A lot of folks interested in comics like to think that it’s a great club to be a member of. And it absolutely is! I love comics in all forms, and I’ve made some fantastic friends through a shared love of the medium. But, realistically, it’s not all songs and games for everyone. Some of the older guard newspaper strip creators don’t understand and consequently feel threatened by webcomics people, for example. Even within a specific segment of comics, people can disagree to the point of making threats against one another, as seen in the recent uproar surrounding a Batgirl variant cover. As much as I’d like everyone to get along and play nice, that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon.

One of the great things about webcomics is their inherent egalitarian nature. There are comparitively few barriers to entry, and none of them are individual gatekeepers. With print comics, a creator often has to get past at least and editor and publisher who could dismiss their work on nothing more than personal taste. But without such gatekeepers, virtually anyone can upload their webcomics for the world to see, regardless of what the content actually is and whether or not it might appeal to a wide enough audience.

In fact, I’ve read any number of webcomics that seem to be written for the benefit of no one but the creator her/himself. I’ve seen people use them as a way to work through body and self-image issues, and to wrestle through gender identity concerns. I know a guy whose webcomic is a great work of fiction, where the ghost of Houdini and a self-aware rabbit are not out of place, but his art as a whole is at least partially a response to beatings his father gave him as a child. A friend of mine worked through his divorce in the daily exercise of his strip. Some creators are more modest and simply use their webcomics as an excuse to practice drawing. Whether they gain an audience or not is immaterial, the webcomic is a form of personal catharsis. (Although, I’ve frequently noted that these sincere efforts are often rewarded emotionally by readers who are touched by the work.)

But because it’s online for everyone to see, it can accidentally bump into some of those other segments of comicdom whose values, or even their very identity, are seemingly threatened. We see far too often webcomics centered around strong female characters (often created by women) get attacked by people who feel that the very thought of a strong woman is a threat to their existence. Or someone is bullied to the point of contemplating suicide because of their transgender character and/or life. It happens far too often.

The people who make these threats and do this type of bullying are scared. They fear that anything that speaks against what they like is in direct opposition to themselves. They so identify with, for example, being a fan of “traditional” male superheroes, that a webcomic that suggests that most superhero comics are mysoginistic is seen as a direct attack against their own sense of self. That if these comics they like are wrong, then they must be a bad person. And who likes to think of themselves as a bad person? The comic, in their eyes, is an attack against their basic goodness and, somewhat ironically, they become a bully to try to shout down anything that, in their mind, says they’re not a good person.

What I’m getting at here is that not every webcomic is meant for every individual. And if you don’t like a particular webcomic, that’s fine. It’s probably not meant for you anyway. But rather than troll or otherwise threaten the creator, just move along to something that is meant for you. Because I guarantee that anything else, really, is doing more to prove that you’re a bad person than whatever the creator was saying in their webcomic.

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.