Saturday, April 06, 2019

Web Comics ... from the beginning

Web comics like the truly excellent XKCD & Dinosaur Comics have been around for years, chronicling the web and society in ways both funny and touching at the same time. Well, the Verge came out with a wonderful piece Web Comics: An Oral History where web comic creators discuss how they, and the web, have changed over the last 20+ years. Worth a read without question. 

It can be hard to remember how primitive the internet landscape was in the late ‘90s, the era when webcomics came of age. The only way to share things was through email and instant message, and a seconds-long video clip could crash email servers if too many people sent it around. Something Awful was still a “weblog.” We went to websites — plural — to check for updates every day.

Webcomics creators often went online after being rejected by newspaper syndicates, gatekeeper conglomerates that grew increasingly conservative in the ‘80s and ‘90s. The best ones grew into beloved phenomenons, and the nascent funny T-shirt industry allowed many artists to make a living on daily cartoons throughout the 2000s.

Social media and a glut of internet merchandise have shifted the economics. Artists increasingly rely on Patreon, book sales, and other sources of revenue, while new webcomics often pop up exclusively on Instagram, foregoing the expense of a dedicated site. But in those early days, webcomics were some of the most influential pieces of the early-ish internet — vibrant and weird. They formed followings, which became communities, which became culture.

Excellent to a fault. :)

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