The Webcomicker

Who watches the watchmen?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Congrats and Good Luck!

In case you missed it, Jon Rosenberg announced today that he is quitting his job and going full-time as a webcomicker. Then, in a surprise move, Ryan North decided to piggyback announce (scroll down to see the announcement, if it's still up. I haven't figured a way to tap into North's newsfeed) that not only is he a full-time webcomicker, he has been for over a year now!

I've gotta say, this is pretty exciting. It's amazing to me how many new people we see every year becoming full-time webcomickers. And while most of them are members of this-or-that collective, in general these collectives are just a promotional tool, and the webcomickers themselves have no real commitments they are required to make as a result of being in the collective. No obligations to the collective itself, persay, it's more of a "you get out of it what you put into it" sort of thing. Which means they're basically making it on their own. They're taking the thing they love and making it their life's work, supported solely by their fans, and owing nothing to anybody except the fans.

Seeing more and more people making webcomickry their full-time job is extremely encouraging for the rest of us. It means the field of webcomics must be broadening, it must be getting more and more attention from the world at large, there must be increasing numbers of people reading. And seeing Rosenberg and North go full-time is especially encouraging because both of them do strips which don't have any strong fan subculture to draw on.

You see, almost all of the extremely popular webcomics draw on a subculture for the vast majority of their popularity. Sure, once they achieve a large following they start to get fans from all walks of life, but their initial fanbase, and the most hardcore fans who will buy up all the merchandise and keep the strip afloat through the hard times have come from a very hardcore fanbase. Penny Arcade and Ctrl+Alt+Del built from gamers. PvP started with gamers, then moved to the nerd/geek/comic book culture. Megatokyo rings true with anime/manga fans. User Friendly got the Slashdot crowd. Sluggy Freelance... ok, I'm not so sure about Sluggy. Questionable Content appeals to the indie rock culture.

But here we have Goats and Dinosaur Comics. What's their fanbase? Goats is pure absurdist humor, with every adventure getting more off the wall and insane than the last, while at the same time resonating a very familiar cadence. That appeals to people who like a certain type of humor, but those people certainly don't categorize into any homogenous group. Dinosaur Comics began as an experiment into the fixed art form. Relying entirely on the strength of North's writing skills to carry the comic. I imagine almost all of its readers initially found the strip and started reading just because of the uniqueness of it, and those that stayed did so because they liked the writing style and the sheer silliness of it all. But that's certainly not a homogenous group either.

No, both of these comics have been building their readers on a one-by-one basis. Sure they depend on word of mouth and advertising around online and at conventions like any other comic, but they don't have the "if you're a gamer you need to read this" or "if you're a manga fan you need to read this" sort of mantra spreading their work. It all got to be "Hey, this is a cool strip. I think you might like it". You might like it. The individual you, not the collective you. And that's a much more difficult road to travel to success. But they've done it.

This gives hope to all the little guys, no matter how off the wall their comic is, that if they really keep at it, make a commitment to quality and consistency in their work and just keep tirelessly promoting and spreading the word, they too might be able to make their passion into their full-time job.

I wish both North and Rosenberg the best of luck, and I look forward to seeing how they advance in the future!

Now we just need to have Eric Burns quit his job and go full time as a webcomic critic. That would give a lot of hope for the rest of us out here!


At 10:01 AM, Blogger Peter C. Hayward said...

Didn't he become Modern Tales' editor full-time? That's pretty similar, isn't it?

At 11:32 AM, Blogger Kneefers said...

Oh, yeah. Because there's a lot of revenue in Webcomics Criticism.

At 2:22 PM, Blogger Gilead Pellaeon said...

He did become Modern Tales editor, but I wasn't under the impression this was a full-time job.


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