The 99%

There's a misconception that when I give a webcomic a score of 3 out of 5, or something similar, it means I think it's a bad webcomic. What it really means is I just think it's normal and unremarkable. Here's why...

About 90 percent of webcomics are terrible. This number may seem high, but I'm including the vast amount of webcomics that only have a few pages or strips before being abandoned. Unless you go out of your way to look for these botched projects, you probably never see or think about them. The rest of the 90% are comics that are established but are just really bad, like the ones that get trashed on the Bad Webcomics Wiki. I rarely review webcomics this awful, but when I do, they get scores of 1.5 donuts or worse.

Then you have about 9 percent of webcomics that show some skill and effort but are mainly just boring and unoriginal. Most of the comics I review are in this category, and their creators are usually around a beginner or intermediate level. Sometimes you'll have a creator or a creative team with excellent artistic abilities but lackluster writing skills. These comics get scores of between 2 donuts and 4 donuts, and while they do some things right, they're being held back by one or more major flaws.

The last category is the top 1 percent of webcomics. These comics get scores of 4.5 donuts or better, and their creators typically have a lot of comicking experience. Many of them have done professional work or are on the verge of professionalism, and their comics are often the ones that readers choose to spend their precious time on.

This hierarchy is important for putting cartooning into perspective. Many creators might feel like failures for not making great webcomics and getting a lot of attention, but the reality is that 99% of webcartoonists are in the same situation. It's completely normal and expected to be in the lower or middle tiers.

There are a lot of reasons why webcartoonists don't make it into the 1 percent. Many webcartoonists choose to prioritize their careers, education, families and other hobbies over making comics. Many don't have the discipline or patience for it, or they don't enjoy spending a lot of time on such a solitary activity. Other creators just get burned out or demoralized after a while. There are also some creators who are dedicated to making comics but don't really try to challenge themselves and improve. It's possible that some creators just aren't talented enough, although I don't think talent's really that important.

Making a webcomic is hard work. Creators typically have self-imposed weekly or biweekly deadlines to meet, and it can feel like having a job without getting paid. Creators often get little or no attention or feedback, leaving them desperate for even the smallest bit of praise and recognition. Creators also have to take on the duties of an entrepreneur, meaning that in addition to making a comic, they need to design and manage a website, promote their work on social media, network with other creators, and figure out other ways to market their work and make money. Creators usually have to put up with all of this for years in order to build an audience, making webcartooning an extreme exercise in perseverance.

The 1 percent are exceptional creators who have a completely different mindset from your typical webcartoonist. For one, no matter how impressive their work is, they're extremely self-critical. When these creators talk about their strips or pages, they tend to focus on relatively minor flaws and disappointments, maybe mentioning how they could've or should've done a certain aspect in a different way. Second, these creators have an almost superhuman work ethic to the point of seeming practically obsessed with their projects. Their diligence manifests as passion and enthusiasm, which are things that readers pick up on and are attracted to. Third, these creators have a palpable professionalism that makes it seem natural for them to transition to actual professional work.

It probably requires a special kind of personality to join the ranks of this elite crowd. But that's perfectly OK. An average or even negative review isn't a condemnation of a creator's character or priorities. It just means their webcomic isn't very good.

1 comment :

  1. Very insightful article! Thanks for this -it's confirmed many thoughts and theories - I think it's all pretty spot on, so thanks for sharing :)