Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Failures of Web Comics Blogs

Lately I've become aware of the fact that there are very few blogs about web comics.

Amidst the zillions of comics blogs, only about eight seem to focus predominantly on web comics. Besides this one, they are:

Blog of Last Resort - Rachel Keslensky does a comic called Last Resort. Her blog follows her comic and her education as a web comic author. Full of useful tips and how-to.

Damn Good Comics - The font size and column width require tinkering for readability. There's a good mix of news and reviews.

Digital Strips - Team written. Another well-balanced ratio of news and reviews.

Fleen - Perhaps the best-known. Often so "insider" as to be undecipherable to me. I recognize names and titles and still don't get the significance of a lot of it. Possibly infected by the self-absorption bug endemic in web comics. Serious comics creators will want to follow it regardless, if only to monitor the chatter.

Tangents - The white-on-red format murders my eyes. Robert Howard's writing really comes out on pieces that have received editorial polish, such as his very worthwhile 1/8/08 piece on web comic design.

Websnark - OK, my blog has a dumb name, too, but come on. That's poison... Posts are infrequent. More of a passionate diary than journalistic endeavor. The pieces are very long.

Zhi - Another infrequent poster, but the commentary is considered and the writing good. Again with the tiny font, but you can pump it up.

As for my own effort... I'm a guy sharing what he likes and trying not to be too critical of secondary efforts. I don't always succeed. I'm hard to please, so I think my praise means more. Ultimately my comic takes priority over the blog, and some days it shows.

My comments above are trying to capture my impressions of each blog, rather than give an accounting. I'm actually more interested in communicating my impression of web comics blogs as a whole, as seen by a comics creator. 

That impression is one of failure. Despite all the communication tools available to us:
  • Web comics blogs are mostly functioning in relative isolation. There is an incredible lack of links from comics to blogs, and from blogs to each other;
  • Blogs have failed to set up a central repository for announcements press releases, saving comics creators from duplicate effort, though this would be easy to do;
  •  Web comics blogs have failed to distinguish themselves from print comics blogs;
  • Blogs often fail to supply logos or banners that could accompany review excerpts;
  • Half of comics creators don't acknowledge or show appreciation for coverage. (This is fatal: if I alert someone to a positive review and they don't acknowledge, they won't get coverage again.)
  • A lot of energy is suddenly going into podcasting by people who need to spend a few hours watching public access cable shows.
For their part, web comics:
  • Rarely use blog coverage in promotional posts;
  • Often do not have at-the-ready review art, such as a comic logo or gallery;
  • Fail to link to web comics blogs;
  • Rarely set up a media email address for bloggers to use;
  • Are sloppy about responding to email;
  • Seem unwilling to exert themselves on behalf of web comics blogs.
You usually only see this level of collaborative failure in groups where the people really don't want to work together, and I am sure that's what's going on blog-to-blog. Turf instincts and, ironically, deficiencies in communication skills are effectively Balkanizing web comics blogs, all of which are increasingly obsolete in the face of new communications options. Self-absorption by some comics creators leaves a trail of bad experiences, to the point where bloggers are loath to reach out to creators.

Sounds like my colleagues and I better put our heads together, huh? It would be interesting: there are incredible opportunities emerging right now. The sad truth is they won't read this, just as until fairly recently I didn't read them. It's probably going to require creative destruction to bring change. Bring it on!