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Webcomics: A Medium not A Genre....

And this rant comes from this very reader who only has ideas & theories about what's up with webcomics. I'm only young and naive, so if I'm wrong, please correct me for my sake.

So here goes:

Webcomics should be a Medium for comickers (artists, writers, creators) to tell stories; not a Genre as defined by what's currently telling the stories like Penny Arcade, Pvp, Keenspotters, BlankLabelheads and so on. Webcomics shouldn't be just about typical circle of friends stories that's happening in a lot of online comics out there. Webcomics should be an avenue for creators to bring out their ideas, tell stories they wish to share, explore themes that deserved to be mentioned and so forth.

What do you think?

Webcomics: A Medium not A Genre....

And this rant comes from this very reader who only has ideas & theories about what's up with webcomics. I'm only young and naive, so if I'm wrong, please correct me for my sake.

So here goes:

Webcomics should be a Medium for comickers (artists, writers, creators) to tell stories; not a Genre as defined by what's currently telling the stories like Penny Arcade, Pvp, Keenspotters, BlankLabelheads and so on. Webcomics shouldn't be just about typical circle of friends stories that's happening in a lot of online comics out there. Webcomics should be an avenue for creators to bring out their ideas, tell stories they wish to share, explore themes that deserved to be mentioned and so forth.

What do you think?

RE: Webcomics: A Medium not A Genre....

Well on the whole I agree, web-comics should be all those things, however I don't think the problem is that they aren't so much as that those web-comics that aren't 'typical' are often ignored by the mainstream... there are some very good comics that are not circle of friends comics... my own comic (which I'm not claiming to be very good because it isn't) is not like that, as close as I can get to a description of what it's about is that it's an exploration of morality in a fantasy setting... I think... maybe...

Myself, I find webcomics pretty diverse. Print comics are still heavily dominated by the superhero genera, but webcomics aren't dominated by anything. You see a prevalence of 'circlce of friends' comics on Keenspot and Blank label, but if you look on Onlinecomics.net, you're going to see mostly manga style strips. And without even looking, you're going to find odd, difficult to classify comics like Achewood or Leisuretown or Return to Sender.

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Webcomics shouldn't be just about typical circle of friends stories that's happening in a lot of online comics out there.

Is 'circle of friends' really a genera? I mean, I can see Order of the Stick as being about a circle of friends, as is Achewood or Penny Arcade - all very different stories. Almost any story that isn't about a deranged loner or the last human alive is going to be about a circle of friends. There are a lot of slice-of-life stories, but I see that as positive. People doing stories that are about their own lives, rather than escapist fantasy.

Not that there's anything wrong with escapist fantasy, I love it, there's just been an inordinate amount of it in comics in the past. Web comics are starting to change that.

Howard Tayler's picture

It's not "should" and "shouldn't." It's "is" and "ain't."

Webcomics ain't a genre. Period. People who say that don't understand the word. Genre is about content, not medium. MEDIUM is about medium.

It's not about getting people to understand webcomics. It's about getting people to understand english.

Beyond that, you can argue the borders of your favorite genre until the cows come home. As long as you're talking about content. If you're talking about MEDIUM then when the cows come home I hope they step on your mouth.

--Howard

Schlock Mercenary

It never hurt a fellow to keep a civil tongue in his head.

Uncle Ghastly's picture

I understand what you're getting at here. It does seem that a great many webcomics seem to revolve around people who are all room mates, class mates, and/or work mates. The mate-genre does seem to be as prevelant in webcomics as the superhero is in print.

Just to be a contrarian, I proclaim that if Blockbusters ever decided to stock comics, they would put any comics that were published on the web in an aisle labeled, "webcomics."

Incidentally, did you know in Japan record stores have a "black music" section for rap and R&B? I've been meaing to ask where they put Eminem and the Beastie Boys.

Ghastly wrote:

The mate-genre does seem to be as prevelant in webcomics as the superhero is in print.

Exactly what I meant, thanks Ghastly. Just as prevalent are manga-influenced comics, and comics about video games. And when quantity of these kinds of comics dominate the scene, they ultimately define the current webcomics, just as the dominant quantity of superhero comics has already define the (American) print comics overall.

Another fallacy is that webcomics should be funny. Webcomics shouldn't be put in the same box the same way Funny has define the newspaper comics strips. Webcomics should make us cry, shock, angry, and other emotions to evoke, not just to make us laugh.

We need to break away from the current trifecta of mates, manga & video games and into other territories. We need to explore other genres, big ideas, intriguing themes, and so on if we wish to see webcomics evolve and transcend.

The worst thing about many web comics is that "samey" theme that has already been mentioned. The maxim "write what you know" seems to have been misinterpreted by many young men especially.
They are slim, hip and move in a circle of slim hip kids their own age, so they understandably replicate that in their work.

Either that or they're the tubby geek who wishes they were part of the slim hip crowd and can't quite get the resentment out of his voice, and that's when he can find the voice at all.

At any rate, as a result of this misinterpretation of "write what you know", we the audience have to endure endless comics featuring young goatee-bearded dudes with interesting hats and hot girlfriends. Oh, and a friend from Pluto. Or a gelfling. Or a studiously odd element like a wisecracking moth.

Yes, I said misinterpretation of "write what you know".

It doesn't mean because you're a twenty two year old middle class white humanities student who can't get laid that that's the perspective from which you should write.

Writing what you know means (for instance) do you "know" funny? When you tell jokes in company, do people listen, and do they laugh? Have you ever sold any work along those lines?

