The purpose of this project is to follow a more general train of thought about online content creation and apply it to a specific genre of web media, referencing greater trends as necessary for a more cohesive understanding of webcomics, the culture of art on the Internet, and the intersections between the two. Over the last few years, I’ve found myself devoting a lot of thought to how factors like subscription-based microfunding and the changing roles of social media have impacted these spaces.
I chose to apply this study to the webcomic. I grew up consuming a few webcomics enthusiastically, primarily Hark! A Vagrant and xkcd, and later Homestuck and Vast Error. My recent interest in the way certain webcomics make use of their digital medium led me to the question of how webcomic production itself has changed. In the early 2010s, the actual production of webcomics was rarely funded; if they generated revenue, it was through the sale of merchandise or the use of on-website advertising. Some successful webcomics achieved revenue through traditional publication. Now, funding projects like Kickstarter and Patreon run the show, but what are the downsides of being funded by your fans?
Social media, too, has changed in the last decade. It has become the primary way that we consume content, as opposed to visiting individual webpages; furthermore, the expectation to be present online, and perform an authentic self within that online space, has spiked. The capacity to publicly receive and interact with direct positive and negative feedback from one’s fanbase creates a vastly-different atmosphere of creator-fan engagement than was standard ten years ago. Social media is also persistently used as a tool of self-promotion, as there are few other ways for content to grow on a profitable scale.
I intend to use prior materials, my own observations, and the insights of established creators to examine how a changing Internet landscape impacts webcomic artists, and how these changes are either adjusted to or resisted. The investigation of this topic creates an insight into observing wider patterns on the Web that impact enormous numbers of people; for example, memetic status impacts not only webcomic artists but names such as New York Times essayist Timothy Kreider. Funding options are a concern not only to creators of fiction or comics but to a variety of figures, including online educators. This project is therefore valuable because it seeks to create a unified narrative of the ways in which artists adjust to the current Internet landscape, one that leaves its audience to determine whether to go along with or seek alternatives to the Internet culture it exists in.