Although webcomics have definitely become more accepted and less ghetto-ised over the past couple of years, there's still one huge obstacle for them to overcome. How on Earth do you find the good ones?! The top lists are largely dominated by those with the cash to advertise heavily, the mainstream press (when it looks in this direction at all) can't see beyond the half a dozen gag-strips that kicked things off back in the Dark Ages and new readers find it hard to hear anything over the noise made by the big PR guns brought in to promote DC's Zuda. Stray off those beaten tracks looking for real quality and you'll pretty soon realise it's a jungle out there!
There are tens of thousands of comics on the web and, even as a webcomic creator myself, I have to admit that most of them are simply not worth reading.
Many of them are written and drawn by kids taking their first steps into creating comics. There's nothing wrong with that; I've done it myself. The only difference is that my own early attempts were pre-web, drawn in biro on school exercise books and never seen by more than a dozen class-mates. (See The House that Drac Built by way of proof!) Today's kids, on the other hand, are able to post their first fumbling efforts on the web and have instant access to a potential audience of millions. Well, good luck to them, I say! I'm just jealous that I wasn't able to do the same! Sadly, though, it's the fact that this type of comic is so commonplace that has detractors crying that there are no decent comics here in webworld!
Then there are those with beautiful art but poor writing. Or strong writing but substandard artwork. It's only natural for artists to want to be able to tell their own stories, of course, but the sad fact is that very few of us have the ability to write and draw up to a professional standard and putting together a whole team of specialists is an art in itself. A mainstream comic has a whole army of very creative people working on it: writers, editors, pencillers, inkers, colourists, letterers and probably a few more that I don't even know the names of. With the best will in the world, even the most talented webcomic creator can't be expected to master all those disciplines!
Regular webcomic readers know this and most will make allowances if a comic falls down in one or two areas. For potential new readers in search of good webcomics, however, it's only natural that they will expect the good comics to be as professionally produced as the mainstreeam comics they see on the shelves of their local newsagent. And, as like as not, they won't find any - not, I hasten to add, because there aren't good webcomics out there but because, as I said at the outset, they're just so damn hard to find!
Now, as well as being serialised at my own Broken Voice Comics website, my graphic novel Shades also appears at a number of webcomic hosting sites (Graphic Smash, Drunk Duck and Smack Jeeves) and, through them, I've discovered one or two real webcomic gems (like the two pictured here!) So, whilst I make no claims to know where all the treasure is buried, I plan to use this blog occasionally to highlight a few webcomics which are really something quite special.
I'll be posting something about the first of these shortly so, if you want to read webcomics that are worth reading but can't be bothered to trawl all around the net, make sure you look out for it. Just don't expect me to be flagging up tired old gag-strips banging away about video-gamers or beautifully illustrated fantasy comics populated by elvish characters who like to speak in thees and thous. I'll just be looking at the comics I like. You know ... the good ones!