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  #1  
Old 01-11-2016, 02:11 PM
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Default Are webcomics dead?

And by that incendiary title, I actually mean: Did webcomics fail?

Did they fail to be anything more than webcomics? Did they ever become anything more than a generational fascination? Are they important, will they ever be important, to more than a narrow slice of us that were a certain age at a certain time? Did streaming video kill the webcomics star?

To which I answer: yes, no, no and yes.

Penny Arcade and its ilk seem as hopelessly outdated as Dagwood now, trapped in a Neverland nightmare of endless late-90s console gaming, where everyone lives with their friends in some vague college-esque setting and no more pressing matters than the latest video game release shall ever be relevant. Want to make fun of "safe spaces"? We built our own long ago.

At this lofty date, all of Scott Kurtz's bluster about the medium seems almost quaint. "The digital comics revolution is here!", he yelled smugly, assured that the internet would forever be enjoyed on screens that could comfortably hold what was then known as a comic strip. His cause was not the future's. His cause was the "now", which is now the "then". I have seen no compelling webcomic mobile app. Must we be as cavemen and load them individually on a web browser? "Make your own with an RSS reader!" someone might say, assuming anyone would care enough to ever do that.

Perhaps a few have learned the proper lessons. Perhaps a few shall carry the torch. That's all it ever will be, never again a bonfire.
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Old 01-11-2016, 02:27 PM
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Why are Kurtz and PA representative of the whole medium? What about Scary Go Round, Cucumber Quest, Back, Octopus Pie, Travelogue, Vattu, Hark! A Vagrant, etc.?
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  #3  
Old 01-11-2016, 02:31 PM
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Yeah, I don't how to approach this, because the question itself is loaded. What did webcomics fail at? You can just as easily starve to death producing webcomics as you would producing any other kind of comics. That's equal opportunity starvation.
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  #4  
Old 01-11-2016, 02:34 PM
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Not to speak for TG but the difference there is that Kurtz spent most of a decade talking like he was the digital John the Baptist.

Scott McCloud at least gave us longform strips and the 24-hour comic.
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  #5  
Old 01-11-2016, 02:35 PM
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Web comics have always been analogous to indie-comics, that's something that's never changed. And if your barometer of success is how centralized and aggregated access to individual comics are, that's more a maybe than anything else. There's been a few (not many) success stories of people who have taken their webcomics and gone on to larger if not better pursuits. I mean, shit, Andrew Hussie is probably sitting in the back and giggling, having parlayed something of a media empire out of poorly drawn MSPaint (yes, I know most of it's out of Photoshop) gifs. If you go abroad, to Korea especially, there are a number of centralized/aggregated webcomic services that host any number of long-running and successful comics.

The actual question you should be asking is if the entrenchment of the Internet into most aspects of daily life has changed the parameters of success for independent creative endeavors of not only the webcomic type but of any kind. And it's pretty clear the answer is yes. aivi & surrashu started out making remixes of VG music, and now compose the soundtrack to one of the most popular cartoons in the US. Brian Clevinger became an award-winning print comic author, and so on.

Penny Arcade is kind of an odd example, as they stood on the cusp of that transition and backed away from it. I think Gabe and Tycho realized that they were more comfortable in their niche and remained there, which works for them.
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Old 01-11-2016, 02:48 PM
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"Is X dead?" is a persistent genre of cultural commentary. Let me give it a wobbly, lazy shot.

There’s always going to be an audience for web comics, just like there still is for print comics.

I don’t think the medium has pushed its boundaries or exhausted itself or become outdated the way painting supposedly did with the invention of photography.

Webcomics seemingly rode a wave of prominence in the 2000s due to a number of factors that are now not favorable to furthering its ascension or even stabilization.

I predict, if it hasn’t happened already, webcomics will go back to being a niche market with a minority of enthusiasts, now all of them older and grouchier and ever more nostalgic for 8-bit gaming.

Or… a new generation will shake off the dust of those white nerdy guys born in the early 1980s with the Nintendo gaming fetish and push the medium to other pathways.

