Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The "Cranky Webcartoonist" in Perspective

I feel strongly enough about this comment that I don't want to waste it. Though it was intended for Joey Manley on Talk About Comic, doing battle with the dysfunctional log-in process there is too time consuming.

So go read Joey's piece, or be content with this summary:

Webcomics people are grumpy. This is due to relentless internet criticism.

It's also due to people trying to get a rise.

If Joey's blog's comment process wasn't so screwed up, this is what I would have said:

I'm sorry, Joey, but I think your conclusions are a tiny cause, not a major cause, and that the problem is isolated to a narrow segment.

Try this answer: webcartoonists, like many artists, tend to be weak at critical analysis. As a result, they often perceive criticism as personal attacks, and become riled. The more juvenile the temperament, the greater the acting out.

Supplementary answers include the fact that we have to wear so many hats, not just for the comic but for the site and store and community, and that sets us up for frustration in the areas where we are weak. There are solutions, but never the perfect blend.

But most important the company you keep. Much of the old guard are running out of steam just when bold strokes and innovative thinking are required. Evolution is vexing them, especially ones with poor business skills as well as talent and creativity deficits. In a very short time, they've gone from thinking they could control who gets to be popular to scrambling to compete -- and doing a bad job of it. Not all, of course. Many. It's become obvious that their historical claims are inflated, so they are now all rushing to Twitter to befriend Wil Wheaton, so he can save them. This would make any grinch grouchier.

Surveying the scene, I'd say it's your pals who are cranky. I myself am having a good time, and look forward to fascinating opportunities ahead. I am dazzled by the creative people I am working with on various projects, and the potential of the medium. "Relentless internet criticism" is best buffered by time spent helping others, building a record of acts that reflect on you as a person who will assist others with their dreams. It creates a buffer of people who provide emotional support against jerks. It seems we only talk when I can help you, but when I request a moment of brain time, the answers are terse, the tone distant. Attempts to throw you a good turn seem to go unrecognized, though our total interactions have been too few to form a meaningful opinion.

I have met a few cranky "new wave" creators, but far fewer than I'd expect based on the general population. If you are surrounded by cranky webcartoonists, you may be running with the wrong crowd.

Thanks for a thoughtful piece even if we are fated not to overlap a great deal in our opinions..


Note: This section contains a revision, as I have replaced a few sentences that were weakly written and struck the wrong tone. For details, see comments.

Is it just me, or have there been a lot of backwards-looking webcomics commentaries lately? I know the best projects of the webcomic new wave have yet to touch down, but is it really enjoyable meditating on the failures of most pioneers to capitalize on their early arrival to the the genre? Can't you comment on the successes and what made them rather than spend print on the obvious: that a lack of vision or talent brought the end game to the lesser players, not fate, fans, criticism or other scapegoats.

I read on Digital Strips that Randall Munroe will self-publish an anthology of xkcd, and that some major media are weighing in with smug opinions. Personally, my esteem for Munro just rose twenty points. I have entered the commercial arena, and exited, in favor of self-publishing everything I've done for over 20 years. I think it's a clever idea and a powerful rebuke to commercial practices that ruin the design, quality and art of comics if allowed to assume control. I've never been interested in speculation on ball cards or comic books, but if you buy one, store it with care. A large print run will reduce the value, but a first edition is sure to rise in value, and that's kind of neat to watch even if you never plan to sell.

And wow, the ignorant, nasty comments on The Beat, if you want to see the difference between people who understand webcomics from the inside, and those who talk about them from the outside.

Go commercial when you need a sales force, can't figure out how to get an ISBN, want to give away most of your profits, or need an ego boost.