Do you know about people? What makes them tick? Have you lived on this planet long enough to know anything?

Watterson created Calvin and Hobbes not because he was a father of a small boy (he had no kids) but because he had something to say and thought Calvin would be the ideal vehicle.

Similarly, Breathed does not own a penguin, nor is he one.

So, a computer game fanatic devises a strip about gamers? How interesting.

I'm not saying a strip about gamers or landscape gardening can't be made interesting or funny, I'm saying that whether the creator is a gamer/landscaper or not has absolutely no bearing on its potential.

Bringing the discussion round to the Web:
The web is open to everyone , therefore the fact that 95% of webcomic content sucks is a given. Of course it is. I'd only be amazed if the suck facter was any lower.

There seems to be an attitude out there that webcomics must have youth/gamer appeal. There's also the attitude that the youth/gamer demographic that exists on the web are the only ones who know what's going on, and that there's a revolution a-brewin' that will kick the print syndicates to kingdom come.

That's like the kids at Woodstock (the first and only) announcing that a new world order of peace and love and casual sex without commitment had arrived.
Nearly forty years on, we see that the same rules apply today as the did in the late sixties. People just want to get laid, stay healthy, pay the bills, have money left over, same as they always did.

There's no point in looking to

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explore other genres, big ideas, intriguing themes, and so on if we wish to see webcomics evolve and transcend.

It's all about writing, and writing well. There are no new ideas, big or otherwise, just the same as before, it's all about how we package them, and the fact that the medium is the Web doesn't make a blind bit of difference.

'mate' scenarios are part of the setting - preestablishing relationships, not the genre. I think you're confusing it for what's become refered to as a 'slice of life' genre where everything is simply a day in the life. Not that there's anything wrong there either, mind you.

If we're going to start railing against a certain relationship establishment in webcomics like its something wrong or bad, I'm going to start compaining about the use of mammals as main characters. (Hey, Ghastly, are tentacle monsters mammals, mollusks, or 'Lovecraftian Nightmares'?)

Uncle Ghastly's picture

[quote:38577aa674="ledgermain"] (Hey, Ghastly, are tentacle monsters mammals, mollusks, or 'Lovecraftian Nightmares'?)

Cephalopod I would suspect. Except for the tentacle demons, they're some form of hominid.

[quote:7f5df83477="Altercator"]We need to break away from the current trifecta of mates, manga & video games and into other territories.

Are you being intentionally ironic when you lump 'manga' into a genre?

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Are you being intentionally ironic when you lump 'manga' into a genre?

Unintentionally, but consider also that the prevalence of big eyed characters that dominate the manga landscape. No matter how different the artists, how different the genres within manga, how much you can debate that "manga means comics" you can't separate big eyes from manga and anime, which ultimately defined manga & anime as a genre than rather than a medium. Manga have fallen into the same trap of generalisation as Americans comics did with superheroes. Manga has become the Genre.

And it is the same trap Webcomics must avoid.

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If we're going to start railing against a certain relationship establishment in webcomics like its something wrong or bad, I'm going to start compaining about the use of mammals as main characters.

Nothing against "slice of life" comics or about relationships in webcomics, but we're discussing how webcomics shouldn't/musn't end up being a Genre and must a be medium for every creator to tell their stories and readers to appreciate it.

Malky, (if you're not the same guy who dissed Scott Kurtz and is just a username), thanks for saying

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It's all about writing, and writing well. There are no new ideas, big or otherwise, just the same as before, it's all about how we package them, and the fact that the medium is the Web doesn't make a blind bit of difference.

Still, we need to ensure that webcomics musn't fall into the trap of becoming a Genre.

I am the same guy who "dissed" Scott Kurtz, the poor little thing. My name is Malcolm McGookin (I hate to hide behind Malky on a board where I'm not known. During the megathread involving Scott, I was a known identity on Toon Talk, though webtoonist visitors didn't know who I was) and webcomics isn't a genre, nor will it fall into being one.

What "webcomics" should not be is a form of insult, but sadly there are so many awful webcomics that it's inevitable.

If I had gone on record as saying:

"99% of all alternative and independent comic artists suck donkey balls. If they had any talent or skill, they would be working for Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, or various other comic publishers instead of spending nights photocopying their "mini" comics and bitching how about nobody understands them."
You might be mortally offended, but I didn't say it. Frank Cho did. Therefore I feel the webcomics community has more critics within than without, and webtoonists seem to have enough battles to fight as it is without worrying about what print or syndicated toonists have to say.

Anyway, is there any real divide, when push comes to shove? The only reason bad comics exist in such numbers on the web is that there are no gatekeepers. Good cartooning is just that, good cartooning. It can happen on the web and does. It's the natural order of things that the better cartoonists get professional jobs, and those jobs are in the print industry.

The criticism of Scott Kurtz wasn't aimed at his strip, nor his abilities. They're not in doubt. It was aimed at his desire to dump free cartoons on the print market, a tactic that, had it succeeded, would have demeaned and debased the business. It was right that he be criticized, and all things considered, the barbs from the print community, especially syndicated cartoonists, were well thought out and reserved.

Basically the response was, "hey, if you've got such a great plan and the revolution has started -go for it. Don't announce it at the San Diego Comicon like you've discovered a new species, just do it and we'll find out when you've claimed fifty to a hundred papers."

Only it didn't happen. A year on, and all you can hear on that subject is the soft brush of tumbleweed drifting down the empty high street.

