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Longform Comics On The Web: That Which Should Not Be

As some of you may know, I make a longform webcomic (thanks for clicking). And I'm using the term "longfom" as to mean serialized story comics.

I've been thinking about webcomics, as I always do, and though I'm lacking access to Rob Balder's holy grail of data, I have managed to notice a few things. First off, gag-strips dominate the webcomics. And second off, longform comics don't.

Duh~

Now, this isn't meant to be a debate over Art vs. Entertainment, nor Quality vs. Quantity. We all know those topics have been done to death, and have no value save their acting as a platform to launch pissing contests.

This is meant to air a thought/ reinvention of the wheel, I had that I think may be discussion-worthy.

Longform comics have no place in what we now know as webcomics.

From what I've read about the internet and it's uses, information is traded in, for lack of a better term, Micro-bursts. You're reading the information in small chunks and then you move on to the next burst of data. Nibble, move. Nibble, move. Sort of like information sushi or the buffet at the prom.

Gag strips, by their very nature, are meant to be absorbed quickly. Thus they fit the web method of information delivery perfectly. So you can head off to Penny Arcade, ten seconds later you giggle, "Heh, he said cockslut." and you move on to something else like CTRL+ALT+DEL, or looking for porn, or your job, or what have you. The amount of information fits the method of delivery.

But, a longfom comic requires a longer period of concentration for it's information to be delivered well. For this type of comic, it may take three pages to reach the, "Heh, he said cockslut" conclusion. And few have the patience, or time, or eyes to stare at the same image on a montior for a length of time.

So a longform comic artist has to copy the gag-strip method of quick updates. To me, that's like trying to make a dog into a cat. It cuts up the comic's flow when it's drawn with the update in mind, causing it to be jumpy in the final reading. Or it produces a glacial updating flow when it's drawn with the final product in mind. All in all, the delivery method is working against the material.

So, what's can be done? Vanity press is always an option. But how do you get that to your potential reader without having a web or direct market presence to begin with? Same problem, right?

Me, I'm thinking RSS or some other sort of direct feed would be the best way to deliver a longform comic. The reader gets a full chunk of material they can read at their own leisure without the flow problems mentioned above. But, as far as I know, and I hope someone can correct me on this if I'm wrong, RSS and other direct feeds dont count towards the UIPs/ pageviews, making it difficult to open that online t-shirt store and banner sale everyone, except for those loser artistes, want.

Any ideas? Or will the web as a method of delivery remain a "The worst system there is, except for all the others" situation for this type of material?

Sorry. I started out a

Greg Carter's picture

Sorry. I started out a response to Joe Zabel's post and derailed my train on thought almost immediately. That wasn't a specific "you" I was speaking to, but a general everyone-but-me "you".

As far as promoting a long-form comic on the web (i went a long way not to call it a web comic on purpose), I only advertise on sites that I like and want to give money to anyway and seem somewhat compatible with my audience. So most joke-a-day strips are out since they don't relate. And it's still taking a chance with a similar style-content comic. I don't judge response just by click throughs, but by read throughs. Clicks to the main page I can get from anywhere. If I'm paying I want people that will at least attempt to read the comic. Megatokyo sent a friggin ton of clicks but they didn't stay. Errant Story sent a ton of people and they read through the archive. So do folks from Bad Blood and Red String. Those three send me a high percentage of clickers that read through the whole archive. I'm trying out Girly, maybe Chugworth, and a couple of others in June. I'd like to have a base of 5 or 6 comics that I can rotate through when I can afford it. I do ads on Onlinecomics.net and Buzzcomix sometimes too to get a more general audience cheap. I like supporting the sites I read. When I buy an ad we both win.

But a lot of free referrals come from links from friends and fans, posting in forums, and what not. If it's another comic's forum I hang out a long time before I out a link in my sig if I do. But there's usually a place in the forum profile to put a link. General places like Comixpedia, the top lists, The Engine, and convention site I hit up in the signature right away. I don't much real PR yet, but I will once I have a good chunk of pages built up.

I'm not sure if that helped at all. I go sleep now.

Greg Carter
Abandon
UpDown Studio

Greg Carter - Abandon: First Vampire - Online Graphic Novel

I see. There are other

jsandas's picture

I see. There are other people in the world, too. I'll have to remember that.

