Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Entering Professional Webcomics from Other Comics Fields

Jeph Jacques of Quintessential Content offers a valuable post on webcomic economics, in reaction to print comic creators' perceptions. It's a good contribution and I recommend it.

It's true: print folks do have a lot of misunderstandings about how webcomics work and what makes them fun. Jacques' piece may be enlightening to some.

To some degree, I have a different take on it. It's not that I disagree, but I think there are underlying causes for their position.

Webcomics, comic books, and syndicate cartooning are very different dreams. Most people are in those specialties because it offers them what they want. Changing to a different form is not easy.

I think that a lot of griping about webcomics is from lack of information, but I think some of it, legitimately, comes from fear and attachment to a different way.Webcomic quirks become the scapegoat for why they don't suit some artists.

For example, some people say things like, "I don't want to be a t-shirt salesman" as a way of saying, "I don't want to be in webcomics." They emotions heat up and everyone argues about t-shirts.

The major differences of the medium, the sketchy demographics, the failure rate and the learning curve might be enough to put some people off, but there is another major issue: webcomics are hard work. Webcomickers must be entrepreneurs managing computers, hosts, graphic design, comic production in all its steps, advertising, monetizing, record keeping and much more. Some of us find the dynamics rewarding and for others, well, they just want to pencil and attend the occasional meeting, because that's what suits them.

I think webcomic creativity is notably different from other types of comic creativity, though it still has heaps in common. Pug and I glided right onto the web, with little hesitation. But our ventures in animation, by comparison, left us unsatisfied.

Jeph Jacques also talks about merchandizing, and though I think the complaints he reports hearing are a way of saying "This profession is not for me," let's get one thing straight. If I give you a comic on your monitor and sell you that same comic on a t-shirt, I'm still selling my comic. Agreed: there are some uninspiring t-shirt designs out there. T-shirt design is tough, and requires Eureka moments, pre-culling and rounds of modification. Sometimes ideas that didn't land in our comic make it onto a shirt and it sells anyway. We still conceived it.

We haven't opened a store for our webcomics yet, so I'm ahead of my own experience, but we have sold shirts online. The people who appreciate them appreciate them in the same way they dig our comics.

I have written before why I don't think we'll see many print folks jump to the web . But we might see more if they'd calm down about selling shirts and free comics, and simply have a stab at doing an online story, perhaps as a three month trial. (The longer, the better, unless you just don't like it.)

Find out exactly what kind of webcomic you can create, and you may stop focusing on the parts that hardly matter.