One thing that continues to puzzle me is the general lack of discussion about webcomics. There are people who do reviews and spotlight pieces—The Beat began running reviews towards the end of last year and the Comics Alternative podcast added a monthly webcomics edition about a year before that. There are some creators, most notably Brad Guigar, who routinely talk about craft and process. And there are a very small handful of folks (I can literally think of fewer than five, and one of those is me) that try to broaden the conversation beyond those couple of points. But the overall discussion remains pretty limited.
Do you know how many books have been written about webcomics? Exactly five. Four of which are how-to guides and only two remain in print (both written by Guigar). There simply isn’t anyone talking about webcomics, despite their being around for two decades now.
Now certainly, webcomics share many of the same features found in print comics. Even just looking at that nomenclature, we’re only really differentiating the two by their distribution method. Which means that much of what has been written about print comics also applies to webcomics. If you’re talking about storytelling, illustration, genre, intellectual property law… almost everything written on those topics regarding print comics is equally valid in webcomics. So do we really need another book talking about figure anatomy and abstraction for webcomics, when books like Bridgman’s Complete Guide to Drawing from Life, How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, and Drawing Cartoons and Comics For Dummies still work perfectly well for those subjects?
So what should we focus on when it comes to webcomics? What should we be discussing?
Well, to my thinking at least, it seems to me that since we have so little discussion about webcomics in general, we should mostly be talking about things that are unique to webcomics. We can have genre discussions when everybody’s talking about webcomics, but why highlight a specific comics venue only to cover ground that’s already been covered? Doesn’t it make more sense to look at things like the delivery technology or the business models that are separate and distinct from other types of comics? Why not take advantage of webcomics’ unique properties to raise greater awareness of them and broaden the conversation?
But perhaps that’s why more people aren’t discussing webcomics. Perhaps that territory is too unfamiliar and they don’t have the background to speak to those areas; and the parts that are familiar (genre, tone, storytelling, etc.) are too familiar to try to make a worthwhile statement. Perhaps it’s not so much an unwillingness to discuss webcomics but an inability to discuss them in any meaningful way.
To which I say, do you think that stopped any of the webcomikers from giving their work a shot? How many of these cartoonists have had to forge their own path because no one had the whole thing mapped out yet? Why not take the same fearless approach when it comes to talking about webcomics? There are so many wonderful discoveries to be had out there if only people would take a chance to try to find them!