I don't think there would have been half the controversy if Scott Kurtz hadn't been a talented guy. Fact is, he is, but I just wish he was a better ambassador. For himself AND cartooning.

No, webcomics won't become a genre. People should get their meanings mixed up.

Film noir is a genre, westerns are a genre, pirate films are a genre. Superhero comics are a genre, and I suppose the Dark Night/From Hell- type Comics Noir have formed a new genre.
The web is a medium (as has rightly been pointed out) and comics may form genres within it.

If you mean that the "dude" comic with a late teen/early twenties protagonist with feisty girlfriend and live-in alien is in danger of becoming a genre, you might have a point.

malcolmmcgookin.com

Manga isn't a genre. There is a single, common link in a large amount (but by no means all) of the format, but that is an art style, not a genre. No one who understood what the word 'Genre' meant would say something like the 'slice of life' school comedy Azumanga Daoh is in the same genre as the horror book The Ring. No one. Seriously. None of this 'but they have similar eyes' crap, that the same as making claims of copying based on similar shapes of feet.

Same thing with webcomics. Webcomics aren't even the same art style - not even the same format or medium. The only thing webcomics have incommon is thier web based platform. The only people who are ever seriously going to accuse them of being a genre (Where in this case, genre, by thier uninformed understanding is a derogatory term for 'all the same') are the people just looking for something to pick at and insult so they can feel like a big man on the internet, just like the people that put down manga in the same way.

And finally, a little thought exercise on the word genre: First, stop using it to mean 'same'. No! Bad! get your hands away from the 'g' and 'e' keys. No, you don't know what that word means and using it doesn't make you look smart.

Look, Stargate - SG1, Babylon 5 and Hitchhiker's Guide are all in the genre of Science-Ficton. Does that mean they're all the same? *slap* NO. It means that in thier plots, they all draw in certain interlocking themes and memes and deal with similar general subject matter. But the stories - you know that actual important part people seem to keep forgetting when they put on the gloves to tear something apart? The stories are differnt, the mechanics are differnt, the universes are diferent.

There is nothing wrong with being a genre piece as long as the story and the characters are genuine. We must stop looking for things to attack and start thinking of how or own work can catch the eyes and hearts of the readers.

Any english major can tell you, there are no new stories. Haven't been for years. But how its told, who is involved and everything in between, that's what differentiates, that's what people look for.

Normal people don't look at a picture and go 'feh, its online. Clearly the fact that its online means its exactly the same as that other comic I didn't like.' That's something we've created to attack others with.

Uncle Ghastly's picture

I think a lot of the backlash against what are called "manga styled" comics here in the west, particularily the United States comes from the fact that for decades now the United States has been the biggest cultural exporter in the world. Now that another country, particularily a country about as alien to the US culturally as you can get is starting to become a big cultural exporter there are many that feel threatened by this shift in dominance. Wether this shift is a fad or a continuing trend remains to be seen but there's no denying that Japan is exporting a great deal of its pop-cultural assets around the world and into the US. This change in the balance (which was never balanced to begin with) is what's cauing the "damned Jap-Crap them kids are into) backlash against eastern influences on western pop culture.

I say turn baby, turn. There's no manifest destiny saying the US is to be the sole cultural influence on this earth. Let the Japanese have their turn at bat. It all shakes things up, keeps art from getting stale. Nothing is created in a vaccum anyways, everyone pulls inspiration from other sources. So people are being inspired by the Japanese pop culture. Have at it. Maybe in a few decades Africa or Europe or hell, even Canada will become the next big pop culture exporter. Let it all ebb and flow.

As for suckage on the web, it's there in droves. Hell 98% of everything sucks anyways. In print the publishers try to weed the suck out, or perhaps more accurately try to week the unmarketable out. On the web the readers weed the suck out. Yeah Keenspace is full of crappy stick figures drawn on lined paper with "manga eyes". Big woop. Nobody reads those comics.

The thing with the web is it's the great equalizer. Nobody's turned away. Nobody has a door shut in their face. Even a guy with unprintable content like mine is able to step up to bat and take a swing.

I work as a musician and the internet and computer technology is giving us the kinds of opportunities as artists we could only dream about in the 70s and 80s. No barriers to production, no barriers to distribution. Your only limit is how good you are and how hard you're willing to work. You don't even have to have both sometimes and you can still succeed. Look at Fred Gallagher. Great drawing talent, horrible work ethic. The guy still manages to make a living and have one of the hottest selling graphic novels in comic. How's that saying go? It's better to be lucky than to be smart (not saying that Fred Gallagher isn't smart mind you).

Nope, webcomics definetly a medium but I can see the case being made that it will become defined as a genre. I've already heard people use the term "webcomic art" when describing other non-web productions.

The confusion will probably get even worse if the suits start to see webcomics as a genre and a popular trend. Right now webcomics are like the punk rock scene of the 70s and early 80s. Anything goes and you may have a few thousand wankers with sixstrings annoying the neighbours from their parents garage but every once in awhile they give birth to a Ramones or a Dead Kennedys. What I'd be worried about is the suits will look at the popularity of those Ramones and Dead Kennedys of the webcomic world and say to themselves "how can we get some of that money too". Next thing you know the webcomic world will be full of corporatized Webcomics (tm) and webcomics will be seens as the Skater-Punk of the comics industry.

That would be sad.

