I read this essay by Matt Seneca a long time ago, The Coming Thing. I have gone looking for it a million times and not been able to find it, but then I just stumbled across it again recently in one of my collections of links (and don’t really understand why I wasn’t able to find it, because I looked there). I wanted to post it. It’s worth reading, if you like webcomics. Basically, he argues that the future of comics is online and in the strange new formats that the web allows.
Executive summary of my opinion: no effing way – at least not any time soon.
That’s not to say that I don’t think the work these artists is doing is important. I do think it is important. I think it is super, super important. I think it will move the way we think and shift our understanding and even, slowly broadening what the mainstream finds accessible and readable.
But I don’t think that being really weird and having difficult formats and moving images and unpredictable loading rates and all of that is going to broaden comics. Folks are going to look for in comics what they look for in the mainstream of all art forms that have broad appeal – work that’s accessible and reflect their lives, right now. Which means predictable, simple formats.
Everyone knows that I’m a fan of all things new. I love stuff that pushes the boundaries. But it’s important for the avant garde to understand the choice they are making by being avant garde. It’s a choice be marginally popular but potentially historically significant. Whereas those who go for the mainstream are likely to be historically insignicant but enjoy widespread popularity.
And above all else, the most likely outcome for every artist, is historical and popular insignificance.
But I digress. My point is, I do now and have always loved the avant garde, but I don’t think they are going to show comics a way back to the era when comics artists were buying mansions, like they did at the height of newspaper comic strips. Sorry guys.
TV: What's that low moaning sound?
Keynes: Sounds deep in the caverns.
TV: The Elder God?
PAP: Let's go!
Panel 2. TV and PAP are running into the main cavern and see two of the ninja prostrate on the ground.
TV: Woah! The One Who Sleeps has woken up.
Ninja: He has.
TV: Did you guys have a plan for this?
Ninja: We couldn't even agree on a design for ceremonial robes.
Panel 3. The first Ninja is sitting on a rock, head on fist, looking sad.
Panel 4. The Elder God is fully erect with his hands on the cavern floor.
Elder God: From whence do these explosions issue?
TV: It's a comic book artist in a robot suit.
Ninja: He hired us to kill a film director ruining BATMAN's mystique. Uh...
Ninja: Only we failed. So now he blames us because he wasn't hired to direct the newest BATMAN movies.
Ninja: Except, he didn't even know that he wanted to driect when he hired us to kill Joel Schumacher. Thanks for the help with our stew, by the way.
Elder God: De nada.
Keynes: So now be so god as to tell us why it is that you've been sleeping in a cave since - I presume - the dawn of time.