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Welcome to THE WOOORRRRLD OF TOMORRRROWWW!!!

On Tuesday we tackled (and I mean tackled, solid talkback everybody) how we, as webcartoonists can perceive others. Today, I have some thoughts on how others perceive us, to my eyes.

I've been on the road (it is rough and stuff) quite a bit lately, hitting San Diego and Chicago both, as many did, in a three week period. One of the perks of spending two whole weekends ensconced in geekery is I was able to see how the rest of the industry feels about our internet-y-world. (The other perk being Kristen Bell. Hey, Veronica Mars. Call me.)

Okay, back to Veronica Mars-less reality. So how'd it go? Click read more, and, um, read more. 

So after years of con-going I felt this year was a new high point for webcomic awareness/respect that I’ve seen. Webcomic panels in San Diego filled to capacity, webcartoonists were out in force at both shows I attended, and when people asked me where I published Reckless Life and I responded with Graphic Smash, I was met with far less, HUH's?

I had a particularly nice conversation with my neighbor in artist's alley, a writer who has been working at the top of the industry since I was playing park and rec little league. (That's not one of my baseball metaphors. I was 11 then.) Half the fun of the talk was he and I had more in common than one might guess, and some of the same worries about the future of the industry. In the course of the conversation, I could pretty much see, I had not necessarily converted someone to the notion there is some quality work online, but I am pretty sure I got him thinking about it, and that's all I try to do.

So I came home feeling like things are continuing to look up for webcomics, and then Xerexes said something Tuesday that made me stop:

the lines between webcomic creators and other comic creators have largely blurred.

I'm not entirely sure if the lines are blurring as much on the reader side.

That gave me an -- end of the Sixth Sense -- moment and I played back all the positive things I heard, and conversations I had at these shows, and who was I talking to in almost every one:

Creators.

Now, this isn't bad, in fact, the more I thought about it, the more I liked the notion. It may not be a boon to short term growth economically, but if more and more creators hop on board, at some point their readers may follow them and discover webcomics larger sphere. Maybe they won't. Either way, you can be certain I'll be following Warren Ellis' new site with great interest.

Amongst all these conversations over the last one few weeks though, I think the one I like best was part of what I was talking about with my writer-neighbor in Chicago, who was bemoaning the lack of companies like Calibre Comics in today's market. Places where new talent can get a shot to try new things and prove themselves. I said there is.

It's us, and people are figuring that out everyday.

Manga fans

Tim  Demeter's picture

On my forum the other day, Brian Daniel was wondering if fans of manga will carry it into adulthood as many comic fans do, and how that could influence the industry. I don't know, but it's an interesting thought and kinda ties into the point.

Tim Demeter
does a bunch of neato stuff.
GraphicSmash

Clickwheel
Reckless Life

Tim Demeter
does a bunch of neato stuff.
Clickwheel
GraphicSmash
Bustout Odds

More thoughts about different pools of comic readers

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

I guess what I meant when I wrote what Tim quoted is that the pool of readers that loves comic books is probably largely different then webcomic readers. I would like to know more definitely though - a survey would help a lot.

Anecdotely I'd guess the pools of readers that exist are:

  1. comic book readers are largely devoted readers, very attached and knowledgeable about what they like. Of this pool, I'd guess a huge percentage like superhero stories (Marvel, DC). Has the strongest stereotypes of comic geek/nerd associated with them. Direct market-only distribution makes it harder for casual readers to obtain.
  2. newspaper comic readers are old, largely casual readers - each strip, particularly the older ones, has some devoted fans but this pool of readers doesn't seem as fanatical about the comics as the current comic book reader pool is. Certainly the number of strongly devoted readers to the total number of readers is a lower percentage than comic book if for no other reason than they're free and they're in the newspaper which means some people read them simply b/c they're there on the breakfast table in the morning. Has strongest association of "family-friendly" or "kids-only" to it.
  3. Webcomic readers - we really should try to survey this. However, b/c of the wide range of topics/formats on the web I'm not sure there's going to be a clear picture of a webcomic reader anymore then you can say there's a clear picture of book readers.
  4. Graphic Novel/Collection (i.e., books filled with comics that are not "comic books") - I'm not sure there's any distinct pool of fans that only get comics in bookstories from real books (I'm having a hard time coming up with terminology to distinguish comic books that are books from "comic books" that are essentially really periodicals). But maybe there is or maybe one of the first three pools of readers is more likely to also be in #4? Again - good questions.

After laying out this picture the questions I'm interested in include how much overlap is there; what are the current size and demographics of each pool, which ones are growing; which formats are most appealing to fans of any type of comic and non-fans (ie., people who don't currently read comics).

