When you think professional, what does your mind first go to? Experience? Ability? Respect?
For me, all of these things come to mind, and this is why I can consider myself a professional in my field. I do a weekly webcomic; I take great care in proof-reading and editing my own work until it is fit for publishing online; and I have now been at this work for nearly two years, producing over 100 strips with hundreds more to come. So why is it that so many of my professional colleagues can’t be bothered to spell check their own work before committing it to the web?
And it’s not just bad spelling that drags us down into the realm of hobby AT BEST. Word balloons are horribly off-center, entire strip images are stretched and contorted until the image is nearly indecipherable, word balloons direct and dart all over the panel until a freakin’ blog post is needed to tell who’s saying what, the list goes on and on and grows with each update cycle. If you can’t afford to hire an editor yourself, take the ten minutes or so to proofread and give each strip a once over before you commit it to the web. Of course, not everyone sees it this way.
The argument can be made that most webcomic creators don’t care about perfection and that the whole experience is more about finding a cheap, simple way to publish their work and less about finally being recognized for its sequentially artistic GENIUS. And maybe this is the crux, possibly even the end, of the argument raging (?) between print and web cartoonists. The print world is about money, bottom line, saving plenty of room for the chance to show your stuff and be as professional as you can be; the web world, on the other hand, is more about having fun and leaving the recognition and polished works to their brethren in the books.
Of course, there IS crossover from time to time; webcomics that are suddenly noticed by the right person and put into print and even DC or Dark Horse themes that fit better to the easily adaptable, infinite canvas of the Internet. Personally, I shoot for both, because I was taught to always put your best foot forward, no matter what you do. And that’s what makes the web-based genre that much richer in my mind. It’s the diversity in beliefs, morals, and work ethic that make every single webcomic (save manga) a fresh, new take on whatever subject it chooses to tackle.
To me, that makes the whole experiment worth it, regardless of how much harder some of us work than others. After all, if you build it well-written and well-illustrated enough, they will come. They always do.