Studying the Process
As I said last column, many of the webcomics that exist at this time are actually print comics that are using the internet as an alternative means of publication. One of the biggest reasons for this is because it is no longer viable to publish a successful limited series that builds to a graphic novel. Too much of the target audience will wait for the eventual graphic novel. Thus the development of the webcomic to graphic novel publishing model.
One great example of this model is Joe Infurnari’s webcomic, the Process. This concept was created as a graphic novel, but chapters and pages of it are posted as a webcomic. What really appeals to me about this project is that while the concept is intended to be a graphic novel, there is a reason for it being a webcomic other than to just post pages as he completes them.
JI: If my ideas and work are going to be presented in a medium, namely the web, it should make use of the things inherent to that medium (interactivity, updates as-you-go, and endless editability). I had the idea that I would try and involve people in its creation and thereby benefit from testing it in front of its audience. Readers are participating in an art project that is about creating a graphic novel. They should be encouraged to comment because that’s how things will get better. I’m showing them a lot of what goes into its making so that they can see the creative process at work, gain a better appreciation for it and participate in it.
So in other words the Process is a webcomic that invites the reader to view the process of creating a graphic novel all while reading a story that involves the creator as a character interacting with the story he is in the process of creating while the audience is in the process of reading it. Have I said ‘the process’ enough yet?
I’ll let Joe continue:
JI: That’s something unique to this blog and web medium where visitors can drop in and out of this digital diary of a comic’s conception. They get insights into how I do things and what I am thinking as I create these pages. Ideally, readers would also participate as well by telling me what works and what doesn’t. Out of all of this, there will be a comic that’s been market tested with a lot of the kinks worked out prior to publishing.
The strength of Joe’s webcomic lies in the fact that it is a very engaging look into the creation of a graphic novel and how he works as a creator. The design of the website makes the story particularly interesting to read, and it doesn’t hurt that the art is fantastic either. Its weakness, though, is that for such a long and involved story, it comes out so infrequently. This contradicts one of the cardinal rules of successful webcomics.
As Joe puts it:
JI: Regular updates are important. Visitors to the Process know that I am lousy at this but it is an important aspect to keeping readers engaged. If they can count on your comic being up every week or day, then you’ll have a devoted following.
As a result:
JI: The economics of this has been a hard nut for me to crack and I still haven’t been able to make any significant money from it. A webcomic, a medium that most people experience for nothing, is harder to generate an income from in my experience. Until it has a huge following, a webcomic is hard to get paid to create. I sometimes feel that frequent visitors to these free content sites who enjoy what they are getting should donate or contribute in some fashion. If I only got 50 cents per unique visitor a day, I would have a nice little perk every day! Contributing in whatever way possible is a way to ensure that you get your fix and it’s just plain the right thing to do.
For what it’s worth, I think Joe should take heart in the fact that the purpose of his website is to promote a graphic novel. He’s getting exposure and reviews that usually come at a cost. While he may not be making any money, he’s saving on costs that would normally go into promotion and printing. Plus, the idea is that the eventual graphic novel will sell well based on the quality of his webcomic. It would certainly be nice for webcomics to bring in money from donations, but realistically, you can’t really expect that.
The only way I know of that webcomics generally make money is by having such a regular following visiting for consistent content that advertising generates a substantial revenue. In my opinion, a creator is better off choosing either to use a webcomic to promote their graphic novel or to use their content to promote a regular webcomic.
Tyler Chin-Tanner started his own publishing company, A Wave Blue World, and writes and draws layouts for Adrenaline, its flagship series.
© 2008 Tyler Chin-Tanner. All rights reserved.