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Fanservice! Run!

So, fanservice, eh?

It seems to be such an ingrained thing in webcomics, doesn't it? I'm not just talking T&A and the like, I mean the whole alteration of artistic plans in order to keep the fans happy. Now, I realize there are some who don't have any artistic plans, and the intent from the start is to pander. But let's ignore those people for a second.

I can see reasons for changing things mid-stream and focusing on something that really chimes with the audience. Look at Popeye. Started out as a background character, and eventually became the cultural icon he is today because the creator (forget who, right now) saw that the audience loved him. Fanservice done right, I guess.

But I can see reasons for avoiding it like the plague. Look at the entire output of superhero comics in the 1990s. Early Image = Eeech!

So, anyone who has given thought to it, what do you think of the practice? A-ok? Evil? Is there a line? Does "I'll keep the mascot because the fans like it even though it no longer fits the comic." become "I'm a horrible hack who'll do anything for the hits!" at some point? Or does it depend upon the material?


I'm not so afraid of

Fabricari's picture

I'm not so afraid of fan-service. It's part of the innevitable maturing of an artist. Fan service can potentially hurt a story unless it done discretely or written to seem intentional. Eventually an artist will grow out of it.

Fan service could also be a symptom of an artist being bored with a long running story. I think taking a break and drawing a 4 pager dedicated to the fan service theme is the best medicine for that. Fred did this with an end-of-chapter diversion, Circuitry. It was quaranteened, and turned out to be some incredible work.

What's more frightening is "artist-service." That's when the artist compromises a script for their own indulgences. It's also a symptom of innability to actually draw some of the more complicated scenes a script might call for.

I found myself in the last year struggling with this most of all. But again, like fan-service, it's something you grow out of as you improve as an artist.

Ultimately this is a matter of discipline.

Fabricari - Sexy Robots and Violent Cyberpunk Comics

Steve "Fabricari" Harrison

We're all guilty

To some extent, we're all "guilty" of fan service, aren't we? If you're writing a super hero story, for example, you'd have to be very stupid (/brave) or sure of (/dismissive of) your audience to completely ignore the need to have a costumed hero make an appearance at some stage. Similarly, if you're writing a gag strip about gamers (I've heard there are one or two out there in webland!) it would just be arrogance to fill the strip with a protracted succession of gags about peanut production in ... well, wherever peanuts come from. The line between fan service and genre conventions can be pretty fine and even those of us who write for ourselves, first and foremost, do actually want to be read, surely?

The point at which fan service becomes a problem for me is not the point at which you put something in the comic knowing that it's what the fans want to see but the point at which you put something in the comic even though you, as the creator, believe it detracts from rather than adds to the comic as a whole.

Broken Voice Comics
Because comics are not just for kids


Broken Voice Comics
Because comics are not just for kids

I like it in small doses, if

I like it in small doses, if you're not doin' one of them serious comicals. It'd kill the mood in PALESTINE. You do the blatant type o' stuff I think of when I think of "fanservice" and you're throwing the audience a sly little wink, which can enhance the humor of certain comedies. MEGATOKYO actually tries to take its fanservice seriously, and so did FANS to some degree.

On some level, you kind of GOT to kowtow to your audiences' wishes. Mel Gibson sort of had to put English subtitles into THE PASSION.

Fanservice can be art. Where it becomes tricky and sticky and icky is when it gets in the way of art.

The problem with webcomics (okay, ONE problem) is that the instant feedback tempts an artist to create something that'll get a short term YAY! instead of a long-term *****.