When I was a kid, I was taught to dislike sports. No one ever expressly sat me down and said “sports are bad” or anything, but society as a whole told me that I should shy away from them. I played Little League for a couple years, and was on intermural soccer and basketball teams a little later. I tried out for the school basketball team in eighth grade. And what I had proven to me over and over was that, regardless of how much I practiced or strived to become a better player, I was simply not very good. Or, at least, not good enough to win at anything. There were always people who were stronger, faster, more agile, more coordinated…

Which is true of pretty much everything. But it was always hammered home that the point of sports was to win. My coaches, my teammates, the people I saw on TV… pretty much everyone except my parents repeated that winning was the whole point. “Oh, sure, by all means, have some fun out there, but make sure you win.” But if I could not develop the skills in order to win, if that was something that just physically beyond my capability, then why would I want to participate in something where I’m guaranteed to lose?

Flash forward to my thirties, and I took up running. Partially just for exercise, but partially because a friend of mine had signed up for a marathon and that sounded like an interesting challenge. Except for a tiny, tiny fraction of people, no one runs a marathon to win it. Runners don’t compete against one another; they compete against their own bodies. To simply run for 26.2 miles, regardless of your speed, is the achievement. The goal is not to win, but simply to finish.

And I’ve found that in the marathon community, other runners are your biggest supporters. There are certainly people on the sides of the road cheering and holding signs of encouragement, but it’s the runner next to you at the 23 mile marker that gives you the most support. They know precisely how exhausted you are, and their words ring louder than anyone else’s because they’re literally right there with you. You’re all in it together, and every runner wants to see as many other runners finish as possible.

Maybe sports aren’t as unlikeable as I thought. Once you remove the “win, win, win” ideology, it can be fun and enjoyable.

That’s something to keep in mind if you’re working on webcomics. It’s easy to look across and see another webcomiker with loads more traffic, or watch their Patreon campaign bust through the roof while yours struggles to get a second supporter, or see them get invited to speak at convention panels while you’re press releases don’t seem to even get read. But webcomics aren’t like baseball or basketball where you need to do better than the next guy and win. Webcomics are more like a marathon; that other webcomiker whose success you might be jealous of probably wants you to succeed as well. They want you to be able to do your comic on your terms and make a living off it.

People have compared the ongoing grind of making a daily comic to running a marathon. But, also like a marathon, there’s a bunch of other cartoonists out there with the exact same goal as you: not to be the “winner” of webcomics, but for everybody to cross the finish line.

About The Author

Senior Editor, Comics & Lifestyle

Sean Kleefeld is an independent researcher whose work has been used by the likes of Marvel Entertainment, Titan Books and 20th Century Fox. He writes the ongoing “Incidental Iconography” column for The Jack Kirby Collector and had weekly “Kleefeld on Webcomics” and "Kleefeld's Fanthropology" columns for MTV Geek. He’s also contributed to Alter Ego, Back Issue and Comic Book Resources. Kleefeld’s 2009 book, Comic Book Fanthropology, addresses the questions of who and what comic fans are. He blogs daily at KleefeldOnComics.com.