Sort of like the American New Wave in cinema during the 1960s and 1970s. Or the generation of indie filmmakers in the early 1990s.
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Old 01-11-2016, 02:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dizzy View Post
Webcomics seemingly rode a wave of prominence in the 2000s due to a number of factors that are now not favorable to furthering its ascension or even stabilization.
For example; you are no longer a teenager.
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  #8  
Old 01-11-2016, 03:53 PM
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Oversaturation.
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  #9  
Old 01-11-2016, 03:55 PM
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Why do I always have to keep asking you to elaborate? You know what, I'm not doing this.
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  #10  
Old 01-11-2016, 03:55 PM
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sprite comics certainly did
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  #11  
Old 01-11-2016, 03:59 PM
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Quote:
where everyone lives with their friends in some vague college-esque setting and no more pressing matters than the latest video game release shall ever be relevant.
i mean, isn't this what giantbomb and roosterteeth* and things like that are nowadays?


*editor's note: i don't actually know what a roosterteeth is
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  #12  
Old 01-11-2016, 04:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pajaro Pete View Post
sprite comics certainly did
Hey now, my comic's doing just -

Oh, no, wait, misread that, never mind, carry on
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  #13  
Old 01-11-2016, 05:10 PM
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I sure hope they're not dead, because a chunk of my career and livelihood depend on being able to make any kind of comic I want without a publisher telling me it's too stupid!

Webcomics are indie comics. Some of them make it big, some of them don't. I generally like them more than zines because they don't become clutter and they're free to read and they're nigh-infinitely accessible. Those last parts were really important to me when I was growing up, because I read the comics that were free*: strips in the newspaper, webcomics, and books checked out from the library.

*free to me, anyway. Of course, my parents helped.

The idea that webcomics are dead is really odd. Seems healthy enough to me! Webcomics are just one branch of the indie comic family tree, with some people staying with them long-term and others using them as platforms to jump to new projects. As long as there are still indie comics and the internet, it feels like webcomics are always going to be around in some capacity.

As for "failing"? Yeah, that's loaded. What were they supposed to do, exactly? Did they fail you in some way? What were your expectations for them? To destroy print comics?
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  #14  
Old 01-11-2016, 05:15 PM
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Webcomics that were always crap are what's dead. Every flash-in-the-pan Penny Arcade ripoff and the churning throng of aimless "gag a day" comics were murdered in their sleep the moment Steve Jobs put the App Store in everyone's pocket and we're just now realizing it.

The traditional yardsticks by which webcartoonists measure their work (art style, joke craft, and frequency of updates) have been revealed as meaningless. And why? Because nobody cares how smart your Batman and Star Trek jokes are, nor how often you tell them. You can paint the most beautiful masterpieces and post them every day if you want to, but when the people can get the same jokes you're telling from literally anything, anywhere, any time, no matter where they are, then there is absolutely no reason to click into a singular webcomic.

The only thing that truly matters are compelling characters and how they react to the things that happen to them. For this reason, anybody who seriously wants to publish indie comics must rely on their own voice and do something nobody else is capable of doing.

Comics remain the most cost-effective means of visual storytelling and an entire generation of artists squandered it. That's why webcomics are "dead". Because the vast majority of self-styled cartoonists don't actually have a single good idea kicking around in their head and aren't interested in expressing one.
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  #15  
Old 01-11-2016, 05:37 PM
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DZ, Kate Beaton kind of took your thesis out behind the barn and shot it
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  #16  
Old 01-11-2016, 06:13 PM
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Quote:
murdered in their sleep
Quote:
vast majority of self-styled cartoonists don't actually have a single good idea kicking around in their head
Quote:
there is absolutely no reason to click into a singular webcomic
Quote:
out behind the barn and shot it
Is everyone feeling HAPPY today?
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  #17  
Old 01-11-2016, 06:40 PM
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I'd say the drive to do interesting things with the medium died a few years ago, after barely anyone made any real attempts to go anywhere with it. Offhand, the 3 big examples that really come to mind are-

Scott McCloud's ideas, which a few people still try to emulate now and then but never seem to find success with.

