Still waiting for the revolution
Submitted by dunk on November 19, 2003 - 22:44
Man. I remember finishing McCloud's Reinventing Comics, and thinking that the internet were about to explode, and that webcomics were going to be the next big thing (bigger than Brittney).
Here we are a few years later, and even Scott has sort of faded in and out (at least in terms of web presence). Where is the revolution? We've seen the introduction of Bitpass, and the introduction of webcomics subscriptions services, but things only seem marginally different.
I have definitely noiced a shift in quality - an awareness of audience that was lacking in some early webcomics - but I don't see that many people pushing the envelope. Not really.
I wonder if it has anything to do with technology? Maybe we might all be creating the comic of the future, but the most of the darn tools we use are intended to create these two dimensional page-like things on a computer screen, and so we do what we can with what we have.
The other possibility is that there was no revolution. It was all a myth, and we've just been feeling the vibrations of that first earth-shattering "kaboom". Maybe there is no infinite canvas.
Personally, I think that most people simply haven't wrapped their head around the fact that there is no canvas at all. All the pixels you see before you are really only points of light, and there is no page (web or other). There is no canvas. We still draw pictures, and we still marry them to words, but those are actions, and the actions themselves are not comics. They are acts of creation. What is created in the case of webcomics, however, is something intangible. We can see them, but we can't touch them.
One of the things that fascinates me about artists working in CG, is that there is no artifact that they can point to afterwards to say "this is a comic". They can direct you to a URL on the world wide web, and you can read what they've put there, but essentially you are reading something which does not exist in any tangible way beyond the experience of reading it.
That's the main problem with making money from webcomics. We are attached to the idea of paying for things we can hold in our hand. I think that's probably what scares music people so much... if music becomes something that you listen to, but not something you can physically hold in your hand (in the shape of a compact disc, cassette tape, or LP), what are you paying for?...
We're paying for the experience. And if the experience is what is really valuable, then all those silly pieces of paper and plastic that distributors try to pass off as music are really just separating us from the actual experience.
Don't get me wrong. I love print comics. I am a graphic novel hound, and I love the physicallity of books, but there is a shift in our culture right now away from things you can hold, or fold, or stack, towards experiences. When that bit of evolution trickles down to comics (which I think it's begun to), then maybe we will see people "paying" webcomics artists for the "experience" of sharing in someone else's unique vision.
Until that gets into high gear - and I think we may have a while to wait yet - I just hope that enough people will stay keen, and continue to poke holes in the canvas until we can see clear through to the other side.
Maybe we should get JustinPie and Eric Millikin in here, and have them duke it out. what do you think?