Webcomic Manifesto

A warrior (Bruno) and a small dragon (Fiona) team up for fun and plunder in this fantasy comic strip.

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Webcomic Manifesto

Postby jueves on Mon Jan 20, 2003 1:09 am

The Webcomic Manifesto: Conceiving Truth in the Midst of Fiction


And then, all of a sudden, you realize it: possibly, there is nothing as
contrived and hypocritical as what has become of the scene of the elusive
art of the webcomic.

[There will be samplings of reality, places and names. But this is not
about labels. So before you question and wonder, I will identify myself as
Andrea B. Previtera, author of a well known and mostly hated comic
which has been among the heavy hitters and has been in print (in Italy),
as well. It has now probably ended both as a strip and a chapter of my

In the beginning, there are the artists. Exceptions aside, the prevailing
picture of reality can be applied to almost all of the web cartoonists out
there. Who are those artists? They at times term themselves as such.
They stand, humbly, among their fans (who draw fan strips, who write
and read their message boards...) Make no mistake: there is no humility
in them. They may care of their readership, only as much as of their
egos. Often, they will have nothing better to do than draw the strip. They
probably scribble something about it even when they are far from their
drawing boards or their computers. They have no realistic social life and
often the contents of their strip are related to their feeble attempts at
humor or complaining about those very attempts. They actually take
meticulous care to document their life. "Been there, done
that, sympathize with me. This is how I feel today." Perhaps they hope to
catch the attention of a girl, or to build a social life, using an intrinsically
empty premise. At the very last stage of that iterative moral
decomposition, they sell t-shirts, mugs, and "original drawings" to
somehow solidify their experiences, to prove to themselves, above
everyone else that what they are doing is real; that what they are doing
actually means something to the world.

This does not only apply to cartoonists with real skills, able to draw a
panel that's at least visually pleasant; but also to kids that just learned to
draw slightly better than stick figures having sex or drinking beer. And,
naturally, because of this prevailing pattern - reciprocal copying occurs:
everyone attempts to recreate the humor or graphical
style of one of the big shots. See five, six big webcomics, and you've
seen them all.

But that is not everything, by far. Masturbation: the cartoonists are
constantly checking their hits per day; they try to ascend the various top-
tens, they rant about "that other comic getting so much attention", they
bully others about the number of posts in their message boards... And all
of this, in order to gain the attention and fame they
could only dream of in real life, thus turning their hobby into a self-
feeding, self-hollowing obsession.

A special case deserves our attention: Keenspot. One very good aspect of
the Internet, was always a fairly equal opportunity to showcase one's
work, be it a comic strip, music, software, etc. Needless to say, in the real world, syndication destroys this opportunity for comic strips: if you cannot be syndicated, you will not appear in
newspapers; and if you do not appear on newspapers, you will be forever an underdog of the alternative pathways of society. You may have innovative ideas, concepts, yet
you have to accept the basic rules of the syndicates, disemboweling your strip until it conforms to certain standards, until in one way or another, it is politically correct.
This is why you will feel the same atmosphere by reading different strips like The Family Circus or Marmaduke. Did you see "Gattaca"? That feeling. Visually, all those
strips are different, but in their essence, they're not.

Keenspot, in effect, has turned into the Internet Syndicate - Keenspotted comics get all the traffic or most of it. Rarely a comic can emerge if it is not a Keenspot comic.
And interestingly enough, this mostly happens to comics that existed before Keenspot itself. So you could think that Keenspot has its syndication prerequisites, but it is
worse by far: whenever the founders and their posse (four or five guys, really) decide they like a comic, they offer the author to join Keenspot. Even worse, there is the
morbid rule that when a Keenspotted author quits his comic to make another one, the latter will be Keenspotted, as well. Quality, consistence, and continuity - such things
do not matter: the author is part of the clan, and thus will be plugged, and plugged, time and again.

The ultimate evidence? The cartoonist known as "Eight", who has been drawing "Road Waffles" for about over a year now. Keenspot founders claimed that one of a
Keenspot comic's main prerequisites is continuity - Road Waffles has been on hiatus for months. Afterwards, Eight started another comic that took RW's place, and again
began drawing a comic or two per month. Later, he replaced that comic with the current one, BloodLark, which after a couple months of regular run, vanished, as well. Do
note that Eight keeps his solid Keenspot position, keeps selling items, and keeps whining and complaining on his board.

