The Rise of the Webcomic

NOTE: Just assume these links are nsfw, independent publications mean less “decency standards” (scare quotes aaah) and more jokes that responsible adults would frown at you for telling in front of small children.

There is a perennial discussion of whether or not print comics are dying, which factions taking turns saying yes they are and no they’re not .

I am not talking about that.

I am going to talk about something distinctly NOT dying, something that is, in fact, thriving. If I were pressed I might say that we are in something of a comic renaissance as facilitated by the phenomenon of the webcomic. (No one is pressing me to say that)

The fact of the matter is that The Webcomics List currently tracks 21253 webcomics. The Belfry WebComix Index lists 28 new webcomics since January 18th.

These are not even comprehensive numbers, and yet these are still some pretty fine looking numbers.

On the off chance that the dear reader has no idea of what I speak when I say “webcomic” I would like to apologize, for the internet has clearly been lax in its duties as purveyor of too much information.

Webcomic: Noun. Comic published on the web. (Wikipedia expands somewhat, but their listing is hilariously stunted.) That’s basically it.

Some are created within more traditional constraints with the ultimate intention of going to print, while some are created in a unique way that can only exist in a digital format (anything involving alt text or infinite canvas, however far you can stretch it really.)

(This introduces a minor conundrum: if you print a webcomic does it turn into just a comic? Or is there some inherent webcomic-y trait that sustains? Because I know when I have print editions of webcomics I read I refer to them as print editions of webcomics.)

Webcomics afford a fresh perspective on the matter of comics, given there are virtually no constraints on who can create and what they can create. Just about anyone with a way of drawing and a way of uploading (which is just about anyone) can create a webcomic.

This results in a massive representation of diversity in creators and their stories, not bound to commercially viable tastes. Which is to say, they get to write about literally anything.

1920’s bootlegger cat people gangsters? SURE! Demons in space? WHY THE HELL NOT? Victorian-esque porn comic also with robots? GO FOR IT BUDDY!

And they’re not bound by commercially viable tastes because they. Are. Free.* No one goes into webcomics expecting a profit here. (“Yes, I will start a webcomic and all my money problems will be over!” -no one, ever.)

Which is not to say there is no profit to be had, but those webcomics that constitute full-time jobs for their creators are few and far in between, and that profit tends to result from merchandise, print editions, and some advertising, because the comic itself is FREE. (I seriously cannot get over that because damn. Wow.)

Webcomics represent something very unique in the world of comics, a moment in history that we are a bit too close to to parse out just yet. For the time being, phenomenon is a good word, if a descriptor must be had. I would not go so far as to call it a movement, there isn’t quite enough coherence for that, no overall direction or message. Though perhaps with time and distance, we will be able to pick out common threads of themes and conventions that will allow the current [alt text honestly I only see webcomics ramping up, there will be various periods to come] flourishing webcomic community to be defined.

For the time being, webcomics are most notable their irreverence for print convention, forming conventions of their own, telling stories that may otherwise have never made it to readers’ eyes.

representing the soul of inappropriate webcomics today is Oglaf

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*there are subscription groups, where one pays a fee for access to a number of webcomics, however these are in the underwhelming minority