If you’re on this website, chances are you’re familiar with webcomic creator Evan Dahm (Rice Boy, Vattu, Order of Tales). Even if you weren’t before this week’s podcast episode, you’re probably at least now familiar with a tweet he put out on April 6 2017 questioning the relevancy of the term “webcomic” and calling the word “obsolete.” Steve and Jason had a good chat about this in the podcast, and I’m not going to rehash their arguments here but I did want to weigh in on two points myself – that webcomics have an unique identity and are, at the end of the day, still an important (if not as niche) scene.
It’s true that over the past decade or so, cartoonists/comic artists self-publishing on the web has gone from a weird idea that was never going to work, to one of the most common publishing methods for independent creators who no longer have to battle for legitimacy against an entrenched and immovable syndicate model. But even though everyone might be doing something on the web these days, webcomics as an entity and a community are still very much their own thing. In fact, I’d argue the label has more relevance than it used to simply for the fact that with the longer pedigree, the medium has evolved a set of tropes and conventions all of its own. The Gaming Comic, The D&D Comic, and the diametric Static or Interactive Comics are all quintessentially webcomic, even more than they reflect the genre that birthed them. This uniqueness is important, and reminds us there’s a difference between publishing on the web, and publishing for the web.
As the ranks of creators self-publishing online have grown over the past decade, it’s understandable to feel like the influx of more and more people has diluted what was once a very concentrated creating culture. However, in my opinion the ‘scene’ of our little niche hasn’t disappeared – only matured. Instead of a few dozen people having a go at the concept and making the rules as they went, there are literally thousands of creators working online today – the culture has shifted away from discovery and sure, the professional collaboration of creators is not what it once was. Places like Webcomics.com and the Webcomic Alliance offer resources to and connection between fellow creators, and there are too many places to list where readers can go to find webcomics and engage with fellow enthusiasts (this here is a pretty good one). Now, I know Evan’s comment above was aimed more at the convention scene and I can’t really speak to that (Australia just doesn’t have that culture the way America has), but it seems to me the community spirit of webcomics as its own thing, at least online, has never been stronger.
What do you think? Should we consider the term obsolete, since everyone publishes content online these days? Has that the webcomic ‘scene’ changed beyond recognition? Or do you think the term still has relevance? Let us know in the comments or send an angry rant with your thoughts to @tcmacmanus on Twitter.
And until we talk next – we’ll see you in the fourth panel.