So I’ve been thinking about doing a weekly webcomic column here, but it occurred to me that I’m not actually that up on the webcomic scene. That said, I’ve got a few thoughts on the whole concept, as well as a couple of favorites.
I wrote below that print is dying, and I’m sticking by that assertion. However, to clarify, I would like to note that newspapers will be the first to go, and that magazines and books will be sticking around far longer. It just isn’t pleasant to read long articles or books on a computer screen, and I’ve only met one person who owned a Kindle–and that guy also had three cell phones and two laptops just in his bag.
Comics, I think, will maintain a print following for quite a while. The art looks better on paper, and comics fans tend to be the type of people who like the tangible items to collect. We’re pack rats. We see nothing wrong with buying all the single issues of a book, the trades, and then the fancy reissues when those come out, too.
Still, the Web has a place in the comics community, and not just as a place for talking about comics.
Webcomics seem to come in a couple of varieties (bear in mind that, as I noted above, I’m not really up on the webcomics world, and I’d love your input). There’s the comic strip, which seems to be taking over for newspaper comic strips the way Web sites are taking over for newspapers. Most of you are probably familiar with them, and some of your favorite print comic creators do webcomic strips too–I happen to love Becky Cloonan’s Comic Attacks.
These are bite-size comics that don’t tie into a longer narrative, and can be consumed quickly, like an mp3 or a blog post. Many media critics, Warren Ellis among them, have noted that the Web is a place for short bits of information. Ellis called it “burst culture.” Webcomics like this fit perfectly into that picture.
Before you accuse me of giving Warren Ellis too much credit, I’m about to pick on him. I adore Freakangels–it’s free, it’s weekly, it’s as pretty as any print comic. But it’s still intrinsically a print comic put on the Web. It’s formatted the same way as a print comic–which is the opposite shape of your computer monitor–and its narrative lends itself to backtracking and re-reading in large chunks. I often forget it or skip it for three or four weeks and then read it in bunches about the size of a monthly print comic.
And it is being released in trade by Avatar. They have to make their money back somehow, and I will most likely buy all the trades of it eventually and read it in long form, and probably like it even better.
But I wonder if there’s a better format for webcomics than just adapting print comics to the screen. I think Ellis will probably learn a lot from this experiment, though, and I wonder what’s next for him in the world of the Web.
I haven’t played too much with Zuda, but it seems to be formatted at least a bit more specifically to the Web. It runs on Flash, which I suspect might be the way to go. Flash webcomics could quickly blur the line between print and animation, and this could lead to some interesting experiments. I also like that Zuda allows you to vote on the best comic. The Web is a much more participatory medium than print–your input is invited, immediate, and both sides benefit–the creator from the immediate fan input, and the fans from feeling involved in the process.
The panel-by-panel approach seems to be popular–I’ve read several of Dean Haspiel‘s webcomics, and I like the format. One panel per page, simple black-and-white drawings (if you’re going to lose some of the quality staring at the screen, then why do intricate detail and color work?) and fun stories that you can read in one sitting.
The more I think about webcomics, the more potential I see in the whole idea. I’m not going to stop buying monthlies (or Absolute Sandman books), but I’m planning on spending a lot more time scoping out what’s on the Web.
So, Blog@ readers, what are your fave webcomics? What are the pros and cons of the Web, and which formats do you prefer?