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Why I Love Webcomics (And Why You’re Wrong If You Don’t)

July 30, 2010

We all know the type. It’s a social sub-genre established across the Western world. The kid on the school bus with the latest Uncanny X-Men or Spectacular Spider-Man tucked under one over- or underfed arm. (I’m going by Marvel because my knowledge of DC is sketchy at best.)  Chances are this kid is male, with greasy hair and the remains of a packet of Wotsits (Cheetohs, whatever) dotting his cheeks. He will probably grow up to program software and make a zillion times anything you will ever earn, but at thirteen you felt superior to him because you gave up reading comics when you got sick of the Beano (not that anyone should ever get sick of the Beano).

This ostensibly maladjusted young fellow is of a dying breed. Anyone who hasn’t been living in an advertising-proof bomb shelter has realised that, thanks largely to Hollywood, comics are cool again. Zack Snyder and Sam Raimi, among many others, have ensured that the once-furtive pleasure of indulging in some superheroic escapism past the age of twelve is now fit for popular consumption, and consume we have. Comic-book adaptations have achieved world domination beyond the wildest dreams of their megalomaniacal villains.  Which has in turn caused the general public to start buying the paper versions again (Watchmen in HMV for a tenner, anyone?). But, like everything else in this century, comics have inevitably gone digital. Once again, the nerds of various disciplines have engaged in some socially awkward cultural fornication, and given birth to…the webcomic.

The webcomic is a glorious bastard child if ever there was one. One can read a webcomic in the privacy of one’s own home, without the fear of being caught by a peer or a colleague buying a comic (kind of like porn). One can share webcomics with one’s friends without having to meet at one another’s homes to trade issues or indulge together in their secret shame (kind of like porn). A webcomic interest can be secreted away without the stigma attached to plastic-bagged stacks of the entire back run of Ultimate Dazzler. One click and the deletion of one’s browsing history covers all manner of sins (kind of like porn). And of course, there are also webcomics that are kind of like porn.

Ahem. What’s important to note at this point is the variety at the heart of the vast and expanding webcomic empire. Topics range from epic transhumanist sci-fi to the lampooning of the world’s history, from a boarding school populated by mythological creatures (and robots) to sexually deviant sitcom. And these are just my regular reading. What’s more, webcomics, while still technically in their infancy, have already achieved a social acceptability that makes them damn nigh mainstream (go on, tell me you’ve never sneaked a peek at XKCD).

Which, at least for the Wotsits-faced kid on the school bus, is very good news indeed.

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