One of the great benefits to working on webcomics is the immediacy of the medium. Unlike printed comics, webcomics are capable of being published almost at the speed the cartoonist draws them, sometimes getting uploaded directly from a wi-fi-enabled tablet the artist drew them on. That means that these can react and comment on events in essentially real time. Even the fastest traditional cartoonists have to wait until the next installment of the newspaper (or whatever it’s being printed in) hits the press, and then readers have to wait until it’s distributed some time afterwards.
Granted, most webcomics don’t work with that level of immediacy. Many have weeks-long buffers built up so they can continue publishing if an emergency comes up that where they can’t create new comics for a little while. But the potential for immediacy is there.
This week, to coincide with the Republican National Convention, Matt Bors and his companions over at The Nib relaunched that site, now backed by First Look Media, and their goal is to create “political cartoons, journalism, essays and memoir about what is going down in the world, all in comics form…” An online format makes complete sense if that’s their intent.
Some of their pieces were clearly created in advance of the Convention, but others are clearly being done at the site itself. Sophie Yanow and Rob Rogers are both chronicling their time in and around the convention, presenting nearly live journalistic reports in comic form. Others, like Matt Lubchansky and Tom Tomorrow, are commenting on the proceedings as well, but I believe they’re both watching the events unfold remotely.
Of course, every cartoonist has this capability to draw comics as they’re watching the news. And they can fire them off to their editors at whatever syndicate they’re working with, who can, in turn, get them prepped for distribution in short order. But those additional layers of middlemen slow the process down. The editor would have to be waiting at their computer when the files come in to turn around and do anything with them and, while they are then reliant on folks on the distribution end to help ensure the comics get passed along. I’m sure they’re got the process down to where it’s as efficient as it can ever be, but it’s the process itself which is considerably longer than the artist directly uploading it themselves.
And in a world where news is frequently delivered live over social media, that extra time can be killer. As I’m writing this, I’m looking at brand new syndicated political comics about Melania Trump’s speech from Monday and they already feel outdated compared to Yanow’s work who had her comic about Day Two of the convention up early yesterday evening.
None of that has any bearing on quality, of course, but that’s going to vary from artist to artist regardless. And in the realm of topical commentary, faster counts for quite a bit!