I definetely see the point of advertising on comic sites you'd want to support anyway, as well as ones that you think might have compatible readers. Taken together, these two things could maybe even lead to the forming of (loose, informal) networks of comic creators who want to reach the same audience. Something much less defined and far more fluid than a "collective", or even the onvolved comics' link pages, but still something worth thinking about.

Speaking of collectives; are there any webcomic collectives or community sites that focus on long-form comics (in the sense that the term has been used here, that is: novel-like narrative comics posted either in frequent instalments or in larger chunks, and working towards a payoff at the end of the story rather than on some kind of reward in every instalment)? Could there be? Should there be?

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Unreal City, a Graphic Novel.

Re: I see. There are other

[quote=jsandas]I definetely see the point of advertising on comic sites you'd want to support anyway, as well as ones that you think might have compatible readers. Taken together, these two things could maybe even lead to the forming of (loose, informal) networks of comic creators who want to reach the same audience. Something much less defined and far more fluid than a "collective", or even the onvolved comics' link pages, but still something worth thinking about.[/quote]

Isn't that a web ring? (Or, at least, what a web ring is supposed to be?)

Sadly, most of the web rings I've looked at seem to have a very, very diverse range of comics on them so that - in reality - they offer little more than a random Google-search for "webcomic".

Provided entry was strictly controlled and it didn't become another chase for members, irrespective of quality, a webring for "long-form" comic sites could be a great idea.

I'd join :)

_____________________________
Broken Voice Comics
Because comics are not just for kids

Website: www.brokenvoice.co.uk
Contact: edit_bvc@yahoo.co.uk

Broken Voice Comics
Because comics are not just for kids

Graphic Smash mostly

Fabricari's picture

Graphic Smash mostly contains long form comic, I think.


Fabricari - Sexy Robots and Violent Cyberpunk Comics

Steve "Fabricari" Harrison

Comics are good for ADD

Greg Carter's picture

Comics are good for ADD America too. I can't remember the last time I finished a novel. But I just threw down big bucks for the collection of Demo by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan. I made it through that. I went back to the shop a week later and the other four copies were gone. I also picked up Sea of Red, The Amazing Joy Buzzards, and a couple by Andi Watson. (Okay, I bought Nana #2 as well.) There's still plenty more I want. The store says the indie trade books are moving well. It's not just the manga and cape collections selling. Now reading a big chunk on the web is a totally different experience than hunkering down in your favorite chair for reasons people have mentioned above. But people still do it. People buy books. People read on the web. Because different people are different!

I'm like Joe, I don't get what the problem here is. Fact - the number of people that read something with a story will always be smaller than the number that read joke-only comics. That goes for books and web. It is the nature of humans. Deal with it. You have to accept the differences and work with them. So I should quit telling my story on the web because it will never be as popular as if I told a joke a day? Screw that. The audience is out there. It's up to me to find them because I'm not changing the story for that. To me more popularity does not necessarily equal more success. Getting read is the main thing, but not neccessarily getting read by everyone.

As has been said, there are successful examples of story comics doing this on the web. It's different than how a strip-type comic works. Just like it's different selling singles in the direct market versus going straight to a trade-size book. One size never fits all.

And the reason those kids will read manga and gaming magazines and not anything else, may be because nothing else interests them so why bother. The manga and magazines are about them, not just for them. They get involved.

I shouldn't try to write just as my coffee is kicking in. ;)

Greg Carter
Abandon
UpDown Studio

Greg Carter - Abandon: First Vampire - Online Graphic Novel

I'm like Joe, I don't get

jsandas's picture

I'm like Joe, I don't get what the problem here is. Fact - the number of people that read something with a story will always be smaller than the number that read joke-only comics. That goes for books and web. It is the nature of humans. Deal with it. You have to accept the differences and work with them. So I should quit telling my story on the web because it will never be as popular as if I told a joke a day? Screw that. The audience is out there. It's up to me to find them because I'm not changing the story for that. To me more popularity does not necessarily equal more success. Getting read is the main thing, but not neccessarily getting read by everyone.

