Robot 6

“There’s nothing preventing a completely incompetent idiot from doing it”: Erik Larsen savages webcomics

Erik Larsen says "No We Can't" to webcomics

Erik Larsen says "No We Can't" to webcomics

Every crappy submission can “see print” on the web–every reprint book that would sell three copies in print would work on the web. The web is the great equalizer. Every crappy thing can get tossed up there. If it all went digital nothing separates a pro from an amateur. Print is far more discriminating. There are fixed costs which can’t be ignored for long. It’s not the wild west like the Internet is. That’s why the web doesn’t excite me a whole lot. Every nitwit can put stickmen telling fart jokes up–there’s nothing special about it.

Stickmen telling fart jokes is Watchmen as far as the internet is concerned, @BizzaroHendrix.

I mean–there’s things on the internet that people are willing to read but they would never pay for–and those are the success stories.

It’s an entirely different level though, @NoCashComics– even the worst pro comics have a modicum of professional standards.

I’m not saying everything on the net is bad–no need to take offense, @tsujigo @BizzaroHendrix just that there is no filter.

I disagree and I don’t disagree, @IanBoothby — how’s that for being agreeable? There are plenty of groundbreaking things in print as well.

I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the best online work is on par with good pro comics but the worst is far worse. I don’t think there is a web only comic that’s as good as Watchmen or Dark Knight. Correct me if I’m wrong. There are certainly web comics that are good for a laugh–and better than what’s in the Sunday Funnies–but not at a Watchmen level–yet.

Point being–anybody can do a web comic. There’s nothing preventing a completely incompetent idiot from doing it, @215Ink.

No. Nothing promising falls through the cracks, @drawnunder if you can’t get your proposed book in print somewhere–your book sucks.

Savage Dragon creator and Image Comics co-founder Erik Larsen bemoans webcomics’ lack of the quality control inherent in the cost-prohibitive economics of print publishing. (Quotes from Twitter edited slightly for clarity.) Yes, if only webcomics had the high standards on display in any given issue of Previews. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta go scour eBay for that Dart miniseries

In all seriousness, Larsen’s right — there are obviously virtually no barriers to publishing comics online. So what? With the advent of easy blogging platforms, there are no barriers to publishing your opinion writing. With cheap digital cameras and YouTube, there are no barriers to making and distributing short movies. GarageBand turned any computer into a halfway decent home recording studio. And on and on and on. Isn’t this, y’know, awesome? On the flip side, is there really any reason to believe that money provides for quality control? All that the expenses of printing do is raise the barrier from “any completely incompetent idiot” to “any completely incompetent idiot with a little cash.” I’m not one for Internet triumphalism, but it seems awfully churlish — and odd, for an artist and publisher — to greet the Internet’s enormous boon to speech and self-expression in this way, quite aside from the question of whether he’s accurately characterizing webcomics to begin with.

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Comments

63 Comments

Oh, Sean, you just HAD to bring Dart into this…

Well, isn’t he a peach.

It tickles me how irate Erik Larsen. gets over everything. He must feel threatened by so many things

Wow, my sentence structure makes ME irate, I’m going away now :D

How do you make a living off of crappy web comics?

The bigger webcomics make money in merchandising, so I’ve heard.

“Nothing promising falls through the cracks” is something only a person who’s already HAD his lucky break and has grown so self-involved he’s forgotten how things actually work could say.

“How do you make a living off of crappy web comics?”

You don’t. Not at first. Visit Penny-Arcade.com to see how a good web comic makes money.

There is crappy print comics and there is crappy web comics. Why is Mr. Larsen having such a strong reaction to crappy web comics? The answer is: more competition.

The “revolution” of web comics is only starting out.

Simon DelMonte

April 7, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Quality will out.

Also, Sturgeon’s Law.

Also, Bluewater Press.

Therefore, Larsen’s rant is invalid.

Now that is a completely misleading and unfair headline.

I didn’t “savage” web comics–I pointed out the bloody obvious. It’s absolutely irrefutable that anybody with a computer can make web comics and that there are no professional standards. So–why is this even here? Why is that news? It’s not news. It’s reality. News flash: the grass is green and the sky is blue. Who cares? That’s not controversial–or even news–it’s a simple statement of fact.

The point is relatively simple. Anybody can do web comics–not everybody can get their comics distributed to comic book stores. That’s fact. That’s reality.

Now there are all kinds of awesome web comics and all kinds of awesome print comics. I’m not saying otherwise. I don’t think there’s a watershed web comic yet–nothing along the lines of Maus, Watchmen or Dark Knight but it’ll happen eventually, I’m sure. The point I was trying to make is simply that there are no standards with web comics because literally anybody can do it.

