Web Comics Documentary Causes Community Backlash

It seems that the web comics community loves nothing more than to come across something that really pisses them off. Everyone gets all riled up and the keyboards let fly. People just love a good scandal. So, allow me to jump into the fray with two feet.

Last week the trailer for an upcoming independent documentary film about web comics went online. The film is titled “Adventures into Digital Comics” and is being produced by the small study Top Two, Three Films. You can follow those links if you want, but as of the time of this posting the site was down, do doubt bombarded into the ether by irate web comic fans.

The trailer’s release caused quite a stir and many big names in our little micro-verse chimed in on what they thought of it. The most searing criticism came from the guys over at Penny-Arcade who not only railed against the filmmakers in their blog post, but also saw fit to mock and ridicule them in one of their comic strips (no matter what you may have thought about their ethics in doing this the comic was damn funny, isn’t that what counts?)

Comments on the film were posted online from Scott Kurtz over at PVP Online, Kristofer Straub on Cherckerboard Nightmare, DJ Coffman in his blog over at Yirmumah.net, a very lengthy dissertation from Eric Burns of Websnark, and many others throughout blogs and forums across the web.

It appears that a lot of the angst is being caused by the perceived serious tone of the film, holding up comics on the web as some supreme example of the “artiste'” triumphing over the “man” and a world looking to squash their unbridled creativity (I’m making myself queazy just writing that). Words like “revolution” and accusations of innovation being held back or destroyed until the web came along gives the whole affair an air of righteous indignation and, most of all, pretension. Coming off as pretentious and aloof is a guaranteed way to get yourself ostracized from web comics readers and creators alike.

I should also point out that amidst all the trashing there have been a few to come forward and defend the film and it’s goals.

It isn’t really fair to pass final judgement on a film that hasn’t even come out yet, so I will hold off on that until I see it. And I assure you, I will see it. However, the same details everyone else is pointing out about the film doesn’t lend itself to the most optimistic reception.

First and foremost, the film was shot two to three years ago. Comics being published to the internet have changed dramatically in that time. There’s no way this film will be relative to what can be found online and what’s popular today.

That trailer oozed pretension. I think DJ Coffman’s comments were dead on, a documentary about web comics and their creators could fun, but taking the whole thing too seriously simply induces eye rolling. They’re comics, they’re fun, you can read them in your web browser, hooray. I don’t want an artistic revolution manifesto, I want another Fruit Fucker joke and to see Eve naked.

Ok, so I haven’t said too much about this topic that hasn’t been posted about already. How about this, a few quick searches on the inter-web thingy revealed some of the interview questions the filmmakers have been asking their subjects. Maybe this will give you a glimpse into what the film will end up being like:

Q: Can you tell us about your background?

Q: In the film, we discuss the nature of comic books. Can you tell us what, for you, a comic book is? What are the strengths and ideas you like or intend to explore?

Q: In contemporary comics, storytelling tools like thought balloons or captions are mostly absent. As an example, John Byrne told us he stopped using captions when he realized that readers did not read them. Do you think that these tools are now perceived as a stigma?

Q: In the film, Scott McCloud says there are more golfers in this country than comic book readers. By right, we should be able to sell comics about golf, but it’s not happening. Do you feel there is an issue of diversity going on?

So there you have it. Just a little bit more of a taste of what’s to come. Maybe the film will surprise us. Maybe the guy who edited the trailer together did a bad job of letting us all know what the film will really be like. Maybe it will be more light-hearted and take a few steps off the pedestal. Who knows, but when I go to see it I’ll be bringing the angry pen with me.

By the way, in some of the stuff I’ve been reading about this film online some people have been mistakenly referring the title of the film as Digital Strips. Please don’t confuse it with us. We had nothing to do with it, I swear.

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2 thoughts on “Web Comics Documentary Causes Community Backlash

  1. The idea of a documentary this EARLY in webcomics\’ development seems pretentious all by its lonesome to me. Essentially, they\’re creating a film that we can probably assume is informational (being that it is a documentary, and thusly attempting to document this particular \”movement\”), but the primary audience appears to be the same people who (as Penny Arcade put it) \”jerk off to Reinventing Comics.\”

    It seems like an incestuous endeavor to me in this respect. Whereas books like \”Understanding Comics\” and \”Reinventing Comics\” are recommended frequently by instructors of mine in design disciplines as varied as interactive media design, graphic design and typography, I don\’t see how this can have any definite purpose outside of our smallish cult of folks who see webcomics as a step (though it remains to be seen if it will become \”THE NEXT STEP\”) of comics\’ evolution.

    But, to be fair, we still haven't seen the final product (as Zampzon mentioned above). It could be frick'n brilliant.

  2. SeeThink Productions\’ Darkon is another upcomming documentary about an *ahem* \”non-mainstream\” hobby. Despite the seriousness of everyone being interviewed, it\’s pretty amusing.

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