[quote:88254de125="ledgermain"]We must stop looking for things to attack and start thinking of how or own work can catch the eyes and hearts of the readers.
Which readers, exactly? Best I can figure the OP's point was: Even if you're a geek, that doesnt mean you have to make comics for them.

The suggestion seems to be that webcomics may be starting to get viewed as nothing but "geek stuff" in the eyes of the general public. Much the same way print comics are viewed as "superheros", or manga is viewed "big-eyed comics for pedophiles". Right or wrong, an over-reliance on certain material links that material with the medium. Like how we think of right-winged crackpots when we think of Fox News. They become the same thing according to public perception.

And now let me tell the OP this: Forget it. The popularity of geek webcomics acts as a form of societal validation for a lot of people. Also, what you're suggesting sounds suspiciously like that evil "art" that launches a large segment of webcomic creators into a shrill whine that just gets more piercing should you argue against them. There are far more of them than people who think like you, and you're simply not going to change any minds because they have too much to lose if you get your way.

Stop wasting your time.

[quote:15e7b1d41f="HowardTayler"]Webcomics ain't a genre. Period. People who say that don't understand the word. Genre is about content, not medium. MEDIUM is about medium. It's not about getting people to understand webcomics. It's about getting people to understand english.

No, that's not true. Genre divisions aren't only about content. Literature is often divided into the genres of poetry, drama, and prose -- those are all mediums. Depending on how one divides and subdivides their genres, a single work will exist in multiple genres (a horror poem, for example). There's even a genre of painting known as "genre painting."

So, yeah, webcomics are a genre, if someone wants to divide their comics genres into web comics, newspaper comics, and comic books. If your other genres are comedy and horror, then, no, web comics aren't that type of genre.

- Eric M.

Ledgermain, you're not getting it. As William G, Ghastly & Malky have articulate it well, webcomics shouldn't be considered an Genre than it should be a Medium. I know what I'm saying when I'm differentiating Genre and Medium in meaning. You brought up Stargate, Babylon 5 and H2G2 and say that But the stories - you know that actual important part people seem to keep forgetting when they put on the gloves to tear something apart? The stories are differnt, the mechanics are differnt, the universes are diferent. But unfortunately the overall mainstream perception would always look as them as "Meh, Sci-Fi!" and thus would treat them as such. Same goes with manga & comics. When the mainstream think of Manga, they will always think "Big Eyed Girls" and when comics, they will always think "superheroes".

It's the same trap that webcomics should avoid.

Probably the biggest disappointment to me recently regarding Webcomics potential is the fact that Breathed decided to launch Opus as a Sunday-only print feature whilst at the same time demanding that it should occupy X amount of space (this necessitated that other strips were sometimes dropped to make room).

Opus has been a failure as a comeback strip, in my opinion. I believe Breathed had big plans to make an animated feature of Bloom County (or Opus) and needed a print presence as a platform to launch it.

Anyone who knows anything about animation production would have advised him against such a stupid venture. Sure, if you have the rights to a major brand like Harry Potter, go for it, but contrary to his own opinion, 90% of Joe Public do not know who the hell Breathed or Opus are, not even in the US.
It would have been a far better choice for Breathed to re-introduce Opus as a web-only feature. Better for web cartooning in general, and better for his product.

He would have gotten far more column inches of publicity in newspapers for putting it exclusively on the web than he did for getting the feature into newspapers. Most papers saw it as a non-story.

On the subject of genre....well, I'm afraid there are none so blind as those who will not see. Webcomics are not a genre. Substitute "world" for the word "genre" and you will get a far better idea of what genre means.

The problem is that the word Manga has come to be misinterpreted in the West. I've been asked many times to give talks and workshops on Manga. I could sell out small theatres (immodest as that sounds) a few times per year just by titling the shows as "Manga Workshops". That's because kids (and some adults) only associate it with what they see on Nickelodeon in the form of anime.

I've refused to talk on the subject of Manga because other than describe it as "a Japanese comic drawing style" there is nothing more to say. The workshop would simply be about drawing comics.

I might include a ten minute piece on how to draw big eyed girls, but that's it. If most parents knew how much Manga was related to porn in Japan, they wouldn't be asking so insistently for the workshops.

If you accept that comics is a genre, then you can accept that Manga is. I don't.

Comics, like the web, is a medium. That's why Lichtenstein could create paintings in one medium that parodied another. He couldn't successfully parody a genre unless he took the time to write a book or make a film, the way Mel Brooks did in Blazing Saddles or Young Frankenstein

[quote:9dc3a328e1="Anonymous"]You brought up Stargate, Babylon 5 and H2G2 ... But unfortunately the overall mainstream perception would always look as them as "Meh, Sci-Fi!" and thus would treat them as such.

I haven't experienced this dismissive attitude to wards science fiction. My experience with sci-fi, including the long lines to see "War of the Worlds" this weekend, seem to be alot more accepting than yours.

[quote:9dc3a328e1="Anonymous"]Same goes with manga & comics. When the mainstream think of Manga, they will always think "Big Eyed Girls" and when comics, they will always think "superheroes". ... It's the same trap that webcomics should avoid.

Again, my experience is different. Most people I know think of "comics" as "Dilbert" or "Get Fuzzy." If they do initially think of "comics" as "Spider-Man" or "Batman," you can bring them around to your way of thinking with a short phrase like:

"No, more like Peanuts"
"No, more like an editorial cartoon"
"No, more like Tales from The Crypt"
"No, more like ..."

I think most people have a wider understanding of comics than you give them credit for.

