Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Frivolous or Credible: Pick One

There is a movement afoot elsewhere on the web to compile a list called "The 100 Greatest Webcomics."
Determined as always to spoil everyone's fun, I will tell you why I think this is not a good idea:
  • There are some good comics on the list. To embalm them as being so worthy while they are still running is to exert a kind of pressure that is usually detrimental. It's the same kiss of death that applied to the saying "The next Bob Dylan" at one time;
  • They are disproportionately a snapshot of stuff that is peaking now (which may explain point 1, and why they tend to tank after being celebrated);
  • They create a perplexing situation for future webcomics. Do they have to destroy the list to earn their keep, or merely rewrite it?
  • Although it's not as subjective as some people say, it is still very subjective, and can never reach final draft, except by declaration;
  • It is contaminated with some really bad comics, who have bullied people into believing they are good when they are meretricious;
  • Some of them are atrocious circulation liars, too;
  • Those bad comics will have to be outed in scathing retrospective reviews, harming the list and the bad comics;
  • It will surely inspire another such list to compete with it, with certain grievances adjusted;
  • It is throwing gold at the Rockefellers, which is my way of saying, successful comics don't need the help and it impoverishes the contenders;
  • There are more worthwhile list candidates, such as the 50 Best Webcomics You've Never Heard Of, or Ten Great, Small Webcomics. Some of these have been done, which means they were picked over the 100 Greatest for a reason;
  • Another reason this is folly is it encourages laziness. Some artists are rather unproductive, and own up to it publicly. I sense that if you give them any incentive to slack off more, they will become dormant;
  • It's not dynamic (even though I said above that it can never reach final draft. A much more interesting version would be a list on a web site, with visitors allowed to make limited changes;
  • It conflicts with a scholarly approach, and therefore will never be "final." If we used a more scholarly scoring system, like audience over the lifetime of the comic, the results would be different. Therefore, another argument is made indicating subjective over objective editing;
  • There are certainly some comics that would be deemed worthy if only they were a little older and a little more known. This means the list will be instantly obsolete;
  • Since the creators of these lists routinely declare (correctly) that there is little to differentiate a title at 87 and another at 89, the list is unfair to 101 and 102 at minimum, because they belong on the list as much as 99 and 100;
  • "Greatness" is not defined. Some people think xkcd is great because it has a high readership, so they read it too. My favorite is the person who comments, "Hmmm - I'm not sure what the criteria for this list is supposed to be..." then goes on to throw out various titles;
  • This is the sort of puff piece editorial gambit used by journalistic lightweights like Rolling Stone and Maxim. It doesn't make us look good;
  • It may, seriously, route readers where they are least needed, impoverishing rising titles;
  • It will become a quickie reference point for the major media, even when it is quite dated, resulting in lazy, redundant coverage;
  • There are sprites on the list. If you are doing a sequential art list, call it that;
  • There is no way to compare Perry Bible Fellowship with any outstanding long form comic. It can't be done;
  • It makes us look like a bunch of prize-chasing jamokes, who lack the dignity to exempt themselves. I am fortunate that my own record of inclusion rejection is long enough to make my policy known, lest I be accused of jealousy. I believe it would be both an honor and an embarrassment to be on such a list, with embarrassment the dominant emotion. We already have a reputation for being juvenile -- this won't help.
ComixTalk is virtually unnavigable, so though it sickens me, I'll provide the link: List entry #13, 100 Worst Ideas of 2008.