August 14, 2010
Okay, so here’s how I see the webcomics industry:
In short, it is an industry without industry.
It’s sort of like DC and Marvel sans the publishing houses and the huge marketing and distribution connections. Almost every webcomic in print does so through an associated publisher or by the sweat of their own brow, or not at all. Basically every individual comic survives on donations and merchandise by it’s own personal merit.
It’s sort of like an old-school town square marketplace. Everyone is trying their hardest to get their wares to the streets and they might give a nod to a friend of their’s just down the road. What this means however is that it’s tremendously susceptible to economic flux, a decent downturn could practically crash every professional webcomic. Because webcomics currently aren’t particularly profitable as a stable employment in most cases, a slight financial mishap or emergency can also send a comic tumbling.
In brief, because every webcomic is trying to stand and walk and run by itself, there’s a lot of room for them to simply fail entirely.
Therefore, webcomics as an industry cannot survive or grow much further without intercommunication. Branching out into other industries (publishing, merchandise) is okay, but only if you can get those branches at all. If you can do it by yourself, great. If you can get a reference from a more well-known webcomic, it’s even easier.
I think the industry needs to be something of a modern industry, something new and different, where everywhere else has grown from medieval markets and whatnot. This shouldn’t be an industry of big names and companies and conglomerates, or of profitable cliques and groupings.
I think if webcomics are to become real serious economic business then everyone needs to talk to and support everyone else.
It may only be a nod, a guest comic, or a link here or there, or even lending a fellow artist/writer a bit of cash when times get rough, but building that kind of community on the ground floor now will let webcomics really be something special in the future.
I say this of course as a writer and artist pretty close to the ground level of the industry, though my web stats show I’m doing rather well at getting on my own two feet Remember is hardly a huge runaway success or anything of the sort. It could be argued I debate this from a position that stands to benefit a great deal from its implementation. Think about it though, a world where webcomics are virtually immune to economic flux, because everyone supports one another, not just as peers or colleagues, but as friends. When so many webcomics can build eachother up and band together for support, we can do some real serious and awesome stuff.
As an example, take a look at Penny Arcade, arguably one of the most successful webcomics to date. So successful it can host its own (tremendously popular) convention, in the form of PAX. Now, imagine PA gave a nod to Remember. The influx of traffic would probably crash my server for one thing, but the other way around has basically no impact whatsoever to them. It’s very hard to climb from the bottom to the top when there’s already superstars up there to compete with, borderline impossible even. But with webcomics, the highest wage is still not very high.
If there was a serious economic downturn, PA would take a big hit just as much as everyone else in the industry, probably moreso given all their investments. If in that time, say, Gabe caught cancer (Not saying I want him to, just a hypothetical here), PA might just start crumbling. Now, what if comics like xkcd, Questionable Content, Gunnerkrigg Court, Devil’s Panties, and Remember gave them some support? Told their fans to wander over and donate to the Save Gabe’s Left Nostril fund, or outright donated money themselves? Well then, Gabe might turn out fine, and PA might stay around a lot longer.
Then imagine it wasn’t PA, but some other webcomic you might not have even heard of. At that point, webcomics will be a brand new world of business, finance, and industry. And then, things will be very, very, awesome indeed.