This year’s Webcartoonists’ Choice Awards were announced several weeks ago – which is essentially a hojillion years in internet time – but I felt I should comment on them a bit anyway.
First off – I’m actually rather sad I didn’t make any predictions this year, as for once nearly all of the comics I was rooting for ended up as the winners. The main exception was Lackadaisy, a comic not on my reading list, which claimed quite a few awards this year. Given that it did the same last year as well, one would think it would stand as an easy choice to be added to my reading list, but somehow I still haven’t gotten around to doing so.
This was actually a really good year for the WCCA’s as a whole. Moments of drama were relatively few and far between – though not absent entirely. The ceremony itself (in the usual form of online comics) was incredibly well-done and easy to read, as opposed to the sprawling madness found in some previous years. The entire event felt more professional than it has in the past, and that is by far a step in the right direction.
This year featured the removal of the ‘genre categories’ – awards given out to the best sci-fi strips, the best superhero strips, the best romance strips, etc, etc. I was somewhat afraid of this change, largely because those fields gave some smaller fish out their a chance to compete while the usual big names swept the primary categories. But going through the awards now, I don’t really feel the loss as much as I expected – and looking over past years, it is definitely obvious that such categories often required a great deal of stretching to even find enough nominees for the ballot.
So, having said all the above good things about this year’s WCCAs… on to the complaints!
Only two, and the first one is merely to point out that, as usual, the event has an amazing lack of advertising. For something that is designed around getting input from webcartoonists all over the web, they do an incredible job of flying below the radar – from the beginning of the nomination process to the announcement of the results at the end. And I think that very lack of reaching out to the larger webcomic world as a whole is a key reason for the occasionally static results – we see a lot of the same winners and nominees, even in categories that aren’t necessarily the right fit for them.
And, yes, some of that is the natural result of this sort of event being a popularity contest at heart, and there isn’t anything wrong with that – but it also feels like it has one relatively small group of people involved in the entire show. If they can expand their audience, and draw in more participants, I think that would be a very good thing indeed. And the only way that is going to happen is if they actually make an effort to spread the word every year when the awards are actually happening.
Complaint number two is a more genuine one – I was appalled when I see PvP nominated for Outstanding Website Design. I know he pays people to professionally put together a website for him – that does not mean they do a good job!
His design last year was relatively slick and effective, but his latest site is completely out of control. There is no way to easily go to the first strip. I repeat – there is no easy way to go to the first strip!
There is not a button that takes you there. There is not a button that takes you to an archive! You can manually go to the little calendar widget buried in the bottom-right of the page, well below the fold, and select May 1998, the first month listed there, and then select the first comic. And it is not all that difficult a task, but it is about three steps more than such an act should require!
Similarly, when you click on an individual date in the calendar widget, it brings up, not a page with the strip itself, but a page with a thumbnail of the strip! Clicking on that then brings you to the comic itself.
Look. These are not horrendous, life-changing mistakes. Will it turn away some new readers? Sure. Will it frustrate regular readers trying to hunt through the archives? Probably. Are either of those problems that big a deal? Not really.
Seeing them on what is supposed to be one of the most professional webcomics on the net, on the other hand, is really disappointing. Normally, I wouldn’t have any problems with it. Similarly, I would normally be able to forgive the sheer amount of links and promotions and ads and other craziness plastered all over the page, because Scott Kurtz does have a lot happening and needs a place to put all that stuff.
But when the site is being nominated for being one of the most “Outstanding” around… well, as I said, it is disappointing. Not as a mark against Kurtz, really, but as a sign of how easy it is for a comic to be nominated simply because it is a big name, rather than because it is appropriate for the award at hand.