Why Are Webcomics Still Not Discussed?

By | Wednesday, February 12, 2020 Leave a Comment
Webcomics cover
I'm currently going through the final-final digital proof for my Webcomics book. The one where the editor has said, "OK, this is your absolute last chance to make any changes and, really, you're pretty much just limited to typos." Since the last proof I went through, I did have a slight panic attack that was along the lines of, "What if people read this and think it's awful? Like, really awful. Like, laughably pathetically awful. Like, who-let-this-guy-anywhere-near-a-keyboard awful." And it wasn't the random readers I was thinking about, but the people who I actually know and study or create comics for a living.

Reading it again in this proof did put my mind at ease a bit, actually. The language isn't terrible. It seems to flow reasonably well. I don't think I've made any glaring errors or posited any absurd theories. But I had another slight panic attack when I realized that I finished most of the writing for this over a year ago now -- an eternity in internet time. I had made a very conscious effort to avoid tying the manuscript too much to specific technologies that would likely be outdated very quickly, so I'm not overly concerned there. But what about new research? What research have people done and written about and presented that might back up or, worse, contradict what I've written about?

So for the past couple of days, I've been trying to dig around and see what articles and papers about webcomics have been written up in the past year. What about that one doctoral candidate I heard present back in 2018? She was more forward-looking than anyone else I heard that weekend. What about comics journalists? Comicsgaters have surely harassed more women and minority webcomic creators to the point of newsworthiness!

But, there's... nothing.

I mean, yeah, Gary Tyrrell is still keeping up with news nuggets* over at Fleen and Brad Guigar is still providing advice to other webcomikers on Webcomics.com but I'm not really seeing anything else. No change in broader coverage, no new thesis papers, certainly no printed volumes. I had to halt my webcomics column over at FreakSugar (mainly because of health issues -- I was hit by a car and was in rehab for over a year... which put me seriously behind schedule in writing my book!) and no one has stepped up to fill that void. On FreakSugar or anywhere!

Back in 2013, I had someone tell me they were trying to do research on webcomics for his academic work, and one of their biggest stumbling blocks was not finding anything. They said that any searches they did turned up pretty much only my work. I was writing for MTV Geek at the time, and banging out a weekly column that tended to be in the 500-1000 word range. Not particularly long, and certainly not rigorous enough for academia. But that was all he could find.

We're a better part of a decade later, and there's still nothing.

On the one hand, I do appreciate that having a pretty much wide open field means that my book will be the first of its kind. Even if I'm off base on aspects of it, I'm waaaaay out in front just by virtue of no one else trying. But on the other hand, WHERE THE HELL IS EVERYBODY?!? I've said this before but when I started seriously looking at webcomics in 2004, I felt like I was already pretty far behind the curve. And yet, fifteen years later, everyone else seems like they haven't even gotten that far yet.

My hope now is that, regardless of how good or bad people think the book is, it finally kickstarts the conversation. I've been complaining for over a decade now that I'm one of the few people out here talking about webcomics, and it seems like no one's been listening. But with an actual publisher behind this, and their aiming at an academic audience, and the sheer volume of words I put down in one place about the subject -- with all that, I'm hoping it sparks enough people to start seeing, thinking, and talking about webcomics.

And if people think it's good, too, I'll be that much happier! :)

* No disrespect intended to Gary by calling them "nuggets." He is reporting on what's going on, but he mostly just hits some highlights and sends readers over to creators' websites and social media posts. Even though there's not a lot of journalistic digging going on or anything, that's still far more than anyone else is doing. I know I certainly appreciate his efforts.
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