One of the arguments sometimes made against webcomics is that you need something to read them on, and that requires both power and a working internet connection. Whether that’s a phone, a laptop, or some other device, it needs to be working for you to keep up with your favorite webcomics. And while it seems like we’re ever more digitally connected as a society, it’s not uncommon for problems to occur. Maybe your internet service provider experiences a server failure. Maybe a storm takes out the electricity in your area. Maybe you drop your phone on the sidewalk, someone accidentally kicks it into the street, and it gets ran over by two taxis and a city bus before getting caught up in a street sweeper.
Now, obviously, you’re going to want to get back to your status quo as soon as possible, but depending on your situation, that may or may not be in your control. About four years ago, a powerful storm rolled through my area and there were huge sections of the city that went dark for upwards of a week; I was without power for four days. But while I was offline, all the webcomics I read kept right on updating and I had a stack of them to sort through afterwards.
It doesn’t even take such a strong event to fall behind. A couple of busy days might be enough to kick a reader off their schedule. And if you follow enough comics, that can prove to be extremely daunting to get back into it.
I’m probably a bit of an extreme example. I’ve got north of 350 different webcomic titles in my feed reader. Not every one of those update daily, of course, but in just a couple of days, I can easily see my unread items list up over 500. As of this writing, I’ve got 699 unread items to sort through.
The question then becomes: how to go through all those? Or if it’s even worth it? In some cases, you can write off an absence pretty easily. If there isn’t any ongoing continuity to be concerned with, and you read the strip only out of light amusement, it’s easy enough to just click a “mark as read” button to cut your losses and move on. Kind of like how people used to do when they didn’t get a newspaper while they were on vacation for a week; Garfield will still be there when you get back, doing pretty much the same things as before. Things become trickier with long-form comics. Can you really do the same thing to a continuity-laden comic?
That’s a question that can only be answered by, it may surprise you, the creators themselves. Does the way they write and structure their webcomic allow for you to pick up at a random location and get the basics quickly? Can a new reader come on board without having to go back to the very beginning of the strip? If you, as a reader, started somewhere in the middle of the strip and couldn’t make heads or tails of it until you went back to the start, then it’s probably not one you can skip for any period of time either. On the other hand, if you started after the strip had been running for years and had no problem catching up, then the creator is doing a good job of making sure every new reader has all the information they need to enjoy the story; you can probably just skip to the latest installment safely.
Of course, the downside to that approach is that the creators who do put in the effort to make sure readers are never lost tend to be better storytellers and, by extension, have better stories that you want to read! In those cases, the only suggestion I can make is to give up on sleep for a while until you get caught up!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some sleep deprivation I need to instigate!