I haven't been following the new Webcomics Examiner
very closely, but a link from Thought Balloons
caught my attention. There I discovered Barb Lien-Cooper's guest editorial
It's the fact that many web sites dedicated to comic book journalism simply refuse -- often without explanation -- to review web comics. Reading between the lines, I suppose the obvious answers are:
She then lists 8 generally flimsy excuses for not reviewing webcomics, presented (despite her initial "I'm reading between the lines") as actual justifications coming from (unnamed) sites.
While we're making up reasons, then, perhaps it might be useful to do more than set up straw men and consider a few more substantial reasons why a comics web site might not review web comics:Review Copies
Reviewers generally receive free--often unsolicited, advance--copies of books. This one's a legitimate question: do Modern Tales sites give out reviewer subscriptions? What about PV comics?
On unsolicited: anyone who expects a reviewer to go googling her way across the internet on the off chance of finding a cool new webcomic to review is just as frighteningly naive as the self-published print comics creator who expects said reviewer to run into his low-circulation book at the local comics shop.
Advance looks are also important. In print comics, it gives the reviewer time to peruse all the material and still write up a cogent assessment before (or at) the on-sale date. Readers aren't particularly interested in how well the story worked three months ago; they want to know if the current issue
is worth picking up.
Similarly, it seems to me a webcomic review that starts "check out the archives from two months ago" is similarly crippled (worse, actually, given the length of internet attention spans) in a way that "I've seen the next month's worth of the story, and it's hilarious / gripping / surprising at every turn" wouldn't be.
Here, of course, the general working method of the webcomic becomes important. Whereas print comics are usually a few months ahead of their shelf issues (at least), webcomics rarely have so significant a buffer. The immediacy of the web lets webcomics creators work right up until "publication," but also means they lose the ability to preview their work to the press.Recognizable Units
Whether or not a staple means anything, the monthly-or-so comics format does have the advantage of providing easy boundaries for presumably significant units to review. What's the unit in a daily / weekly update webcomic? Should a reviewer by looking at it by the page? Arbitrary page units? By the storyline? And for webcomics full to the brim with subplots, where do we delineate the beginning and end of a storyline / arc in the first place?
Again, advance copy and creator solicitation might be more helpful. Sending a reviewer a complete, reviewable unit (as the creator sees it), and doing so either before or just after said unit begins showing up in the web updates, would go a long way to defining an "issue" in storyline webcomics.They Don't Do Strips
For webcomics that aren't longform / storyline works (or, rather, for those that are effectively syndicated newspaper strips without a newspaper), let's remember that comics sites rarely if ever cover strip comics of any
kind. That's hardly an internet prejudice.
Of course, Lien-Cooper goes on to admit that, actually, there's a fair amount of webcomics coverage on both The Pulse
and Sequential Tart
. So, with two online sources (The aforementioned Webcomics Examiner as well as Comixpedia
) dedicated solely to webcomics, that's four solid sources (plus, of course, the new but already fascinating Websnark
, but blogs are only arguably journalism, so I won't push that).
And then, really, let's realize that most of what's left in "news sites" isn't much more than a clearing house for big publisher press releases, anyway. Arguing journalistic integrity and equal coverage in that case seems a little silly, don't you think?
Tags: commentary, webcomics