This sounds like a reference to my post, so I'm driven by an unstoppable impulse to point out that my name is, in fact, not Joe. That's totally irrelevant ot the disctuusion, however, so I'm somewhat at a loss about how to proceed from here...

I could point out that "long-form" stories are the only kinds of webcomics I actively seek out these days, and that I basically only reed "gag-a-day" ones when somebody links to them, but that's anecdotal evidence at best. I could also point out that I've been known to read 18th-century novels beforfe breakfast and still enjoy comics, but that's neither here nor there.

The people (and it's not just kids, of course) who "only" read manga and magazines have probably been exposed to "real" books far more often than they would have liked and have still decided that they're not interested (or maybe they've deicded they're not interested exactly because they've been told they should be? But I digress), which makes the situation different from that of "long-form" webcomics not finding their audience.

(yes, I'm going to keep calling them "long-form" comics. Us novel readers are funny like that)

I haven't actually started promoting my comic yet, what with taking month-long breaks and all, but what about those of you who do? How does promoting a "long-form" comic differ from promoting a joke strip?

I'm somewhat ambivalent about advertising myself, but I imagine that you get far more clickthroughs if you advertise for a week on another comic site that updates every day than on one that only updates once every week, so conventional wisdom would seem to suggest that you get more for your money. But what if the daily comic is a joke strip and most of the readers only click once to support their favourite provider of daily chuckles, while the weekly comic is a long-form story just lke yours with readers who might be looking for more comics just like it?

And what about word of mouth? I imagine, again, that a joke strip might get a lot of new readers if they tell a great topical joke which gets mailed around to everybody and their grandmother, or gets posted on a couple of high-traffic blogs or forums or whatever. Does that work for long-form story comics as well? I know I found my first webcomic through a link in a forum post, but that happened to be a story comic with jokes (Narbonic, just before it moved to Modern Tales. I never caught up with it again. Damn you, economically sustainable business models!), so it doesn't really say a lot about how this works for comics with a slower... er... delivery of satisfaction.

Are there word-of-mouth-like channels for promotion that would work for "long-form" comics but not for "gag-a-day" ones? Are there literature sites that might link to webcomics? English Department mailing lists? Oprah's book club?

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Unreal City, a Graphic Novel.

Graphic Novels the Future for Illiterate America

Fabricari's picture

I think graphic novels do a lot better than most folks credit them for. The problem is that as a [web]comic community, there seems to be a lot of discounting the incredible success of manga. There is a lot of talk about how bland and played out the genre or style is. But I think they are a large reason that major book chains have a significant selection of graphic novels and trades today. A generation of kids who never read a prose book in their lives are buying 'pitcher' books. Graphic novels are perfect for illiterate America.

I predict that, as soon as mainstream America acknowledges graphic novels as literature, they will have a sudden rise in its popularity - largely due to illiterate Americans with shorter attention spans than it requires to read a prose novel.

This is not to say that intelligent people don't write or read GNs but rather that there will be a large potential audiance. And yes I base this observation on younger siblings who did pooly in school, never read a book, but have several gaming magazines and manga graphic novels scattered across the room.

While more people probably read the funnys than graphic novels, I suspect more money is being spent on Big Chunk comics in the book stores. This is just a theory, no data to support it. But us Big Chunkers can always hope.


Fabricari - Sexy Robots and Violent Cyberpunk Comics

Steve "Fabricari" Harrison

Are you allowed to call it a

Are you allowed to call it a theory with nothing to support it? Just musing. Anyways, graphic novel sales are only good in that "For comics" way. The top sellers only muster a few thousand sales in a month as far as I know. When comic strip fans move in full force you get hundreds of thousands sold, though I don't know what kind of numbers a random "Get Fuzzy" collection gets.

edit: but continuing with manga, as far as I know the comic market over there doesn't have comic strips looming over everything else by a wide margin. If they do out here it's probably more because of them being humorous and less about their length. + the fact that they have been the single type of comic presented to a mass audience that may not have been looking for comics for the past ...100 years or so, hell. + the American comic book industry was forced to shoot itself in the foot in the 50s. When the top selling monthlies were selling a million copies I don't think people would have been so quick to point out how their popularity would have to lag behind strips. I think it's more of a case of comic culture out here being built around strips more than anything. So many people grew up reading Garfield and the like, but they didn't make the monthly runs to the comic shops and so you think that the comic fan audience is just the sort of people that do when really they're only a small portion of it all. And a culture that reads comic strips produces more of them and is more inclined to read them and webcomics seem to have been built up by those kinds of people.

