The post I wrote a few weeks ago about why webcomics aren’t included in best-of-the-year lists has sparked a discussion on the print side of the comics blogosphere about what people like and don’t like (mostly don’t like) about webcomics. Now, you can read this as a lot of bitching and moaning from people who don’t like webcomics anyway, but that would be wrong. Every one of these bloggers loves comics in all their forms and would love to like webcomics as well, but they see obstacles in their way. So I’m linking to these posts not to be negative but to provide some opportunities; the webcomicker who comes up with a better interface, like the inventor of the better mousetrap, may very well find the world beating a path to his or her door.
Johanna Draper Carlson, of Comics Worth Reading, started the ball rolling by giving two reasons why she had trouble taking webcomics seriously: the interface and the format. Slow load times and blinking banner ads are part of the problem, and as a reader of traditional comics, she has a hard time reading one page at a time, rather than sitting down with a completed work. And she admits to some cultural bias:
For example, Mom's Cancer, one of my best of 2006, started as a webcomic. If it had stayed in that format, though, it wouldn't have had the power and impact that it did in terms of reading experience. I've been trained to think of things onscreen as short and ephemeral. A book contains material worthy of permanent collection, ideas to be reflected on and experiences judged meaningful. Webcomics have to overcome their history as a cheap way to keep up with comic strips at work before they'll be taken seriously.
It’s worth reading the comments that follow (Johanna has some of the best commenters in the blogosphere) for insights into what people like, and why, as well as some suggestions for new webcomics to check out. What I took from this post was that webcomickers still have some work to do in making the format work for, rather than against, the comic itself.
At his blog, Crocodile Caucus, Lyle Masaki picks up the ball and goes into more detail about the obstacles to enjoying webcomics. Again, interface and format are problems, and he would like to see more genres represented. For instance:
One thing I'd love to see is a webcomic that tries to update the old soap opera comic strip (like Rex Morgan or Apartment 3-G) for modern comic audiences (I've tried getting into these strips but the stories often feel so dated).
In a followup post he discusses a possible improvement: Adding webcomics to a blog or personal page, rather than requiring the reader to click to the site.
Over to Myk, a German blogger, who titles his post: Thanks for your webcomic but send me the book. He takes a more nuanced look at some of the previous complaints, noting that Johanna’s concern with closure is really a problem of pacing. Like Lyle, Myk would like to see webcomics presented as part of a package. I think they are thinking about something like this, a conservative-leaning comic strip, Day by Day, embedded in a conservative political blog. It’s actually a newspaper strip, but I haven’t seen it in very many papers. I’ll bet it has more readers on the web.
Finally, to end on a positive note, Senora de la Cranky Pantalones pretty much demolishes the “most webcomics suck” argument, before giving her list of webcomics she would have nominated for GLAAD awards, if there were such a thing for webcomics.