One of the webcomics I read regularly is Gillian Renk’s Aether: Earth and Sun. She describes it on her site thus: “Ineffective mage Seynir and her friend Jethenis are given a task that leads them on a journey to find help for their village and solve the mystery of the threat that is looming on the horizon.” Her art style attracted me to the comic in the first place, but I soon discovered she’s crafting a fine story and is a good storyteller to boot.
Now, speaking for myself, when I find that I’m really enjoying a work, regardless of the medium, I find that I want to know more about it. What did the author mean when they wrote this? What was the subtext the actors brought to their respective roles? What led to the odd time signature? So when I learned, after reading for a while, that Renk would sometimes livestream drawing her pages, I logged on the first chance I had.
So I sat and watched for 90-120 minutes as her cursor flitted around the screen building up the backgrounds and fleshing out the characters right before my eyes. And while I watched, I would periodically ask some technical questions, trying to gain a better understanding of how she builds her pages. (Or, occasionally, what the song was playing in the background!) It was interesting and enjoyable enough for me that I returned a week later when she was livestreaming another couple pages.
While I enjoyed Aether previously, having a more personal connection with the book—via my chats with Renk—makes me more engaged and involved with the story. I have more of an emotional connection with not only the story itself, but how it’s crafted. And I’m more invested in its continuation and success. (However Renk might define that!)
Which leads me to being more of an advocate of the story. One person stopped in on the last livestream and asked some very basic questions about the story. I’m not sure how or why he stopped into the livestream knowing nothing about it, but as Renk answered his questions, I added some additional commentary talking up the comic. Or right now, I’m actually crafting this whole column around the comic, not so inadvertently suggesting you go check it out.
Not every creator has the luxury of being able to share their creation process via a livestream. And it may not make sense even in cases where they could. But it’s a vehicle for sharing the work with fans in a manner other than how a more casual audience member might engage with it. The deeper understanding it can provide can also lead to a deeper appreciation of the final product, and perhaps a deeper connection that fans can take back out to others who might also be interested in the work.