Kiwis by beat!

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

hypothesis, really

Fabricari's picture

More of a hypothesis really, but I use the incorrect word "theory" as I always seem to get weird looks when I use it. Nerd. :)

Anyone know if there are publicly published numbers on these things?


Fabricari - Sexy Robots and Violent Cyberpunk Comics

Steve "Fabricari" Harrison

This explains, of course,

This explains, of course, the failure of Megatokyo and Same Difference and Something Positive and Sluggy Freelance. :/

No, sorry. I don't suscribe to the theory that people don't like serials because they have a short attention span. It is simple: some people don't like stories. Reading a story needs a lot more commitment. Remember always that the main model for webcomics was newspaper comic strips: these don't have archives. A serial in a newspaper works like this: recap panel, action panel, foreshadowing panel. The trickling updates are a vestigial limb from newspaper comic strips, but also accomodate the advertising-based economy models. Few graphics by page = best profit/bandwidth cost ratio. Which leads to business.

Serial comics work SO WELL in webcomics. It is probably the best medium for serial comics. With instant-access archives, all a person needs to do is sit down and read it all. No trying to find back issues (and with search engines like Oh No Robot, you can even find a particularly obscure reference in the archives instantly). Yes, the pacing changes for the people reading in-archive than day-to-day, but it can be used to your advantage to build suspense, or whatever.

Maritza
CRFH.net

Reading a story needs a lot

The William G's picture

Reading a story needs a lot more commitment.

How is this different?

_____

The William G - Romantic Drama, Post-Apocalyptic Monsters, and More Comic Experimentation


Because it's not a question

Because it's not a question of attention span. It's more like normal people vs. comic readers. It's not even a matter of it being the internet. Normal people read the funnies in the newspaper (or the web) more in a tangential way than in a dedicated, comic fan way. They don't go out of their way to seek/buy comic strip collections or visit their comic book store. They're just not that interested in comics/strips generally speaking. This is also why many webcomic fans are fans of just one single webcomic, and they're not interested in adding others to their daily reading.

Maritza is right. Most

Joey Manley's picture

Maritza is right. Most people don't read graphic novels in print, either. But they will check out Dilbert if they happen to have the paper handy. The idea that graphic-novel-type webcomics and comic-strip-type webcomics are "competing" for the same audience just doesn't hold water, ultimately (and, yes, it's a mistake I've made myself in the past).

For that matter, most people don't read prose novels, either.

Those of us who are excited by the longer-form stuff should concentrate on building the audience for that work, for sure -- but it's not necessarily going to come from the masses of people who like comic strips, and it's probably never going to be quite as large as the audience for people who like comic strips.

Which means, too, that the business models for popular comic strips may not be the business models that will work for graphic-novel-type works. But that's the topic of many a religious war in our community, so I'll shut up now.

Joey
www.webcomicsnation.com

I'm a little confused here;

Joe Zabel's picture

I'm a little confused here; long form has two distinct meanings: 1. serialized long story comics; and 2. long comics presented in one big chunk.

We have plenty of success stories for serialized long story comics. Can you say Sluggy Freelance? Some modes of serialization may be more successful than others, but that's not where the challenge lies.

It's the big chunk webcomics that have not fared so well. The reasons often cited are, variously 1. the lean-forward/lean-back thing; 2. serialization as a form of viral marketing; 3. the lack of a financial model that works for compensating big-chunk artists.

My own pet theory is that big-chunk webcomics haven't taken off because there are so few of them, and most of them have not been very well done or well presented. When you've got a well-done one, like Nowhere Girl, it does just fine on the web, at least as far as traffic goes.

I just used "longform" as a

The William G's picture

I just used "longform" as a convenient term. I actually like "Big Chunk" better. Sounds like a fat hip-hop guy that'd get made fun of in a Boondocks episode.

But, I find it interesting that only three Big Chunkers can be named by people as being successes.

