On Webcomics: Improvement

By | Monday, March 31, 2014 3 comments
Here's a challenge I personally have in checking out webcomics. As you know, getting a webcomic started is ridiciously easy. There are no editors or publishers doing any real curation to weed out "obviously" inferior work, nor are they around to help the creator improve their craft by suggesting ways to improve. This is why some people look down on webcomics; there's simply no one to ensure that any given webcomic meets any sort of criteria pertaining to "quality."

Personally, I'm cool with that. A lot published work that's been vetted by editors and publishers is crap, clearly showing that their presence alone is by no means a guarantee of any measure of quality. So I'm all for supporting the little guys and seeing what they have to say.

But there are some webcomics out there that really test the limits of what I can tolerate. I read a lot of them (I think I'm in the 300-ish range these days) in order to keep up and do columns like this one, but some of them just aren't very good. They remind me of the comics I used to do when I was 12 or 13; they can draw and write better than many of their peers but it's still very much in the amateur range of talents and abilities. Being able to write a solid, coherent sentence and having a good grasp of the langauge doesn't mean you have the storytelling chops to write out some epic narrative. Nor does being able to draw a half-decent person mean you draw them consistently, not looking stiff, with good backgrounds and relay a story effectively.

If you're half-way decent, I'll give your webcomic a shot. Hell, I've tired a number of them that weren't even half-way decent! But if you're doing a webcomic that I don't think is of a high enough quality (however vaguely I might happen to define that given the creator's abilities and the type of narrative they're trying to tell) I'm likely going to poke back through the archives to see if there's at least some measure of improvement. If I can scan back through a few years of archives and there's no change in how the characters are rendered, or nothing different in the dialogue or captions, I'm very much not inclined to continue reading.

I mean, I get that for many creators, a webcomic is a part-time job on top of whatever it is they do to actually earn a living. But if you're not putting in the effort to do better or be better, I don't know why you might have anything I want to read. I don't know why I might be interested in what you're saying if you're doing a poor job of saying it, and you think it's satisfactory enough as it stands.

Go through the archives of some longer-running, successful webcomics like PvP, Questionable Conent and Penny Arcade. Regardless of what you think of those strips, regardless of your opinions of the creators, you can definitely see an improvement in their abilities over time. Some of their early work was not very good either. Hell, Penny Arcade used Comic Sans as their font originally!
I'm rooting for all webcomics creators. Really! I want everybody who wants to make a career out of making webcomics to be able to do so! But if you're not interested in even trying to step out of the amatuer abilities section, why should I waste my time with you?
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Matt K said...

"But if you're not interest[ed] in even trying to step out of the amatuer abilities section, [get off my lawn!]

Fixed a couple of typos. :-)

"regardless of your opinions of the creators" heh!

Thanks, Matt! :)