What makes webcomics unique – the real deal, part 1

What do webcomics have to offer that makes them unique?

A lot of others have talked about this topic, and given their own answers. There are those who have written entire books that no doubt answer that question. It is something almost every webcomic review likely at least thinks about – what makes this field special? I know these comics are cool, and innovative, and I like them… but why?

Well, I can’t promise I’ll be able to give the perfect reply to all that – but I’ve thought about it myself, and there are definitely reasons that come to mind.

Immediacy

Novels are written seasons to years to decades in advance of when they may actually see the light of day. Comic books are put together months before they are actually released. Even daily comic strips in the paper are often stockpiled weeks in advance.

These delays give time for them to be edited, and ensure they are on hand to meet deadlines, and to go through the process of being published. They aren’t just tradition – in many ways, they are a necessary part of the procedure, and just one of the limitations enforced by working in that medium

On the internet, the deadlines that exist are self-enforced. The process of creating a webcomic strip may be a day’s work, or it may be something briefer. But the process of publishing it often involves no more than pushing several buttons.

That is not to say it is an easy and flawless procedure, as many webcomic authors could no doubt attest after their fair share of technical difficulty.

But it is a set-up that allows webcomics to be updated on a daily basis, often with strips drawn that very day.

This gives the authors a powerful amount of ability to respond to the present. To respond to other webcomics that might give them a cameo, and tip their hat with their own such nod the very next day. Or to give commentary on current events even as they occur. Or to respond to any other concerns that they choose – to change a planned comic for something new, something immediate.

Even those comics with month-long buffers can do this. They aren’t bound to a schedule – they can adjust as they see fit, and adapt, and change.

In the middle of a story, and it just isn’t working out? They can pull the plug and drop it entirely. Or make the alterations that the readership seems to be desiring. And yes, they can even stick to their guns and do it their own way – but they don’t have to.

When a comic book is published, its done. Complete. If the story has some horrible flaw in the beginning, its likely that flaw will stick around until the end.

Webcomics are constantly in motion. It is, in many ways, a power granted by the medium – the internet. But it puts them in an entirely different world than published comics, which have a time-delay with even the simplest works.

This is one of the biggest reasons that the webcomic world is, in many ways, a living organism – like everything else on the internet, time moves quickly. It is one of the reasons why it is so easy to partake in webcomics discussion – there is so much information constantly being presented, and all of it is based in the now.

Accessibility

This is another area I’ve discussed before – the accessibility of webcomics.

First off – by and large, webcomics are free of charge. Bam! End of story – you want to take a look, feel free.

Obviously this gives them a larger audience – namely, the audience of people who will gladly enjoy free entertainment. On the internet, thats a lot of folks.

But it also makes it so much easier to share webcomics.

I have a roommate who is a math teacher. I see a clever math joke in a strip. In under a minute, I can send him a link.

He doesn’t have to be an avid webcomic reader. He doesn’t have to have time to consume the entire archives of a comic. He doesn’t need anything more than a few minutes online checking his mail, and bam! Free humor.

Now suppose that it was a comic strip in the newspaper I saw. Well, easy enough – I could clip it out and show it to him.

But what about friends who aren’t nearby? Well, I suppose I could… clip it out and… mail it to them?

Seems like such a bulky process, with the internet around.

What about a good book? I read a book I like, I can recommend it to friends, and hope they go out and hunt it down. Maybe shell out some cash if they can’t find it in the local library. I can lend it to those I see, though only one at a time.

If I see a good webcomic? Bam! Instant linkage.

This is especially handy for webcomics criticism. If I want to review a book, or movie, or television show, most of what I say will be lost on anyone who hasn’t seen it, unless I spend an inordinate amount of time setting up the background.

Even if they have seen it, they might not remember details closely enough to really get what I’m talking about.

With webcomics, I can link straight to what I am talking about – and if someone hasn’t already read it? They can check it out directly – even if only a few strips to catch them up on the basics, or to refresh it in their mind – and then go see what I’m saying. And if I’m saying something really complicated, discussing story arcs from year one of this comic, and year four of that comic, and so forth? I can link straight to each little obscure arc without difficulty.

Whereas if I start reviewing the full works of Robert Jordan, it might take readers a good bit of digging around to find my references.

Free stuff, immediately available. That can make a world of difference – both in bringing in new readers, and in being able to review the field.

Even outside of anything else – it makes webcomics convenient. It makes them easy. They can be browsed by someone with only a few minutes of time, or someone with hours to burn.

And for a medium that is, at its heart, about entertainment – thats handy.

-To Be Continued-

A good bit more to come, later tonight or tomorrow…

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2 responses

  1. To respond to other webcomics that might give them a cameo, and tip their hat with their own such nod the very next day.

    Quick correction: these cameos actually occurred in the in the other order. I like the article, though – those are good points, and accurate.

  2. Yeah, there was actually a third initial cameo the week before, but I thought it might get a bit more complicated explaining it to that extent. 🙂

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