Almost as if they're exceptions rather than the norm. Hmmmm....

_____

The William G - Romantic Drama, Post-Apocalyptic Monsters, and More Comic Experimentation


i accidentally have a long format comic

oolong's picture

i accidentally have a long format comic because i was intending for it to be print but didn't think it was good enough to send off to any publishers so i'm putting it on the web instead. i think that it takes longer for long format comics to build a following because you can't sit down and read it all in one sitting, but once there's a few episodes/issues up the draw is better. either that, or the hybridized story/gag mentioned where each individual page has something funny and standalone on it, but is part of a more complex arc.

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I'm not sure I understand

jsandas's picture

I'm not sure I understand what the problem is. A long-form story comic that's updated in short instalments might get fewer readers than a theoretical gag strip of equal quality (say, one that the same creator had spent the same amount of time and effort on), but it's going to get a whole lot more readers than a comic that's never drawn at all.

And I know that at least for me that's where the choice is – as much as I might sometimes like to think that I'm sacrificing quick and easy popularity in favour of Art, that's not really true. If I wasn't drawing a promising but somewhat unpolished story comic with frequent breaks as I try to figure out what's going to happen next, I wouldn't be drawing a wildly successful gag strip, I would be drawing nothing at all.

(Well, I'd actually be drawing on scraps of paper and on my lecture notes and sometimes in a sketchbook that I'd have bought with the best of intentions but which I'd always feel rather intimidated by, but you get the picture)

And even if I was, theoretically, drawing a daily gag strip instead, I have no reason to believe that it would be anything other than a promising but somewhat unpolished gag strip with frequent breaks as I try to figure out what's going to happen next...

All of this is of course written from the perspective of someone who isn't really interested in getting popular very quickly, and who has no immediate goal to make money from the comic. It's possible that I would have another opinion if I was trying to make money, and especially if I was trying to make the comic my main source of income.

But even if that was the case I doubt direct comparisons to gag strips would do me any good. I would, after all, want to make money from this comic, not some other comic that might be more popular. If I wanted to do a long-form comic but went for a gag strip instead because of the money, how would that gag strip be different from any other day job?

I guess it all just comes down to this: I don't really want to draw a "popular" comic. I want to draw this comic, and if it ever becomes "popular", watever that means, it will probably make me happy, but I don't see why I should let my happiness, or the future of the comic, depend on it.

I probably should do something about that month-long hiatus, though...

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Unreal City, a Graphic Novel.

Daily Gags or Monthly Installments, choose one.

RemusShepherd's picture

After noticing the problems I'm having with my own on-going story, I agree that longform comics in their natural state do not work well on the web.

However, there are two strategies for longform comic creators that can lead to success.

You've mentioned one strategy -- cutting the continuing story up into daily gags. This doesn't work for every story, but it works very well for some, with Dr. McNinja as a poster child.

A second strategy is to release the comic in installments. Wait until you have a full book of comic pages, and then give it to people to read. This works well in a for-pay system -- people are more likely to purchase comic books than single comic pages. Wanted: Hero is the best example of this that I know of, and it does very well in its niche market of children's fantasy.

Due to the way the web works, these methods will always be more successful (measured in eyeballs or dollars, whichever you want to use) than the dramatic comic that releases a page or two a week. That doesn't mean the slow-serial comic format like yours or mine can't work, William. We just have another handicap to overcome.

...

 

 ...

Wait, what?

tynic's picture

[quote=RemusShepherd]Daily Gags or Monthly Installments, choose one.[/quote]

I don't actually see why it has to be an either/or proposition. What if you have lots of stories to tell? I can think of a few webcomics now that run various comic series in tandem - daily gag strips which are updated frequently, interrupted by longer, more serious efforts at larger intervals. From a creator's point of view, it's kind of fun to be able to tell the silly stories as well as the more dramatic ones. From a reader's point of view, it's nice to have something to read while you wait.

--------
Byrobot Dot Net

I think Sluggy Freelance,

RemusShepherd's picture

I think Sluggy Freelance, Something Positive, et al have proven that once you have an audience, you can pretty much do anything you want. :) I took this discussion to be about the format of new comics, comics that haven't 'made it big' yet. Once you're famous, fame and success are easy. The rest of us have to fight and adapt until we get there.

