Preview Blog: Why are webcomics terrible?

Season 2, Episode 1 Preview blog – by Luke S
Listen to the podcast here.

So, season two of the webcomics company podcast! As we’ll discuss in episode one we want to make the podcast a more interactive experience with you the listener (hello!) – as well as us talking at ya though your iWotsit earphones, we want to hear what you think. Heck, half the time you probably know better than us on these things. To that end each episode is going to be framed around a question, and for week one we’ve got a nice, provocative one:

Why are webcomics terrible?

OK, let me quickly clarify here. We don’t want to discuss (in this episode at least) the quality of the webcomics out there, but instead the merits and pitfalls of webcomics as a medium, mostly as opposed to their dead-tree counterparts. I’ll run through a handful I can think of now to kick off discussion, we’ll be going wider and deeper in scope when we record. A more descriptive title would be “What are the pros and cons of web and print-based comic distribution models?”, but that’s obviously a lot less fun.

The big con, obviously, is the finances. Get a hundred people to buy a printed book of your comic and you’re quids in. Get a hundred, or even a thousand, visits on your website and you might have a few pennies in ad revenue. Webcomics that do make money tend to do so by selling books and associated merchandise to a fraction of their readership. In @badmachinery’s words “Making a living from webcomics is like being a plumber who fixes a customer’s pipes for free then sells them a sandwich to make ends meet.

However it is generally easier, faster, and cheaper to make a website than to self-publish a book. A website can reach anyone with a internet connection. LukeSurl.com has been read in almost every country in the world (come on Chad, what did I ever do to you?), which is, to a person drawing doodles in his bedroom, pretty dang cool.

As for the medium itself, there’s nothing like having a full-colour shiny physical comic in your hands – but there’s also a load of things you can do with a website that are simply impossible in print.

Updates? A webcomic will drip-drip little drops of comic to the reader a few times a week, whereas a print comic can collect arcs and chapters into issues, but then leave readers with months for any more content. Which is best? Doubt there’s a straight answer there.

So, a lot to talk about, and I know there’s many, many other directions this conversation could go down. What do you think? Is your comic wholly a web comic, exclusively a print comic, or a mix of the two? Why? How about eBooks, which seem to be something of a halfway house between web and print?

We’ll be recording on Thursday eve, so if you have thoughts you’d like us to consider in the podcast, please share them with us by then (commenting on this post is probably the easiest way!) Podcast should be in your iTunes and stuff Monday morning.

Cheers for listening!

Luke S

5 Responses to “Preview Blog: Why are webcomics terrible?”

  1. smbhax26 June 2012 at 02:34 #

    I’m currently web-only and am not planning to do a book, I guess mostly because a) I have no idea how to make a book and b) lots of webcomics seem to spend a lot of time but on but not really make much money from their books. Whereas I do make money from web ads, and then there are other non-book things I’ll be getting going like online subscriptions (no ads, bigger comic images) and selling the original artwork.

    Of course there’s no reason I couldn’t, in theory, throw a book in on top of that, but eh… I don’t seem to have the book urge that a lot of webcomic authors have, in fact I picked a page format that was sort of intentionally pro-monitor, anti-book.

  2. Tara Tallan27 June 2012 at 00:45 #

    On the other hand, I have always had books as a goal, probably because I was in the self-published comic biz well before webcomics became a thing. I consider my webcomic to be an important method of advertising for the graphic novel, a way of building an audience to sell to. I felt the same about bimonthly “floppy” comic issues. I didn’t make much money on them, but they were necessary advertising for the eventual collected trade paperback. With the floppy comics the way to build a readership (and good faith with the retailers who would stock your comic) was to announce a publishing schedule and stick to it. It’s just the same with webcomics– there’s no quicker way to lose readers than to miss updates.

    Anyway, for me the webcomic and the printed comic go hand in hand. Even the bigger publishers are looking at webcomics now as a way to build an audience for their new books, so I suppose I’m not the only one!

  3. Tony DiGerolamo27 June 2012 at 22:08 #

    Webcomics are far superior to print now. The MAJOR problem with print since the 70’s has always been the cover price. The biggest problem as a print publisher is always the print costs. Webcomics eliminate both these problems.

    It’s not that webcomics suck, it’s just that you’re seeing more of a creator’s development phase than you would with print. Since you were limited in what you can publish due to money, you’d have to choose only a small amount. Webcomics keep the bar so low, you can publish anything and because of this, fans get to see way more material than they would otherwise see. This isn’t an increase in what “sucks” its an overall increase of volume of material. Subjectively, most artwork or creative endeavors are not going to appeal to individuals. So instead of a few dozen print comics “sucking” every week at the comic book store, you now have thousands upon thousands of webcomics every DAY, most of which, are going to “suck” subjectively to the average viewer.

  4. Max Vaehling28 June 2012 at 15:10 #

    Like Tara, I came from self-publishing into webcomics, so the printed (or, recently, digitally collected) book has always been a goal of its own. But I’ve never seen the webcomic as advertising. It’s one line of presentation, and the print book is another. Also, at cons I find that both seem to have overlapping but different readerships.

    I don’t do much online that I can’t do in print. Very occasionally, I’ll animate a gif or turn a page into a jquery game. But to me, it’s all about the graphic storytelling, and there’s always a danger of getting too gimmicky and distracting from the story. What I do like about web that print doesn’t cover is trying stuff that’s not all fleshed out yet – just get the idea out there and see what works. A lot of merch postcards started that way. Of course, more often than not, the reason is deadline trouble rather than experimentation.

    But that’s actually another thing I like about webcomics – being on a regular schedule forces me to put in The Work every week, no matter what – even if it’s just a sketch. Quite often, those last-minutes things turned into the most sophisticated pinups and montages just because I didn’t want them to look like rush jobs. So it’s forcing a lot of creativity out of me that would otherwise just go, dunno, wherever untapped creativity goes.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Luke Surl Comics - Blog: Cast Away - 25 June 2012

    […] You may remember a while back me and some other comicers made The Webcomics Company, a podcast by and for people who make comics. We’ll be launching season two shortly, and if you’re interested in that kinda stuff, check out the Season Two, Episode One preview blog wot I wrote “Why Are Webcomics Terrible?” […]

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