Not only is this the last Webcomics Wednesday for 2014, it’s coincidentally hitting on the very last day of the year. And that almost begs for a “Best Of” or “Top 10” or some kind of list like that. Which is precisely why I won’t bother with one. But I do think it’s still interesting to look back on the past twelve months to see what progress has (or hasn’t!) been made in webcomics.
There have been a number of things that seemed to get stirred up in the online comics world. We saw Amazon buy comiXology, Alan Moore launched Electricomics, and there seemed to be a never-ending parade of crowd-funded projects. Not to mention a host of webcomic launches and a number that fell by the wayside, either going out with a bang or quietly slipping away from updating.
The comiXology buyout probably made the most headlines, and that’s certainly noteworthy in the realm of online comics, but I don’t think it’s the most significant change. After all, comiXology was the market leader for digital comics distribution by a long ways. The Amazon buyout doesn’t really consolidate anything or significantly change the path comiXology was already on; they mostly just can speed up the process by throwing more money behind it.
Likewise, I wouldn’t consider the launch of any new online comics — even ones by Alan Moore — as particularly progressing the medium. That said, I think there’s a big story behind some of the comics that did launch. Or, more accurately, behind why and how they launched.
There were actually a couple of webcomic launches this year that came from the newspaper. Cory Thomas, for example, intentionally killed Watch Your Head from newspapers to relaunch it as a webcomic. Norm Feuti had Gil pulled late last year, and he’s syndicating it himself now, including online. And the other example I want to bring up is Keith Knight, who launched a Patreon campaign to support the comics he’s doing that are already being syndicated.
I don’t know that this is enough to really justify calling it a trend by any stretch, but we have here three newspaper cartoonists who are looking online to make money because the traditional syndicate model doesn’t seem to be cutting it. And while 2014 isn’t the first year newspaper cartoonists have tried their hand going beyond the old syndicate model, this does seem to mark a turning point in that more creators than not have become successful in switching from their previous business model.
I don’t know that necessarily means 2015 will see a host of newspaper cartoonists dropping out of papers, but it will certainly be interesting to watch to see what other newspaper creators wind up doing in seeing the online successes of their peers. Will they still harbor the grudge that they collectively seem to hold against webcomikers, or will that animosity dissolve as the line between the two groups become increasingly blurred?