It strikes me as a lapse that, in my thoughts yesterday, I didn’t think about all the times I go back through and re-read a comic on my own.
Occasionally it happens because some comics and books are just that good. Especially short works where, a few years after first reading it, you can go back through and experience it all over again.
More often than not, however, it is due to a story growing complex and difficult to follow, and there being a need to refresh oneself on what has come before. I keep getting sucked back into the Wheel of Time, and with several years between books in the past, I have felt the need to immerse myself in the thousands of pages, just so I have some faint recollection of what’s going on.
(This, by the way, is the real kicker. The stories that are complex enough to lose you are also the ones with the heaviest content to slog through.)
Now, I obviously wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy the re-reading anyway. Sluggy is a great example – if I really feel the need to get back to speed (and if I should actually have the time to take on such a task), it’s an enjoyable experience. It’s also right there – the easy access of webcomics helps.
As well as the ability, if I don’t want to hunt down everything, to go looking through this or that random storyline to find whatever it is I’m looking for. And even with the clunkiest of archives, its a lot easier to root out specific storylines than to find one specific passage in a book. Or, even more so, it is easy to go back and read one specific plot arc, and enjoy it, then it is to go and enjoy one single chapter in a novel.
I’d say, in the end, that there are a handful of strips I like enough for them to be worth reading over and over. But given the size of archives that most comics begin to develop – and even more importantly, given how many other comics there are on the web – it isn’t something I am as likely to do as pick up my well-worn copy of the Hobbit and dive back in.
Interesting that accessibility is sometimes enough compensation to justify rereading some longform webcomics. But, as you alluded to, if a book gets to be too long, it looses some of that accessibility. It makes sense that serialized longform webcomics benifit from a finite length.
One thing that makes reading the archives harder is the loading delay between each page. This is why I’ve got an archiving script so I can reread comics quickly. Also, rereading takes up a whole block of time, which is much harder to justify than a minute or so daily for a few years.