- Eric M.

Uncle Ghastly's picture

Yes I agree on Opus. I suspect Breathed is one of those old-timers like my stepfather for whom the interweb is just for e-mail, stock quotes, and porn.

A Bloom County comeback is pretty much only going to appeal to the Generation Xers who read it while in college in the 80s. Very few Generation Xers read newspapers. That's a Boomer medium. On the web it would have been a much bigger hit if for naustalgia if nothing else. With so few of us Xers reading paper probably most Xers didn't even know Opus came back. It would have created a much bigger buzz with it's target audience as well as gain new readers from the Nintendo Generation if it had been a webcomic.

Of course the beauty of the web is it's still not to late for that. There's nothing stopping breathed from reviving his Bloome County franchise as a webcomic. Hell if he wants a Bloome County animated series there's nothing stopping him from reviving it as a webtoon.

Television, print... too freaking fickle for my tastes and generally controlled by uncreative people who spend most of their time with their heads up their ass.

[quote:7fadb89147="Malky"]On the subject of genre....well, I'm afraid there are none so blind as those who will not see. Webcomics are not a genre. Substitute "world" for the word "genre" and you will get a far better idea of what genre means.

Can you give some examples of what you think are genres? (Maybe you already have, forgive me for not scrolling through the thread again). I'm having a difficult time understanding what you mean.

A better substitute for "genre" would be "genus;" you know, as in genus and species. A genus or a genre is nothing more than a classification, a kind or type of something. As genus applies to living things, genre applies to art. Genus and Genre likely come form the same Latin root -- the plural of genus is genera ...

So, yes, if you are classifying comics by general* form (in books, in newspapers, on the internet) then web comics is a genre.

* And "general" likely comes from the same root as well -- a genre is nothing more than a "general type" of something else, as webcomics are a general type of comics ...

- Eric M.

As I said previously, a genre is a world, not even a style or type.

You can make a film that looks like it inhabits the same world as another, for instance. Philip Marlowe novels occupy the same world as Sam Spade novels. It's not too far of a stretch to include Batman, as his world is similarly dark and he is a loner too, working outside the law, a vigilante figure with a troubled past.

However, I suspect most people would apportion Batman his own genre, with perhaps Green Hornet, Green Arrow and Daredevil as fellow-travellers as they don't have super-powers as such.

Maybe Superman, Supergirl and Wonder Woman, etc, are a differen sub-genre, owing to the fact they do have super-powers, but also because their world is lighter, less consequential. After all, how much danger can a guy who is invulnerable to anything be in?

On the other hand, Superman's character was redefined (as a right-wing superpatriot) and made darker in the eighties in The Dark Night Returns. At this point he may belong legitimately to a genre that includes Spiderman and the later more seriously flawed superheros.
There are many ways to ascribe and describe a genre, but comics per se do not constitute a genre, they are the medium by which we access them, the portal through which we look.

malcolmmcgookin.com

Well, if you're worried about the general public's view of webcomics as opposed to reality, I'd say you're S.O.L. For all the variety print comics offer, Joe Average sees it as Wolverine and Spider-Man.

As webcomic artists, our view of things is way outside the mainstream. Penny Arcade has 800,000 readers. I'm sure you could list dozens of comedy, romance, horror, sci-fi, whatever webcomics, but most of them would probably have less than 10,000 readers. Maybe one nerd comedy with 30,000, but that's it. Penny Arcade is the ocean, all other webcomics are drops of spit. Joe Average reads Penny Arcade, and he thinks webcomics are jokes about video games. He might know that different genres of webcomics exist, he just doesn't care.

No, I'm not worried about the general public or webcomics. I'm worried about whether my kids will get ill, you know, that sort of thing.

You use the phrase "as webcomic artists our view of things is way outside the mainstream." Really? You're not speaking for all webcomic artists, surely?
Pity then that there's so much sameness about webcomics. In fact I'd say thinking outside the box is what they do worst.

This is probably because comics (now, as ever) are created by and for young men, some of them in arrested development, obsessed with sassy babes and guns. Sure, they're bright, but cartooning is a ridiculous job, especially for a grown man.

As for Penny Arcade, good luck to them, and if they're making a living doing what they want to do I salute them, but I can hardly tell the difference between their feature and Scott Kurtz's. I mean check out the two products using Wikipedia and tell me you don't have two totally interchangeable scenarios there.

As for Keenspot - "way outside the mainstream"? I beg to differ. Just a lot of samey drawing, more sassy babes and dumb boyfriends and animals in human clothes.
Still, they're not harming anyone, but neither are they webcomic artists pushing the boundaries.

[quote:673f3330fe="Malky"]As I said previously, a genre is a world, not even a style or type.

Yes, there are genres that are based on their setting (Westerns, for example), but there are also genres based on their style, their type, their emotional effect, their form, their content, etc. etc. That's my understanding from undergraduate genre studies in film and literature, and that seems to be the widespread belief as reflected by a dictionary:

gen·re
1. A type or class: “Emaciated famine victims... on television focused a new genre of attention on the continent” (Helen Kitchen).
2.
a. A category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, marked by a distinctive style, form, or content: “his six String Quartets... the most important works in the genre since Beethoven's” (Time).
b. A realistic style of painting that depicts scenes from everyday life.

- EricM.

Uncle Ghastly's picture

Well the one thing that's certain about webcomics. With all the bitching that goes on in the community it's clearly not a happy medium.

