Thank You, Webcomikers

By | Friday, September 17, 2021 Leave a Comment
Over the past 6-9 months, I have not been reading nearly as much as I used to. It's very much related to the pandemic and general collapse of everything, and probably some residual trauma from the Trump presidency. It's one of those where you can say, "Because of, well..." and then just wave your hands at literally everything, and everybody just nods understandingly.

I've actually tried writing this several times, but I keep getting bogged down in details you don't want to hear about. Suffice it to say, things have really sucked and I've fallen out of reading many of the comics I used to read. Before my Webcomics book was published, I was regularly reading over 300 webcomics. Now it's down to four-ish. Maybe as many as five or six if you count the ones that I read if they happen across my Twitter feed, but I don't really go out of my way to look for them. However, the other night I did manage to open the feed reader that I have dedicated for webcomics. First time I've opened it in... I honestly don't know how long. A year at least. I was somewhat surprised at what I saw in there, though.

For the record, the app I'm using is The Old Reader. It will present to you a list of all the feeds you've subscribed to, and next to each title it lets you know how many new entries have been made since you last read through them. Not since you opened the app, or even opened that particular feed. But how many of the invdidual entries have you not yet read. Then, when you look at a specific title, it lists out the titles and dates of each individual entry. From there, you can select which you wish to read.

What I found surprising was how little I had fallen behind. Many of the comics were not showing any updates at all. To be fair, for many of the types of webcomics I've read, that's not unusual. A creator has a great idea for a comic, starts working on it, posts it, hypes it up, makes regular updates... and then it falls by the wayside after 6 months or a year when the matter of having to pay the bills rears its head. I recall Jennie Breeden saying years ago that, in order to make it as a webcomiker, you're going to need to set aside and commit to five years minimum to get established. Most comics don't last nearly that long. There were probably several dozen webcomics in my feed that had already stopped updating well before COVID was a thing, and I simply hadn't gotten around to deleting the feed yet.

But many of the others that did still have updates? Those updates were few and far between. In the year or more since I'd opened the app, they'd maybe have 20 updates? That's once every three or four weeks. And if I went in to look at the dates, I'd see one of two things. They either had a wildly sporadic updates; like, three in one week then nothing for two months and then one and then another one two weeks later and then nothing for four months and then four days in a row... Or else they had a slowed, but sort of consistent schedule up through the end of 2020, but haven't posted anything since.

Now there are a few stand-outs. There were maybe five comics that have had hundreds of updates in the time I was away -- basically keeping up with whatever schedule they were on before. There were another ten or twelve that had 50-ish updates... suggesting they were keeping (or switched to) a weekly schedule.

But the vast majority of comics in my feed -- even many of the ones that had been consistent stalwarts of the medium -- weren't keeping up any longer. And many of the ones I did read, they were clearly dealing with a lot of stress. Depression was a recurring theme in many of them.

I'm sitting at my desk in my house as I type this on Thursday night. I can hear my wife in the other room. The power is on, the A/C is keeping things comfortable, and I just had leftovers for dinner. I've got a comfortable bed to sleep in tonight, and tomorrow I'll get up and go to work. But since I've been working from home for the past year and a half, the commute is maybe 30 seconds. My paycheck will hit my bank account hours before I even get up. I've got one Zoom call, but it's an internal team meeting where things are a little more casual; I could wear the t-shirt and boxers I go to sleep in tonight and it'd be fine because they're only going to see my head and shoulders anyway. My point being that I've been exceptionally privileged throughout this pandemic. And despite that privilege, despite being about as comfortably removed as possible from the day-to-day struggles many people have been facing, despite not having to overly worry about my actual survival, it's been hard to muster... well... anything. The pervasive sense of dread and doom from almost literally everything has been incredibly draining, and I've had to forgo things I enjoy (like reading!) in order to focus what little energy I have on doing my job (so I can get paid, and continue having food and shelter).

In light of that. In light of the stress I see on the faces of the people working at grocery stores, driving Amazon delivery trucks, and flipping mass market hamburgers. In light of the tenuous career choice webcomics was even before all this bullshit started. In light of all that, I want to send an extra thank you out to the people doing webcomics. The ones that have kept at it throughout the pandemic, but also the ones who had to set it aside for whatever reason. Creativity is hard under the best of circumstances, and we are about as far from that as we've been in many, many years. So thank you for however much creativity and entertainment you've been able to wring out of your brain over the past year and a half. Whether that's 365 comics, or just one. Know that I deeply appreciate your efforts, even if I haven't even been able to keep up with them, because I can only imagine how challenging that must be for you. More power to you!
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