Many people, when asked to think about comic books, default to superheroes. Batman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman… There are plenty of comic books that do not involve superheroes, of course, and the genre isn’t limited to the medium. But the superhero genre dominated the comic book form for so many years that many people still equate the two.
Similarly, when asked to think about comic strips, many people default to funny animals. Snoopy, Garfield, Pogo… Again, there are plenty of strips that don’t involve animals or humor, nor are either/both limited to the funnies section of the newspaper. But that genre dominated the comic strip form for so long that many equate those two as well.
Do webcomics have that issue, though? There was a time when webcomics were thought of as gamer comics, since many early adopters of the internet were gamers themselves and there weren’t many other outlets for gamer-centric comics. But not only have other webcomics come along to challenge that stereotype, but they’ve seemingly replaced it in some circles. I had someone recently insist that the majority of webcomics now were biographies. I heard from someone else who cited nerd humor comics were more prevalent.
All of those ideas make sense if you start to think about it. Superheroes became known as the dominant genre in comic books because when the direct market system developed, that was what was popular, and the people who adopted that system (both professionals and fans) particularly liked the genre. Once other systems fell by the wayside, the direct market was essentially all that was left to deliver comic books and everyone who was already there focused on superheroes.
Similarly, comic strips’ delivery system (newspapers) underwent changes that forced all of those creators to adapt. The amount of space devoted to comics shrank, forcing artists took create more simplified drawings that could still be visually read at smaller and smaller sizes. That encourages a more cartoony style which, in turn, encourages humor. It’s little wonder that comic strips began focusing on daily gags.
But online, however, there’s not really a central mechanism for showcasing or delivering webcomics. Each creator acts largely independently. This allows for a lack of focus, and a broad swath of styles and genres have developed and are, by and large, equally competitive.
However, individual readers obviously have their own preferences and gravitate towards those. They might find other similar webcomics right from there, reinforcing the type(s) they see, or they might just be on the lookout for those types and find confirmation bias kicking in, leading them to believe that their preferred genre is most dominant.
But that’s the beauty of webcomics: regardless of what genre or style you’re most interested in, there’s plenty out there to keep you oblivious to everything else!