Wow! Have I ever been neglecting this blog. I guess I just haven't had much to say that couldn't be said in 140 characters on Twitter. But now for a few ramblings that won't fit in there.
I've seen the "Are Webcomics Dead?" debate is building steam yet again with the iPad out, Zuda closing up (more or less), and the whole webcomic thing seeming to hit a lull. I think a lot of good things have been said in the discussion, even if there are no real answers. Here are a few of the highlights in my opinion:
Webcomics aren't really taking full advantage of the platform where as apps for the iPad do. But here's the thing for me, the more you take advantage of the platform the more expertise you require, the more time it takes to put out a comic (and a slowly updating webcomic is usually dead before it starts), the more costly it can be, and the more restricted your audience can become (when a comic is created specifically to work with the iphone, and I mean gearing everything like panel structure, layouts, and your narrative to that device, the reading on other platforms can suffer just as writing for a print comic will have issues when taken to the iPhone or even the iPad). I don't think there is an easy answer here.
The iPhone and iPad currently don't appear to be equal playing fields (from what I'm hearing, the validity of this may be debatable). On the one hand, you have the large companies who can afford to create their own apps jumping in while independents are a little slower or require help. ComiXology seems to be the winner here but there are reports that there are independent publishers waiting for their comics to get processed and posted while the big name companies get priority. Also, some independent books have been blocked for issues Apple had with their content while the big companies don't seem to be hitting this issue. So for a small publisher it seems going the iPhone/iPad route has some hurdles that may not be worth it in the long run when they can more easily get their products into a larger audience by going web based.
Now I don't have the numbers but I'd guess the number of webcomics aren't necessarily going down. But is the quality going up or down? The great thing about webcomics is pretty much anyone can get one started (so long as they aren't going the iPad/iPhone route at least). The obvious downside is that anyone can get one started. How do you find good ones? Most of the attempts include evaluation based on voting or by traffic but there's usually so many ways to cheat the system. So anyone looking through webcomics gets hit with a lot of crap. Yeah, I'll say a lot of them are crap but I don't want you to take that as me thinking those people should stop, you have to try in order to get better. Though the ones who aren't even trying to get better should probably stop.
Money. Everyone brings this one up, "how do I make money off my webcomic?" The answer doesn't seem to have changed in a long time. It's mostly merchandise (t-shirts, print versions, commissions, etc), some advertising (if you have a lot of traffic), etc. But what if your book doesn't really lend itself to merchandise? Then it's a bit tougher. And if you aren't willing to put the effort into these other things and just want to make your comic then you're most likely screwed money-wise. So what happens with a lot of the successful webcomic makers? They stop to make money. Either they get in with a publisher and start getting paid for print comics or more often they realize the webcomic is taking up so much time and going nowhere that they have to stop to focus on their paying job and family. There's often the promise of getting back to the webcomic eventually but let's not fool ourselves. Now I think a lot of people were hoping for things like the iPad or Longbox Digital to change that, I don't see that happening any time soon.
I don't know any answers to any of the questions that the discussion is bringing up. I don't even know if my observations are valid in any way. But I do enjoy the discussion. In my opinion, are webcomics dead? No. The web will always the be the most accessible way for creators to get their ideas out there and I don't see that changing. Are webcomics the future? With iPad opening the door even further web or digital comics will be a big part of it. But will we see much innovation or ideas blowing us out of the water? Well probably just like print comics we'll probably see the standard quo being most successful while the odd example of something really incredible will come out and Marvel and DC will mimic the hell out of it until we never want to see anything like it again.