I have a list of webcomics to check out but I have been busy working on 1) The Only City Left and even more so , 2) a short story called False Negative, so I haven’t had the time to read through the archives of any new-to-me webcomics this week. In other words, there will be no reviews today. (New to Lithicbee? Check out the Links page for all of my previous reviews.)
Instead I want to talk a little bit about why I am enjoying the hell out of webcomics right now. If you’re wondering why I feel the need to talk about this, it’s directly related to a lot of back-and-forth I have been reading recently about comic books. For instance, here, here, and here. It got me thinking about how my comic book reading habits have changed over time.
Comic books used to be magical to me. I spent a lot of my money buying them and free time reading them and trying to draw like the artists (that last part did not work out so much). At some point, they lost their magic for me. There were too many comics to follow, they cost too much money, yadda yadda yadda. Bottom line: I grew out of comic books for a while. I still buy graphic novels when I can, but that excitement of heading off to the comic shop and buying new comics each week, I don’t think I’ll ever get that back.
But with webcomics, and I specifically mean long-form webcomics or online graphic novels or whatever you prefer to call them, I am feeling the excitement again. Why is that?
For one, there is little to no barrier to entry to read a webcomic. They’re usually free or available as PDFs that are cheaper than traditional comic books. You can explore as many webcomics as you want until you find the ones that speak to you.
The sheer number and variety of webcomics is the next great thing about them. I cannot find any sort of definitive list, but it sure feels like there are hundreds if not thousands of webcomics out there. I certainly have an ever-expanding list of webcomics I want to try out; for every one or two I read through and catch up on, it seems like I discover another four or five that sound or look like something I would be interested in.
Lastly, there can be an intimacy, a bond, between creator and fan as each page comes out and is discussed. It’s like the ultimate letters page at the back of a comic book. The wall between reader and creator is thinned, to good effect. The creator is not part of some corporate monolith whose only concern is the bottom line; they are passionate about what they are doing. It is as important to them as it is to the rabid fan. They are free to make the choices that someone who works for a corporation might not be able to.
The end result is that the stories out there as diverse as their creators. It is not all about putting Wolverine or Spider-Man (you can tell I’ve always been a Marvel fan) into as many different comics as possible to bump up sales.
Besides all of the above, and I’m being selfish now, reading all these webcomics has helped me to be creative again. I have started writing fiction regularly in my spare time, which I haven’t done since college. I’ve started this blog to force myself to write write write no matter what and to keep to a schedule. All of this is directly attributable to reading these webcomics, to feeling like I can talk story and character with the creators, like there is not a giant wall between me and them. I have met a lot of great, creative people this way, because the nature of webcomics makes them so much more approachable.
I can only speak for myself here, but unlike with traditional comic books, I want to spend my money on these webcomics. I want to support the creators. I feel excited to get a graphic novel collection of the webcomic, or a piece of commissioned art. I like buying PDFs of the comics for easy reading on my tablet. I feel like my purchase is having a direct effect on the creator and the continuation of the story; it is not just a blip on the bottom line of a shareholder’s report. It matters.
I don’t know if digital comics are the future. I don’t know if creators can make a living by giving their work away for free or selling lower-cost PDFs and then selling physical collections, art, and merchandise. I hope they can, though, because a future of thousands of creators making a living their own way looks better to me than one dominated by one or two corporate monoliths.
Okay, more reviews next week, I promise.
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Last minute addition: LeyLines updated as I was writing this entry and Robin has her latest podcast attached to it. I hesitated to start playing it because I had to write this post, but it was about dream sequences and how she develops dreams in LeyLines, so I had to give it a listen. Imagine my surprise when she mentioned my blog at the beginning. Thanks again, Robin, and great discussion of dreams in relation to the characters in LeyLines.