August 16, 2010
Continuing my blog post splurge about the webcomics industry.
As perceptions go, webcomics should have a pretty bland reputation. There are just so many saying so many different things that realistically it’d be impossible to put any consistent label on the industry as a whole. This is, however, not the case.
The people who generally have any reaction to the word “webcomics” is the global media, that is to say televised news and printed newspapers.
I’m just going to put this out there: Newspapers are a bit hypocritical for having this perspective, because almost every newspaper has their own little comics.
The perception of global media on webcomics is that we’re a juvenile, naive hobby or pastime, we’re something that’s small and good for a brief giggle but something that’s pretty childish and not to be bothered with. A webcomic can make a post about a pressing political matter and get no recognition for it, but if a blogger comes out and says the same thing, it can get quoted on the news. Even then, bloggers have a pretty neutral reputation, they’re growing into media but today they’re still largely in the same boat as webcomics as far as “not to be bothered with” goes.
The problem I see here is though, webcomics are overlooked and get little recognition (Penny Arcade is insane, they have totally bypassed the regular webcomics industry in this regard), but in actuality? We’re probably the ones with one of the largest chunks of influence on the very same demographic market as those same news shows and newspapers.
Think about it for a moment. Your parents probably watch the news, and from that they make some opinions and ideas about headlines and stories going on. That is the perspective and daily thought process of people from a generation that existed prior to the Internet, and especially prior to bloggers and webcomics.
What do younger generation citizens do? They might watch the news, they might spot a title on a newspaper stand, but very few of them actually “legitimately” watch the news or read newspapers like the previous generation. Instead, they get headlines from those global media, they don’t form opinions from them they just find out “oh, this thing is happening, alright then”.
No, they get their opinions and their information from somewhere else. Where?
Webcomics and bloggers.
They go to these things that they actually read and enjoy and these are the things that talk about these headlines and from these things they get their opinions and their information. A newspaper sells the headline “Game being boycotted for smut” and they nod quietly at it, but if a bunch of webcomics and a couple blogs say “This game has so much smut it’s crazy, lookit all the alien booty” they suddenly have an opinion about it. A lot of the time it’s not quite like that, webcomics and bloggers tend to be a bit more articulate than that, but this is the basic process by which people of my generation and people only a generation or two behind me, but notably not my parents’ generation, function in the modern world of intercommunications.
Still thinking now? Consider the WebHub concept a little again. What would happen if a whole ton of webcomics and bloggers said something like “[Sky News/CNN/etc.] is total bull, they never report on anything serious and they just layer their trash in pretty graphics to make it look important”?
Sky News would freaking crash is what would happen.
Webcomics today hold as much sway over the opinions of the upcoming public as a drug dealer has over addicts. This is, I think, chiefly because the news brings up lots of stories that aren’t necessarily interesting, gets in some “experts” to try and explain it, but is overall very very dry and unappealing. I can’t really blame them for this because they are (if they’re worth listening to at all anyway) trying to present an unbiased view on the situation.
Webcomics and blogs don’t have to worry about being censored or about public opinion so much, we have no societal constraints at all on our medium. Look at Tim Buckley, he wrote a story about a miscarriage and the Internet was up in arms…but people ended up not really caring. Meanwhile something terrible like the BP oil spill happens, and as webcomics and blogs make jokes at it the crisis turns into an outrage and a laughing stock. The difference is that whilst we may be presenting a view of the situation that is blown way out of proportion or misinformed, we are presenting it in a way that people actually enjoy and want to come back and keep reading and pay attention to.
So the soap box is no longer on the streets with the news anchors and the columnists. At least, not on any physical street. The soap box is on the light-built roads of the Internet, and the biggest noise is coming from the house where people laugh and shout.
The biggest noise is coming from webcomics, and as an industry and a united force we have the capacity to topple big names in the media. We are not a naive childish hobby, not any more. Perceptions need to change on this matter.