The best thing about print comics is that they’re done (usually) by very talented people who are professionals in the industry, and who have strived hard to make a breakthrough with their writing and artwork. People like Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Stan Lee, and Jack Kirby spent years attaining their positions, working on their characters and art style, and pitching them to the Powers-That-Be that run the industry as a whole. Every one of them has had to deal with rejection, disappointment, and critiques of their intellectual property, but they’ve also come out better because of their interactions with others. Chances are great that if their work is being printed, then it is because they are the very best (usually) and have earned their time in to shine (again, usually; there are exceptions). But, that best thing is also a killer for younger, unschooled individuals trying to make their way in the industry, and that’s where web comics come in.
Web comics allow for an individual with no prior training and study—although who has an innate talent for art and/or writing—to show off their skills with a modicum of anonymity; however, this same situation also allows for people who don’t have that talent (even with training and study) to show their creative process, as well. As someone who has actually been rather obsessive with reading web comics—they don’t call me a “web comics junkie” because I enjoy junk food—I’ve seen more than my fair share of good and bad ones and am actually a bit annoyed at how some of the creators—for both—allow themselves to be isolated in their own little worlds. There are several that don’t allow for their readers and website visitors to send them email, and that is good in that it reduces the chance of spam and hate-mail, but it also reduces the chance of allowing for honest and constructive feedback of their talent. Without that feedback—without someone to point out what works and what doesn’t—creators will continue to make the same work over and over again until they’re blue in the face.
Print comic creators, however, do get that kind of feedback, from their fans and their editors, and it becomes helpful in getting the creators to grow not just in their work, but also in how they think in regard to their work. There have been the very rare occasion when someone who started out in small comics or web comics has transitioned to the print comic industry, but that has been so rare that I honestly can’t think of a specific person to use as an example; however, the success of several web comic creators—people such as Fred Gallagher of Megatokyo and David Willis of Roomies/It’s Walky!/Joyce & Walky/Shortpacked/Dumbing of Age—has resulted in having their collections printed in traditional format, as well as printing new material not seen on the web. A major problem in that area, however, is that such printed collections—roughly the size of a digest ‘zine or a trade—can hold up to several years worth of material and thus there aren’t as many published as an ongoing monthly comic.
However, the one true great thing that web comics have that completely overshadows the print counterpart is an extensive variety of genres and characters. Sure, print comics have a variety, but they’re limited in that they have to (usually) answer to someone who makes the decisions of what is and isn’t money-making, which typically results in a lot more superhero comics than are really needed. There are superheroes, comedy, drama, westerns, science-fiction, cyberpunk, steampunk, fantasy, and many more that I can’t even begin to name. Some follow the traditional 4 or 3-panel setting of a daily newspaper comic strip, some have a more comic book “feel” to their pages, and some have a style that is so different that it require Jack Sparrow’s compass to navigate effectively.
But, which is actually better, print comics or web comics? Which one is better at not only entertaining their readers, but providing effective feedback for the creators? Well, despite all of the enjoyment I get out of reading about Spider-Man and Snake-Eyes, I’m going to have to say that I enjoy web comics much more than I do print. As I stated above, there’s a vast array of variety that I can choose from, and most web comics are free to read, so long as you have access to the Internet, which is very useful for a person with a limited income such as I. But, what really makes web comics more appealing to me? The fact that I can easily pick up a new title, or catch up on an old one, without having to find the very rare #1 issue at my local comic book store for an outrageous price.
I will always have a place for print comics and will continue to buy and read them as money permits, but if all I want to do is sit down and relax and read, without having to worry about finding where I put my comics, I can just punch in a URL on my laptop or smartphone and be whisked away into the wonderful world of web comics.