Here in the winding days of 2015, it’s customary to reflect a bit on the year that was. So for this week’s column, I’m going to take a quick look at some of the big webcomics stories of 2015.
White House Endorsement
One of the earliest big plugs for webcomics this year came from the White House itself! In trying to promote the February sign-up deadline for HealthCare.gov, they hired Curls artist Carolyn Belefski to develop several short webcomics showcasing the variety of people and situations that would benefit from signing up. I can’t say how many people saw the comics themselves, but over 9 million people have signed up; even if only 1% of them saw the comics, that’s still a big audience!
While most comics awards these days have some representation for webcomics, the attention given the individual nominees has increased, particularly for the Eisners and the Ignatzes. Special congratulations, of course, to this year’s winners: Brian Vaughan & Marcos Martin, and Lilli Carré, respectively. And although Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona was nominated but didn’t win an Eisner this year, it received enough attention to get published in print by HarperCollins and to be picked up for an animated feature by 20th Century Fox.
Diversity was something of a buzzword in many industries this year, and webcomics was no exception. Many cartoonists started to or continued to use their unique abilities to help drive the ongoing national conversations surrounding diversity, particularly when it comes to race and gender. Beyond just the standard editorial cartoons, more and more they incorporate parts of the diversity discussion into their ongoing stories, if not the entire theme of the comic as a whole. While print comics are taking baby steps, webcomics have been and continue to bust down the barn doors on the subject! And not just about race and gender, but trans issues and disability concerns and psychological challenges and…
While not webcomics per se, comiXology circles around the webcomics discussion frequently by nature of their material being available online. There were a couple of newsworthy pieces from them this year. First, they announced they were shutting down their Windows app. While tablet and phone apps continue, it marks a change in their approach. More recently, they announced that they are merging their sign-in process with Amazon’s, so that users will no longer be able to maintain separate accounts.
The only constant is change, and nowhere is that more true than online. Long-running strips like Girls with Slingshots came to an end, others like Bad Machinery got a kind of reboot, and others like PLOX started up brand new. Unlike their newspaper counterparts that launch, perhaps, one new strip a year, webcomic launches are so pervasive that it’s hard to keep track of. Not all of them are successful, of course, but the landscape changes almost daily. New creators are stepping up all the time, new technologies are rolling out on an ongoing basis, and, as I talked about earlier this month, there could be a disruptor around any corner.
It’s almost impossible to accurately predict what’s coming in 2016, but you can bet there will be plenty to keep filling columns like this one throughout the entire year!