When is a webcomic not a webcomic? Well, let me throw out this scenario…

You stop by your local comic shop. The good one, not that dark and creepy one that makes The Android’s Dungeon look like a palace. You’re browsing around and check out their “Local Creators” section where they have a special showcase for comic creators living in the general area. Now, a lot of it is going to look amatuerish. Maybe there’s weak art, or they look like they were run off a bad copier running out of toner, or whatvever. But there’s a series there—maybe five or six individual issues—that looks pretty slick. Nice printing, good art. Looks like an interesting story as you flip through. So you pick up the first issue.

After you get home, you read through it, and you’re impressed. It really grabbed you somehow, so you head back to the shop and pick up the rest of the issues they have. Those are just as good. Then you get online so you can follow the creators on social media (because they were smart and included where you could find them online in the printed books themselves) and you discover that the comic you just read and enjoyed has, in fact, been running as a webcomic for several years and the latest issue you have in your hands is almost a whole year behind where the story is on the site!

I don’t know how common this scenario is, but I know I’ve certainly read more than a few books that I didn’t realize were webcomics until much later. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Most creators don’t really care how you read their work, just so long as you came by it honestly. (That is, if you read it online, don’t read a version that’s been pirated on someone else’s site.)

But what’s interesting is that since you were introduced to the story as a series of printed comics, it’s likely that you’ll keep that impression of it for some time. Girl Genius, for example, is often hailed as one of the better long-running webcomics, but since Phil and Kaja Foglio launched it as a print comic first and ran it for nearly four years that way before really diving into the webcomics thing whole hog, some people (myself included) still prefer to read it in print. In fact, even when they started posting the comic online while they were still printing it, I opted to wait until the printed version was released instead of reading it sooner (and cheaper) online.

So while a comic may well technically be a webcomic and be presented as such to the majority of readers that way, it’s still possible that some readers, even some devoutly loyal fans, still think of it as a print comic. But like I said, as long you’re coming by the comic honestly, there is absolutely nothing wrong that!

  • Freaksugar might be better served by having its webcomics column handled by a writer who prefers webcomics form to print form.