[quote:375005073a="Malky"]
As for Penny Arcade, good luck to them, and if they're making a living doing what they want to do I salute them, but I can hardly tell the difference between their feature and Scott Kurtz's. I mean check out the two products using Wikipedia and tell me you don't have two totally interchangeable scenarios there.

You've gotta be kidding me.

People say this and I wonder if people have actually read them, or if they just heard some other false prophet spout it off and are copying them.

The only -- only thing similar between PA and PvP is occasioanl mention of video games.

PA is an industry blog with a relevant (mostly) cartoon attached. There is not plot, the characters are defined by the current script, with no coherence and no continuity. They're just there as a consistant means of getting the joke out. How many times have Gabe and Tycho been brutally killed during Pa's run? (And that's fine. I'm not one for gag a day comics, but they do what they do well)

PvP is a loosly connected ongoing story about people that happen to work on a gaming magazine. But while some plotlines may evolve around games -- maybe even take place in a game, PvP is about the characters and how they grow and cope and interact with each other.

And that's just from a casual observer. I'm not a huge fan of either, but I do keep an eye on them and even just looking at them, a person can tell PA and PvP are wrolds apart from each other.

I seriously don't see the sameness that everyone else sees. Its like looking at a forest and saying 'there's a maple and there's a sycamore, and there's some ferns and there's some moss, and there's a green '84 Toyota...' and having the guy next to you go 'GODDAMN IT, THEY'RE GREEN, THAT MEANS THEY'RE ALL TREES!"[/b]

[quote:dab32c5cd2="KrazyKrow"]Well, if you're worried about the general public's view of webcomics as opposed to reality, I'd say you're S.O.L. For all the variety print comics offer, Joe Average sees it as Wolverine and Spider-Man.

I think you're confusing your experiences (anecdotal evidence) with statistical evidence. I think if you had a survery where you asked people to identify pictures of comics characters you'd find far more people in the U.S. and the world recognize Snoopy over Wolverine.

- Eric M.

[quote:709547f01d="ledgermain"]You've gotta be kidding me.

People say this and I wonder if people have actually read them, or if they just heard some other false prophet spout it off and are copying them.

I don't know about that. I think I see Malky's point. Trying to explain the fine nuances between different comics in the "gamer webcomics" subgenre to someone who's not into that subgenre is like trying to explain the difference between System of a Down and Slipknot to your grandma.

"I mean, duh grandma, Slipknot has like three percussionists where as System is heavily influenced by Armenian folk music."

[quote:f5ffc8a83d="Anonymous"]... Trying to explain the fine nuances between different comics ...

That was me.

- Eric M.

Uncle Ghastly's picture

[quote:421b0f5ca5="ledgermain"]and there's a green '84 Toyota...' and having the guy next to you go 'GODDAMN IT, THEY'RE GREEN, THAT MEANS THEY'RE ALL TREES!"[/b]

I have to call bullshit on this one.

There are no green '84 Toyotas. If it's a Toyota from 1984 it won't be green. Whatever is left of it will be rust coloured.

[quote:7f5599619c="Anonymous"][quote:7f5599619c="KrazyKrow"]Well, if you're worried about the general public's view of webcomics as opposed to reality, I'd say you're S.O.L. For all the variety print comics offer, Joe Average sees it as Wolverine and Spider-Man.

I think you're confusing your experiences (anecdotal evidence) with statistical evidence. I think if you had a survery where you asked people to identify pictures of comics characters you'd find far more people in the U.S. and the world recognize Snoopy over Wolverine.

- Eric M.

True that, I think of daily newspaper strips and comic books as totally different mediums.

Malky: You misunderstood, I didn't mean that the webcomics themselves are way outside the mainstream, I said that as webcartoonists our perception of the medium differs from that of the general public. It's like if you asked an audiophile who makes the best equipment, you'd probably get answers like Martin Logan, Rotel, or Krell. Joe Average might say Bose or Sony.

I tried to make an analogy using guitarists, but I really don't know any obscure guitarists.

Also, if that comment about cartoonists in "arrested development, obsessed with sassy babes and guns" was a crack aimed at me.... stop, really. Even when discussions on this board get heated, I've never seen anyone stoop to insulting another poster's work. Let's keep it that way.

Krazy,
no, it wasn't aimed at you, but I can see now why you thought that. I hate to say it, but I never even looked at the banner headline, (or if I did, it didn't register) and that's worrying because I too have a banner headline on this site.

No, that view of mine is one I've expressed before, and it's become a bit of a standby (a boring cliche, even) along with my single-guy-sassy-gal-living-with-gelfling view, or if-you-have-a-boring-character-give-them-an-interesting-hat view.

It's just that your statement that (I'm paraphrasing) webcomic artists think outside the mainstream isn't borne out from where I'm standing.

Why "webcomic artists" anyway? You're an artist or you're not, in my book, and one's ability to think outside the mainstream isn't contingent on whether your work is solely displayed on the web or not.

For some web artists, their only concession to being on the web is that choose a square or scroll-able format. They're not creating anything more exciting (and often far less exciting) than anything in print.

[quote:0582f3fb83="Malky"]
It's all about writing, and writing well. There are no new ideas, big or otherwise, just the same as before, it's all about how we package them, and the fact that the medium is the Web doesn't make a blind bit of difference.

This is something that always bugs me, people saying that there are no new ideas... it's obviously not true... even a casual look at history will show you that people invent stuff that didn't exist before all the time, you can look at the history of litrature, science, anything you like and what you invariably find is that it's punctuated with times when somebody had a new idea and history was changed because of it.

