Webcomics: The Soap Boxes

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.

Posted by: Lying

7 Comments »

  1. Lets not forget the Media itself is ripping itself out of the minds eye so to speak. In Europe one of the largest media moguls Rupert Murdoch is placing his sites behind paywalls “to increase their scarcity, and therefore their value”.

    If people cannot find the news in their RSS feed, if they cannot find it in a google blurb page, if they cannot find it at all online due to the “increased scarcity” then who is going to remember to hunt it out, or care. Sure “The Times” (London Times) has been around since 1875, but for me it is gone, as if it cannot reach the planet I am on. Cause in my life, news is not a need I have a desire for that is strong enough to pay for it. Local traffic perhaps, neighborhood events, sure. London? feh. New York, not really. Washington DC, bloggers got that covered like a fungus. So it would come down to this, can a newspaper that has a staff, budget and expectations of circulation and revenue survive on a hometown paper income?

    Well let’s see what happens to the walls then.

    Comment by Dusty668 — August 18, 2010 @ 6:23 am

  2. Wait? Since when did we follow Webcomic artists’ opinions mindlessly?

    I make my opinion on basis of people who can argue well for their point and don’t resort to logic fallacies.

    Among those are you, Lying. But I still look at the messages sceptically, just like I’m arguing now.

    Other than that, I agree that we are more informed through the Internet and webcomics than the news, but they have learnt me to think about it instead of doing the same brainwashing some news companies does (Seriously, Denmark’s are very right winged and oddly ignorant, I am not. they still think I should dislike foreigners anyway)

    Comment by Keveak — August 18, 2010 @ 7:29 pm

  3. Correction, in my last post the sentence should have read:

    So it would come down to this, can a newspaper that has a staff, budget and expectations of the circulation and revenue of a world wide entity survive on a hometown paper income?

    Comment by Dusty668 — August 19, 2010 @ 9:01 am

  4. Keveak, the point was not that we all do it mindlessly (don’t lie, there’s always going to be somebody who follows with a blindfold on) but that we listen to webcomic writers and bloggers more than TV or Newspapers.

    Comment by Kumo — August 19, 2010 @ 2:07 pm

  5. Well, that may be true of most “geeks”*, but the average young westerner, in my experience, has little, if any, awareness of the phenomenon known as webcomics. Their Internet world is rather composed of social networking sites (primarily Facebook, and sometimes Twitter), and Youtube.

    However, from what I’ve seen, TV still has a large place in the minds of the average person (ever since my family threw away their TV people of all ages experienced bewilderment at the fact that I did not have one :P) and newspapers, while not as important as they were a few decades ago, still have a niche for, say, the subway (where I live, they give them freely at metro stations). The average young person is generally more familiar with these than blogs and webcomics, at least from my personal experience.

    *here intended in a completely non-insulting fashion

    Comment by Mad Mask — August 19, 2010 @ 2:51 pm

  6. What Mad Mask says is true. Webcomics have little hold on most. on Runescape, half the people I spoke to (more than half, really)had no clue what a webcomic was. Most of the others preferred newspaper comic strips, which shows how much perspective they have.

    Comment by The Gremlin — August 19, 2010 @ 4:32 pm

  7. I don’t know a single person in my age group and lower that doesn’t read webcomics or that pays reasonable attention to news media. Based on responses from others I’ve met face to face and online, this is presently the norm for this generation.

    Therefore, as their existing readerbase ages, news media is going to lose readership and support, whilst blogs and webcomics (The opinion sources people actively seek out for entertainment) will gain increasing currency.

    Comment by Lying — August 19, 2010 @ 4:43 pm

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