Why Do Online Comics by Iain Hamp

Since this month’s theme is autobiography, I was hoping I could get personal for a bit with you.

See, this column has been getting harder and harder to write this year. I haven’t turned in a column to Comixpedia on time since last winter. By itself, that may not seem so bad, but if you saw the way I conducted the rest of my life, you’d see something was definitely “off”. I’m the guy who is always early to events. I’d rather sit somewhere alone for half an hour before anyone else arrives than be five minutes late. Being late for anything usually drives me up the wall, stressing me to the point that it is difficult to focus. So when it came time to turn in my November column, and I couldn’t come up with anything to write, and then kept putting off “getting around to” coming up with something worth saying, I had to stop and look at what this was really all about.

Not only are my columns late, but I’m not really reading online comics anymore. The occasional Todd and Penguin update on my Live Journal friends list, maybe a political comic a friend e-mails me a link to, but that’s it. No scouring the internet for the next great artist, the innovation that is going to break things open for new creators, and certainly not for something exciting or important enough to discuss in an installment of a column about why people should create online comics.

Here’s the worst part, though, and I think this is the real root of the problem. I’m not creating online comics. I spent time this afternoon really trying to figure out when I last drew a comic. I think it was sometime last summer – that’s as close as I can pin it. That realization hit me like a ton of bricks, and after I got over the initial stun of that, I began questioning why exactly that was. I’m having no trouble getting my other priorities taken care of. Good grades in my courses, big things happening at work, my freelance clients are breaking down my door wanting to pay me to do work for them (work I thoroughly enjoy), my family is doing well, I’m on top of my health and keeping my life organized for the most part… so what is the deal with this lack of focus on anything related to comics? If I am doing well in the other things that I consider priorities in my life, maybe comics somehow stopped being such a priority.

Yet for all the evidence to the contrary, I know that in my heart that just isn’t true; many of my greatest desires and fondest dreams still have comics
tied into them somehow. I was going through some exercises in a self-help book recently, designed to show me how to save money so that I could fulfill one or more of my “fondest dreams” while I’m still alive. Essentially, the question asked the reader to list five dreams that were fairly wild and would take a lot of time and resources, but were within the realm of reality. When we’re kids, the theory goes, we have no problem coming up with wild dreams and aspirations of greatness, but as we get older, many of us lose that, to the point that when asked what our dreams are as adults, many of us simply cannot answer the question. We forget sometimes to dream, and having dreams, goals, desires is part of what makes life fulfilling. So, I thought about things I had come up with in my past, and I thought about my wife and I retiring and what I might like to do then, and I eventually came up with five dreams. They may not be my absolute wildest or biggest desires, but they are up there, and within the realm of reality I can’t think of any that surpass them.

1. Own a summer home in either the pacific northwest, the borders area of Scotland, or both, and spend our summers there writing and illustrating childrens’ books, online comics, print comics, etc.

2. Publish a quarterly anthology of my own comics, various stories about things that have a coffee or coffee house theme to them, and have it carried in coffee houses around the nation and/or world.

3. Open the coffee shop/independent comic book store that I talked about in a previous column I wrote a while back.

4. Retire at fifty and open a bed and breakfast that would cater specifically to geeks (laptops with high speed internet available, all the geek tech culture comforts, but in a nature setting like the woods near a river).

5. Run for public office.

I suppose I would probably like to even create a comic about my experiences running for and hopefully holding public office.

Let me recommend that everyone can probably benefit from completing a similar self-analysis exercise. You might discover things about what you find most important in life you weren’t fully conscious of, and it should help you maintain your focus on your dreams. Dreams with plans become more real, more like goals, where it isn’t so much a matter of “if” but a matter of when.

So, seriously, I look at the things that are my “fondest dreams”, and there is no doubt that comics are an integral part of who I am and a big priority in terms of keeping my spirit happy. So what’s the problem?

I don’t think there is anything massive, any stunning revelation as to why I
lost my focus. Part of it was politics, and part of it was school getting more intense… I could list a hundred things to blame, but what it comes down to essentially is I dropped the ball. I lost sight of what was important to me about online comics, about comics as a whole. And now I find myself so disconnected from the creation and enjoyment and wonder of comics, I think it time to reinvest myself in them. Before I write more about why someone else should do online comics, I need to answer that question again for myself.

I need to do online comics again.

I’ve spoken with the powers that be at Comixpedia, and they agreed to give
me a year off for good behavior. So next month will be my last column for a
while here at Comixpedia. I’ve been writing “Why Do Online Comics?” for over three years now (it was at the old Talk About Comics website before it started running here at Comixpedia), and I respectfully and sincerely thank everyone who has supported me during the process. Particular kudos to Frank and Xavier, the most patient, thorough, and unarguably finest editors I have ever worked with. I’ll try to get my January 2006 column in on time, guys.

It is closing in on the time of year when everyone is reminded to count their blessings and give thanks for what they have. I’m thankful for online comics, and for places like Comixpedia where our great, diverse community can come together and share our thoughts and our comics with one another. Comics are really an incredible medium for communicating ideas with one another, and while there aren’t many things print comics can do better than online comics (besides “be printed”), there are plenty of things that comics can only accomplish online. This is why they have steadily grown into where they are today, and with the incredible talent working in our field today, inspiring new up and coming artists to explore what an infinite and interactive canvas has to offer, they can only continue to flourish.

We’ve just begun.

Iain Hamp


  1. Thanks for everything, Iain.

    Kelly J. Cooper
    Comixpedia Features Editor

  2. Wow, another columnist gone. Good luck to you Iain, I hope you can find your way back.

  3. Thanks Alexander. It’s already happening a little, me finding my way back. I am knee deep in studying for finals so no work on comics yet, but yesterday I went Christmas shopping, and ended up in a comic book store for the first time in six months. I chatted with the employees a bit, looked around at the new Andi Watson and Chynna Clugston-Major stuff, and got some ideas starting to flow. Then I went down the street to the big used book store, and found mint condition copies of Blankets by Craig Thompson and Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim. And I thought “who was crazy enough to sell these?!” So, they will be under the Christmas tree of a comic geek friend of mine who is new to the scene and trying to build up her shelf of “must have” graphic novels.

    It was a great day for me after writing that column.

  4. Good luck, Iain. Should you start a new webcomic, don’t forget to tell so we all can check it out. 🙂

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