Sigh.

Seriously–calm down. If simply stating facts qualifies me to be the “biggest cocksucker in comics” than something is seriously wrong. I haven’t stolen from anybody–I haven’t cheated or lied or hurt anybody in any way–all I said was the Earth is round and that’s enough to get people throwing a rod. That’s pretty messed up.

Haven’t you got something better to do with your time? Go make a web comic or something. All the cool kids are doing it.

I agree that as of right now there are no Watchmen or Dark Knight Returns on the net. Those watershed books came out over 40 years after comics were first introduced in America. However, I do not think it will be long before there will be something of that caliber.

I found Larsen’s comment, funny. He even poked fun about the quality of one of his own books! As for those who are saying that he’s worried about competion from webcomics; how? They’re free.

Springheeledjack

April 7, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Post some unflattering quotes off Twitter, add in sensationalized headline. Anyone who promotes online comics is already fully aware of this. It’s easy to tear down either side.
What Would Wil Wheaton Do?

Yep, Larsen’s correct…anyone has the freedom to do a webcomic. Earning an audience, and what’s more earning a revenue stream are different kettles of fish. On that score, I think he’s going a bit far in bashing people who have become professionals through webcomic platforms. And seeing as how some of Image’s competitors have started to bring good webcomics into print through floppies and graphic novels some of these folks are competing for shelf space with Image product.

It’s a new medium with lots of quality product already and a good deal of upward potential.

Eh, I see complely incompetent idiots write print comics almost every week and let’s not get started about the art. I’ve seen Big Two comics with art I’d have been embarassed to put up on the refrigerator, much less put forward for publication.

Where did I “bash” anybody?

Sean T. Collins

April 7, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Erik, first of all, I apologize to you for having to endure the namecalling at the beginning of the thread. I’m just seeing it now and removing it forthwith.

Second, “savages” was a (fairly obvious, I thought) pun on your book. It may stretch the issue a little bit, but only just — the images you hold up as representative of webcomics are not flattering, to say the least.

Chris Buchheit

April 7, 2011 at 1:10 pm

While there may not be any Watchmen caliber web comics as of yet, I think Cura Te Ipsum might be headed that way. Check it out: http://www.charlieeverett.com/
Also, I think the argument of Bluewater Press is a pretty valid one for lack of quality control in the print medium.

Rollo Tomassi

April 7, 2011 at 1:23 pm

I might not have clicked on the link if the headline hadn’t been ‘incendiary/sensationalized’.
If it had said ‘Larsen offers opinion of webcomics’ I wouldn’t have clicked on it.
But look, that choice of headline has now stirred up a debate about the relative quality of both webcomics AND Mr. Larsen’s alleged standing on the world’s list of fellaters.

Manglr:
“And seeing as how some of Image’s competitors have started to bring good webcomics into print through floppies and graphic novels some of these folks are competing for shelf space with Image product.”

You mean “Image product” like PvP, one of the most popular webcomics out there, which Image started publishing in print way back in 2003? The company’s not exactly anti-webcomic.

I’m Glad Mr. Larson replied to this. It’s difficult to see the whole picture when you are really only seeing certain tweets. Larson is right, there is not much of a barrier of entry for making a webcomic as compared to getting your comic distributed via Diamond or other distros. That is just one of the differences between printed comics and webcomics, but there are similarities too.

One of the biggest similarities, is that late comics both print and web, effect readership. Most webcomics have a stated publishing schedule, M-W-F as an example, while the majority of printed comics are monthly. When those schedules aren’t met, readers leave.

I doubt there will ever be a “Watchmen of webcomics.” Most of the beauty/uniqueness of Watchmen comes from the art. That’s not a slam on Moore since he rights specific art details for panels. Watchmen was a statement about comics, at that time. I don’t think that will work since there is no standard norm for Webcomics.

Superactiogo – Larson’s right in this regard. As McKee so elegantly puts it, “there is no such thing as unrecognized genius,” especially in comics. Good comics see print if their authors wish it so. There are a lot of publishers who publish very bad things, not at the expense of good things, but for lack of them. It may take time for something to get off the ground, and may be difficult to justify financially (Chris Wright’s comics in particular are easily some of the best being made, though so uncommercial as to mitigate publisher enthusiasm), but eventually the good always wins out. I have never seen a great comic that no one will publish, though I have seen plenty of flawed ones.

I get what Erik is trying to say, maybe he’s not quite putting it the best way.

I think Erik would agree with me that it doen’t matter really if it a Web Comic, Printed Comic, TV show, Movie or whatever.

