And boy, have a LOT of people already talked about this one!
After writing the previous post about the Eisner’s and whether or not Digital Comics includes Webcomics (it doesn’t), I did some backtracking and found several recent discussions and mentions about the long-form comics on the Web and whether or not they can be successful.
Seems everyone agreed that some degree of success can be achieved online and have moved on to specific venues in which that success can be found.
First up, I’ll give the floor to the Panel and Pixel forums, where this whole things started. Forum member Steve Horton kicks things off:
I started a new thread about it. Here’s where we talk about how to use the web as a resource for long-form comic books (as opposed to panel or single-page strips).
Most of the discussion about webcomics thus far has centered on the newspaper-style strip format, and admittedly the greatest monetary success has been found in that style. But that’s not the whole picture, as there are a number of webcomics who take their roots from comic books rather than comic strips, and a number of these have found an audience.
How do you use the web as a resource for your comics? Is it the primary venue, supported by print collections? Are you still a print person that uses the web strictly as a promotional opportunity?
Or are you like me, with a foot in both worlds?
Well, are you? The forum thread is still open, and you know there’s always more to be said (i.e. you haven’t said your piece yet) so jump in and let you voice be heard!
If that’s not enough, Fleen has picked up on the story and a podcast by Greg Carter (pictured, right), founder of UpDown Comics (and the guy who sent this story to us, thanks, Gary!) and Gina Biggs(also pictured, also right) of Strawberry Comics, at Sidebar delves a bit deeper into the matter (though it tends to harp more on the usual “How do we make money off this thing?” than anything specific about long-form).
I’m sure this whole thing will go round and round and round and round… *sigh* And round and round, until every comic is online and paper has gotten so scarce, a 22-page comic book fetches a starting price of $199.99. But a comment on the previous post by Rachel Keslensky helped me to realize there should be an outcry as to why we are seen as so juvenile and just a silly alternative to the tried-and-true print form.
<Editorial outcry> I can’t be bothered to read a long-form comic online unless one of two criteria are met:
- The work has just begun and is promised to have a very clear, pre-scripted ending
- Each panel is fed to me regularly in a single-bite-per-update cycle, preferrably on a daily basis
The guys at Act-I-Vate and Transmission X have my attention purely because they follow these guidelines. Phil Foglio of Girl Genius is present in the P&P thread, and he spreads his experience around by suggesting yet another path, where providing the online taste is enough to get readers to buy the whole meal.
Now I sell at a lot of conventions, so I talk to readers all the time. Not just established readers, but people who have never read it, have heard about us from their friends (or whatever) or people who know nothing about Girl Genius at all. They see this row of books, and they hesitate, because getting into Girl Genius could turn into a serious financial commitment, and being a long-form comic, you might be financially committing to a load of suck.
They’re always kind of surprised when I don’t act like I’m eager to sell these books. In fact, I go out of my way to tell them that they don’t have to buy them at all. It’s all free online, here, have a postcard with the url on it and check it out.
This really works. We get a lot of e-mail from these people after conventions (buying books), I get people who come back the next day, having checked out the site at home and they buy books, I get a significant number of people who are so impressed by my confidence that they buy a book right then and there.
Overall, our sales are way up, and I attribute it to the fact that people can examine the product completely before they have to make that financial commitment.
I could also see where this might be viable and, if I were given a significant enough portion that tantalized and titilated my taste buds, I would certainly look into continuing that experience wherever necessary. But simply posting something because the quality is too low to be published or trying to gain attention for pages upon pages of online work with no primer is just no go in my book. </Editorial outcry>
Any thoughts on this, Digital Strippers? … Ok, I’ll think of a better nickname for you all.
Yeah… first thing about coming across as professional: Getting a better nickname than ‘digital strippers’.
(Good Lord, I’m actually going to have to write something in my own blog about Webcomics turning Professional, aren’t I?)
Three best things about the Internet, in regards to this site (and blogs in general):
– It’s always on, meaning people can post and comment whenever they want
– Characters! Who says you are who you claim to be? Do you really think I’m a young man who dresses in a cape and writes for a webcomics news site?
– Satire. It’s hard to discern with the non-tonal nature, but it’s out there.
All that being said, there is a serious question in there: How might long-form comics work for you on the Web?
The floor is open.
Reclaiming the floor:
Webcomics will never be professional and I think that’s one of the coolest things about it. Can you springboard from webcomics into the comic book (or digital comic) world? Absolutely, and many have.
But as long as webcomics is/are open to EVERYONE, you will never have the professionalism of the print world.
Yes, but right now we’re complaining that webcomics aren’t getting any respect, and that we, for some reason, still WANT our own works taken seriously, but we’re not willing to try and project a ‘professional’ aura?
It may take a little thought into how you might go about calling yourself a professional, but I wouldn’t say it’s impossible to have both the perceived openness of webcomics along with a professional webcomics group of some sort.
My beef is not with webcomics not getting respect, it’s with the Digital Comics banner completely emitting the webcomics that I’ve come to know and love. Sure, PvP won two years ago, but it would be nice to see at least one representing the original flavor.
Can I quantify that which I’m describing accurately? With enough time, probably. But here, in this small forum, I can only say that what I see in the Digital Comics category is merely comic books in digital form, not anything that actually represents what our community is capable of when the digital side is actively utilized.
Also, I hope webcomics doesn’t ever get professional, as it seems to serve the need of a rock ‘n’ roll/punk advocate in the community right now. Comic books are, for the most part, the adult contemporary, tried-and-true and full of good stuff but it’s all stuff you know. Webcomics is where you go for the unexpected, the up-and-comers, and the future comic book legends.
“Webcomics will never be professional”
You can’t treat webcomics as a whole. Some will be professional and some won’t – just like print. It used to be that mini-comics you made at the copy shop and gave to friends were the training ground for making comics. Now it’s the internet. Warren Ellis said “the internet is where the kids can go to be bad”. No one’s first comic is going to win any awards, but you have to make comics to get better at making comics. Because of the low, almost non-existent, barrier to entry quality has no bearing on what gets posted. But there are people with high quality webcomics and making a living from them.
The good thing about the internet is that you don’t have to be professional, but you can be. It works for everyone.
It’s entirely possible that I really don’t understand this discussion.
Understanding is not necessary. Only opinions are needed.
When I say webcomics, I am referring to the movement. As you say, webcomics have taken the place of mini-comics, which were the paper and staples way of getting your stuff noticed back in the day. If you had one of those babies at a con, you could finally be considered a pre-professional.
I like to categorize things, heck, we as a society have developed that fascination, so while I can agree with your statement that, because of “the low, almost non-existent barrier to entry, quality has no bearing on what gets posted” (see Zuda Comics for a good example of this inaction in action) I don’t really see webcomics as a whole ever overcoming or changing that.
And that’s fine. There are some webcomics like AD: After the Deluge and I Am A Rocket Builder that have embraced the medium and I’m sure we can find another title for them. But the ridiculously successful ones like PvP and Penny Arcade have surpassed the web and taken on, you guessed it, print. And they’ve done it with Dark Horse and Image Comics, two companies where quality is certainly a barrier to entry.
In summation, jump into webcomics to hone your craft. Once you’re much, much better than when you started, either submit to a major publisher or start collecting your comics in print yourself. If tech is your game, futz with some code and see what you can make of this interactive comics scene. Either way, success will be yours!