Self-analysis of a webcomic addict: Linkage chains

I became interested in webcomics sometime in 2005. A random Google search for pictures led me to Jett Atwood’s Xena fancomic Battle On!, which in turn led to her take on superheroics, Red Sparrow. Another Google search brought me to Red Sparrow’s profile on the Webcomic List. Not too long after, I was exploring the genres, picking out titles at random and plowing through archives with an increasingly insatiable hunger.Lately I’ve become interested in the way I’ve come across new webcomics. The process I went through can be roughly divided up into stages:

Stage 1. I only read through randomly-selected archives found on the Webcomic List. Because I hadn’t read many webcomics, I did not yet know what I was looking for genre-wise, art-wise, or humor-wise. I had not heard of the ‘big names’ in webcomics (Penny Arcade, PvP, Megatokyo, Dinosaur Comics, etc.), so exploration had less to do with finding the popular trend than figuring out what I wanted to read, and how I wanted to read it. There is only one webcomic I found during this stage that I still regularly enjoy: The Tao of Geek.

Stage 2. I discovered link pages, in which webcomic authors shared their own favorite webcomic reads. The sprite comic Bob and George has a link page that neatly covers many popular webcomics, for example. Tailsteak‘s exhaustive list was also quite influential. Between these and other lists, I began to figure out which webcomics were well-known and well-respected. Since ‘well-known and well-respected’ often means solid plot, stylistic artwork, and regular updates, I found it in my best interests to keep these webcomics in mind. During this period I began reading Real Life, PvP, and El Goonish Shive.

Stage 3. I turned to sources within the comic archives themselves. Crossovers gave me a taste of another comic’s plot; cameos, a taste of influence; guest strips, a taste of artwork and humor. For example, the Clan of the Cats crossover here led to College Roomies from Hell!!! A cameo in Tao of Geek led me to The Gods of Arr-Kelaan. And frequent guest art from Hawk convinced me to finally pick up Applegeeks.

Stage 4. The previous stage had lasted a good while – from late high school to early college. This stage, however, could never have been possible without a university setting. As I wriggled out of my shell of solitude, I began to find others who shared my interest in webcomics. Whether that interest was minimal or passionate, I generally walked away from such conversations with recommendations, many of which I may not have found on my own. Recent examples include Cyanide and Happiness, Looking for Group, and Girls with Slingshots.

Stage 5. No webcomic can survive without some form of advertising, but it was only recently that I let myself click on interesting links to other comics. I have always felt a vague outrage towards advertising. An evil though it is, I eventually had to admit that a strong, stylistic (and possibly humorous) demonstration of a webcomic can draw my interest just as thoroughly as a guest comic. Even better, I could help support a webcomic artist while feeding my own curiosity and archive cravings. A few webcomics with intensive (and intriguing!) advertising: Weregeek, No Need for Bushido!, Dresden Codak.

That’s where I stand right now. There’s some overlap, but this is overall the way I’ve been able to break down my quest for new webcomics to read. I should say, too, that old sources didn’t simply go away as I discovered a new stage. Every once in awhile I’ll return to Teh Archives, find a cameo and follow the link. I do still check the link lists of Tailsteak and Joe England. These simply aren’t the only sources anymore.

To better illustrate the connections I’ve made (click on the legends to see the full linkage chains):

Linkage Chain 1.2:
Webcomic Chain 1.2

Linkage Chain 2.3
Webcomic Chain 2.3

Conclusion? Probably nothing that hasn’t been said before. It’s probably a good idea for new webcomic authors to advertise through Project Wonderful and submit guest strips and fanart to other strips. Of course, it’s even better to have the content first – plot? humor? Something that will keep the reader interested, keep them coming back for more. Regular updates help too.

However! This is only an introspection of my own webcomic-finding methods. I’ve heard of webcomic readers who keep within their ‘webcomics community,’ only reading comics from DrunkDuck, say, or Keenspot. There are other methods out there. But my own experiences are the only ones I can really analyze.

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