Sunday, January 8, 2012


The best thing i've said in the past about webcomics is that they represent an unregulated mode of expression. This, as is so often the case, is also the worst thing about them. There is little or no money to be made, so businesses tend to stay out of it and the artists can rarely be said to be out-competing each other, especially given the ease of access which allows bored cubicle-fillers to surf through dozens of comics daily. So, anyone from grizzled, near-respectable artists to twelve-year-olds with leet photoshop skillz can slap something online. The promise of the internet is fulfilled.
This means, of course, that good comics are like the proverbial needles in a haystack of catgirls, dragonball-z ripoffs and utterly pointless rambling about me and my buddies playing video games. In this scarcity, they differ from the rest of human culture only in that the needles are not being aggressively exterminated by cartels of hay-hungry worms with financial backing. In terms of intellectual or entertainment return per time investment, i've found them about as rewarding as looking for good music, movies or games.

Certainly, attempts to make it big abound. In the absence of investors and advertisement, marketing commonly takes the form of pandering. I don't entirely agree with one part of that commentary, though. Good taste, in anything, frivolous or not, does qualify me as discriminating and elite. It's not the only criterion, but even something as trivial and ephemeral as games, anime or a few scribblings posted online can show quality, and this quality can be appreciated through intelligence. Art is expression, and even ideas which do not surprise or challenge can be expressed in a clever, novel or amusing way. There is a difference between self-serving facetiousness and honest, involved, informed opinion. We often go to artists because they are capable of expressing our own thoughts better than we can.

Given the overlap in internet audience, it's not surprising that comics about or inspired by games and anime are among the most successful. It's also not surprising that they take up the most frequent form of pandering. What is interesting is that the authors sometimes outgrow their audience and move on to create better stories. Others, despite being at least partly involved in the whole subculture, seem to put deliberate effort into not allowing their work to get pigeonholed as 'gamer comics'.
They may not be Shakespeare or Monet, but at least some of these people are putting out some actual attempts at creativity.

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