Comic Non-Sans: The Growth of the Ask Blog

I still consider myself very new to Tumblr.  Every time I find myself inadvertently wasting my whole afternoon surfing around on it, I learn something new — be it about the Tumblr community itself or individual fandoms.  I’ve mentioned before that people are using their Tumblrs for distribution and meme creation, and that it’s an interesting way to get one’s work seen.  (Though I’ve encountered recently issues, as might be expected, with lack of credit and/or image theft.  That’s a whole other kettle of fish, though.)

Artist John Joseco recruited me recently to do proofreading and general idea-making on an “ask blog.”  I’d seen mention of that phenomenon before (generally when users would respond to questions saying “This isn’t an ask blog”), but I was never entirely sure what it entailed.

Basically, an “ask blog” is a Tumblr account devoted to answering random reader questions from the point of view of a fictional character — occasionally an original character within a fandom, but more often than not an established character or variant thereof.  Specifically, though, the questions are answered in picture form — generally a single panel with text, but if a question is particularly good (or bad) an artist might go into a full-length strip.

Now, I can’t really link JJ’s because it’s all sorts of NSFW, but I can give you two other fine examples:

Ask Usagi: Questions answered by Sailormoon, run by artist Yunyin.  This one shows just how much art within the same ask blog can vary, between quick sketchy line art and straight-up good God is that pretty.  The mode of response changes up, too — anywhere between sweet and snarky, to fit the question.

Ask My Little Chubbies: A stylized MLP:FiM ask blog run by artist Rai.  Here we have a wide range of everything from incredibly cute to really very cute indeed.  As one would expect from the art style, the answers tend to be benign and silly.  No matter what the question.

From a writer/artist standpoint, I really like this idea.  It’s a neat form of improv, and it makes you keep both a running sense of character and an open mind.  Yeah, you’re going to get anonymous messages that are pointless, annoying, or abusive, but if you have a popular enough blog you’re going to have more ideas than you’ll know what to do with.  (I’ve seen JJ’s inbox — it’s ridiculous, and he can always find something that kick-starts his creativity.)  There’s also the feeling of a more free-form update schedule — though if one doesn’t update for a while, the readers do say something about it.

Some of these owners amaze me with their speed, sense of humor, and ability to handle some of the weird stuff people throw at them.  I’ve seen the popularity of ask blogs grow exponentially recently, and I’m sure it will only keep growing.  How long until your fandom ends up with one?

I’d say keep checking every five minutes or so.

Posted on December 20, 2011 at 01:00 by Kara Dennison · Permalink
In: Columns, The Written Word, Webcomics, Webcomics · Tagged with: , ,