Thursday, November 20

I like webcomics. I'm not equipped to offer any kind of authoritative history or critique of the medium, because I get bored way too easily, but I really like webcomics. It is pretty clear to me that we're in some kind of Golden Age for the things.

Ok, actually, I don't give a crap about webcomics per se. I like comic strips. It's just that almost all of the really interesting ones are on the web now, where you can swear and know things about math and make quasi-Victorian robot porn, and you don't have to fight for space with the fossilized remains of Blondie or the lingering horror that is Cathy.

All you really have to do is make a comic strip, and people will probably read it. I'll bet this isn't exactly a bed of roses for producers, because making comics is suspiciously like work, and if you don't give your stuff away for free people are pretty much going to blink a couple of times and click their way over to Penny Arcade instead, and in order to continue eating regularly you probably have to either be really good at selling swag that no one (strictly speaking) needs or you had better hang on to that day job.

But it sure is a pretty great time to read webcomics. It's probably the best time to be a person who loves comic strips since whenever it was that people read Gasoline Alley and Prince Valiant on purpose. This could be the closest thing that actually exists to that story about the Internet coming along and resurrecting through democratization a medium long held hostage by a bunch of short-sighted, censorious, rent-collecting swill merchants.

Here's a disorganized and incomplete list of some comics I read or have read. Some of them might not be very good, many of them are awesome, a few might not even exist any more.

There's a fuzziness in whether some of these properly constitute "strips" or something closer to incrementally updated "books", but I think the reason that stands out for me is that I'm approaching this all as someone who came to comics through Calvin & Hobbes and Bloom County, rather than The Uncanny X-Men or whatever. I suppose if you take newspaper strips/panels and comic books as the basic structural poles of (American, mainstream) comics, then lots of webcomics gravitate towards a hybrid form where:

  1. Things that would once maybe have been newspaper strips now have archives to provide context and a more focused readership, so by default they can get away with heavier continuity and substantially more self-reference.
  2. Things that would once maybe have been books or self-contained graphic novels now get released to the public at a pace and in chunks that're closer to the daily or weekly newspaper comic.

Man, I should shut up before I make any more unsupported assertions.