Inkers and Thinkers 2015: Millennial Prophecies and Alternate Realities: Webcomics 15 Years After Scott McCloud’s Reinventing Comics by Anthony Castle

Introduction: At the turn of the century, Scott McCloud made a series of dramatic predictions about webcomics in his second theoretic work Reinventing Comics (2000). Playing a role similar to that of a millennial prophet, McCloud announced that the Internetʼs ʻinfinite canvasʼ would allow webcomics to be free from the restraints of the print format and mainstream corporations. This would result in alternative examples of artistic content and form and almost exponential sales through digital delivery. One year later, comics journalist Gary Groth wrote a rebuttal titled “McCloud CuckooLand”, arguing that webcomics would be beholden to hosting costs and the advertising of telecommunications corporations. The question remains: which of McCloud or Grothʼs predictions about webcomics have come to pass over the last 15 years?

Methods: The methods used to address this question have been investigation and analysis of contemporary webcomics, considering the alternative nature of their content, form and delivery. McCloudʼs own reflections on this debate have been taken into consideration, as well the conclusions of the ongoing research into webcomics.

Results: 15 years after McCloudʼs intial predictions, some have indeed utilised the ʻinfinite canvasʼ concept (The Prince and the Sea and McCloudʼs own Zot! Online). However, some of Grothʼs predictions also have some legitimacy with services like DC Entertainment Digital Comics and Marvelʼs Digital Comics Unlimited available on the Amazon-owned Comixology platform (even if this subscription model has also been used by indie start-ups like Thrillbent and MonkeyBrain Comics). Popular independent webcomics like Ctrl+Alt+Del, Penny Arcade, 8-Bit Theater, Girls with Slingshots and Goats deal in culture, identity and satire, with some commentators concluding that these works are simply the online continuation of the Underground Comix tradition. However, other popular independent webcomics like Lady Sabre and Cura Te Ipsum publish mainstream genre stories with alternate business models.

Conclusions and predictions: With approximately 10,000 webcomics online, neither McCloud nor Grothʼs alternate realities have come to pass. Instead, webcomics can be corporate, indie, mainstream and alternative across the spectrum. In fact, webcomics have appeared online with content, forms and sales suspiciously similar to the traditional comics milieu. However, with Amazonʼs purchase of Comixology, new questions arise regarding the possibilities of reading devices and also a further consolidation of corporate power

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  1. Pingback: Writing in 2015. Praise and Pity. | Anthony N. Castle

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