Kid Radd, which not only managed to include a ton of animation, but had this huge commitment to minimizing its own bandwidth that seems less vital now, but at the time was seriously something more people needed to get behind.

The whole Quest scene that gave birth to Homestuck. Mixed media, audience participation, and... let's call it Unconventional Formatting. Plus a soundtrack, that's always nice.

Everyone else though seemed to fall very quickly into this model of writing a graphic novel (or series of X panel strips) designed from the ground up to be compiled into books, but then posted in this one page/strip per day/week/month schedule, with very few people making any attempt at all to make each update stand on its own.

And we're still suffering from that thing Sluggy Freelance really seemed to popularize where people can't make up their mind on whether they're doing light comedy or action-drama and don't seem to realize that picking just one is even an option.

AND it's exceptionally rare for anyone to present a reasonable system for reading through the archives. mspaintadventures.com has the only sane solution I can really think of to not losing your place, and seeing proper breakdowns into chapters/storylines in an archive is nearly unheard of.
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  #18  
Old 01-11-2016, 07:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Googleshng View Post
And we're still suffering from that thing Sluggy Freelance really seemed to popularize where people can't make up their mind on whether they're doing light comedy or action-drama and don't seem to realize that picking just one is even an option.
But I like that sort of thing. It works for a lot of anime and manga, and on that note, Steven Universe. Though I do admit that sometimes a work goes too extreme in both directions, giving me mental whiplash and resulting in me really hating it.
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Old 01-11-2016, 07:35 PM
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It's also weird that there's some prevailing attitude that a good webcomic can't just be, I dunno, a good comic on the web? Like if you're not breaking barriers and remaking the form and becoming Scott McCloud Jr. with infinite canvases and multimedia experiences, then, man, are webcomics even trying, what a bunch of losers!!

I'm not against innovation! But sometimes, I just like a good story, characters, jokes, or information in a form I'm familiar with. I don't need a book or a movie to melt my brain and make me doubt reality and rethink every paradigm in storytelling for me to like it.

And yes, I'm being defensive about this.

I guess I just missed whatever zeitgeist put this idea into people's heads about webcomics? I guess from blowhards claiming that it was a bold new world that would change everything and make all other comics obsolete? For me, they're just... indie comics on the internet. And anyone can make them without being told that they can't. Sometimes that comes at the cost of quality, but sometimes you get stuff that's really interesting and weird! And that's great!
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Old 01-11-2016, 07:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chu View Post
But I like that sort of thing. It works for a lot of anime and manga, and on that note, Steven Universe. Though I do admit that sometimes a work goes too extreme in both directions, giving me mental whiplash and resulting in me really hating it.
There's a difference between being an action comedy and what you saw all over the place in like, 2002, where a bland two dudes and a couch comic would suddenly have cyborg ninjas and full splash pages that said only END BOOK ONE before never updating again. That shit ate a lot of poor to middling comics alive
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Old 01-11-2016, 09:37 PM
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Last time I went to TCAF, the biggest and most vibrant section was the webcomic floor. And a ton of the guests worked in webcomics. I think the medium is still vibrant. The success of people like Randall Munroe, Ryan North and Kate Beaton, all of whom make very "webby" comics seems to speak to this as well.
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  #22  
Old 01-11-2016, 09:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chu View Post
I guess I just missed whatever zeitgeist put this idea into people's heads about webcomics? I guess from blowhards claiming that it was a bold new world that would change everything and make all other comics obsolete? For me, they're just... indie comics on the internet. And anyone can make them without being told that they can't. Sometimes that comes at the cost of quality, but sometimes you get stuff that's really interesting and weird! And that's great!
Pretty sure it traces back to that one book from Scott McCloud putting grand visions in everyone's heads. Maybe some similar speculators nobody really remembers.

There is, indeed, nothing at all wrong with people going "here's some comics I drew, I'm putting them on the internet so you can read them" though and I think it's sort of an assumed point for this thread that it's pretty rad people have this fancy new (well, OK, not so new, it's been 20 years) means of getting their work in front of new eyes without a publisher.

