? Second reason for my doubts: Damonk and Comixpedia. I�ve become very, very interested in the columns and articles written for this site by Damonk, in what he�s saying, and what he�s not saying. Maybe it�s just me. Maybe I�m 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, he�d 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 it�s gotten me thinking. In one column, Damonk gives webcomic artists �homework� 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. I�ve known working, professional writers who look down upon these people as the absolute scum of the publishing world. And this is what we�re comparing webcomics to? So am I right about this guy Damonk? Is there bitterness and an �all webcomics suck� 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, I�m in the middle of a huge, multi-part storyline where stuff that�s been foreshadowed two years ago is finally being paid off. But is there a point to all this? I just can�t get a feel as to where webcomics are at these days. Are they the new independents, as I�d 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, that�s where I�m coming from. Tell me, where are the rest of you coming from?

It's just a hobby for me. No great desire for wealth, fame, or babes. Just a hobby that runs less than $1 a week, including hosting.

A friend or two read my comic, and a handful of people from God knows where. When I get a "fan letter", I greatly appreciate it, and always respond.

But if I have a new hobby in a year, it's just part of my evolution.

It is still fun though....

Clint Hollingsworth's picture

Finish your story, promote your work.

It's the same in almost every section of the arts.

Clint Hollingsworth

The Wandering Ones Webcomic
http://www.wanderingones.com

I find myself worrying less and less about the state of web comics in general. As long as there are major successes like MegaTokyo and Sluggy in the world, there's always going to be a market for web comics. I do mine for my own reasons. Don't sweat the details. Just figure out why your doing it. Everything else will eventually fall in line.

doing an online comic really is a personal choice.

No one is going to force you to do a comic. If you really don't want to do it, then that sentiment will probably show in your work and discourage people from reading it.

There will always be people who are critics or cynics. That's just the way things are... especially when you're dealing with art. If one cannot learn to deal with this, then he or she won't last very long. Just take a look at the two sources you mentioned. Scott McCloud and Damonk draw plenty of criticism for what they say and do. Does that stop them?

So, where I'm coming from is this... Don't look to others to tell you why or how to do your comic or what your comic "should" or "shouldn't" be. The web is a great oportunity for people to have as much creative control as they want and still have access to a large audience. So, do the comic that you want to do in the way you want to do it. If your main goal is something other than this (like fame or fortune), then you'd probably be better off doing something else. In this spirit, I'm just happy to tell my story and have people be able to read it if they want to.

I agree with Kota. Personally, I'm not looking to 'save comics' or even really to make money. Its a project I do with my best friend and we have a lot of fun doing it. Obviously, I like having readers, and would like my readers to actually give us feedcak, but I'm content just working with Nyx to make the best of our combined abilities.
*has Wonder Twins flashback and has to go sit down*

WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

I am making a web comic so I can kee drawing regularly. This way my skills can get better and I can test if people like my ideas ^_^ that is why I draw my web comics ^_^

Heh.

FractalDragon says it very well, Skyle.

While yes, I certainly have my own opinions and my own agenda, if you really enjoy something, it shouldn't matter *what* I say or do. In that same light, some people think I say great things, and some people think I'm full of it. Neither of these opinions will stop me from doing what I love and what I believe in.

Do I sound cynical and crotchety? Probably.

Do I seem like I'm trashing people for not doing what they could/should? Possibly.

But here's a quick tidbit for ya: believe it or not, I'm just as idealistic as the next dreamer, if not more so. Heck, why else would I call myself Quixotic?

However, I *do* have one big chip on my shoulder, and that's people who think that they can "get stuff" without working for it -- without believing in in the STUFF, but just believing in what the stuff can get you (popularity, money, etc.).

For example: I've been working away on my own little webcomic dreams for three years now, and I've never hit the "big time". However, I've never felt that I *deserved* the "big time", because while what I was doing was a personal hobby/work of love, I was very aware that I wasn't putting in the work that would be needed to "take it to the next level", due to a number of reasons (work, life, etc.)...

But I've never let that stop me from drawing, and from doing all sorts of weird things that actually drive potential readers AWAY from my comic thingie. I've never stopped drawing, even if I'm not a huge success, because I truly love and enjoy what I do, and do it because I WANT to, and not because I want something OUT of it.

So when it comes to seeing other people, young and old alike, whine and complain that they aren't making money or aren't "the next Sluggy/Penny Arcade/PvP/Sinfest" in terms of popularity after having a comic up for a few years/months/WEEKS (I'm not exaggerating here), I try to point out some reasons why they may not be. Sometimes I'm "nicer" about it, sometimes I'm not so nice.

I will NEVER tell ANYONE that they shouldn't draw. Heck, if anything, I may be one of the bigger fans and supporters of new talent and potential talent out there (if I had access to my computer, I'd upload a few things to show what I mean). In a perfct Damonk world, EVERYONE would draw, and would LOVE to draw.

However, I *will* always try hard to give that much-needed slap in the face to people who are deluding themselves as to their REAL goals and dreams and hopes for their webcomics. Those who don't realize that their motives aren't as "pure" as they'd like to pretend they are...

See, there are two ways you can go with ANY kind of art, really -- whether it be poetry, painting, webcomics, prose, whatever: you can do it for yourself, or you can do it in the hopes of making a living out of it.

Those who ONLY (or PRIMARILY) do it for themselves, there are NO rules, no guidelines, no "minimum quotas" or prerequisites that need to be filled -- they are not trying to please or satisfy anyone else, so no one can tell them how to go about doing it.

However, those who ARE harbouring aspirations of "making it", of making a living, of doing it for 'business purposes', well, THOSE people have to learn that you can't expect the WORLD to bow down to THEM (at least, not at first). Those people have to wake up and realize that if they want to be SERIOUS about this, if they want to LIVE off of this, they have to LEARN how to do so, by working at it, by looking around, by studying what it is that will give that 'edge' that will permit them to live off their work.

They don't have to all become cabon copies of each other, they don't have to buy "how-to" books that will tell them the "SECRETS TO SURE-FIRE SUCCESS".

They just have to pay attention to the world around them, realize that to make their own rules, they have to know HOW rules are made in the first place.

***

Of course, you can also want BOTH. If you do, though, you have to remember that you have to then ascribe to BOTH rules, and not just one or the other.

In the end, in terms of your OWN dreams for comicking, Skyle, it comes down to this:

WHY do you comick?

Answer that, and then you should hopefully have a slightly better idea as to where to go from there.

(and believe it or not, I'm hoping that you'll choose to continue to draw)