...

 

 ...

Quote:Longform comics have

Greg Carter's picture

[quote]Longform comics have no place in what we now know as webcomics.[/quote]

The key words there are "what we now know as". Fred Gallagher has ranted a couple of times recently that MegaTokyo doesn't fall within the parameters of what is currently considered a webcomic. His creation schedule is tied to web release, but the actual content itself is focused primarily on print, with web formatting secondary. I do my comic with the same approach: Release on the web while I'm gathering enough pages for a print collection.

Newspaper-style comics will do better on the web because of their design. Read one at a time. Comic book-style comics will be a harder sell on the web because of the extra effort involved but well worth it. There are plenty of people who still trek to the comic shop or book store to get the stuff in print. That takes extra effort. People will do the same with long form comics on the web. A smaller amount, sure, but the web, like cable TV, is all about niche marketing. It's easy to find those people because of the way the information is arranged.

My new comic, Abandon, has been up not quite two months and already traffic is going through the roof. And I get a lot of repeat business so people are coming back looking for new pages. It's long form. It's action-romance-horror (not necessarily in that order). I don't write it differently because one page gets added at a time. So that's all working against me. However, I made sure I had an RSS feed available from Day One. Not everyone is as obsessive about checking web sites every day for a comic that updates a couple of times a week. And I don't expect everyone to jump and visit every time a page is released because this is going to be a long, long, comic. I've noticed many people come and read two or three pages at a time. Whether they are catching up, or start a page or two before the current to refresh their mind, I'm not sure. But the thing is: they come back for more.

So, yes, the joke-a-day folks will always have the largest audience. Just like newspaper comics will always have larger audiences than comic books. It is the nature of their delivery.

Personally, I'm getting tired of this webcomic vs newspaper comic vs comic book crap. Those are all delivery systems. They can all be adapted for comics. Any kind of comic. Not every comic will work as well on all of them.

All that rambling and I mainly wanted to say that there are lots of folks who will read long form comics on the web. Will it be the largest group? No. Ninety-nine percent of the time it comes down to that compromise of audience vs vision - which is more important to you. If making a popular comic is your first priority then it's obvious what to do. If you want to do your comic your way, it's hard, but it's not impossible to get read. I want as many people as possible to read my comic but I want to make my comic my way and then find the audience for it. Not build it for a specific audience. It can (and is) being done.

Greg Carter
Abandon
UpDown Studio

Greg Carter - Abandon: First Vampire - Online Graphic Novel

Can't Say I Agree

Sean C's picture

Longform comics can do fine - as long as they're good. There are cases where finding a happy medium between gags and long stories works. Dr. McNinja works in full comic-length arcs, but the stories are laced with so much (successful) humor that readers don't care. Personally, in my comic, I've drawn two full pages leading up to one joke, (on many occasions) put them in the infinite canvas format, and posted that update. It takes some time to get to the joke, but if the pacing works, and believe me, it HAS to work, then people read. Dan Vincent and I actually pull this off with a once-a-week updating schedule, which by nature the once-a-week tends to make it difficult for a comic to secure a solid reader base, especially if you haven't been around long. (We're doing something right since we're staying between 37 and 50 each week on the TopWebcomics List.) The overall goal is to make the comic accessible enough that readers won't care about length. Three panels and a penis joke work for enough people, but it takes something extra for a longer length format comic to make it. Don't worry about the length, or the time between updates; (unless it's more longer than bi-weekly) as long as the set-up and the pacing is good, the comic can still be successful.

Drama's the tricky area. Humor comics have had much more success than dramatic, serious webcomics when in longform. These stories tend to work better as graphic novels, and, personally, I would post the completed work rather than updating a page or two at a time. That gives the reader the opportunity to go over the entirety of the work, and possibly get hooked; they would look for your future projects. A dramatic story, or even a superhero story that cuts itself off so many times, will turn off readers, who would rather ingest that type of story in its entirety. Why is that? Familiarity with print comics. These types of stories were always found in comics, and collected in trades, and that's how people discovered them, eagerly reading large portions of the story, or even the entire story, in one sitting. Having access to the final product is much more appealing than remembering to check for updates. Even with RSS updating available, not being able to get the story at an acceptible pace will still turn off readers, and make the webcomic forgetable.

