Web Comics Under Fire

Neil Swaab posted last week about the viability of webcomic business models in the current economy.

“I know there are plenty of web comic artists who are able to subsist on the income they make from their website, but they aren’t making money from their comics; they’re making money from merchandise. Not to belittle web-only comic artists, but when their income is derived from t-shirts, it makes them salesmen first, artists second.”

As a print comic artist, Swaab’s assesments about the webcomic world were questioned and challenged by several webcomic artists, most notably, Jeph Jacques of Questionable Content. Jacques’s post contains a point-by-point rebuttal of Swaab’s assertions and the back and forth illustrates most of the key differences in perspective between those working primarily in traditional media and those more comfortable with online and new media outlets.

On merchandising:


The t-shirt sales method is unacceptable for the reasons that an artist is not intrinsically making money off his or her comic, but is instead making money off merchandise sales and using the comic as a form of advertising for their merchandise.


I don’t know what country accepts BULLSHIT ARTISTIC CREDIBILITY DOLLARS as valid currency but I’m sure glad I don’t live there! Money is money.

On subscriptions models:


If enough artists decided to lock up their archives at the same time so readers had no choice but to subscribe, and the technology existed to prevent illegal copying and distributing on the Web, this could be a very wonderful solution.


If “the technology existed to prevent illegal copying and distributing on the web” we would be living IN MAGICAL FAIRY PONY FANTASY LAND. Maybe that’s also where those BULLSHIT ARTISTIC CREDIBILITY DOLLARS are legal tender!

On viability:


“Whatever business models alternative comic artists can come up with, the one thing that I firmly believe is that the current paradigm is dead… Artists must figure out a way to monetize their work online and readers must be willing to take this journey with them.”


Webcomics readers are the best readers in the entire fucking world. We are all incredibly, incredibly fortunate to have you guys supporting us, either monetarily or simply by looking at our websites and enjoying them.  But artists already have figured out how to monetize their work online, and readers have already made that journey with them.

It will be interesting to see other responses to this debate as the decline of traditional print comics and the viability of webcomics are likely to be echoed in other creative mediums. Jacques also briefly mentions an important point at the end of this response: that some comic would only work online, and other would only work in print.

Jacques is alluding to the fact that the long tail effect makes it possible for webcomic artists to sustain interest within a niche audience that is reachable by using the web as a distribution platform. Conversely, some print comics that have enough broad appeal to survive in a print world would not attract enough loyal fans if those readers were presented with a host of other options that may be more tailored to their individual tastes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *