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Would webcomics fall to formulaic sameness?

Reading the article from this link:

And this quote:

We had A Bug's Life and Antz and now The Ant Bully. We had Finding Nemo and Shark Tale. We had Madagascar and The Wild. And we're due for a plague of rats. There's Ratatouille, Flushed Away, Rats Amore and One Rat Short.

When you take the genre conventions and add settings or subject matter that have already been done, you're in danger of boring the audience.

Something very interesting happened in the comics field that may relate to what's going on in animation. From the 1960's onwards, comics fans argued for longer, more serious works. While Marvel and DC, the two main companies, did adapt to a degree, they stuck with superheroes and continued to market to their established fan base.

Cartoonists finally took matters into their own hands and started doing personal work that broke out of genre conventions. Between the importation of Manga and mainstream publisher interest in the graphic novel, Marvel and DC have been reduced to minor players in terms of sales and artistic importance.


Would webcomics fall into same trap of swallowing their own tail?




the new wave

panvaneer's picture

Genre is only a starting point for an artist. We're never going to be at the DC/Marvel level but the smaller collectives, Dayfree, Boxcar, Blank Label and Dumbrella all do the overlapping clique thing so it sometimes looks the same.Â

Still, I find a lot of mangaesque webcomics are leading as a vanguard for change:

No rest for the wicked, Lola, Paper.eleven and Wasteland.

Currently building an evil robotic cat to take over the world!

You're only as limited as

djcoffman's picture

You're only as limited as your own imagination. I see plenty of variety out there in comics as a whole.

We sure swallow our own tails on formats though, sticking to tried and true methods of storytelling in panels.Â

I'm going to say no.

Kris X's picture

I'm going to say no. Webcomics are like bookstores, too many genres and writers to create a specific norm. Some companies and people might concentrate specifics, but overall there is no real way to control (as it has been said) a "massive, unorganized" group of artists who have no intention to formulate. It might happen in smaller groups or something, but there is always going to be one person doing something different. Especially with the large regions of the internet itself.Â



WillieHewes's picture

I do think there's a certain amount of sameyness in webcomics, though not as striking as the Bugs Life/Antz and Finding Nemo/Shark's Tale examples. (What puzzles me about those examples is that they came out in the same years. That means the 'copy' was created before the 'original' had been proven to be successful.)

 I think if there's one formulaic thing most if not all webcomics seem to follow it's the serialised one-page-at-a-time updating. (I'm talking about narrative webcomice here, not webstrips. It's natural for them to do it.)

I don't think anyone likes reading comics a page at a time, but that's how almost all webcomics are published, and it's seriously starting to annoy me. All my favourite webcomics are probably not going to reach any kind of conclusion in the next three years.

Why aren't there more short stories? Why are all webcomics these no-end-in-sight epic tales, regardless of what genre they are? (Sorry if I'm going off-topic, but this is a formula too, right?)

Comics by a girl who likes sad things (but sometimes they are funny) -

The one page at a time thing

Surlyben's picture

The one page at a time thing is tough to get around. The conventional wisdom is that best way to get readers is regular updates. Sites that help you promote your comic seem geared towards letting people know what has recently updated, and those sites that don't update all the time never get added.

Also, most people who do webcomics don't make money at it. One of the reasons they do it is the egoboost they get from feedback. If a person posts the comic a little bit at a time, they get the feedback while they are working on the comic, which makes it easier to keep working on the comic...

None of which helps from a reader's perspective. Beyond the frustration of not getting to read it all at once, there is the danger of becoming invested in a story and then having it stop or disappear (I am so guilty of having my stories stop and disappear... Oh well.)

Are you familiar with Full Story ? It lists completed webcomics... Very useful.

Ben Bittner
Cooking With Anne: Cooking in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Ben Bittner

Yeah, I do know Full Story.

WillieHewes's picture

Yeah, I do know Full Story. We need more stuff like it. has a "completed" catagory, but only since recently, and the top comic in that catagory is not a completed story but an ongoing series of which the first part is completed.


Comics by a girl who likes sad things (but sometimes they are funny) -

It's just an issue of

It's just an issue of creativity and interests really. I don't think there needs to be any executive interference for it to happen. People are more likely to be influenced by more popular things and are more likely to create things similar to them. Different things are tried out and over time the ones which develop the most interest are the ones which are most likely to be emulated. The more there are, the more standard approaches there will be for people to follow etc and if something new pops up that gains interest its just a matter of time until more people show up doing the same thing and how we learn to make our own comics is largely based on how this sort of thing has developed over time. Webcomics carry all of the creative baggage of print comics, novels, movies etc so I don't see why people would expect things to be much different. Webcomics aren't a new type of philosophy of storytelling or anything... just a different means of presentation.

Kiwis by beat!

<a xhref="" target=blank>Kiwis by beat!</a>

The only reason webcomics

The only reason webcomics are accused of sameness is that most of them follow these same formulas:

Gaming comics: Penny Arcade, CAD, VGCats, & PvP

Sprite comics: 8-Bit Theatre

Comics about a bunch of friends & crap happens to them: Sluggy Freelance

Manga: 'Nuff said.

What's different is, like William G said, it's clique and not editorial mandate or execs interference, but webcomics is still guilty of sameness as their animated & print counterparts.

