Christopher Butcher, a comics retailer whose blog Comics212.net is must-reading in for fans of dead-tree comics, poses an interesting end-of-the-year question. As the year-end retrospectives come trundling down the information highway, Chris asks: Why are these all print comics?
Why aren’t webcomics, by and large, included in all of these critical “Best Comics of the Year” lists? For my money*, Dinosaur Comics, Achewood, Diesel Sweeties, and Penny Arcade were as enjoyable reads as most of the other comics topping my list.
Well, DS readers, what do you think? When only Time and Publishers Weekly prepared these kinds of lists, you could expect some bias, but we’re talking about bloggers now, people who are used to getting their news and culture in little bursts of pixels. Although there are some great webcomics out there, they don’t seem to have penetrated the consciousness of bloggers, critics, and pundits outside the webcomics world. In fact, I’ve been reading Chris’s blog for a couple of years now and I don’t recall him ever mentioning webcomics before.
My own take is that these lists, in their original incarnation, were designed to sell books, and webcomics aren’t “sold” in the traditional way. There’s a whole marketing machinery built around critics and PR that just doesn’t exist for webcomics because most webcomics are free. Also, a weekly strip is more amorphous than a bound volume; it’s easy to read a stack of books and critique them but a bit harder to follow several strips for a year and then compare them to bound books.
That said, webcomic creators do seem to be infiltrating into the larger comics consciousness a bit. The Comics Reporter included a chat with Shaenon Garrity in its bouquet of year-end interviews, and they spent quite a bit of time discussing the demise of Narbonic and the state of webcomics. Warren Ellis has become a big booster of webcomics at his discussion board The Engine, which is where I discovered the delightful Kawaii Not. And even as I was typing this, my RSS feed notified me that Comics Worth Reading is reporting on the print version of Young Bottoms In Love.
So maybe this will be the year.