Webcomics (alternately Online Comics, web comics, though webcomic appears to have become standard) are a highly addictive phenomenon. Webcomics can be loosely defined as comic strips that are primarily or entirely online; though they include strips that appear in college newspapers or small-distribution newspapers, and often have dead-tree version compilations (through such agencies as plan nine) or comic books, the majority of readers and the main target audience of the artists are online. Strips such as Dilbert and Doonesbury which are primarily paper comics usually are not included either. While there are also a large number of online manga and comic books, webcomics usually use some variation on the familiar newspaper strip serial format. Scott McCloud's ideas, and other experiments with online capabilities have helped to expand the limits of the form, perhaps most explosively in the Framed Great Escape of the summer of 2001, which included characters from over 60 comics and eventually encompassed all of reality.

The downside of becoming a webcomics junkie is that there are many, many exceedingly bad webcomics out there. There are also many good ones. The mantras "the comics industry is dead" and "all newspaper comics are crap" are far too frequently heard among devotees, but in some ways are correct, and the best webcomics are as good or better than anything in print. There is no generic webcomic. One of the strengths (and weaknesses) of the form is that anyone can draw about anything and find at least a few readers somewhere in the world who will like it, and despite many boring formulaic comics, there's more variety here than anywhere else in the comics world.

At the moment (Late 2001) probably most influential on the webcomics scene is Keenspot.com, though some of the niftyest comics are non-Keen.

Many people read one or two comics related to something they enjoy; members of the webcomics community often read several dozen, and there are rumors of people who regularly read several hundred. They also often attempt to draw their own, regardless of drawing skill, post obsessively to message boards, and have raging PSL for many characters.

A short history of webcomics (which I am neither qualified nor unlazy enough to do properly) would have to include, among many other things:

-Early 2000: The great BigPanda flap ends with the founding of Keenspot
-Early 2001: The dot com crash, leading to drop in ad banner revenue; many comics attempt pay memberships and donation drives.
-Summer 2001: Keencon, a gathering of webcomic artists at the San Diego Comiccon.

The most basic definition of a webcomic is any kind of comic hosted on the internet and delivered digitally. Beyond the differences in medium there are, at fist, few discernable differences between a webcomic and a print comic. An uninformed observer might note that webcomics have a tendency to be of a lower quality than a print comic, being drawn almost entirely by amateur artists (who often double as the writer). And they would be, at least partially, correct. People who don’t draw comic books for a living are unlikely to come near the standards set by Alex Ross or David Aja.

In addition, webcomics have a tendency to be short and serialized, with the writer/artist producing a new strip sometimes just once a week. This schedule is often subject to change based on ongoing events in a creator’s life, and many of the better webcomics end up on indefinite hiatus, much to the grief of their fans. Again, the paid artists and writers of print comics seem to have the upper hand here.

But the webcomics have two major advantages over print comics. One is that they’re generally free. Webcomic creators subsist mostly on advertising revenues, donations, and/or the simple satisfaction of their art. The appeal of a free product is obvious, no matter the quality. The other is that webcomics are allowed a level of freedom in their content not seen since the late 1940s and early 50s, before comics were first censored. A webcomic writer is free to write about what ever kind of characters he/she likes- homosexuals, axe murderers,porn stars, psychopaths, his/her mother, him/herself, or anything else they can conceive of. Artists considered too unconventional for print syndication are free to experiment in the wilderness of the internet, a tremendous boon to the concept of the comic as an art form.

The result of all this freedom is (sometimes) incredibly innovative work. New topics and concepts get explored and the idea of what constitutes a “comic” grows ever more complex. There are still comics that revolve around the idea of comics as kōmikos but more and more are diverging from that concept. They’ve become more personal, more epic, more horrific, and sometimes, more emotional. Sometimes the experiments fail. But more often than not, they succeed. Every one of these successes is a step into a brave new world for comics. As someone who is trying to produce a comic himself, I encourage you to support them. If you find a comic that is truly innovative and breath-taking, tell your friends. Get them to read it. Proliferating the fruits of this new age of comics will help more to grow and in turn contribute to the last great art.

Lastly, a list of some comics in no particular order to get started with (PM me with more if you think of them) :

This is just off the top of my head. There are many, many more webcomics out there that deserve your attention and love. You just have to look.

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