Ten Things to Know About the Future of Comics

Shaenon Garrity has a great post at Comixology this week. A little manifesto called Ten Things to Know About the Future of Comics.

Garrity has this unnerving habit of being right about everything, so I suggest you pay attention (though, if you disagree with any of her conclusions, I’d be curious to hear your views too, of course).

Please note that although I’m briefly name-checked in the article, I didn’t find out about this one through ego-surfing. It was actually via Barry Deutsch this time.

Discussion (22)¬

  1. Mike says:

    Very very interesting! I’ve posted that link around to places I frequent online and such.

    Thanks for posting that.

    So how do we save the Single Issue Comic? Make them more child-friendly comics?

    I prefer the Trades and collections too, but I also like single issue monthly comics. I’d like them more if they actually had enough story to warrant picking them up but lately it seems there’s almost nothing too them.

  2. She’s right. New communications technologies create the only revolutions that last, and we’re in the midst of one. I admire those like you who can see it and accept it. Most old-liners are still crying, “This can’t be happening!”

  3. R Thompson says:

    This can’t be happening!

  4. Kat says:

    Number 9 made me giggle simply because many of my friends (and myself included) are female and of the comic book reading and creating persuasion.

    Contrary to the tidbit on backgrounds in number 7 I do appreciate good backgrounds though and do try to practice those when I can, after all, setting is important to character and story development.

    This list is pretty much spot on I’d say.

  5. Theo Macdonald says:

    I agree with the majority of her points, but I think monthly comics are going to keep going. People subscribe to comics they like and it’s a nice surprise, rather than another monetary expense, when a new issue comes into the store.

  6. Pretty Jeff says:

    Yeah, it’s pretty much certain that newspaper comics are dead. Even if the newspapers manage to limp along for a couple more decades, it’s still not a great place to publish comics since the size constraints are so small that artistic expression is difficult. Sure, Chris Ware works with tiny panels, but not everyone is Chris Ware. It’s not easy to work in such a minimalist style and still remain interesting.

    The last place that newspaper comics may be able to go to is to online news websites. While the idea may sound like mindlessly following tradition, it is important to note that online news sites do get a lot of traffic. I remember that several webcomic creators created a webcomic app for Facebook that gave updated comics on their Facebook page. And I’ve even seen some syndicates post some of their comics online (in atrocious viewing formats with copyright restrictions ruining the content, but online nonetheless). I don’t know if anybody has tried the idea, but it might be worth considering.

  7. etranger says:

    A big part of the reason that manga has so much detail in the backgrounds is that before becoming comic authors, many artists in the japanese manga industry work as assistants, and one of their main duties is drawing backgrounds.

  8. Derrick says:

    I’m in the under-30 group and have to say that I completely agree with every single one of her points. Most comments seem to be on the “negatives”, but hey, comics are growing in new directions. Is that ever a bad thing?

  9. Aaron says:

    Pretty much everything on her list rings true to me. Number eight especially, as I’m testing the waters of comic making myself. The leap from reader to creator really is a natural one, especially with how friendly the comics community tends to be. There are those free comic hosting websites everywhere, there’s DeviantArt, blogs, forums. It’s almost encouraged that readers try out comic making.
    That’s one of the things that interests me about comics: with mediums like movies or novels, it’s almost like you have to know somebody. The impression I get from comics is that you can get your work out there with no trouble and probably garner a neat little group of followers. Being big of course takes a lot more skill and a lot more luck, but comics is a very open medium, for lack of a better word.

    Manga is an interesting subject. For every person who loves manga, there’s someone who detests manga and thinks they are the stupidest things ever. I myself actually spurned manga for a while, but now that I think about it they really have been very influential. It’s interesting to see how characteristics of manga show up in more and more comics.

    I realized at number 9 that there’s still a stigma that comics are for guys. Superhero comics in particular, and that seems to be what a lot of people think of when they hear comics. I’m not entirely sure I agree that MOST comic readers are girls , since different genres can appeal to different sorts of people (but they might be, what do I know).

  10. Kdg says:

    Ita abit scary but true…all of it! I only object to the end of point 3. I think graphic novel kinda fits. But I believe I feel this way because I have probably incorrectly used the term in place of trade paperback for years now… However, for me the term still fits. If you are getting much more than 26 pages in a volume and it is not a ‘picture book’ then I think ‘graphic novel’ works. It accurately describes what’s in one’s hands. Maybe the definition of the term needs to be expanded…

    Jm2¢ 😀

  11. xlip says:

    Some interesting points were brought up here. It got me thinking- The harsh reality of the present situation is that there are thousands of webcomic creators, and maybe one in a couple thousand is actually doing something captivating and original. Maybe an even lesser amount rises above the increasingly common characteristic of “talented”. As sad as it is, not everyone is going to be great, and not everyone should be. That’s the beauty of the Internet. Anyone can post whatever they want. I guess my point is (and I know some people won’t like this), we NEED gatekeepers on the Internet. We need objective criticism. Yes, those dark figures who regulate the flow of content from traditional publishers actually have a purpose other than propagating dogma. And why do I say this? Well, most of you are probably familiar with the website Reddit.com. The other day I was on it and I decided to post a link to “Bodyworld” by Dash Shaw. Which is a critically acclaimed and brilliant webcomic and now published graphic novel. Turned out it had already been submitted. It got 5 up votes and 7 down votes, and then it vanished. It was blown out of the water by some 3 panel gag comics which were crudely drawn, unoriginal, and sophomoric (I’ve always wanted to use that word). I know it’s all a matter of opinion, but this sort of thing is kind of like a video of kittens falling asleep on Youtube being hailed as a brilliant work of art rather than Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” by an audience of drunken five year olds. This sort of thing happens all the time. When I first started making comics I sent my attempts out to publishers only to be harshly rejected numerous times. I’m now glad about it because they were incredibly amateurish. It makes me happy to see webcomic collectives popping up all over the internet that guard their doors with a watchful eye to keep the regurgitated goop from seeping in, and I think this this could also be helpful if the micropayments idea ever pans out…

    • Scott says:

      We’re not looking for “gatekeepers,” we’re looking for guides.

      Gatekeepers in traditional media kept “bad” content unavailable, even to those who might have enjoyed it.

      I’m much more excited about the critic circles, peer groups, and other filters that work for the reader (not for publishers, retailers, or distributors) and guide them through the unfiltered landscape.

      Give me the haystack. We’ll all find our own needles, thank you very much.

  12. xlip says:

    Hmm good points. This is why I’m all for people putting up whatever they please on the Internet. But wouldn’t the role of the “guide” on the Internet be somewhat similar to the role of the “gatekeeper” of traditional publishing? In either case, there is some sort of regulation going on. A hugely influential blogger/critic will “direct” readers toward works he/she deems worthy of reading. A highly influential webcomic will have links to other webcomics deemed worthy of reading. I guess the only difference is that all the other not so good stuff will still be out there on the Internet tundra for readers to discover… And what if a potential reader doesn’t want to spend hours on the web looking for that needle?

    • Scott says:

      “Hours?” This is 2010. Would it take you hours to find me a picture of a ring-tailed lemur?

      I’m saying that guides working for the reader (hopefully with compensation—see NEXT blog post) will quickly help good work float to the top.

  13. Kdg says:

    Unfortunately the web IS a haystack. Oversaturation is to be expected. We have seen the same things with all of our entertainment media. TV is being killed by reality shows. Radio by dance pop and unintelligent rap music. I personally am offended by the state of animation is this country where card fighter anime and Family Guy are considered ‘marketable’…

    Like anything else, you gotta hunt for what YOU want. That is the flip side to our existence right now. We CAN choose because there is SO much out there now. And I am glad that our host here is still doing his thing, he’s a magnificent guide.

  14. […] the validity of point #2. There’s a lively debate going on at The Beat, while at Scott McCloud’s blog, the commenters were mostly in agreement. At The Webcomic Overlook, Larry Cruz comes up with his own […]

  15. xlip says:

    OK Scott, I agree with you here. What we need then, are more influential guides and webcomic gurus on the Internet. There are probably many out there already, but you’re probably the most influential one that I’m aware of. Who knows, with comics being steadily on the rise we may see many more coming around…

  16. […] reading, reading, Reading, Reading, reading, and READING on all these new limp-wristed manifesto about comics, I thought I would put […]

  17. Will Curwin says:

    Sorry the late comment. I know I’ll get a lot of comments saying otherwise but I disgree with number six for two reasons.

    I. Superheroes (more or less) started in comics. Its a weak argument but still a true one.

    II. The superhero movie is starting to die down. Read more about that here. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20404748,00.html

    I do argee that superheroes are not what comics are anymore and thank god for that. But to say that superheroes aren’t a part of comics is ignoring the elephant in the room.

    Umbrella Academy is a superhero comic, so sorry.

  18. Steve W says:

    I have to say that I found her first point to be especially sad, but true. There have been so many great comic strips over the years. I really hope that medium can find a way to survive. When Bill Watterson stopped drawing Calvin and Hobbes it was like a good friend was saying goodbye. It would be sad for future generations to miss out on that daily dose of humor.

  19. Foodveyor says:

    As for number 4, the audiencce being infinitely fragmented, I think that’s how its *always* been: Looking back on my high school days I was no different—My friends and I knew about some things but not about others. We were all about Les Humanoides/Heavy Metal, and loved the Zap Underground, but Epic Illustrated was too American-mainstream for our snobby tastes. Yet we were Raw-illiterate (even though we were reading about art stuff like Dada and Surrealism and would’ve loved it.) We were hanging out with people who made minis with Clay Geerdes, yet we hadn’t the foggiest about self-publishers like Dave Sim. I took a passing interest in Frank Miller’s Ronin, but Watchmen was so far off of my radar that, years after its full publication I had to ask someone, “What’s with the gun-shot smiley faces that everyone’s wearing T-shirts of?”