It’s a reasonable assumption, I think, to say that most readers follow a webcomic because they like the authorial voice. That is, the author of the piece projects into their work much of who they are and what they believe. The comic is, in many ways, both an extension of and an outlet for their self-expression. While they might write characters that they disagree with to varying degrees, often the overall themes and ideas expressed are ones that make up a significant part of who they are.

As readers, then, we respond to those ideas, both positively and negatively. When I started reading Dumbing with Age by David Willis, I found myself in almost violent disagreement with the main character of Joyce and everything she stood for. The more of the strip that I read, the more I wanted her to suffer a severe brain aneurysm when she was bound to eventually discover that her oldest and deepest friend was gay. And indeed, my favorite strip from that series is when her brain pops.

I mention that as a prime example of how readers can disagree with a character, even a protagonist, but still enjoy and appreciate the overall strip itself. Joyce is a character that goes through a period of growth, but to do that in this story, she has to start with opinions and attitudes that I find utterly reprehensible. But they serve Willis’ larger point in the story: true love and acceptance over religious dogma and empty platitudes.

Now, here’s the interesting thing: many readers will then follow their favorite creators on social media. Which are generally not just used exclusively as promotions for their webcomic. They might talk about food or politics or their dog or seemingly random rants about the jerk who cut them off just as they were trying to get to the off-ramp and they wound up driving an extra 20 miles because there aren’t enough stops in Indiana and who set up this stupid highway system anyway? And that’s precisely what social media is for.

But, something to consider is that if the style and tone of a creator’s social media account is significantly different than that of their webcomic, that might turn readers off. Not from the comic, necessarily, but at least from the social media account. Which may or may not matter to a creator. If they want to maintain that their webcomic is their webcomic, and their Twitter account is their Twitter account, that’s a perfectly legitimate way to operate. However, it should be recognized, too, that that will cultivate different sets of audiences that may not overlap much. If, on the other hand, a creator is trying to use their social media to help drive people to the webcomic, then there should probably be a greater effort paid to ensuring that the two feel at least tonally similar. That they sound like they’re coming from the same author. The same voice.

Because, ultimately, it’s that authorial voice readers are responding to. And using a different voice on social media than is used in a webcomic, as I said, will likely speak to different audiences. But that might not be an ideal way to generate crossover traffic.

About The Author

Sean Kleefeld
Senior Editor, Comics & Lifestyle
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Sean Kleefeld is an independent researcher whose work has been used by the likes of Marvel Entertainment, Titan Books and 20th Century Fox. He writes the ongoing “Incidental Iconography” column for The Jack Kirby Collector and had weekly “Kleefeld on Webcomics” and "Kleefeld's Fanthropology" columns for MTV Geek. He’s also contributed to Alter Ego, Back Issue and Comic Book Resources. Kleefeld’s 2009 book, Comic Book Fanthropology, addresses the questions of who and what comic fans are. He blogs daily at KleefeldOnComics.com.