I'm still holding out that that webcomics have a lot of potential as a medium, and should not fall for the same trap as print comics & CG features.




Querying the last two formulae

I'm not convinced by the last two formulas:

"People are friends and things happen" describes half of human life, so it's not surprising a lot of comics fit that description.

Manga as I understand it is a set of artistic styles and conventions rather than a narrative formula. I haven't heard anyone say that being Manga makes all Japanese comics same-ish. There are repeated artistic styles in western comics too. (Take the protruding egg-shaped or spherical eyes of characters in so many cartoon-style comics, for example.)

Yes and no

The William G's picture

Think there is a bit of sameness going on. But only due to areas of interest overlapping. That is to say we got these cliques who do the same comics because they're all interested in the same material. Not due to editorial mandate.

Some of the people, all of the time.

Tim  Demeter's picture

[quote=DAJB]At present webcomics are, for the most part, not a commercial proposition. Whether the creators simply cannot get jobs with the majors or choose not to, the end result is the same - the vast majority of webcomics are made by people who are only trying to please themselves.[/quote] I'm not sure that's entirely true, the whole non-commerical, only trying to please themselves thing. My comic is a nominally profitable venture, but I still consider it a commercial endevor, even if it's not a roaringly successful one at present. True, there are a great many people who are most concerned with pleasing thier own sensibilities, but even among those who are interested in commercial gain, there is a good deal of varation. What I think is a good idea, Creator X may think is insane. Creator X may be right, maybe I am, but at this stage of the game there isn't enough of a formula to follow. There are guidlines, and some proven methodology, but really, there's no universal success model and as long as that is the case, variation will be a result of that and a year where everyone is doing a webcomic about talking bugs is unlikely.

Or not. I suppose we'll find out.

Tim Demeter
Reckless Life

Tim Demeter
does a bunch of neato stuff.
Bustout Odds

Apologies, Tim. Perhaps I

Apologies, Tim. Perhaps I didn't make my point as clearly as I should have. When I say webcomics are not a commercial proposition, I don't mean that it's impossible to run one at any level of profit. Some do and good luck to the few (like yours) that do.

My point was in the context of control and uniformity. Webcomics just aren't sufficiently commercially viable to attract interest from publishers with the muscle to impose the kind of stranglehold on content that we see in mainstream print comics.

Broken Voice Comics
Because comics are not just for kids

Broken Voice Comics
Because comics are not just for kids

I'd agree with Tim. At

I'd agree with Tim. At present webcomics are, for the most part, not a commercial proposition. Whether the creators simply cannot get jobs with the majors or choose not to, the end result is the same - the vast majority of webcomics are made by people who are only trying to please themselves. That's why the medium is able to boast the diversity it does.

At some point the corporations will, I am sure, find a way to control access to the web and - therefore - webcomics. But that, it seems, is still a long way off and it is only at that point that the corporate mentality will be able to enter the medium and impose some kind of rigid formula on webcomic content.

Broken Voice Comics
Because comics are not just for kids

Broken Voice Comics
Because comics are not just for kids

Right now?

Tim  Demeter's picture

At this point, I'm thinking it's unlikely. Seems like most have figured out that there's more to the webcomic success stoies than genre and without a larger interest involved, it seems unlikely to me that a massive, unorganized, group of creators are going to do anything other than exactly what they feel like, or what they feel is best for thier sucess, and there are a lot of personal variables there that make this eventuality unlikely.

Now if, there were a board room directed webcomic effort, I'd think they would follow the practices you're seeing above, that being, comic A is making money, let's make a knock-off and sell it to the same audience. 'Sell' being the opperative term. I don't know of any webcartoonist that could knock off Penny Arcade and then saturate PA's expansive readership with marketing telling them if you like A, go read B. Movies can do that becasue they have trailers and TV at their disposal and the bank to pull it off.

The Marvel/DC superhero cold war is a bit more analogous, but the audience for webcomics is a bit older than Supes had in those days, and hopefully a bit more saavy.

But this is all a real concern in the someday, but for the time-being, I think we're gonna be fine.

Tim Demeter

Reckless Life

Tim Demeter
does a bunch of neato stuff.
Bustout Odds


kingofsnake's picture

If theres one thing I've learned in studying english literature it is this. There has always been an aspect of conforming to conventions in creative works, whether it be in the success of things prior too it, or social coventions of the time. The best creative works have always known which conventions to conform to, and which to reject.

I think the same is true for web comics today. When I started in webcomics I created a college based strip about roommates who make pop culture references and have misadventures based on myself and my friends. I didn't read webcomics at the time so I couldn't know I was in the majority.

The conventions of webcomics have made me reexamine my narrative concepts. I want to use things like ninjas and pirates at some time. But they've become such over used and cliche aspects of webcomics that I've been working in a ninja character for years now, and am still far from introducing him in a way I feel is still strong in the webcomic pool.

It's really a matter of the strength of the writer, and his desire to break from conventions. Its one of the few things webcomics have over things like movies. The creative decision making is made by one or two people who are in charge of the whole thing. Thus if a decision is made it is assured that that decision is personal opinion and the decision to up hold or reject convention in that instance has been made by the individual for the goal of the comic. theory anyway



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