Yesterday on Twitter, Marlene asked…

Several folks chimed in with names like Kate Leth and Noelle Stevenson. Although I didn’t see her name come up, Gail Simone would be a similar example, although she broke into the business before most of the social media platforms we’re familiar with had been launched.

My thoughts, however, immediately went to webcomics. The idea behind Marlene’s question is basically: who’s managed to garner a following online and get enough of those people to help support their print work to make that successful? Twitter and YouTube are certainly ways to do that, but so are webcomics.

The first name that popped into my head was Brian Clevinger, who earned a reputation for himself working on 8-Bit Theater, and then went on to co-create the Eisner-nominated print comic Atomic Robo. (Which, interestingly, has recently switched over to a webcomic format after several years of successful printed volumes.) Similarly, Kate Beaton first debuted her work on the web back in 2007 and, by 2011, the print version of Hark! A Vagrant was named as one of Time‘s top ten fiction books of the year. Beaton’s also managed to get multiple cartoons in The New Yorker.

Then there’s guys like Scott Kurtz and John Kovalic. Their webcomics, PvP and Dork Tower respectively, have had impressive runs as pamphlet comics, generally just from reprinting their online strips. Given that all of their material was previously available for free, I’d call that successful.

Stretching the boundaries a bit more, then you’ve got Matthew Inman, Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, and Ryan Sohmer who’ve taken their webcomic successes and achieved success in other avenues. Inman’s The Oatmeal has led to him creating a series of marathons; Krahulik and Holkins, with some assistance from the infamous Robert Khoo, launched the very successful PAX conventions from Penny Arcade; and Sohmer parlayed Least I Could Do and Looking for Group into a physical comic book shop and an advertising agency.

What’s more interesting is when you compare that against stories from the likes of Mark Waid, Phil & Kaja Foglio, and Brian Clevinger (again) who’ve taken successes in the print world and moved online. Which makes more sense then, to start online and move to print or start with print and move online? I think Marlene’s follow-up Tweet actually hits the nail on the head… 

As a creator, you simply build your audience wherever you can. If your talent, skill, and hard work are able to be recognized, then your primary audience will respect and appreciate that and follow from one platform to another. Of course, that’s not something you can 100% count on, and certainly not for every individual follower, but whether you connect via a webcomic or Tumblr or some print work is less significant than putting in your best work. If you do have the talent and put in the effort, your successes will follow you around.