Answering questions on Tumblr, an anonymous asked me:
“How do you feel about webcomics”
So I responded:
Glad you asked.
I’m a hip hop guy, for twenty years. I’ve been into hip hop since The Big Kids came to the playground with a boom box and a tape of Onyx and Dr. Dre. It would not be accurate to say that I “live” hip hop but it informed many of my values and a lot of my ideas about how art and commerce work.
The thing about music in general and hip hop in particular is that they give that stuff to people for free. Before anybody asks you for money, they’ve given you their art with no money asked. Buying an album or paying for a live show feels like a transactional formality by the time it occurs. Back when I was in high school, mixtapes used to cost money. In this day and age, mixtapes are free. It’s just an economic thing. We have computers. Mixtapes can afford to be free now. So they are.
Meanwhile. Comics in the 1990s: Bone, Scud the Disposable Assassin, Hepcats, et cetera. The lasting image that holds in my mid is Rob Schrab (Scud) hunched over his kitchen table, both drawing the comic and figuring out how to pay for it. And likely, how to convince people like you and me to part with $2.99 for an issue. Yeah, comics still cost $2.99 back in 1997 but that was worth a lot more back then.
The point that I’m getting at (and this is how I tell stories in real life) is that when webcomics began to rise up and become a part of people’s daily lives, we see people being better able to expose themselves to the artform. The medium of comics became something that wasn’t restricted by parting customers from their money nor was it bound by readers’ access to specialty stores. Webcomics made comics truly free.
The thing that bothers me and I’m including myself heavily in this since I haven’t worked a webcomic since 2010 or so: rappers put stuff out. Rappers put lots of material out and it isn’t even album stuff. Rappers will make multiple mixtapes and follow them with official albums which represent more material. Not all of the material is exclusive, but enough of it is. People remain engaged with the artist on a continual basis. For that reason, I aspire to the model of webcomics which allows one comic to be seen in public and generate interest in an artist while that artist works behind the scenes on other comics. I call the latter “black comics.” Mostly unseen, until they need to be seen.
Personally, if I were to return to webcomics, I would prefer to use them as a more freewheeling, disposable free thing that causes me as little stress as possible, while concentrating my more detailed labor on projects that I would sell.
Mixtapes versus albums.
[Feel free to ask me anything, via my Tumblr Ask Box!]