Megan Rose Gedris recently opined that she was glad webcomics weren’t as big of a deal when she started out, compared to now.
I was a dumb kid, and my plots contained a lot of misguided ideas about things, and the way the current internet would have reacted to them, I imagine things would have been way too harsh. Nobody would look at my work and think “This person is 15 and has the potential to grow up and learn and figure things out and get better.”
There’s no question that webcomics are a bigger deal now than they were a decade ago and I don’t doubt that she sees comics, possibly her own, that are on the receiving end of a great deal of internet venom. But I think Gedris might be conflating two issues that don’t necessarily correlate with one another.
Gedris was still a teenager when she started YU+ME:dream back in 2004. It’s the comic that first gained her some notoriety, and she’s since gone on to I Was Kidnapped By Lesbian Pirates From Outer Space and Meaty Yogurt, both of which garnered her even more attention. Her assertion that she might have quit doing comics if, at the very start of her career, she had been on the receiving end of the vitriol that she got later as her comics became popular doesn’t seem to take into account, though, that the Prism grant that gave her a big boost in notoriety didn’t come until 2007, three years later.
Now, she was absolutely not laboring in complete obscurity that whole time, and I’m sure she got more than a few terrible and frightening comments in that time. (Which, to be absolutely clear, is under no circumstances acceptable behavior!) But my point is that the attention she has now is more because of her talent and years of hard work, and not the fact that webcomics are bigger now in general than they were ten years ago. In fact, I might argue that someone starting now would have more anonymity precisely because webcomics are bigger; there’s much more competition and it’s infinitely more difficult to even raise awareness as a newcomer, consisdering that you’re now in competition with industry heavyweights like Mark Waid and Jeff Smith.
And that anonymity helps. In fact, I just caught that David Davis was going to have to pass on printing his first season of Cosmic Dash because he hadn’t yet worked out some of the technical issues, leaving him with files that aren’t suitable for print. And while that’s not due to his working out storytelling issues that bedevil many newer creators, the comparitive anonymity he had when he started afford him the opportunity to essentially create a new launching point. One that avoids some of the pitfalls he may have stumbled into originally.
By its very nature, almost anything you post on the web is available for the world to see. But, in competing with everything else, a creator that has not yet established their own following can safely experiment in relative obscurity. But that same availability almost needs to be in place so that they know there is in fact an audience out there, expecting them to deliver. The realization that one’s work is being put on regular display almost inherently forces a creator to up their game very quickly. Without that pressure, that peformance anxiety, many people don’t have the internal fortitude to work to better their craft on an ongoing basis.
That sets the web up a double-edged sword. It allows a creator to present their work to an interested group and receive feedback, but it also opens them up to potential attack from internet trolls. Unless that creator has a big name for her or himself already, however, those attacks won’t likely come until they’ve got a bit of experience under their belts.