Thursday, 1 June 2006

Changes in the scenery

Joe Zabel has recently written an examination of the perceived 'webcomic community' in the Webcomic examiner. It’s interesting and lucid and five years ago it could not have been written. I think it’s an example of the current cultural validity of webcomics.
I think however that the perceived webcomics community never was a concrete entity. I think the main change is a consistent critical analysis of webcomics. When Sluggy Freelance and Penny Arcade began the vast web of webcomic criticism wasn't present. The super-structure of webcomic criticism that has emerged can tend to canonize webcomics, sometimes deservedly so. This stabilization has created order and online webcomic communities have become contact points to cross fertilise each other.

If the more popular multi-authored webcomic blogs such as Fleen and Websnark are slightly gossipy, then the content peripherals such as webcomic collectives have taken on more importance. With the advent of new boutique webcomic collectives such as Boxcar and Blank Label, Keenspot seems to have lost its direction. Aside from Sore Thumbs and Sinfest, I can't think of a first rate webcomic on the Keenspot roster that bucks its genre specifications, the emphasis is broad, there's no real brand identity to the community, no real sizeable crossovers.

The increase in webcomics has forced together a form of unofficial quality control. Consistency in output is preferable, Road Waffles is on its third vague disconnected storyline, Niego opted out and Shaw island went half-arsed serious.

Still, I prefer convoluted narratives that span a number of years, so weekly updates is fine with me. So to me, Megatokyo doesn’t look like some half-arsed Manga-ka project in training, it looks like a viable webcomic. It’s also an example of the shift towards the print format that a major webcomic such as ScaryGoRound has also followed. This isn't a betrayal, it's moving on.

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