Lots of other people did convention reports for Small Press Expo, the erotically tinged comic show in Bethesda, Maryland. However, Rob Clough made an observation that I’d like to chit chat about:
*turns chair around backwards*
*sits facing class*
So let’s rap about the artcomics/webcomics divide.
So at SPX, I was politicking with some crown-wearing royalty and a prominent webcomics person directed the question at me: “why do the REAL webcomics keep getting snubbed at the Ignatz Awards?”
The answer is: the Ignatz Awards reflect a kind of institutional bias which favors certain kinds of comics. All awards do this, even with the best intentions. It cannot be helped when we consider that the five anonymous judges who selected this year’s crop are, by nature, more experts on minicomics, book market graphic novels and print artcomics. Those areas of focus comprise all of the Ignatz Awards categories save for the “Best Online Comic” category.
Sidebar: think about that choice of term. Not “webcomic.” Rather, “online comic.” The term “webcomic” denotes a specific idiom with a structural nature that informs its native stylistic tics as certainly as minicomics format informs that field. When we use the term “webcomic,” more often than not, we are calling for a very specific format/mode/method of communication. Not necessarily so when we say “online comic.”
Zack Soto’s Study Group collective of stories is very different in reading style and in form than Kris Straub’s Starslip comic. Some argue that one represents “comics on the Internet” while the other represents “webcomics.” I am not personally sure how I feel about these distinctions. But I will say for certain that there is a cultural difference between what we commonly see as “webcomics” and other forms of the comics medium.
Part of it is subjective, part of it is engagement, part of it is intent. If one seeks and engages with the massive ecosystem referred to as “webcomics,” one is part of webcomics. But websites such as Mr. Soto’s Study Group Comics and Jordan Crane’s What Things Do which tend to seek different audiences with different reading styles, these places are sort of in their own scene.
Similar to how metal and punk might both be fast and loud but aren’t the same thing by anybody’s calculation. Not an exact comparison of course and I swear retaliation if you try to bust my chops.
My suggestion for the future is to not lean on airy technicalities such as “it’s on the Internet,” and focus on what the spirit of webcomics is when selecting work in this category. After all, the webcomics demographic is a large part of the genetic make up of SPX and those works deserve to be acknowledged on fair terms.
Alright that’s the bell. Wait, I haven’t told you what the homework is, come bac–