5 Things That Have Changed Since I Started Doing Webcomics
Well, we’ve just started 2015. While lots of us are looking forward to the year that’s to come, and also making requisite comparisons to Robert Zemeckis’ view of the future, I thought I would take a moment and look back. The major update and changes to the site have had me thinking about my time doing webcomics over the last seven or eight years. So, I thought it might be fun to look back.
Here are 5 things that have changed, since I started doing webcomics:
1. Free hosting isn’t really the way to go anymore.
When I started out with my old comic, Mastorism (which is still hosted at Drunk Duck), for most people, hosting your comic on a free hosting site such as Drunk Duck, Smack Jeeves, or Comic Genesis was the norm (or mirroring on several of them, for those times when one or all would inevitably crash). I think the idea at the time was less about saving money on hosting, and more about the fact that there were built-in audiences and communities at these free hosting sites, which there was. I remember Drunk Duck having a great community. But the other idea was that, once you got your loyal audience there, you could slowly transition them over to your self hosted site. This turned out to be a lot harder than it sounds because people rarely ventured outside of their communities.
I think there’s a number of reasons that folks have moved more in the direction of using their own hosting. I think a lot of it boils down to control, appearing more professional, and reliability. I don’t think I can describe in words the feeling frustration and helplessness that one feels when the site hosting your comic crashes for days-weeks-months and there’s nothing that you can do about it (meanwhile that ad campaign you paid for is directing all your potential traffic to a dead site. YAY). Hosting is so inexpensive these days, it’s so worth it to avoid the hassle.
2. Message Boards… people used them!
This ties into the communities mentioned in #1. Also called forums, or bulletin boards, message boards used to be a great place for people to congregate, share ideas and what not. They still exist in the comics community, but not with quite the fervor that they did in days gone by. I personally had to stop visiting message boards to my inability to write a response shorter than your average Harry Potter novel. I would spend hours on one message that no one would ever read. At least nowadays I could drop a “tl;dr – I love my Wacom! Have fun with yours!” at the end of every message (since that was the theme of about 87% of anything I posted anyway).
These days a lot of that community around comic has moved to the comments section. Whether that be on your comics page, or on a social sharing page (like facebook). A lot of the friendship and comraderie between creators has moved over to facebook and twitter. I do miss the days when simple questions would erupt into all out flame wars.
3. ComicPress Style Navigation
This is the land on the latest page, and then the next/previous arrow form of navigation. I recently just gave this up in favor of running my website more like a blog/magazine, but this is totally still around. We are now seeing a lot of folks having success outside of this model now, and I’m starting to embrace the idea that maybe the future doesn’t need to be tied exclusively to this format. “How To Make Webcomics” had us all believe for a while that if we didn’t have a ComicPress site for our comics, we weren’t a valid comic, and also doomed. DOOMED!
Frankly, having a gag a day type of comic – I get most of my “up to date” readership through social sharing, and so I don’t feel the need to have everyone coming to my site to read everything in exact order. I just say “here’s some of the newest stuff, and here’s some stuff you might like, too.” That said, ComicPress (and now Comic Easel) is/was a great free tool that Frumph gave to the comics community. Huge contribution! Thank you!
4. The stigma of drawing digitally is (more or less) gone.
When I got started drawing digitally, any question or remark on a message board about drawing digitally would spark a rage-fest debate about the virtues of traditional art vs. the cheating hack losers that do pretty much the same thing but with different tools. I’ve had it explained to me more than once how being able to undo mistakes makes my art worse and slows me down. Yeah. That makes total sense. While I’ve never been anti-traditional, my take was always that if you’re building a house, would you use a hammer if you had a nail gun available? Most other creative jobs had gone digital and not looked back. Comics creators were stubborn for some reason.
These days, though I look at most art and assume it’s digital first, and then am surprised (usually pleasantly) if I find out it’s traditional, instead of the other way around. I still think traditional is a valid way to go (especially if you want to sell originals!), and often think about going back to working that way myself (I stockpile brushes and ink that I never use just in case!).
5. They’re not webcomics any more.
The days of the World Wide Web being the only way folks used the internet are well behind us now, with social sharing apps, digital content downloads (such as ebooks), and whatnot. So, although the term webcomics has kind of stuck, I think it’s probably time that we start considering just calling them comics again. We can get comics digitally in so many ways and formats that I think webcomics is not a very descriptive term, unless you’re talking about one very particular type of website. I see the webcomics world freeing themselves of that.
The future is bright, folks! Do any of you have fond memories of the “Good ‘Ol Days”?