If an Artist / Writer dosen’t hold themselves to a certain standard or skill level the end result will be generally crap or at least less than great. What media the final product goes out as really doesn’t matter at all, neither does how much money is involed.

Hell, even good Artist or Writers can fail , as proof of this I’ll use one of Erik’s own examples … I offer; The Dark Knight Returns (great book) and The Spirit (not so great movie) Both written by Miller. Some money to do the book, and a ton of money to do the movie, so what happened?

BUT, Erik’s true point is that the Web is the easiest and cheapest way to get widest distrobution of even the lamest of work, reguardless of what that work maybe.

What the net is really awesome at is networking and giving people exposure and that’s especially true with stuff that is hilarious but completely unprofessional or commercial. There are web comics where the art is wretched but the gag is pretty funny. Same deal with the submission pile–often it’s good in that Ed Wood I-can’t-believe-how-crappy-this-is kind of way where it’s entertaining because it’s crass, crude, politically incorrect or awful.

Everything that Erik is saying on Twitter about producing comics on the web can be said of producing words on Twitter.

Or on web site comment threads, of course.

I don’t think it’s any different from with published comics. Anybody can put out a paper comic, not all of them will be good and not all of them will get read.

I don’t know if Mr. Larsen noticed, but most web comics are not narrative, but are more like gag comic strips. Now if we are to compare Marmaduke to XKCD, or even Penny Arcade. we see that his argument doesn’t seem all that strong. Also, as far as I remember, 90’s Image comics were not published on the web…

Sorry for the cheap shot.

And I never said “No we can’t” to webcomics. That is, again, a fabrication.

As news stories go–this is pretty inflammatory, misleading and inaccurate.

Welcome to the internet.

This is coming from a guy who hasn’t written an original story in over a decade, and who’s comic sells badly in a medium that already sells badly.

I am sorry, what is so crass about Science jokes?

I think Larsen gets people ticked at him, not for what he says but for how he says it.

I’d also like to add, that if he’s comparing print comics to web comics, then maybe he should include self published DIY books, in which case the two mediums are equal. Better web comics get more attention and can thrive, even earn an income for their creators, in different ways.
The two formats have different but overlapping audience, and because of this, profit streams come from different areas.
Even still there are similarities: how often has it been said that DC makes more from the merchandising off of Wonderwoman and Batgirl franchise then they ever do off the comics themselves? (Can’t say I know if it’s true, but you hear a story enough times . . .)

I do a webcomic (http://www.coalminds.com/webcomics/futurekings.php) so I should I guess try to take offense but some of the stuff I see really is horrid. Especially the stick figure stuff. I would point out that the same applies to amateur musicians on youtube (basegod etc.) So it’s not isolated to one medium and doesn’t mean he’s saying all webcomics are awful. What’s interesting is how in the rush to cheer the death of mainstream media people forgot that the folks in mainstream media with expertise provided some valuable services. Stuff like editing for example.

Yeah, because as a WRITER in the UK if I want to get my ideas looked at there’s a huge queue of American publishers like Image who’ll happily let me mail them some comic scripts I’ve written, or fly over the pond to attend one of my plays in the theatre to prove I can write and work to a deadline. Artists at least can stick their stuff under peoples noses to look at. No one’s going to sit and read a script at a convention.

On the other hand, if I find a keen artist who’s also interested in breaking into comics I can collaborate and stick our stuff up online for anyone anywhere in the world to see, send a link to some editors, and get myself half a chance of making a living out of what I enjoy doing.

But then wasn’t Larsen the guy who thinks writers aren’t important and should only be able to work in comics if they can draw their own stuff as well?

How long had the Comic Industry been around before they produced a Maus or a Watchmen or a Dark Knight? And in comparison, how long has web publishing been around? Exactly.

superactiongo

April 7, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Chris Schweizer: There’s a philosophical difference of opinion here, in that McKee’s quote implies that “genius” is something that can be agreed upon without debate, which I just don’t think is true. But that’s a bigger discussion that doesn’t apply at the moment.

At any rate, Erik didn’t claim that ‘genius’ never slips through the cracks, he said nothing ‘promising’ ever does, and whatever a person might think of as ‘genius’ is vastly different from the amount of work that might be thought of as ‘promising.’

Also, your example of Chris Wright brings up the point that companies publish what the believe can be profitable. No company willingly publishes what they believe will fail commercially, and I’d like to think that no one here honestly believes that genius or even ‘promising’ equals sales, since history is full of works never appreciated until much, much later. It can be said, perhaps, that shows that quality will eventually out, but I’d still say that’s a far far cry from “if you can’t get your proposed book in print somewhere–your book sucks.”