Admitedly just wanting to have a new idea isn't enough to make it actually happen, to think of new ideas you have to think in new ways and that's something not everyone is capable of but deciding that there are no new ideas to be had and you might as well just do what everyone else is doing is a sure fire way to not have any new ideas, and frankly if your work is completely unoriginal then no amount of pretty packaging is going to make it more than moderately good.

Tears,
The fact there are no new ideas is almost scientifically provable. There are just no new ideas, period, just as there are no new notes in music. All we hear is the old ones in a new order, and (going by the present day charts) sometimes not even that.

What you may regard as a new idea is almost certainly a very entertaining re-working of an old idea. Do you have any examples of what you regard as a revolutionary concept?

Even inventions, like the telephone or the internet are an accumulation of old ideas brilliantly re-worked.

This is why it's a waste of time for people to sit, head in hands, struggling for a world-shatteringly original concept. It's like waiting for your true love, it'll come when you least expect it, and after a while you'll realise it wasn't purely original at all, it had riffs from another song in there.
In the meantime just draw and write what you can, especially what pleases you. Even if that's babes with guns. Babes with guns can be good. It's not the originality of the subject matter that counts, it's the charm and talent of the creator.

This is why we as cartoonists take criticism of our work to heart. Behind it all, the criticism isn't of the marks we made on paper, it's criticism of us.

[quote:d9be48186b="Malky"]
What you may regard as a new idea is almost certainly a very entertaining re-working of an old idea. Do you have any examples of what you regard as a revolutionary concept?
Using fire to cook food?

Joey Manley's picture

As long as Keenspot has Sinfest and WIGU (um ... do they still have WIGU?), they can make a claim to having comics that are as good as any ever made. Not dissing the rest of the lineup, mind you, but those are spectacularly good.

And welcome to Comixpedia, Malky! I checked out your strip "Eve" via the banner ad, and only realized it was you (that guy I had been arguing with on ToonTalk last year) much later. Very nice strip, very cleanly executed, though I do feel the Peanuts influence might maybe possibly be overwhelming your own "voice" a bit ... it's not nearly so strong in the illustration work you've posted, which is lovely as well.

Joey
www.moderntales.com

Joey Manley's picture

The fact that there are no new ideas has a corollary: great art (or great entertainment, whichever you prefer) has never been about the ideas; it has always been about the execution of the work itself. The best idea in the world won't save a talentless hack, and the silliest idea, in the hands of a Schulz or a Watterson, can be made into great cartoons. So young cartoonists should worry less about ideas, and more about honing their craft. Worrying about "coming up with an idea" becomes an excuse for doing nothing, and doing nothing is the surest way to avoid getting good.

Joey
www.moderntales.com

[quote:b62acb6c42="Malky"]Tears,
The fact there are no new ideas is almost scientifically provable. There are just no new ideas, period, just as there are no new notes in music. All we hear is the old ones in a new order, and (going by the present day charts) sometimes not even that.

Ironically you've come up with a wonderful example of why people don't come up with new ideas. The diatomic scale isn't set in stone you know, it's entirely possible to use a different set of notes and in fact a lot of folk music still does, but because people think it's the only set of notes available they don't even look at the alternatives.

I could come up with dozens of examples of new ideas, things like the electric lightbulb or the wheel or the catflap or the internet and I'm sure you could argue that they did not happen all at once, that they were the culmination of a group of ideas and you'd be right but you'd also have completely missed the point.

I can't point to a particular point in time and say that that moment there was when a new idea came into being, ideas don't work like that, what I can do is look at a wider stretch of time and say during this time a new idea was developed and that before that time it didn't exist at all in any recognisable form and that after that time it was widespread. If that wasn't the case there would have been electric lightbulbs in the dark ages, or more probably they still wouldn't exist.

New ideas do not in the vast majority of cases arrive from nowhere, but that doesn't mean they're not new, something does not have to be completely different from everything that went before to be original, originality is a progression, a way of thinking that leads you to a different destination than other people who started out from the same place.

What annoys me is that the creed of believing that there are no new ideas leads people to never try to be original at all, sure you're not going to come up with something original just by sitting around wishing it, but if you can continually ask youself questions about your assumptions, maybe turn a few of them on their head, then you'll find that you end up with something that isn't exactly the same as everything else.

Maybe not everyone can come up with something totally original, but you'll never know unless you try. The first step to thinking outside the box is knowing the box is there.

>>Using fire to cook food?<<

How do you know that was ever an original idea, as such? Prehistoric man probably found a charred carcase after a bushfire and thought the meat tasted interesting. Next step to char a carcase he had hanging in his cave. It's not a million miles from that to "here's one I prepared earlier".

Thanks for the "hello" Joey, I remember our exchanges last year. I remember you and Ghastly were among the few mature posters. Unfortunately a whole heap of Oompaloompas then infested Toon Talk posting anonymously and talking drivel, so I gave up until they all left.

Then I kind of liked the quiet.

Oh, the Peanuts thing. Yes, quite true, and deliberate. It is how I draw kids, it's just that I've never had to draw kids in my other work. I wanted those precise proportions and that precise look. It took me a long time to get it right.

I tried drawing alternatives to take me away from that look, because I anticipated the comparison, but I was never happy. I had to admit these characters were the only ones who fitted the bill. They were the precise starter tools I needed.

You may not believe it, but nobody else to date has mentioned the Peanuts look at all, and that surprises me.