That said it DOES bother me though that proper archiving is still beyond the vast majority of people doing webcomics. If anything it's getting worse lately. I've seen a fair share of people who just throw each page up on tumblr, with infinite-scrolling archives, so you're really screwed if you want to read it all in sequence.
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  #23  
Old 01-11-2016, 09:51 PM
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Others may disagree, but in my mind, a webcomic is something besides simply a comic on the web.

Webcomics, as they were self-styled, traded very heavily on their being new media. Once new media became just, well, the media, that distinction was scrubbed away. They lived and died on the merits of their comics, not on the fact that they represented the future.

With very few substitutes, the old guard of webcomic artists are seen, at best, as pathetic. Some are outright reviled. Penny Arcade is generally only discussed on this very forum (a stalwart fortress of just the kind of audience that their comics used to draw) when they've posted something tone deaf or offensive. Sluggy Freelance's continued existence is a joke. The less said about Mega Tokyo, the better. Scott Kurtz is a kooky old failed prophet.

Only someone like John Allison, who has put so much effort into his artistic improvement is still appreciated. That's the rare exception from the olden days.

I'd love to see some kind of data on the ages of webcomic readers. My guess is that it falls off precipitously below a certain threshold. Not to sound too much like an old man, but I just don't see today's youth having an extra interest in them. Sure, there will be some who enjoy them more than passively, but the momentum has shifted.

There's still good comics online and in print! People that like comics will find them and read them and that's great. Comics, themselves, are obviously not dead. It's just that fervor that allowed webcomics to punch above their weight class, and claim to be this whole other thing, that's gone.
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  #24  
Old 01-11-2016, 10:54 PM
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Small press publishers and Image (risen as Lazarus) are starting to carve out space and airtime for independent comics, whose creators might have otherwise focused on a webcomic; or at least, a social-media-centric web presence with comics. Previously it was that or fucking Tokyopop (dig, Lazarus, dig).

On the subject of social media: I think the Penny Arcade model of "webcomics" was married to a model of the internet that no longer exists, where you rely on a hosting service like Drunkduck or Smackjeeves until you "make it" and get a website of your own, and any engagement with the surrounding culture happens through webrings (early 00s) or vbulletin forums like these (late 00s). Social media has mostly supplanted this model, Tumblr and Twitter especially. While I hate the way those websites are run and managed, it seems like they've made it easier for artists to get their name out, which is a good thing.

There are certainly a lot more web artists doing professional work nowadays, like Hastings & North on Marvel comics, or KC Green, Meredith Gran and North again on the comic tie-ins for cartoon properties, but most of them came from the pre-social media webcomix generation? Maybe the oldest webcomics like PVP or User Friendly were the fluke, and only maintained a readerbase past 2001 through sheer ceolacanth inertia?

I'm certain we'll see many more webcomics in the future, because "art school side project that metastasizes and survives long past graduation" is a tale as old as art school
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Old 01-11-2016, 11:06 PM
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Aside: As somebody whose first two posts on this forum were in defense of "Your Webcomic Is Bad and You Should Feel Bad," I'm glad that whatever iteration of webcomic culture what birthed "Your Webcomic is Bad and You Should Feel Bad" is fucking dead
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  #26  
Old 01-11-2016, 11:37 PM
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All commercial art is a pretense for selling t-shirts anyway.
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Old 01-12-2016, 01:03 AM
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Given that the main opposition guys like Scott Kurtz were railing against was the newspaper comic, I'm pretty confident in saying webcomics are doing much better as an artform and a business than that.
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  #28  
Old 01-12-2016, 02:30 AM
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I know I read about two webcomics now when I used to read twenty but I can put that down to aging
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  #29  
Old 01-12-2016, 02:44 AM
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I only read Whomp
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  #30  
Old 01-12-2016, 05:48 AM
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Most two guys on a couch gamer comics were always doomed.
But webcomics are fine.

























PS 8 bit theater was good.

Last edited by BEAT; 01-12-2016 at 05:49 AM. Reason: YEAH I SAID IT I DON'T GIVE A FUCK
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