“If simply stating facts qualifies me to be the “biggest cocksucker in comics” than something is seriously wrong.”

Stating facts doesn’t make you that, being a tactless dick does.

Calling someone the biggest cocksucker in comics as a statement on class or tact..
really doesn’t work.

Sweet Jesus, I sure hate these goddamn ‘Erik Larsen Should Die In A Fire!’ threads. Erik Larsen is friggin’ awesome. If only because since the early ’90s, the man has steadily been working on his own childhood creation, writing and drawing each and every issue (even going so far as to do a complete extra issue to stand in for a Jim Lee issue made when the Image partners all swapped books for a month). Seriously, writing and drawing 170 issues in a row…in terms of sheer dedication, who can hold a candle to that in the modern era of comics? And sure, he’s the man who put out ‘Dart’. He’s also the man who gave Robert Kirkman one of his first chances, put out two sweet Dave Johnson SuperPatriot minis that are among the finest-drawn comics ever and has used the back-pages of his funnybook to spotlight completely unknown creators.

Also, Adam K? The biggest cocksuckers in comics are the conmen, the Granitos, the Pat Lees, not outspoken, hard-working, honest-to-god *creators* who in between juggling the many different tasks that come with putting bread on the table while doing what they love might not have the time to take your fragile, delicate little ego into account. Grow up and grow a pair, you goddamn pussies: Erik Larsen might be blunt, but he’s earned it. What the hell have you haters done?

I think Erik is right. This is a non-story, trying to be blown up into something inflammatory with a misleading headline and misplaced indignation. Slow news day?

“put out two sweet Dave Johnson SuperPatriot minis that are among the finest-drawn comics ever ”

I agree, he also (I know it’s kinda sacrilege) is my favorite Spiderman artist. I thought his style was perfect for the character, and at a time when I had very little money to spend as a kid his Spidey books gave me a lot of bang for the buck.

I don’t really understand how this is news either. I don’t disagree that the worst webcomics are worse than the worst print comics. But I think it’s always worth keeping in mind with “there are no gatekeepers on the internet” discussions, especially where webcomics are concerned, is who those gatekeepers have historically kept out. Female cartoonists were not well served by print comic’s “discriminating” gatekeepers. Or even if we set that aside, humor cartoonists, generally. If anything is worth getting upset about Mr. Larsen’s comments (and there isn’t), it’s being dismissive to things “that are good for a laugh” but that are “not at Watchmen’s level yet”… I think he’s ignoring that “comedy” and “gatekeepers” don’t really go great together…

But if you accept what he’s saying is true, and I do– then it’s just a question of how you judge it? And me, I find it exciting personally, notwithstanding how much terrible stuff there is. The idea that “anybody can do a web comic. There’s nothing preventing a completely incompetent idiot from” making a comic, movie, song, whatever.. I think that’s great, personally– as an incompetent person. I like that self-proclaimed “artists”– there’s nothing special about what they do anymore, other than they’re more pompous about themselves when they do it. If the Village Voice isn’t even paying cartoonists, what’s the difference between you or me and a “professional artist” anyways? If there still is a difference, it’s a more nebulous touchy-feely one; practical differences are nil. Do you have a pencil and zero dollars in your pocket? Congratulations, you’re a professional cartoonist!

You’re what you say you are and what you do, not what other people say you are and let you do. I think that’s rad personally. You can make comics because they’re FUN TO MAKE, and not sit there and worry about what the market will pay for. You can focus on enjoying yourself, instead of worrying about publishers and retailers and marketing. Art can be a pleasant experience for you, instead of some grueling process of “breaking in.”

Sure, people can point at you and say “not professional quality” — and they may even be right. But, you know, pat them on the head and then go back to having a good time with your life, while they try to make a nickel into a dime. If you think the pity flows from them to you, just wait a couple years and watch as the complaints about piracy grow more bitter, the complaints about paying work drying up grow more bitter, they spend more time running around chasing after swiping… and then at the end, they get to be old, having chosen a career with no health care, no pension, all for a body of work that most of them don’t even own. And after that, I don’t think you’ll feel so bad about your work not being “professional”, or that “anybody can do it”…

So that’s how I look at it, at least this afternoon. More importantly, though, wow, what a great week for Image books…

No, he’s right that there is no Watchmen or Dark Knight in webcomics.

There isn’t one at Marvel or Image or Dark Horse or IDW either. :)

The ‘if it is good enough it will be in print’ is obvious rubbish, of course.

