One of the joys with webcomics is that there are so many styles and genres represented, the medium offers plenty for anyone with virtually any interest, seemingly no matter how niche. In particular, it picks up a lot where comic books don’t represent quite as well. For instance, there certainly are superhero webcomics, but comparatively few when looked against what is sold through the comics direct market.
One area, however, that still seems to be lacking a bit, though, is biographies. Autobiographies are plentiful; many creators write comics that are expressly about themselves. This is eminently useful, especially when it comes to minorities whose voices generally aren’t represented in print comics. People of color, those all along the LGBTQ spectrum, and folks from other under-represented groups have a space to share their experiences, which can be both cathartic to the creator and enlightening to the reader.
What’s not seen nearly as much are biographies of notable people throughout history. In fact, I’m hard pressed to think of more than a few. (Jack Parsons, William McGonagall, and sort of Wolfgang von Kempelen and Johann Maelzel by way of their automaton.) It’s easy enough to come up with comics that use historical figures—a good number of historical fiction pieces seem to draw in at least one or two prominent historical figures, but with a heavy dose of, “There’s no way these people actually did anything remotely like that!”
In many respects, biographies are more challenging from a webcomic perspective. They require a fair amount more research, for obvious reasons, and they have a decidedly finite story to tell. The inherent long-form nature of the story almost dictates a larger format than a gag-type strip.
The benefit is, not surprisingly, tied with one of those with webcomics more generally. That is, the lower production costs means that it’s more affordable to create bio-comic for a decidedly niche audience that might not support the costs of a fully printed book version. This way, a creator can produce a comic they feel impassioned about, without worrying about trying to produce something that might be considered more financially sound.
The finite story also presents something of a potential problem as creators, wishing to keep their audience returning, would be forced to changed subjects repeatedly as they got to the end of a subject’s life. The readers who kept returning to learn about a favorite hero, are suddenly being shown anther protagonists, who may or may not elicit the same type of reaction.
But it strikes me as curious that we don’t see more creators tackling historical figures in webcomics form. There’s certainly no shortage of subjects available, even if you removed everyone who had a print comic published about them. And I’m especially surprised someone hasn’t taken up the cause specifically to educate people about those who built or inspired some of political movements we see in the news these days. From James Baldwin to Tamir Rice to Bree Newsome. They’ve absolutely inspired a great deal of art, so why not webcomics too?