Don't hesitate to procrastinate.
See my stuff at http://www.cuteninjagirls.com

Don't hesitate to procrastinate. My brand new comic: http://cain.bombsheltercomics.com

Comparing the successes of

Fabricari's picture

Comparing the successes of long-form vs self-contained strips is comparing apples to oranges. For daily strips, its debut on the website is it's moment in the lime-light. Posting a long-form comic on the web amounts to marketing an end-product that may ultimatly see print or a spot on Alexander's site. Long form comics have more shelf-life, and so, ideally, it's peak is still a ways off. (Interject a comment from Ghastly about the sexual peak differences between men and women. Graphic novels are on the female biological clock!)

And if some people enjoy the small buffet bites in the mean time, that's great. Posting your progress on the web is cheap and completely harmless. I don't think it's necessary to wait for graphic novels to be completed to post.

The same lean-forward frame-of-mind works in our (I'm in the long-form camp) favor as well, it amplifies our small victories, so that a hobbiest who can't afford to put in 8-10 hours a day to accomodate the page-a-day mantra can still enjoy an audiance.

It's taken me a year to draw what would amount to only 70 pages of graphic-novel. I don't think I'd have gotten that far without the encouragement of a web-audiance. I don't think I'd have been so motivated, and it would have ended up another 5-page start in my art bin.


Fabricari - Sexy Robots and Violent Cyberpunk Comics

Steve "Fabricari" Harrison

From what I've read about

From what I've read about the internet and it's uses, information is traded in, for lack of a better term, Micro-bursts. You're reading the information in small chunks and then you move on to the next burst of data. Nibble, move. Nibble, move. Sort of like information sushi or the buffet at the prom.

That's technically true, but I think you're confusing the mechanics of the net with the experience of the user, and those aren't the same thing at all. Everything comes down the net in little packets of data, but you don't perceive those, any more than you see the radio-waves that bring your TV (unless it's cable), or hear the 0s and 1s that sounds are coded to on a CD. You see and hear the end-result, which is what appears on the screen and comes out of the speakers. A film can be contemplative/boring even though it's shown through a machine with little whizzy-wheels going at 25 revs a second. A painting can look nice even though it's painted on dead dolphinskin with catdung-condensate derived pigments and hyenahair brushes or whatever.

I may be the exception, but I read long comicbooks and long book-books on the web and don't mind it. It's the easiest way to get hold of a lot of them, and it sure saves shelf-space.

Re: Longform Comics On The Web

[quote=The William G]Longform comics have no place in what we now know as webcomics. [/quote]

Well, as the creator of a "longform story comic" yourself, I assume you're going to be delighted if lots of people disagree with the above premise. So I will.

The problem isn't that the web is an inherently unsuitable medium for the delivery of longform comics but that most longform story comics currently on the web have not been written to take account of the web itself. (And, yes, I include my own in that sweeping generalisation). I don't believe that necessarily has anything to do with interactivity.

On my site Broken Voice Comics, I am running three stories. The first two (an online graphic novel called Shades and a fantasy-themed mini-series called The Spires), were written with little but the needs of the story first and foremost in mind. I didn't consciously ignore the needs of the web but - having grown up with print comics - they naturally lend themselves to that format.

The third story (Perfect Storm) was written with web serialisation very much as a key consideration. The artist and I therefore decided on two things from the outset: firstly that the pages would be landscape rather than portrait so as to be more easily readable on a PC screen (none of that annoying scrolling nonsense!) and, secondly, that - to the extent we could do it without prejudicing the story - each page would be capable of being read as a stand-alone instalment. They would, in effect, have a similar format to a gagstrip or, more accurately, the stories serialised in Sunday newspaper strips (many of which have run for years and have never had any trouble with updates being only once a week).

In practice this meant that, in the first panel, we would try to jog the reader's memory of what had gone before and in the last we would end very consciously with a smile or a cliff-hanger. The challenge, obviously was to do this in a way which would not then disrupt the flow of the story for someone who was reading the whole comic in one sitting.

