You may have a comic, but do you have a community? Support can be hard to come by when you’re a comic creator. You may not even be able to turn to your own family for advice or critique, let alone friends.
“Hey, mom – here’s my new page. What do you think?”
“I’m glad to see those years at that art institute are finally paying off. Wait – you…you are getting paid for this, right?”
At this point, you may find yourself turning to your readers for insight and advice. They are, after all, your demographic.
“Hi guys – I’m trying out a new coloring technique. Let me know what you think!”
What’s the next option? Comic sites, of course. You find yourself signing up on every comic-related forum in existence, plastering your links in every Shameless Promotion nook and cranny available, and hoping for some feedback. Some advice. Maybe even a sweet little bump in page views. The likely response?
“Nice art.” or “I appreciate the nice art, but I don’t get it.” or “I’ll have to check this out one of these days. Oh, and nice art!”
Now this type of feedback isn’t bad, per se, but…it’s quite obvious that a strong percentage of the people who post in forums do so solely to get their banner/links seen. They can’t afford to give more than a one-sentence response, let alone a full-on critique. But maybe you’re just looking to expand your audience, not necessarily for feedback. Will you get sticky readers by posting in hundreds of forums? Not likely. After all, no one knows you, so why should they care about your comic? Let’s face it – there are very few webcomic communities on the interwebs that are thriving. Their forums are overrun by trolls, flamers, or self-righteous mods, comments have been taken over by spammers, or worse – the site as a whole is just…dead. As in, no-activity-since-2007 dead.
Okay, so what about Facebook groups? There’s a fair amount of comic-related ones around, and they seem to have a healthy amount of members. You join a few, and hope to make new friends and fans in the process. Again – not likely. Let’s consider the typical FB comic-related group experience. You join (sometimes after waiting weeks to be approved), drop your link, comment on a comic or two, and maybe even start a couple of discussions. The response? Lackluster, and downright discouraging. You notice that the group is a facade of a community – a graveyard of links abandoned in the haste to exploit the next promotional platform. Creators talk at each other, not to each other. No discussion is fostered, let alone any attempt to support or offer advice. Inevitably, you find yourself taking the “when in Rome” cop-out and joining the herd, posting empty, personality-less “Hey! New update today!” notifications ad nauseum.
As I’ve been contemplating the importance of community in the comic world, I’ve come to wonder about the ubiquitous prefix “com.” At its base, com refers to “an arrangement or putting together of parts.” Not surprising, I know. Aside from its relation to the word comedy, “comic” refers to the putting together of art and words for the sake of entertainment. However, I’ve come to realize that additional meanings of the prefix, such as “to come together” or “to come with” allow the word, and the concept as a whole, to take on a new meaning. What constitutes a good, healthy community, after all? Allow me to throw more “com”s your way:
- Communication: At its core, a thriving community, well – communicates. Imagine that. Members talk to one another without a hidden agenda. They take an interest in each other’s lives. They engage in discussions, observations, and even the odd argument here and there. The topics can range from comics to q-tips and everything in between – the important part is that creators are engaging with one another.
- Commiseration: A family that cries together stays together. There are many, many downfalls to being a comic creator – the aforementioned lack of support via family and friends, the all-nighters in front of the computer or at the art desk, the writer’s block, the festering carpal tunnel. How better to ease your woes than to plop down with a nice stiff brandy, vent with your peers, and end up laughing about your misfortunes. A shoulder to cry on and a lending ear can be even more powerful than alcohol. (Most of the time.)
- Comradery: A lot of us creators aren’t privy to a bustling social life. It’s nice to be able to be recognized – whether it be by face or avatar – and frequent a place “where everybody knows your name”. A place where other members not only know the names of your comic characters, they know the names of your dogs. They know your preference for Pentel brush pens. They know of your irrational fear of babies.
Seeing a huge lack in these qualities when it came to webcomic groups lit a fire under me – instead of waiting around for the next big thing in webcomics to come around, I felt inspired to start a community of my own. The members of my community, Webcomic Underdogs, know the importance of the three Cs, and I am beyond grateful for that. They’re talented, hilarious, intelligent creators who don’t think twice about offering their advice and undying support to one another. In the end, a successful comic is only as strong as its community. It’s difficult to find a webcomic community that has the creator’s interests at heart – once you find one hold onto it, because they are few and far between.
[Image source – Stuffpoint.com]makingcomics.com