With these interesting factors influencing the scene in mind, it's time to analyze a few of the major webcomics, and the persons responsible for them.

PVP (http://www.pvponline.com) by Scott Kurtz


Scott is constantly ranting and raving about someone else. Scott rants when someone rants against his rants. He ridicules other comics; he can send subtle offenses to
certain "particular" communities (the "furry" people, just to mention the most recent one). Interestingly enough, he won't take any, himself. When I criticized him (quite heavily), he was ready to *sue* me. Talk about a knee-jerk reaction.

Penny Arcade (http://www.penny-arcade.com) by Tycho and Gabe


Tycho and Gabe display huge news posts almost every day. Most commonly, they are full of attacks towards this or that, ("this" and "that" most often being other
webcomics that are obviously inspired by theirs - something the guys cannot accept). They seem to take an approach of "copyright infringement" to any other imitation of
their style, created by admiring fans. A clear example is their forum, where every thread that tends to go against their opinions, is instantaneously blocked.

ESCAPE! (http://www.escaped.it) by myself


The cartoonist does not take himself completely seriously, using irony heavily, (claiming himself to be a "Calvin Klein Pornstar", for example) and this may have worked in
his favor, if it was not for the fact that in order to gain the attention of his readers, he makes a webcomic which makes fun of handicapped people, cancer, religion, and now
and then he attacks other comics, this often causing the authors of other webcomics to lose control (see Scott Kurtz). Lastly, (being an obvious side effect of the
personality of his comic), his message board is filled with the sickest minds of the net, minds that he guides to deluded "crusades" without thinking for a second that an
author must constructively interact with his readers, not lead them to pointless self-destruction.

Dave Kelly (http://www.liviningreytown.com, http://www.lizard.com and others)


His life matches closely with the webcomics he does. This becomes clear just by looking at the amount of material he produces. He is strongly convinced that he will
make a living off his comics or at least his graphical skills but he just is not able to draw. Instead, he must yell at everyone, flooding boards and IRC channels with
exaggerated monologues about how skilled he is, links to his work, and so on.

Life's So Rad (http://www.lifesorad.com) by Corey Marie Kitley


The comic almost makes no sense. The art is incredibly poor, and the story is all about the author's life. This girl is seriously afflicted by some self-absorbed syndrome.
Her comic is clearly on Keenspot because someone on the staff physically liked her; and with this, the picture of KS should be complete...

To finish this brief essay I will point your attention toward the worst attitude of the said big shots of the web comic world: they are all packed, Keenspot or not, to preserve
their elite status by linking to each other. How many big web comics link to the lesser, more talented ones? Can you spot one? (No pun intended.) Goats links to
Superosity, that links to WIGU, that links to DieselSweeties, and I am sure that you already have heard of all of these. None of them is an unknown, little comic struggling
to gather a few readers. And there are a lot, believe me, a lot of webcomics that are either incredibly amusing or deeply insightful. Their authors simply did not get graced
by the holiness of Keenspot, or simply don't have money for a real .com, or .net domain, and are thus relegated to the dump yards of geocities, tripod, not having the time
or ability to promote themselves with banners. Why, then, do the Big Ones suffocate all the lists with their names?

With this, I will finish and will leave you with some thoughts to consider. You may or may not agree with what I wrote, so I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.

So long, for now,

Andrea B. Previtera

As I see it this essay was meant to bring light to various issues surrounding keenspot, keenspace, and the webcomic community as a whole. I do believe that the author brings up many valid points about the fact that keenspot is becoming more institutionalized and a syndicate that aims (not intentionally) at dominating the webcomic community all the while stifling the circulation of other lesser known webcomics.
The essay originated here at :
Seems like the debate is just starting to heat up.
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Postby Charles RB on Thu Jan 30, 2003 2:56 pm

He/she/it does raise some good points.
"We must fight on!"
"We'll die. We fight and we die. That's how it goes."
"Then we die gloriously!"
"There's an important word in that sentence, and it's not the word gloriously."
-Gunnery Officer and Captain, "Only You Can Save Mankind"
Charles RB
Keenspotter Supreme
Posts: 69
Joined: Thu Jan 30, 2003 1:57 pm

Postby Limax on Thu Jan 30, 2003 3:23 pm

Sorry. I don't like having people's ideas shoved down my throat. I'm funny like that.
.__ ___ __ _... ._ _

A salted slug gathers no moss.

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