I'm not going to pretend we got everything right and I'm certainly not suggesting anyone else should adopt our approach unless their story is suited to it. If longform comics are going to have a long-term future on the web, however, their creators (and, yes, I'm including myself!) will have to get used to creating comics designed to fit the format.

_____________________________
Broken Voice Comics
Because comics are not just for kids

Website: www.brokenvoice.co.uk
Contact: edit_bvc@yahoo.co.uk

Broken Voice Comics
Because comics are not just for kids

The problem with updating at

The problem with updating at a glacial pace isn't due to the comics being on the interweb. It's do to the fact that people ... just don't get their comics done very quickly. One page per week doesn't suddenly become acceptable in any print comics, and if people were able to update with 6-10 page chunks each week, their pacing would not be called glacial. You move that 1-3 pages per week pace to full chapters delivered through RSS and you still have people waiting several months between chapters for several minutes worth of reading material, and at the lower end they're waiting an entire year for a story to barely even begin in most cases. Obviously, webcomic people don't have the time to spend on comics that pros do, but webcomic people also tend to work with substantially simpler art styles. There are the comics out there where I can believe people are pressed to get a page done in ten hours, but they are nowhere near the norm. Longform comics are also much easier to write, because you don't need that gag every page, a single idea can be comfortably stretched out over an entire chapter, so writing shouldn't be holding anyone back either unless they're trying to force themselves to do a story they just can't handle.

If these kinds of stories updated at the pace they needed to, being online wouldn't be an issue. Splitting 20 monthly pages into 5 page weekly chunks is hardly damning, and delivering 20 page installments every 2 and a half months doesn't make up for the glacial pace that can only muster 20 pages in nearly 3 months. The characters and story won't remain fresh in many readers minds if its delivered at that rate. If the conversation is about the negative effects of how a story is delivered to a reader, then that's important.

So I think the best route if you're doing a longform comic is to get a decent portion of the work done before it goes online(If it's a story that would fit in a single graphic novel or two, maybe get it all done) and then update it at the rate you think fits it best. Either by chapter, or simply choose portions of chapters which you feel express a complete thought well enough to stand alone - a conversation, segue sequence, etc. Spending all of that time making a comic without any sort of feedback to what you're doing may bother some people, I guess? But whatever, you'll get the feedback when you finally post it or show friends secret copies, and you'll be able to work on the comic without any real concern for deadlines and the various other annoyances of committing to a weekly schedule of some kind.

Kiwis by beat!

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

Back when I worked at

Joey Manley's picture

Back when I worked at streamingmedia.com, I saw an interview with Bill Gates, where he was comparing television usage to computer usage -- specifically talking about why, even in high bandwidth environments, not too many people watch long videos on their computers (or at least they didn't at the time). "Television's a lean-backward medium; the web is a lean-forward medium." Meaning, roughly, that when you watch television, you sort of relax and let it happen in front of you, while the web requires and rewards constant clicking and interaction. For that reason, longform video continues to have difficulties in establishing an audience online (excepting pirated movies -- but that's another story, and still isn't as widespread as pirated music). Longform webcomics will have the same problems until somebody figures out how to do a longform webcomic that also takes advantage of the "lean forward" nature of the medium. I think John Barber, Brendan Cahill and especially Daniel Merlin Goodbrey's experiments with Flash interfaces all point to one possible solution. You still feel like you're doing something when you're reading a Tarquin engine comic -- even if the interactivity is of a very limited sort, it's enough to calm the urge to click and move and go and do that the web inspires.

I could be wrong.

I suspect the problem with

I suspect the problem with longform video is that the picture size and/or quality are still less than what you're accustomed to on a regular TV screen, and so people are less comfortable or satisfied with the experience. So it could just be a matter of waiting for the quality to catch up with TV and DVD.

Myself, I don't really find the interactivity of online comics more distracting than the "turn the page" interactivity of printed comics. I suspect that Tarquinising most regular narrative comics would just be distracting and hinder navigation.

Web entrepreneurs are just

Web entrepreneurs are just starting to figure out how to monetize RSS. Believe you me, they smell the money. There was a time when selling banner ads was a novel idea, too. You'll have to work harder to sell RSS ads, but you can charge higher rates.