Piles of good non-American stuff will never be translated for reasons of money or censorship and to do Thor mini-series 27 instead. Or Youngblood. ;-)

@ Steve Broome

Oh yeah, I was a big fan of Erik Larsen’s Spider-Man as well. His ‘Revenge of the Sinister Six’ was really cool.

(Oh, and your webcomic is pretty damn interesting…I’m reading it right now!)

Sean T. Collins

April 8, 2011 at 5:29 am

Erik, again, I thought the “no we can’t” thing was a pretty obvious joke playing off the Obama cover. I fully quoted what you said and provided a link for people to see it, too; I also provided links to the other twitter accounts with whom you were conversing. If I were interested in misleading people, I wouldn’t have done any of that.

The disparaging of webcomics comes from the fact that you imply, not state but imply, that because webcomics have less overhead it is somehow inherintely a less valid form of publishing. Quite frankly this seems more a breakdown in understanding between different publishing models. Almost everything Larsen has said about webcomics can be applied to print comics in some way or another. I can just as easily print my own crappy physical comic out and distribute it myself and make what a crappy webcomic can make. The fact remains horrible product can be produced in either medium. As people have said, see Bluewater. That’s not to say that good stories don’t slip through publishers either. I mean being a founder of Image should tell you that. I can almost guarantee you got stories published there that would never have seen the light of day at DC or Marvel. Far more experimental webcomics do get made than print comics. Know what? I’m ok with that. There needs to be somewhere to experiment, and major publishers are definitely not going to allow that. The web and technology are a wonderful thing that allow you, with extremely hard work, to build an audience without the previous generations need of a publisher. I salute them for that. I don’t think traditional publishing is a horrible thing either, I just think that saying they are the end all be all arbiters of quality is an ignorant statement.

Erik,
The reason so many people spoke out about what you commented on web comics is a reflection of the industry as a whole right now. You have been on top for a long time, your name can get you into any top 10 publisher, you have made it in the industry.

Publishers today are much more selective about what they accept these days, and far less likely to take on a new or different title. If you were to start your career today and submit a Savage Dragon pitch to a publisher, do you think it would be picked up?

The web gives new creators a place to make a name for themselves and to launch their careers. They don’t have to worry about working with a publisher and hoping someone is willing to take a chance on them. They take control over their own work and live or die by their own talent, and not a publisher who is too financially strapped, or too skeptical of the property working in the market today.

Print doesn’t sell 100k+ comics anymore, the indie scene is hurting just as much as the top 10. The web level sets that, and goes even further by removing costly barriers to getting into the industry.

So your points are valid, but where you see a negative, many see a positive.

Andrew DelQuadro
215 Ink

Looks like I’m a day late and a dollar short but it’s the internet so I’ll put my opinion out there anyway.

I think the only real problem w/ Erik Larsen’s comments is that he lumped all webcomics together. I like to think of webcomics as being professional, amateur or fetish. Where professional comics like PVP and Penny Arcade are full time jobs for their creators and they can be judged by the same merits as print comics. Amateur webcomics are most likely created by someone who’s still learning and I shouldn’t expect them to be professional, or they are fanfic and wouldn’t be published anyway. As for fetish comics, I just rub soap in my eye and pretend I didn’t see that :\

There are a few webcomics that approach the quality of something like BONE. Have you read The Abominable Charles Christopher (http://www.abominable.cc)? It could find a home at any publisher, easily, but for whatever reason Karl Kerschl has chosen to publish the books himself (better profit margin?). It’s not because it sucks; it’s a personal choice he made.

I’ve been told by a few publishers that my webcomic is pretty good, but it’s an anthology and anthologies don’t sell. So there are marketplace as well as quality considerations at play here.

I think the one quote that really speaks to me in all of this is how the worst webcomics are far worse than anything that regularly appear in print. Even Bluewater may take some hits, but the truth is their books are just bad. There’s webcomics and vanity press dtuff that is downright unreadable.

You know, this is really the same conversation that was happening 25 years ago during the first b&w boom, when quick buck publishers like Solson and Silverwolf flooded the market with the worst kind of crap, helping make it all the more certain that self-publishers who actually cared about the content of their books would get lost in the shuffle. The marketplace is ever larger. but the signal-to-noise ratio remains the same.

The greatest thing about webcomics that is getting forgotten in the shuffle is the ability of it to allow amateurs and hobbyists to (perhaps) find their calling. Both Randall Munroe and Kate Beaton were just doodling in their free time at work and posting things on their blogs, and then were surprised to find they struck a chord.