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Xaviar Xerexes

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Gnaw.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

There's another large pool

Joey Manley's picture

There's another large pool you missed -- probably one of the fastest-growing ones: teenagers (mostly girls) who almost exclusively read translated manga digests. My 15-year-old niece, for example, who, along with most of her friends, reads tons of Viz and TokyoPop books, but snubs her nose at the homegrown graphic novels I try to lend her (even the ones that are supposed to be, you know, for teenage girls -- maybe especially those). Except for Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan's Demo. She loved that. But other than that, it's all manga. She's a particular fan of the collective known as CLAMP. But she doesn't internalize her love of manga to the point that it becomes an identity for her. If you called her a "comics fan" or even a "manga fan" she'd laugh at you. "Fan" means that it means more to her than it seems to. She's just a reader. She's a sharp girl.

Joey
www.webcomicsnation.com

If there's a distinction

Fabricari's picture

If there's a distinction there, it's the difference between the trade-paperback and graphic novel. I wouldn't categorize what Xerexes is talking about by genre/idiom. The key thing here is that 15 year old girls are reading square bound comics - and just like 15 year old boys reading supermen in tights (or whatever) they'll grow into more mature themed books.

Steve "Fabricari" Harrison
Fabricari,

Steve "Fabricari" Harrison

Slaps Forehead!

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

Oh I think we need to add Joey's point to my pools theory. All of those girls/young women reading manga are another group, likely with minimal overlap with strips and books. In fact in terms of my books of comics in bookstores group up there - manga probably is a huge portion of that - compared to compilations and other graphic novels, I'm not sure but pretty significant. This is something there is data on (percentage of book sale in bookstores) although I don't have it available. Probably need to get bookscan numbers.

I'd say every "pool" of readers is stuck to a format AND a genre, largely, EXCEPT for webcomics. Book/Manga, ComicBook/Superheroes, Newspaper Strips/Gag a Day. I think breaking that tight link between format and genre is a necessary step to growing the number of comics readers.Â

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Xaviar Xerexes

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Gnaw.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

...

Shishio's picture

I do what I can to promote the comics I like, not that most of them need any help. But the creators of Jack of all Blades tell me I am their largest direct referrer.

One-liners - Updates Every Friday

And they all lived happily ever after.

Tim  Demeter's picture

Boy, wouldn't that kinda friendly back and forth be good for everyone?

This is me, going to get said act together.

Tim Demeter
does a buch of neato stuff.
GraphicSmash

Clickwheel
Reckless Life

Tim Demeter
does a bunch of neato stuff.
Clickwheel
GraphicSmash
Bustout Odds

if more and more creators

Joey Manley's picture

if more and more creators hop on board, at some point their readers may follow them and discover webcomics’ larger sphere.

I've seen this phenomenon in reverse. A couple of years ago, Scott Kurtz was making a big push for Kochalka on PvP, because he honestly liked the work. He even drew a cover for James (or was it the other way around? I forget). People came to American Elf because Scott Kurtz praised it, then quite a few of those people either emailed me or James, or posted on the boards, that they'd gone into a comic book shop for the first time in years and years and years to find his stuff. They also mentioned that they'd never heard of him as a comic book creator before, only as a webcartoonist (some of them thought 'Fancy Froglin' was the extent of his cartooning career!)

It's a two-way street. We can gain readers from the comic book type audience -- but the comic book venues, particularly the retailers, could gain customers from the webcomics audience as well.

Or it can be a two-way street, if we all get our act together as well as Kochalka and Kurtz, that is.

Joey
www.webcomicsnation.com

Part of the question could

Part of the question could be answered by asking how are we informing people to read comics? I'm about to put pencil to paper for one I'm working on with another person but I find myself thinking more and more why would someone read it?

Most "tech savvy" people will know to go and look for a comic if they want to read one but the question is how do we entice non "web" people about comics without spending $$$$ on advertising when most don't have that kind of money. Many people do not even know that this medium exists (apart from creators) which could explain our own excitement over the comics themselves.

When we can reach an audience, or I should say THE audience that sits on "youtube" all day and "Myspace", then that may cause the floodgates to open, but from what I see (and it IS hard to locate comics to read, just because we know how to look does not mean its easy) we need to move out to make first contact with more readers. A convention is a nice place to start, but that's a bit like signing books in a comic store as opposed to starting up a crowd for a signing in the middle of a crowded mall. Generate buzz OUTSIDE of the medium will bring more people into it, generate buzz inside the medium will shuffle devoted readers around.

I'm just rambling, but figured I would get involved as I'm trying to work my way in also.

An expert at anything was once a beginner...

An expert at anything was once a beginner...

