Comic Fodder

Webcomics and the Industry Landscape - An Introduction

In recent years, the landscape of the sequential art/comic book medium has changed more noticeably than probably ever before.

No longer are the comics available to readers created only by industry professionals. Oh, no, those days are long gone. Sure, Marvel, DC, Image, and Dark Horse certainly hold a huge portion of fan interest along with the smaller publishers like Antarctic Press and Radio Comix (to name just a couple). These days, nearly anyone can create sequential art/comics and have them available to a gigantic public audience without needing to push it through a publisher.

Apparently, we have Al Gore to thank for this.

To be honest, I had always felt that this medium, a form of storytelling that I am deeply, deeply passionate about, was in trouble, ever since the collapse of its popularity in the early '90's. Readership of even the most popular books had dropped into the hundreds of thousands as opposed to the millions enjoyed during the '80's. The cost of paper was skyrocketing, as well, making comic books affordable only to the most steadfast of fans. Kids just weren't interested anymore and a flimsy 32 page comic book just didn't seem like a good investment considering time per dollar versus movies, books and video games.

I was worried.

But not TOO worried. I suspected that the industry would find a way to survive. But beyond my wildest expectations, the industry has instead not only survived, but evolved into a completely different and exciting monstrosity. Though the publishing companies still pump out books for the expectant fans, the actual NUMBER of sequential art pieces being created has skyrocketed in recent years due to a new publishing medium, the ability to throw your own personal work up on the web. Of course the quality of this work is often questionable, but it's being DONE, and it's usually publically accessible for little or no money at all.

The internet is a wonderful thing.

Of course there's a glut. Unlike the glut in the late '80's, however, there's not all that venture capital and loan-funded publishing companies bottlenecking the market. It costs nearly nothing for today's young creators to push their stuff into the public eye, so I don't anticipate the same kind of bubble burst to happen, now. But there's still a glut. Most webcomics don't enjoy that much readership. It's hard to make your voice heard as a new webcomicker amongst the masses of other webcomics unless your work really truly stands out as spectacular. Even then, how do you get the word out?

That's where I come in.

My name is Daniel Fu. I've worked in the comic industry for about 12 years, now, as a hobbyist, mostly. But I've had a few things published by independent publishers and am currently working on a webcomic, myself. I know how difficult it is to get on your feet in the industry... how harsh the landscape can be when all you're trying to do is tell a story or make people laugh.

As the newest reviewer to Comic Fodder, my plan is to give some voice to those who would like to be heard. I admit to being a little new to webcomics, but my profession is in the graphic design, illustration and storytelling fields, and I think about these things on as critical a level as possible. I will say whether or not I like something, but I will also, in as much detail as I can, tell you why, in as objective a way as possible.

I will focus on webcomics and treat it as a learning experience for myself, as well.

So here's where YOU come in. I need stuff to review. I'd like to review books that are highly under-read. The big heavy hitters don't really need any more help. But I'm sure there are books out there that are fantastic, but suffer from poor readership. If you think your book falls into this category, drop me a line and a link and show me.

Keep in mind, however, that I will be brutally honest. But also understand that I'm not sitting here thinking about ways to crush your dreams. Take my criticism as a way to build your skillset further, as a second set of eyes to help point out where you could use some improvement. Also keep in mind that as a webcomic artist, you've probably never had to deal with an editor. We in the old school days had to send our stuff to publishers, looking for someone who'd print our work. In those days there WAS no internet (or at least not in any form as readily accessible as today... 14.4 baud MODEM, people...), so we had to suffer through rejection letter after rejection letter. You would not be the first one to receive harsh words about your work. Take it, use it, get better and don't waste your time and energy flaming me for a tough review.

It happens, and it'll happen over and over again.

At any rate, I've probably gone on too long, here! Welcome to the new WEBCOMICS section of ComicsFodder! 'Nuff said.
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Daniel Fu is the Comic Fodder Webcomic Reviewer
He lives in Austin, TX and is the creator of The Retriever webcomic.

daniel@filmfodder.com

Very interesting column. I liked the intro where you discussed the trends in the comic book industry.

I don't do web comics, but I know two gals who do. Check them out if you'd like.

studioantithesis.com and wingsofchange.comicgen.com

-- Posted by: Lisa at May 11, 2007 5:24 PM