Have I ever told you how I became interested in webcomics?
Back in the day, I used to play Dungeons & Dragons and I would sporadically pick up Dragon magazine as part of that. In the back was a comic strip by Phil Foglio called “What’s New?” I found it one of the most consistently entertaining parts of the entire magazine. I lost track of Foglio when I went to college and it was only YEARS later that I re-discovered him via the new comic book he was putting out: Girl Genius.
Girl Genius was original a pamphlet style comic that you could pick up in comic shops. I jumped on with issue #1 and found it to be just as entertaining as those old “What’s New?” strips. After a little while, they announced they were putting it online for free, one page at a time. I checked it out, but wasn’t thrilled with the formatting online, so I kept buying the print edition. Until they stopped making it and just published the stories online. I was over a dozen issues in by then and was eager to see where the story went, so I started looking for better ways to read the online version.
I began following a few other webcomics that I came across. Maybe four or five other strips. But a few years later, I suddenly found myself in a small pile of debt that I needed to get rid of. In looking over my finances, I had to drop my entertainment budget to zero. I dropped cable, comics, eating out… the only thing I kept was the internet because I use that for so many other things, including my job.
I knew, however, that if I just didn’t read comics at all, I wouldn’t really be able to participate in fandom, so I began actively seeking out webcomics that I could read for free online. I quickly racked up a list of hundreds that I read regularly, and I wound up following many creators on social media.
That was my big revelation. In seeing these creators beyond just their stories, I saw what an amazingly diverse group of people were out there making comics! Nearly everything I’d been reading for the decades beforehand were by straight, white men and I was suddenly hearing a much wider range of voices, and things became infinitely more interesting to me.
That’s when I really became something of an evangelist for the medium. Seeing how much more was out there, how many more people were able to share their different stories in different voices, it really only then began to sink in just how truly powerful this medium was. Especially in light of, at the time, nobody ever covering it! Sure, I felt like I was coming to the party really late, and it was still a straight, white guy that coerced me in but damn if there were still too few people trying to highlight this great work!
And there still are too few people doing that! So next week, I’ll be here again, shouting from the rooftops!