Comic Non-Sans: “Something*Positive” and Artists vs. Fans

Or: “We don’t pay you, so you owe us.”

Proximity breeds entitlement.  It’s just true.  As great as it is having The Twitters available to us, it can encourage a very negative fan behavior.  Once you have a creator or celebrity’s ear, it becomes very easy to expect them to listen to you unconditionally — and, if they do listen to you, to then expect them to take what you say to heart.  Webcomickers most certainly get the brunt of this: not only are they closer to the punters than upper-level ‘net personalities, but they also create free content.  And somewhere along the line, readers developed a mentality that webcomic creators owe them in exchange for their loyal fandom.

Some webcomickers take this in stride.  Some of us write irate articles.  And then you’ve got Randy Milholland, who has always believed in showing rather than telling.  His webcomic Something*Positive is famous — or possibly infamous — for not caring whom it offends, focusing instead on getting words out in a way that might eventually ring true to readers.  And in many cases, he takes unexpected angles.  Take for example the 2002 storyline Bitchcraft, in which he called out neither Wiccans nor critics of Wicca, but rather those within the religion who focus on pull rather than practice.  And in 2006, this storyline first backhanded the creators of Halloween “Hell Houses,” then came back around at those who judge Christians based on said “vocal minority.”  He’s a brilliant writer with zero qualms about voicing his opinions, and I’m proud to say I had the opportunity to get drunk with him.

A year and a bit ago, I had the chance to meet Randy at a convention, during which we spent time trading creepy fan stories.  (Skipping to the end, basically his trumped mine.)  I’m not sure whether it’s relieving or distressing to discover that bigger names in webcomics still have all the same problems, if not more so: that alienating, odd feeling when you’re first told by a fan in so many words that your work belongs to them, and not to you.  And, not surprisingly, Randy did address this head-on in the Kawaii of the Damned story arc in 2008.  In it, protagonists Davan and Jason are forced to come face-to-face with the rabid catgirl-fans of their own webcomic, “Neko Neko Holy-chan.”  Having their work insulted by more “professional” webcomickers (another all-too-regular occurrence), they find themselves defended by their unexpected fangirl minions, only to be told that they — the fangirls — are the true owners of the comic they love so much.  A bloodbath ensues, kawaii hearts are crushed, and Wil Wheaton loses an arm.  But so long as the message gets out, these are all acceptable sacrifices, right?

Well, Randy also has zero qualms about losing readers.

The ability to be vocal in this way is, for better or for worse, a function of a webcomic’s sub-genre.  If it is one known (like S*P) for being no-holds-barred, one can get away with it.  The readers won’t necessarily like it, but they have only themselves to blame.  But in a world where we wince every time we hear about a celebrity slighting one of their more respectable fans, none of us wants to be accused of being That Guy and not being high-up enough to warrant it.  Perhaps it’ll never change; perhaps it’s a fact of life that, once you’re known, you will acquire those more aggressive fans bit by bit.  How to deal?  Well, if you can’t reason with them, you can always just try to confuse them.

Something*Positive updates irregularly, but very frequently.  Follow Randy Milholland on Twitter, @choochoobear, to see the comics as they’re posted and to get recaps of some of his better conversations with congoers.

Posted on July 5, 2010 at 07:30 by Kara Dennison · Permalink
In: Columns, Webcomics · Tagged with: , ,

6 Responses

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by exedore. exedore said: RT @geekingoutabout: Comic Non-Sans: “Something*Positive” and Artists vs. Fans […]

  2. Written by lethalinterjection
    on 2010-07-08 at 12:06

    I read the following only a few hours after reading this update. I think it is relevant.

    “Speaking of which, five times now I've returned to the board in the last month, and all five times, I was reminded why I enjoy Twitter so much more: absolutely ZERO sense of entitlement over there. Some cats here, on my own message board, assume they're owed… well, anything. You guys are playing the old game – when I was younger and far more tolerant; when it seemed like there was all the time in the world. Newsflash for all you devils' advocates and “But I'm a TRUE fan”-ers: I'm not interested in your reindeer games. To be fair, I never was; but at least I was more polite then. Now? Approaching 40? Shuttering this board is no longer the unthinkable notion it once was. There's no more Askewniverse; the website can just as easily follow.

    We're in the second Act, folks. You like it, stick around. If not, don't bitch; just leave. A lack of gratitude is an enthusiasm-killer. Why would you wanna ruin it for everyone else?

    So go ahead: keep expressing your very important thoughts about which free, funny podcast you're being given weekly is better. Then, when it all goes away, you can express your very important thoughts about that, too. And when you're done being very important? Know that it was folks like you who sent it packing.

    I mean, we're 15 years in at this point; you still don't get where this all comes from?


    – Kevin Smith.

    I was a member of the VA board for 6-7 years or so, but have lapsed for the last 3 or so. Mostly because Smith's forums became to large, to unwieldy, and the community aspect dropped off for me. Over those 3 years I also noticed, during my occasional short visits, there has been a MAJOR increase in this entitlement (or at least a large increase in Smith's frustration at some of the board goings-on). Interesting that Twitter seems to actually be more positive for him, a semi-major (though always accessible personality) director/star. I mean it is probably due to the simple longevity of many of the posters on the board, and thus thinking they own the space, but it is still an interesting flipside from the webcomic example.

  3. Written by Trisha Lynn
    on 2010-07-08 at 12:26

    Interesting you use Smith's love of Twitter as a counter-example, because I recall something that happened recently where someone had asked him via Twitter if he'd be making a certain live SModcast public, and he said that because the live show didn't sell out, he wouldn't, as per his original deal about his live shows.

    Someone else in the U.K. groused about it, and then Smith went on a four or five Tweet tirade about how he doesn't have to upload the live shows at all because those shows are originally for those people who paid for them, and if maybe one or two live shows don't get posted online versus the TONS of other free content he provides, then the people who can't make a show should just shut up and deal. (I'm totally paraphrasing and can't be arsed to find the Tweet conversation in question.)

    My point is: No one is immune to this sense of entitlement, and I think that Kara's point is that webcomics authors/creators are more susceptible to this because they're not really famous enough to afford that extra helpful layer between themselves and their more demanding fans.

  4. Written by Kara Dennison
    on 2010-07-08 at 12:27

    I don't actually follow him on Twitter; starting to think I should. Every fanbase is going to be fairly different organically (though with these sorts of similarities at heart). I know that prior to Twitter, Milholland was getting all this crazy mess via e-mail — and I'm sure he still does in part. I don't have any true way to compare.

    But yes, one thing I've noticed is that Twitter tends to go one way or the other for any person of note. It's either a fantastic relief or a straight-up hassle. One wonders what factors dictate that.

  5. Written by lethalinterjection
    on 2010-07-08 at 17:07

    Kevin has occasionally gotten into that type of a fight. I could probably find half a dozen websites (including AICN and IMDb) that he's gotten his dander up about. I'm really not surprised to find out about this, and I doubt it is the only time. However, he probably has more followers on Twitter than he has on the board, and in general the board probably has more entitlement,

  6. Written by lethalinterjection
    on 2010-07-08 at 17:10

    In regards to IMDb and AICN and others, it was forums/comments he was responding to, not stories and the like.

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