Webcomics are comics that are found online. This includes both comics that are available solely on the Internet and comics that can be found in select printed publications but are primarily posted online. They can differ from normal print comics in many ways.
Visual Aspects Edit
Perhaps the most obvious difference found between many print comics and many webcomics is visual. Modern technology enables artists not only to create looks that can't be done by hand, but it also enables them to create intriguing visual effects that would only work effectively when viewed on a computer. Diesel Sweeties, for example, has pixellated art that was obviously made on a computer, while Questionable Content looks more conventionally drawn, but is created on a Wacom drawing tablet instead of a traditional drawing board. Other webcomics, like Dinosaur Comics, use clip-art-esque images.
A subtler visual difference between print comics and webcomics is the concept of the infinite canvas, which was pioneered by Scott McCloud in his book Reinventing Comics (Reinventing). Comics online are not restricted by the size of the paper on which they are printed, because they are not printed on paper. Some comics take advantage of this infinite canvas to its full extent. McCloud's own Zot makes use of the infinite canvas, requiring large amounts of scrolling to read. Daniel Merlin Goodbrey's Externality uses Flash for an even more unique take on the infinite canvas. Though most popular webcomics are "gag-a-day" strips that don't require extensive space, they still employ the concept of the infinite canvas. Almost any given webcomic - Achewood, for instance - takes up more space than it would be allowed in a newspaper.
Absence of Editors Edit
One of the main draws of webcomics is the complete absence of editors on the Internet. Though this potentially could generate an abundance of low-quality comics, it also gives readers many more choices as they make the subjective decision of which comics they like or dislike.
The lack of editors allows webcomic artists to self-publish when their comics' content prevents them from seeing conventional print publishing. Goats, for example, has numerous sexual innuendoes and potentially offensive jokes that could never run in a newspaper, while Questionable Content has obscure music references that would be difficult to market to a mainstream audience.
The issue of payments has been a hot-button issue among members of the webcomic community.
Scott McCloud advocates micro-payments, the practice of paying a minimal fee of around twenty-five cents (sometimes even less) to view a comic. He argues that by displaying a preview and then charging almost negligible amounts of money to view the entire comic, the artist can reach a larger audience more quickly than if he published with conventional print and still make money, since readers will be more willing to pay trifling amounts and no middlemen will abscond with any of this money. “And if a few readers are all he gets, our creator can still break even,” adds McCloud (Reinventing 187). This is similar to the concept of ninety-nine-cent songs on iTunes, though McCloud published his thoughts about the idea long before iTunes became popular.
Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, the creators of Penny Arcade, argue that micro-payments are unrealistic and have even posted comics directly mocking McCloud. Holkins says that although McCloud "imagines that other people - in fact, that everyone - would gladly pay for things if given the chance to do so. That is demonstrably, empirically false…” (Holkins). Jon Rosenberg of Goats experimented with micropayments on his site, and deemed them "a conclusive and absolute failure" (Rosenberg).
The way that most webcomic artists make their money is through merchandise and advertising. Artists like Jeph Jacques of Questionable Content, John Allison of Scary-Go-Round, and Natalie Dee of Natalie Dee make their livings solely on advertising and sales of items such as T-shirts and bumper stickers.
Webcomics differ from print comics in their level of interactivity, between readers and other readers, readers and artists, and artists and other artists.
Readers can often join forums on webcomic sites. Many can even comment on artists' blogs. This heightens interactivity among readers, buildiing a community around a given website. It also allows fans to interact with an artist they admire. This type of instant communication would not be possible without new media like the Internet.
Additionally, new media like the Internet enable artists to interact more easily with each other. It is a common practice for a webcomic artist to take a few days off while other artists supply him or her with guest strips to post in lieu of his or her own. Beyond recommending their peers, artists can collaborate on art projects more easily through the Internet. One webcomic, Whispered Apologies, is a comic in which two artists from other webcomics work together to create a strip; one sends in artwork and another fills in the text. The contributors change every day, and the text is often not intuitively related to the artwork because they were made without communication between writer and illustrator.
Some assert that as comics evolve to increasingly include the Internet, they will alienate the fans of printed comics, weakening the medium as a whole. New York Times journalist Sarah Boxer wrote that digital comics lack “the allure of the printed page” and add “a few headaches...for reader and creator alike” (Boxer). She also said, "The comics that use digital technology to break out of their frozen boxes are really more like animated cartoons."
Scott McCloud argues that such specifications about media are more or less irrelevant. "...I don’t think that comics readers need to hold or own comics to experience them fully. If physical contact were really so necessary to form an emotional bond with a work, how could we explain the lure of movies and music," he said (Reinventing 177). He explains that people enjoy movies both on screens in theatres and on television sets at home and that a song can be just as meaningful when heard on a portable Walkman while jogging as on a car radio while driving.
Boxer, Sarah. “Comics Escape a Paper Box, and Electronic Questions Pop Out.” 17 Aug. 2005. NYTimes.com. The New York Times. 5 Nov. 2005. 17/books/17comi.html?ex=1131339600&en=4166dea3bf95837b&ei=5070.
Holkins, Jerry. Newspost accompanying “Magic: It’s What’s For Dinner.” 22 Jun. 2001. Penny Arcade. 23 Oct. 2005. .
McCloud, Scott. Reinventing Comics. New York: HarperCollins, 2000.
Rosenberg, Jon. Goats.com. Goats.