What makes webcomics unique – the real deal, part 2

Alrighty, time to get back to the discussion of webcomics themselves, and continue talking about some of the things that webcomics have to offer, both to their creators and the adoring public.

Freedom

Webcomic artists, by and large, do not have editors.

They may solicit advice from their friends or family, maybe have them review a strip before it goes live. They might have a creative partner, and be part of a writer/artist team that checks things over together before posting them.

But they rarely have someone whose job is it to stand there and tell them: “That strip is crap. Throw it out.”

They don’t have someone to correct typos and other basic mistakes.

And they don’t have someone there to tell them what is, and is not, proper material for discussing in one’s comic.

There are two real results of this.

One is that the quality of strips isn’t always consistent. Typos and mistakes can be tossed out there. They can, of course, be fixed after the fact, though not all artists bother doing so. But there isn’t always a quality control, even on the best of strips.

But nothing is funny or perfect 100% of the time, and if the comics we find in our newspaper are an example of what editors think is quality humor, I’m content to take webcomics instead.

Which brings us to the other big impact of the self-publishing nature of webcomics – freedom of material.

Webcomics can be made about anything. With some strips, you might have a warning right up front about where the comic will go. Others might start off light, and abruptly descend into death and tragedy and premarital hanky panky, to the consternation of those who were expecting a ‘G’ rated comic.

But in the end, those comics don’t have ratings. They are the product of the author, and they alone determine the direction the comics go. And with the ability to not have to satisfy constrained limitations, out of fear of offending the public… comes unexpected quality.

There are more than a few webcomics that sport a wicked, dark humor than many people appreciate. I like having access to that. There are webcomics that are just used to promote people’s personal agenda, or spout off their latest barb at their foes. I like that less – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there, or isn’t the right of the artist to do so.

Because by and large, in the end, the comics being produced on the web? (And here is an important statement, so don’t miss it.)

They are being produced for the artists themselves.

Oh, this isn’t to say that there aren’t artists out there for the money, or that they don’t want to have people actually enjoy and discuss their comic. But while there may be a number of comics that make money now, they didn’t start out like that.

Most webcomics started out as a hobby. As a chance – an opportunity – for the artists to get their work out. Tell their story, do their thing. 99% of the comics on the web remain as such, and even as there are more every year that turn a profit, they are turning a profit for the creators, who are finally getting to do what they love, and make a living off of it. Without limitations, without having to worry about pushing the line. Some comics practically live off of that sort of independance.

Comic books and newspaper strips often change property. DC produces Batman – and while there might be a team working on it for a while, it is never theirs.

Webcomics belong to their creators. They might be forced to change hosting services because of content, but they can still find a home. They might have to deal with lawsuits because of what they say, but they can often weather it. They might have to face drama for the things they say or do, but that is just part of life on the internet.

The ability to own their own strip, and have it take on the life that they alone choose to give it? Priceless.

Format

Yes, it has to be mentioned – the wonderful world of infinite canvas.

The power of the internet is the power of a medium without the standard limitations of pen and paper.

Many popular strips, of course, follow a standard model – several panels in a row. Clean, consistent art.

Others may follow more of a comic book format, producing full pages at a time where the action may require large or small panels as the scene determines.

And others choose to make use of the wonderful things that can only be done with webcomics.

So. Infinite Canvas is obviously a good thing. You can do all the things you can do without it, and you can do a bunch of other nifty stuff too – though that stuff may very well not be easily publishable.

In many ways, infinite canvas is a double-edged sword. The web allows for some amazing creations, but at the same time, has the potential for shoddy browsing interfaces. For unnecessary flash and dazzle. Some webcomic layouts are inspired – others, just confusing.

What is important, though, is that it is a new medium. It is something that gives access to devices unavailable outside the digital world.

Whether it is used for good or for evil, for artistic experimentation or annoying flashing lights, its presence is significant, and the subject of a sizable amount of discussion.

Tune in tomorrow for the stunning conclusion to this epic journey through the fascinating world of webcomics!

Alright, crazy mode off. I’ve got one more element that I think is the most important yet, and I’ll be wrapping things up tomorrow with my thoughts on that.

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