Storm the mall

Greg Carter's picture

[quote=pbetancourt]...we need to move out to make first contact with more readers. A convention is a nice place to start, but that's a bit like signing books in a comic store as opposed to starting up a crowd for a signing in the middle of a crowded mall. Generate buzz OUTSIDE of the medium will bring more people into it, generate buzz inside the medium will shuffle devoted readers around.[/quote]

The mall signing is a brilliant idea. They are usually up for "arty-type"events. Even comics. Getting a group together and spreading out in a mall would be a very cool thing. And if there are any big name print comic people in town see if they'll get involved. Then you get outsiders and the shufflers.

We really need to think outside the box on getting people to consider reading Webcomics. A lot of people tell me they would read comics but they'd never be seen in a comic shop. I tell them about web comics and after they pick their jaw up off the floor they go read some.

And a lot of these are very computer- literate people and have no idea there are comics online other than the popular newspaper strips.

It's a huge friggin' world out there. And that's my ramble. ^_-

Greg Carter Abandon UpDown Studio

Greg Carter - Abandon: First Vampire - Online Graphic Novel

It's tough to seperate

djcoffman's picture

It's tough to seperate yourself from talking to other creators. If creators are your only readers, you're in trouble for sure. Now, with a DAILY updating site, especially of the popculture variety, stuff like my own strip, then PvP and the Penny Arcades-- there is just a broad spectrum of people coming in looking for laughs or entertainment-- ALL sorts of backgrounds and people who don't give a rats ass about WEBCOMIC NEWS AND HAPPENINGS!

I think some people have told Scott Kurtz they don't even bother to read below his strip at the "news" section (or people accuse him of having A BLOG!, heh) ---Â

I was encouraged this morning to see on my forum one of my old friends and a creator of comics like Street Angel from Slave Labor, Jim Rugg, posted on my forum and asked for recommendations on new webcomics to check out--- and my readers posted a bunch of GOOD solid ones in there, really all the top notch stuff. http://yirmumah.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2799

That just goes to show that non-creator readers DO KNOW quality, and they come from all walks of life.

I always preach to other creators to update as often and as on time as possible, and you will grow a fantastically broad range of readership--- heck, I have brain surgeons who read my strip AND garbage men, people on welfare and people just out of Jail!

those are some interesting

oolong's picture

those are some interesting thoughts, Tim.Â

personally, i've always been intrigued by how much of the webcomic fan demographic is made up of webcomic creators. i mean, of course most people who read mainstream comics entertain the notion of making their own at least for a little while, i'm continually surprised by how enthusiastic other creators are about my comic. then again, the only thing i have to compare it to is the illustration industry, which is highly competitive and with little sense of loyalty to anyone besides past clients and your own firm or studio. it's nice to be able to communicate with other creators without feeling like you either have to elbow them out of your way or kiss up to them and then screw them over later.

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There are similarities in Independent music

Scarybug's picture

For instance, everyone in the Madison-Milwaukee-Chicago electronic music scene seems to know each other and enjoy each others work. It works well because artists (musicians and cartoonists alike) can promote each others work, do projects together and trade ideas. Since the masses don't have to pick just one band to listen to, or just one comic to read, everyone wins.

And there's no drama ever!

Hooray!Â

___

Nerdcore: The Core Wars

___ Nerdcore: The Core Wars

I'll WOOT. to that Hooray!

Tim  Demeter's picture

Hey, I live in Milwaukee and have a little local crew myself, if there's goings on, let me know, becasue I'm always down for goings on. (Particularly if beer is involved.)Â

Tim Demeter
does a buch of neato stuff.
GraphicSmash

Clickwheel
Reckless Life

Tim Demeter
does a bunch of neato stuff.
Clickwheel
GraphicSmash
Bustout Odds

I'm too much of a hermit to

Scarybug's picture

I'm too much of a hermit to attend that many of the goings on. I just hear a lot about it because darkNES of The Gothsicles and I are fans of each others work.Â

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Nerdcore: The Core Wars

___ Nerdcore: The Core Wars

Yep.

Tim  Demeter's picture

I suppose something to take into account I didn’t mention above, is it’s easy to perceive that it’s mostly creators out there. Most people, regardless of their line of work, like to talk shop with people who are in it too, and the web makes that really easy.

I know for certain there are plenty of people reading my comic who never chime in on my board or whatnot, but they’re there. Some of them may be creators too, but certainly, many aren’t. I guess we should remember there are more readers out there than the ones who talk.

Tim Demeter
does a buch of neato stuff.
GraphicSmash

Clickwheel
Reckless Life


Tim Demeter
does a bunch of neato stuff.
Clickwheel
GraphicSmash
Bustout Odds

that's a good thing to

oolong's picture

that's a good thing to consider. i just wish my reader readers would speak up more! i'm always interested to know what people think. well, anything's preferable to the stream of "GOOGLE PHENTERMINE VIAGRA CIALIS BUY ONLINE STORE" i've been getting lately :\

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