Tell me, what syndicate or publisher would pick up stick figures telling math and science jokes? Or history and literature-themed comics? Probably none– until they were tested online, and now Beaton’s got a deal with D&Q, and I find Randall’s book all over Boston.

Why was this news? One of the industries leading publishers decided to inaccurately paint an entire sector of the industry with a broad-brush. Sorry, Erik. You have a couple of good points in there, but you buried them in some problematic language.

The answer to what in webcomics has reached the depth, complexity, and rules-breaking of Watchmen is Homestuck over at http://www.mspaintadventures.com/ . I’ll admit it lacks superheroes, but the direct market didn’t collapse the way the newspaper market did, so everyone who wanted to tell superhero stories during the early days of webcomics was still chasing publishers then.

As a delivery system, websites favor the recurring content that comes to a satisfying conclusion every time. Comedy works well in that format and tends to draw a stronger response from those not turned off by the joke, so most of the earlier commercial leaders were/are comedy strips. Considering they are working in the tradition of Peanuts, Doonesbury, The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, and Bloom County, it’s no wonder that some of their fans got annoyed on the content being produce being dismissed as merely “good for a laugh.”

Now, like the newspaper comic page, there are some dramatic strips that turned out to be commercially viable also. The earliest of the would be http://www.megatokyo.com/ , the only webcomic whose trades are published by the Big 2. Despite giving away the content for free (with ads) on the web, the title was still too profitable for DC to cut loose when they shut down the rest of the CMX line. It was supposed to go to Wildstorm, but then that got shut down too. The last trade came out under the DC imprint itself. Of note, despite being a DC trade, my local comic store doesn’t carry the title, probably because they carry almost no Manga.

As a commercial venture, webcomics has settled on the television/radio model of making money off of stories. Ads, repackagings (trade collections), merchandising, and licensing pay the bills of fifty or so full time creators http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_self-sufficient_webcomics . That’s not a big number, but let’s not pretend that the American direct market supports even a thousand full-time creators. This has nothing to do with Erik, since he wasn’t banging on them for selling t-shirts. But it’s a common enough complaint that I felt the need to address it. Looking down on people for making money off their audience is snobbery. Being a snob about HOW artists make money off their content is just weird. Oh, and Erik, most of the people on that list will tell you online trade sales a significant part of their income. So “willing to read but they would never pay for” is one of things you’re getting dinged for.

Finally, buried his under inaccurate broad-brushing of the webcomics, Erik does manage to make the point that there is a higher percentage of crap in webcomics than in published comics. He’s right. There is. He doesn’t clearly articulate a reason for it though, so I will here: money. It isn’t publishers or editors. It’s simply the fact that the production and distribution costs favor large production runs to minimize costs, and it takes a profit to make doing it more than once reasonable for anyone but a masochist. Profits go to the good enough and have a pretty sharp cut-off in the ink and paper world. On a web that has blog sites that host content for free, that number drops to zero. So yeah, more crap.

Luckily, there are people like Scott McCloud and myself who enjoy digging through the crap to find the good stuff. Name a genre, I’ll see what I can recommend. Don’t like sitting in front a computer for reading comics? Name the format you like, and I’ll try to point you to those that have already repackaged their stuff. Well, for trades or digital downloads anyway. Floppy repackagings are pretty thin on the ground. Not profitable enough.

Thank you everyone who made it this far, and Erik, please know that I continue to enough the Savage Dragon trades.

The idea that Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns are the pinnacle of the comics medium from which to judge everything is laughable.

The question isn’t “why haven’t webcomics produced a ‘Dark Knight Returns’ or a ‘Watchmen’ yet?”

The real question is “why haven’t print comics produced an ‘Achewood’ or a ‘Hark, a Vagrant’ yet?”

Print is not far more discriminating. Mini-Comics Day is tomorrow, you know. Just like the web, anyone can make mini-comics, print a few dozen copies, and then sell them at cons, drop them off at their local store or distribute them however they like, including selling them online at etsy or something.

So it’s really not a print vs. web thing. As Erik frames it, it’s really a Diamond Comics Distributors vs web thing, and in that respect he’s kind of right, but it seems apples to oranges to me.

But how do we know that everything promising makes it to print? How do you prove that theory? I’m sure some very talented writers and artists who haven’t been published yet would disagree, but then the response would be “well, they must not really be talented or promising”.

And finally, I think it’s a little insincere to say this doesn’t mention being covered here or discussed when it’s gotten over 50 comments in less than 24 hours. If these were truly just benign observations being made, I doubt they would’ve been tweeted in the first place. I can’t say I’ve noticed a whole lot of “the sky is blue” tweets from Erik or anyone else on Twitter. It’s a good conversation to have.

