Comic Non-Sans: Everybody’s Got One

I’ve been having under-the-radar discussions at length with fellow webcomicking sorts, discussing both the positives and negatives of the state of comicking today as opposed to when either of us started.  Lately it’s delved into the realms of such seriousness as inflated numbers, female vs. male creators and success as related to that, and then just general snark because we’re sort of like that.  Any of those issues would take their own week to explain, but one sprang to mind on my own as we were going over this in our heads.

As of a few years ago, I set up something of a system — rather, a rule — by which I would accept link exchanges from other webcomickers.  I’ve had a variety of people coming in asking for help, a push, what have you.  When I get that first request, I’ll tweet their link or drop it into a rant, or some other such “temporary” medium.  If they want to be on my blogroll, though, I have a rule: I need to see a good solid chunk of regular updating.

Is it for me to say how much is enough?  Well, not really, no.  It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been around; I consider myself a legitimate and trustworthy source of information and opinion, but certainly not an expert.  (And, sticking my neck out here, anyone who refers to themselves as a “webcomics expert” has a lot to answer for.)  Some people are going to hit the ground running from Day One — some aren’t.  So when people come to me asking for a link, I say “Show me you mean it.”  Give me something to link to, whether it be an existing log or coming back to me in a month.

Why?  Because, well, everybody’s got one.

It’s something I’ve noticed in the past, but one of those things that reoccurred to me the other day.  Webcomics (and podcasts, to a lesser degree) are the new failsafe outlet for anyone with a creative idea.  On the one hand, this is very good.  It lets people like you and me get our ideas out there without a middleman deciding for us if we’re worth the time and effort.  It’s a personal investment, yes, but one you can take or leave.

On the other … like I said, everybody’s got one.  And this isn’t an accusation of bandwagoning.  Well, it sort of is.  Well, a year ago it might have been.  But while ten-ish years ago this was a sight to see and a creative endeavor, nowadays “I have a webcomic” is likely to be greeted with either “Me, too” or “I’m thinking about starting one.”

Is this a good or a bad thing?  Well, a couple of weeks ago I addressed the issue of the underdogs not getting a fair shake at popularity (which, as I said, is an understandable but flawed complaint).  The “market” does fill up very quickly now that scanners and webspace are cheap, and — for better or for worse — talent and marketability are no longer a necessity to get people to see your work.

One of the positives of becoming a webcomicker is also one of the negatives: technically, you can quit whenever you like.  Whether that’s by way of a thought-out wrap-up, a necessary work/school-related hiatus, or “Whoops, my bad, forgot to update for a month,” your only responsibilities are to yourself and whatever you perceive to be what you owe your readers.  But this makes networking a real bugger, when it’s hard to tell which of your compatriots will still be standing come July.

A good portion of webcomicking is — as is any other non-career web-based endeavor — fueled by personal work ethic and interest.  If you’re not contracted, you have no true binding responsibility to anyone.  Me, I’m pretty sure I’d lose my mind if I had to go an update-day without something new on the site, or if I had to go away with no buffer to leave behind me.  That is one personality in a sea of personalities.  At the same time, I do get ire from the people to whom I won’t give a permanent link immediately because I don’t know if they’re here to stay.

These are, funnily enough, the people I’ll look back on in a year and see a grand total of two updates for, both within the first month.

When you can make networking work, it’s genius.  But when everybody’s got an outlet and you have no idea who’ll take advantage of it, it can be well past frustrating.  So is my request legit?  Or elitist?  Depends on how long people choose to stick around, I suppose.

Posted on May 31, 2011 at 01:00 by Kara Dennison · Permalink
In: Columns, The Written Word, Webcomics, Webcomics · Tagged with: ,