We’re kicking off another new column here at FreakSugar, taking a look at the wide world of webcomics. Each week, we’ll be examining different aspects of webcomics. Sometimes craft, sometimes economics, sometimes just focusing on one strip in particular… But for the all attention that print comics get, we’re making sure that webcomics aren’t get the short shrift.
It actually strikes me as quite odd that more sites aren’t giving webcomics more coverage. They’re perhaps not big business in the same way Marvel and DC are, but their significance shouldn’t be ignored.
“What do you mean ‘significant’? Aren’t they all just a bunch of graphic artists making a meager living, and make webcomics in their free time?”
The immediate response to that might be: “Penny Arcade.”
Penny Arcade, of course, is the webcomic started by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik which managed to turn into a bonafide business thanks to Robert Khoo stepping in to handle their business affairs. They now host the PAX convention three times a year, with a fourth event recently announced for Australia late this year, and a fifth in early 2015 in San Antonio. They also started the Child’s Play charity that raised over $7,500,000 last year. Oh, and they’ve made a couple video games and a reality show. Still perhaps not in the Marvel/DC realm of successful business, but I think it’s safe to say that they’re doing alright for themselves.
But that’s just one example, and a bit of an outlier in several respects. But what about Ryan Sohmer? He writes Least I Could Do and Looking for Group. Which made him enough to start a comic book shop in Montreal. And he also owns Blind Ferret Entertainment, “a tiny media empire” which does advertising and publishing.
And Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal? He raised $1,370,000 to donate to the Tesla Science Center so they can start working on a Nikola Telsa Museum. Later this year, he’s debuting his Beat the Blerch Marathon in Carnation, WA.
Zach Weiner of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal has produced a number of short films as well.
How many creators doing regular pamphlet comics can make similar claims? I can think of a few (like Mark Waid and Art Baltazar) that own comic shops, and there have been more than a few attempts over the years that tried to start full-fledged publishing houses, Image probably being the most successful. But there’s not that many stories like that, and most of the ones that exist come from a collective of creators pooling their accumulated resources, not a solitary one using their funds from a single project.
Not every webcomiker is making millions every year, of course, and that’s not necessarily even the best gauge of success anyway. But there are quite a few these days that make a comfortable living off their work. And have enough name recognition that you’ve probably heard of them. Scott Kurtz, Kate Beaton, Brian Clevinger, Randall Munroe, Ryan North…
There’s nothing wrong with making print comics for a living, and many people have been quite successful at that. But with webcomikers doing so well, it seems like an immense disservice not to speak to their brilliant successes that are at least on par with, if not surpassing, what comic creators in other venues are achieving. So let’s celebrate these creators as they ought to be celebrated — with ongoing support and coverage so we can see even more of them doing fantastic things.