As for my "voice", once again I agree. When I draw one-off gags, I'm more free, because often the characters I draw are total one-offs never to be seen again.

When I developed the "Eve" stuff, however, I knew they were full time cast members, they had to be right from the word "go", and hold their character from frame to frame. In the strips you're seeing now, I used templates drawn over a lightbox to maintain their correct proportions. In the later strips I've loosened up and started to draw them by eye.

It'll take time to find the voice and slickness I'm after, but that's why I had to take out a page on Sherpa, without doing that, I would never have forced myself to sit at a drawing desk and get on with the work necessary.

Tears, we can knock this back and forth until the bovine quadrupeds relocate to their domicile.

All I'm saying is create what grooves you and don't worry too much about coming up with something no-one's ever seen before. All that will happen is that you'll take a year fretting over nothing. In the meantime, the syndicates or publishers will have bought a comic simply because it looks and sounds like another comic.

If you want to see this phenomenon in action, check out a strip called "Unfit". It's drawn by (Dilbert) Scott Adams's business partner's husband

Being original, or as original as I can pretty much is what grooves me, so I worry about it because it's what interests me.

What annoys me is when I hear people saying that it's impossible to be original, it's not, although I will agree that it isn't necessarily the most cost / time effective method of achieving some goals such as getting published. It doesn't seem fair to me that people should be discouraged from thinking differently.

However I've put my opinion across, you've put yours, I think we were both pretty coherant, so continuing to argue over something we fundamentaly disagree on isn't going to achieve any more than it already has. I'm happy to call cease fire on this one.

Uncle Ghastly's picture

[quote:741e26d00c="joeymanley"]Worrying about "coming up with an idea" becomes an excuse for doing nothing, and doing nothing is the surest way to avoid getting good.

This is why I love the web so much, because anyone can jump in with absolutely no experience and start doing.

So far I've been doing all the work on the new comic series I'm working on at the local Tim Hortons while I have my morning cup of coffee and old fashioned plain. The new series has artwork quite different from GGC, not so cartoony, more realistic. People come by sometimes and look over my shoulder and tell me how nice it looks and how much they wish they could draw. I always tell them they'll never learn to draw if all they do is keep wishing. I tell them that 4 years ago I couldn't draw at all and the only reason why I can draw now is because one day instead of "wishing" I could draw I picked up a pencil and started drawing, and I sucked. I sucked big time.

I've got all my early artwork, even the pre-GGC stuff which is really bad. I love that it's bad. I love that I can look at it and see how horrible it is. I love that I can look at it and see just how far I've come and I really hope that in the future when I look back on the stuff I'm drawing now I'll also be repulsed with how poorly drawn it is. That means you're improving which is always a good thing.

If I had been afraid of sucking I'd never have gotten anywhere. I'd still be "wishing" I could draw. Even if I hadn't been online I wouldn't have come as far as I have. I wouldn't have had the benefit of more skilled artists telling me, "I like what you're doing here, but you've made some mistakes there. Instead of doing it like that, try doing it like this and see if that helps you get the look you're trying to go for."

There's just no substitute for doing and encouraging, constructive criticism. And on the internet you'll get both.

Of course you'll also get a lot of discouraging, destructive criticism too but the truth is it's easy enough once you realize they're just being pricks to dismiss assholes online as nothing more than text on your monitor.

Tears, I agree we'll have to disagree, but I'd say that despite my claim that there's nothing that can qualify as truly original, that doesn't mean there aren't loads of exciting things which qualify as "new" or groundbreaking.

I remember when I first heard Sultans Of Swing by Dire Straits. I thought it was the most original sound I'd ever heard. I'm a guitar player myself, so it probably impressed me on a level that didn't register with non-players.

Now that I know a little more about music, Mark Knopfler's influences and life in general, I can see clearly where that sound came from. Right through Woody Guthrie through Bob Dylan and so on. No accident that Bob Dylan asked Dire Straits to back him on tour.

Knopfler has influenced others in his turn, like the brilliant John Mayer, who is creating a new and exciting sound too.

I didn't stop me thinking that I'd discovered a truly original sound at the time.

bobweiner's picture

Just wanted to say that I've been enjoying the conversation on this thread. I'm a silent lurker, for the most part. I found myself nodding in agreement with Ghastly's recent post - without the web, I doubt I would have stuck with cartooning on a regular basis. It's because of the web, because of the fact that my work has an audience, that has kept me going as a cartoonist for over 7 years.

-Krishna

Krishna M. Sadasivam Cartoonist, "The PC Weenies" http://www.pcweenies.net

[quote:45061d2b4a="Malky"]>>Using fire to cook food?<<

How do you know that was ever an original idea, as such? Prehistoric man probably found a charred carcase after a bushfire and thought the meat tasted interesting. Next step to char a carcase he had hanging in his cave. It's not a million miles from that to "here's one I prepared earlier".
Someone had to do it first.

With a few thousand years of culture behind us, coming up with something original might seem difficult, but it's not impossible.

When motion pictures were new, movies started out as fimed stage plays. The first time someone cut to a close-up, it blew people's minds (in italics.) It's physically impossible, it was something never seen before. As a generation that's grown up with tv, we take it for granted.

The Matrix introduced bullet time, which would have been impossible to do just a few years earlier. Sure the poorly-done copies sometimes make me wish the Wacowzskis hadn't invented it, but it's original.

The web's just waiting for this generation's Eisenstein.