I read several comics religously, lately, and all of them are on the web. It’s interesting how the webcomics market has changed over the last six or seven years—and here I’m talking about the abstract attention market, not monetization or such. Was a time, long past, when User Friendly was the shining example of success, the Internet’s answer to Dilbert, etc. Now it’s a footnote, an oddity in a bustling economy of comics offerings.
For one thing, there are more and more of them, which to be fair includes more and more crap. But there’s also a lot more good stuff, and notably there’s enough good stuff that reading webcomics is no longer an exercise of finding the most tolerable, but one of choosing from among all the quality stuff for the ones you like most.
There’s also the impressive growth, over time, in the quality of some of the comics. A look at old and new strips from Penny Arcade (1999, 2006) or Questionable Content (2003, 2006) paint a clear picture of just how much these folks have developed their work—writing and art—over time.
It’s also worth noting that a few folks are now actually making their livings off these independent web comics. The few and the proud, no doubt, but it’s an exciting development.
My daily reading is a weird jumble: gag strips, indie art, niche humor, forced surreality, with the writing from one title to the next as varied as the art is (or vice versa). The hit-list: Cat and Girl, Wigu, Diesel Sweeties, White Ninja, Hate Song, Penny Arcade, Questionable Content, and Overcompensating.
Some of these I see as examples of what I could maybe pull off if I just think and plan and practice, practice, practice, and it’s inspiring to have the (potential) immediacy of access to the folks responsible for the output—the difference between a syndicated comic artist lurking on the far side of the daily comics page and some guy (or gal) on the other end of an email address or a post to their comic’s electronic forum.