I’m an Erik Larsen fan .. Savage Dragon .. I own every issue. In print. Personally, I like it better than Watchmen or Dark Knight Returns. and right now .. I think it’s the best it’s ever been. More people should buy Savage Dragon. The world would be a better place if they did. :-)

Anyhow, as far as this thread of discussion .. Erik Larsen told it like it is .. . and some people find fault with that. I don’t think that reflects on Erik Larsen on any way. It’s just that anybody can post a web comment. In fact, the negative comments kind of make Erik Larsen’s point. Anybody can publish anything on the internet. .

Now there are tons of good web comics that would like not have gotten picked up in more traditional publishing methods. Yet.. I can’t disagree too much with Larsen as I know there are tons of half assed or just outright delusional web comics made out there. There are plenty of incompetent creators out there. Tons of kids should be still working on sketch books, not ‘publishing’ their work for a global audience to see. Hell, even a friend and I used cheap Photoshop tricks back in high school to make a South Park style comic parodying anime and comics characters. Even the college paper another friend and I tried had better standards.. slightly. Any idiot can toss a comic up on the web and say they’re “publishing a web comic”. Web comics are a sea of total crap with a handful of gems if you can find them. With this anyone can ‘publish’ aspect, you get a whoooole ton of people who need far more work before they should have published. You know, if they should be publishing work at all instead of moving onto other fields.

It’s web comics that see something as big a business as Penny Arcade in the same field as a 25 year old autistic kid drawing cheap knock off Sonic the Hedgehog comics.

Now there’s something interesting about the totally amateur having the same access and ‘publishing’ ability as the pros. Certainly pros like Larsen aren’t going to like this revolution. I can’t say I’m all that thrilled about it as an amateur trying to figure a way in. Yet I can’t say it’s a bad thing like he does. Not that I think it’s a great thing either. It just is. It’s really a mixed bag of pros and cons.

So if the untalented put up websites, how does that cheapen the work of the more talented?

I’ve seen MANY stunning webcomics that couldn’t get attention from the “majors” until after hitting it big online.

General statements to start a conversation are fine, but they need to be expanded upon and qualified or else it’s a whole lot of talk.

The webcomics that are hitting it out of the park don’t reflect positively or negatively on the work of longtime print-only cartoonists. Why should anyone feel threatened that an amateur is teaching themselves the ropes of cartooning on a website that probably isn’t seen by many people outside of their immediate circle of friends? Who does it hurt? It’s just like minicomics except even more free. Surely minicomics don’t offend folks, right?

Look at this stuff that the print comics world hasn’t been supporting:

http://www.sisterclaire.com/
http://www.machineflower.com/
http://hanna.aftertorque.com/
http://www.meekcomic.com/
http://www.lackadaisycats.com/
http://boxerhockey.fireball20xl.com/
http://rice-boy.com/
http://www.buckocomic.com/
http://dresdencodak.com/
http://www.octopuspie.com/
http://scarygoround.com/

Think about that,

Erik Larsen has strong opinions, and he says them bluntly and directly because (I assume) he’s a busy guy who has 3,000 other things to get to. So what? People gotta lose their shit because someone has a distinct point of view?

He likely doesn’t have any patience for tippy-toeing his way through being politically correct. Anyone who’s as accomplished as he is has a very no-nonsense view on his industry. Don’t believe me? Listen to any interview with Todd McFarlane or Joe Quesada. When you’re at a convention, stand around and listen to Neal Adams opine about the industry, or the world in general. Their experiences and accomplishments define them, and people want to hear what they have to say. Occasionally they’re going to be blunt enough to ruffle the feathers of a few people.

So please, everyone… get over your sensitive selves.

As to the meat of his comments, he’s absolutely right. He breaks down the hierarchy of quality in the comics industry quite well. The web comics can’t ever get anyone to pay for the crap quality, and the stank dung that Bluewater shits out is just a gimmick-oriented collection of stapled paper products.

I’ve obviously transitioned into paraphrasing…

It can happen in regular comics as well, best proof? Erik Larsen is still publishing comicbooks.

Nice try to label your “article” about a no-issue, clearly written to stir up some shit, as harmless or even relevant. You like to be the next Rich Johnston, you can at least be honest about it. Hope you’re proud about your fine piece or “journalism” here, Collins. That’s exactly what comics need. People trying to get some scene points on the back of creators.

For people saying there have been no masterpieces in the online comics arena I have just one word: Bodyworld.

Stassa, do you even know anything about webcomics at all?

AT ALL?

