Abstract: This is an examination of how a webcomic's popularity stems from its friends.
If you look at the structure of webcomics today it's clearly the smaller collectives that are the most visible, Keenspot still continues to lumber on, dutifully creating a monochrome slather of unconnected webcomics. The boutique collectives such as Dumbrella, Boxcar, Blank Label and Dayfree Press, all band together, it's a team effort that pays off via goodwill.
A number of the more popular webcomics based on these collectives are the result of years of work, they're more established and they're the product of 'trainee strips', John Allison could only start on Scarygoround after Bobbins, really. The trainee strip isn't a conscious decision, the web-cartoonist merely moves on from it when they realise it is not flexible enough for their new ideas.
The first hundred strips are pretty tough for the web-cartoonist and sometimes painful for the reader, just look at the first unsophisticated 100 strips created in Questionable Content or Sam and Fuzzy. Persistence wins, If Bobbins started now in this new competitive environment do you think it would be as popular as SGR?
There's a whole skanky underbelly of unloved webcomics out there and sometimes I feel guilty for sticking to the comics created by the more experienced webcomic creators. I guess my 'discoveries' section is my way of assuaging my guilt. The collective webcomic critical consensus has already created a canon of webcomics and a number of webcomic in that canon are on the boutique collectives. I know they're dependable but I'm wondering how the next generation is going to get through the undergrowth.