The Web Eats Another Art Form

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The era of ritualistically flipping to the newspaper’s back page to provide a daily dose of comic relief may be a practice on its way out. With dwindling space allotments and timeworn topics, newspaper comics have lost their original spunk.

“The newspaper comics page is in grave peril,” writes Excalibre in his essay on the banality of newspaper comics. “It is fortunate, then, that the webcomic has developed to fill that niche. Webcomics are not obliged to be inoffensive; they are not obliged to fit into a box an inch and a half tall and five inches long. They can play around with the conventions of comics in ways that would be unpopular or even impossible in a newspaper. The Old Media comic strip is on life support; the webcomic is the medium's only hope.”

The electronic migration, from paper to .com, is a journey that comics have successfully survived with the added benefit of a mixed-media-friendly environment. No longer must comics abide by formal restrictions—such as limited space, non-controversial content or the standard "strip" format—and webcomic artists are taking advantage of the fact anything goes online. Check out The Perry Bible Fellowship (also seen in the pages of the Alibi) and you'll understand what I'm talking about.

A new generation of cartoonists is discovering that this newfound source of freedom allows what once was a hobby or part-time job to become a full-time occupation. Randy Milholland, creator of Something Positive, started his comic as a hobby while working two other jobs and within no time began receiving complaints on days he wouldn’t post a new comic.

“I told them all that if they wanted to get a comic a day, they either better pay my salary or shut up. I even set up a PayPal account to accept cash as a joke. But in two days people had donated $4 thousand, and I knew I would actually have to do it."

Although some printed cartoonists object to the spread of comics into the World Wide Web, the rise of webcomics is certain. As for those daily newspaper comics ... well, they have undeniably withstood the test of time—I'll tip my hat to that—but perhaps they have outstayed their welcome.

Check out PC Magazine’s top 10 webcomics for some more awesome toons.