Ask Evan Dahm of Rice-Boy if he can’t get anybody to pay for reading his books. Ask Spike of Templar Arizona if she can’t get anybody to pay for her books. Ask Scott Kurtz, ask Yuko Ota and Ananth Panagariya, ask Jeph Jacques, ask ANYBODY.

Cousin, you’re drowning way over your head, you don’t know WHAT you’re talking about.

darrylayo

Sure, I know about webcomics, after reading them for years. When we all (you included) speak about the general state of something (the comics industry, politics, whatever), we’re doing just that; speaking about the general state of something. The one thing about speaking in generalities in prose is that upon scrutiny, you can always find technical fault with one’s statements.

In forums like this, stating one’s general opinion usually devolves into a game of “gotcha!” as people parse every typed word in said opinion, looking for any excuse to act like they unfairly had their panties twisted in a bunch.

Rereading Erik Larsen’s statements he wrote, I don’t see anywhere that he said that 100% of webcomics are crap. He ‘speaks’ (writing one’s own opinion generally being thought of as the equivalent to someone saying something ‘out loud’) about the general state of that part of the comics industry. He even said, “I’m not saying everything on the net is bad–no need to take offense”.

And yet, people are getting all flustered as if they have the vapors! *fanning myself* I DO DECLA-AH! I love it when people manufacture their own hurt feelings.

Whenever any serious professional comics artist or editor reviews an aspiring artist’s portfolio, they will speak to that person only on the level of what it takes to make it on the professional stage. Anything else is to say, “well, that’s a nice hobby you have there”. I believe this is what Erik Larsen is doing; speaking about things on the level of what it takes to be successful in this industry. It is the height of buffoonery to draw the conclusion that he’s taking a big diuretic poopie on people for the fun of it. His observations carry great credibility, considering his accomplishments and experiences.

If all you’re offended by is his blunt way of getting his point across, then say so. Don’t conflate things.

There are always ‘exceptions to the rule’ for anyone’s general statements. I looked at those links you posted earlier, and I must say there were one or two that looked pretty decent in the artwork. The rest were very bad examples (or very good examples of bad comics) that do not represent the quality level that would stand up to even the moderately successful books that are published on paper. Though I must say that the sepia tone web comic with the anthropological cat people is better than anything that Bluewater has ever published.

God, what a terrible comic book company that is.

I celebrate the people who can make any kind of success out of their work, on any level. Those are the people who will end up being successful anyway. Jim Lee, Joe Quesada or Todd MacFarlane would be the successes they are anyway, even if they had many more roadblocks thrown in front of them, because that’s the kind of people they are. They’d just find another way around their obstacles to get where they’re going.

So, cousin, sorry you don’t think I know what I’m talking about, but I believe I do. I observe things out there just like you do. I just happen to draw different conclusions than you. I wish anyone well in their efforts to make a success at their web comic, print comic, or whatever. However, when you’re dipping your tippy-toes into the professional publishing world, people will make distinctions between the levels of quality in that world, and your work might just not be perceived as being ‘up to snuff’.

The struggling people who publish web comics very much want the kind of success that people like Erik Larsen has achieved. It’s too bad that when they encounter strong valid opinions from people like Erik Larsen, they can’t take that observation for what it is; solid analysis from a very successful industry professional.

If I were one of these web comics publishers, instead of running around acting all offended when there’s no actual reason to, I’d take to heart what Erik Larsen said as a call to focus my energies on making my comic book property as much a commercial success as I could, so I may compete in the publishing world & pay my bills/food/rent with my work.

Anything other than that makes what I would do as a really earnest hobby.

darrylayo, you said:

“Ask Evan Dahm of Rice-Boy if he can’t get anybody to pay for reading his books. Ask Spike of Templar Arizona if she can’t get anybody to pay for her books. Ask Scott Kurtz, ask Yuko Ota and Ananth Panagariya, ask Jeph Jacques, ask ANYBODY.”

Good for them. Again, they are exceptions to the general rule that most webcomics out there are badly done. Scott Kurtz is such a fun and sincere guy, and I enjoy his work very much. However, when Erik Larsen offers his opinions on the crap quality of webcomics, never at all did I think of Scott Kurtz’s work as being part of that criticism.

When you say “ask ANYBODY” in regards to getting anybody to pay for reading their webcomics, you’re still speaking to the exceptions. I hope that these people can make an actual living out of their efforts. Assuming they do, they are but a few successes in a sea of other webcomics out there that make the comic strip Cathy look like it was illustrated by Frank Frazetta and written by Ray Bradbury.

If you’re going to defend the few success stories, great. But don’t lump in the giant landfills of waste that comprise the majority of webcomics. It hurts your argument.

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