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Eric: State of the Web(cartoonist): Preamble

A few notes of preamble: things have been quiet on the Burns front.

But you don't need me to tell you that.

Suffice it to say, it entered my brain to do... well, an overview of the webcomics that I'm still doggedly following, giving a sense of overview and a sense of how I feel about them and stuff like that. Why? Because I haven't said much about webcomics for a while, and I'd kind of like to say a thing or six, and this seems like a good enough format for it.

So, why "State of the Webcartoonist?"

Well, this isn't so much a true 'state' of anyone -- I'm not going to talk about peoples' personal lives or their torrid affairs or what lawsuits they're currently settling or just what they did with that chinchilla and how they convinced Bob Barker not to kill them. Instead, I'm going to talk about... well, their webcomics. What I think they're doing, base analysis stuff -- things like that.

So why "State of the Webcartoonist" instead of "State of the Webcomic?" That's actually a pretty simple answer. More and more, webcomics come and webcomics go, but webcartoonists plug away. Back when I started this whole shebang, the webcomic was what brought me to the table. Like a good New Critic, I would read that comic and draw my analysis from it. The webcartoonist was an unknowable figure behind it all, and it paled in comparison to story and art -- the stuff you could actually analyze.

Today, though... it's the writers and artists I follow, more than anything. When Randy Milholland starts one of his new projects, I'm usually right there for it. When Shaenon Garrity or J. Grant turn their attention to new fields of endeavor, I'm usually sitting in a pickup watching creepily through binoculars (and I may be the first person to A) put those two in the same sentence and B) imply they're hanging out in a pasture together, so, you know, yay me). In short, I'm less following webcomics, for the most part, and more following webcartoonists -- the body of work, not the individual strip.

It is, in the end, part of the evolution of the critic. God damn it, Historicism is a seductive beast.

So consider these things a primer. To webcomics or webcartoonists? Maybe. And then maybe not -- different tastes, interpretations and opinions bear just as much weight as mine, after all. Instead, consider this a primer to Eric A. Burns, sometimes critic. A look into my habits, tastes, opinions, views, and brain.

These will follow a consistent format. I'll list the webcartoonist (or cartoonists), I'll list the webcomics they're currently involved in, if applicable I might include a "you might remember me from" for their former webcomics, and the current lists they occupy in my reading.

That last bit is important -- I'm going away from the old concept of "morning, afternoon, evening, and other" lists for Websnark, and moving towards more functional lists. reviving the concept from back when first started whereby I organized my reading based on how much I actually enjoy the webcomics. And rather than try to keep the sidebar updated (which honestly never happened) I'm going to harness the power of Web 2.0 and use del.icio.us Ma.gnolia for this stuff. There are two different categories I'm going to add things to:

1) Enthusiasm. I keep up with a given webcomic for a long time -- sometimes with great passion, and sometimes out of sheer inertia. One of my longtime mantras is "if I don't actually like a webcomic, I won't keep reading a webcomic," but the reality behind a dogmatic statement like that is we do keep reading webcomics we don't like. We do it out of loyalty, out of lethargy, or even out of a sense of denial. (This doesn't factor in people who actively read webcomics they hate -- generally, those folks are going for the trainwreck appeal, which I can understand but it's not my usual thing.) There are four different del.icio.us lists I'm going to use to track enthusiasm: Rabidly Following, Happily Reading, The Hoi Polloi, and the infamous (for some value of infamy that equals 'people might remember this from 2004') Why Do I Read This Webcomic Again?

It is worth repeating, since these categories imply value judgements, that we're not measuring their relative worth. I've never given "eighteen stars out of twenty three and a half" or other such ratings. A comic I adore and franticly refresh my browser until it updates, then immediately start refreshing it again 'just in case' might be a comic you find tired and lame. Likewise, a comic I've tagged as "why do I read this webcomic again?" might your very favorite webcomic. That's fine, and good, and proves conclusively that we are individual people with different opinions and perspectives. Calm down. Have a cruller.

For the record, as of this writing there are sixty-five webcomics tagged in those four lists (which aren't up yet. I'm going to tag each strip at the same time I post my essay, so right now they're all empty). This is down from the 450 webcomics I was regularly following at one point, because... well, I got a life. They also aren't the only comics I read, so the lists may fluctuate as I go through this project. But for right now, there are sixty-five of them.

For the record? Eleven of those sixty-five webcomics are on the "why do I read this webcomic, again?" list. And I'm thinking strongly that after the end of this rather extensive project, it will be time to reactivate another list I'm somewhat known for: They Had Me, And They Lost Me.

But that is for later. For now, let us discuss the second category I'm going to organize these strips into:

2) How Often I Read The Strip: as I've said before, some webcomics I read every day they post. Others, I read once a week or thereabouts. Still others I read 'when I remember to.' These aren't indicators of the strips' quality -- some of the strips on my "Why Do I Read This Webcomic, Again?" list are strips I read every day, and some of my "Happily Reading" list are strips I only check every six weeks or so. The reason for this is simple enough -- some comics benefit by being read in packs, whereas other strips stand alone on a strip by strip basis. In fact, there are some comics I'm firmly convinced shouldn't update at all until they have a few weeks worth to put up.

These lists are, respectively, Regularly, Sporadically, Occasionally, and When I Remember.

Beyond these lists, I'll try to both discuss the work the webcartoonist is doing and the kind of impact it's having on me. The true role of the critic is not to say "this is what the artist is doing wrong," but "this is what the artist is doing," but when one doing a summation, one really has to speak in terms of strengths and weaknesses -- things attempted, things succeeded, and things failed.

At the end of this project, we'll have a solid foundation of my current viewpoint. From there, maybe we can launch into business as usual. Or maybe we'll lapse back into six weeks of no posts. We'll see.

In the meantime? Hello. My name is Eric.

Here's what I think.

EDIT: After consulting with Wednesday, and batting around social bookmarking a bit, I'm going with her recommendation and using Ma.gnolia for the lists. Not a major difference, mind, but the interface is nicer and it'll do proper comma delimited tabs.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at February 18, 2008 12:58 PM


Comment from: kirabug [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 18, 2008 2:10 PM

Hello Eric! My name is anne! I'm a lapsed webcomicaholic. I can't wait to read what you think.

[looks around]

...oh, wait, this isn't a support group meeting?

Comment from: hess42 [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 18, 2008 3:28 PM

I am far more excited about this project than I probably should be. :)

Comment from: Plaid Phantom [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 18, 2008 3:46 PM

Hurrah! Return of the Snark!

Comment from: Robert Hutchinson [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 18, 2008 6:21 PM

Hooray! If Eric still reads 65+ webcomics after having gotten a life, and I currently read (checks) about 45, that means I can have a life too!

... um, that is ... hooray! Webcomic commentary! (I get those confused.)

Comment from: DarkStar [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 19, 2008 1:06 AM

It'll be good to see what you are reading these days. It might actually spur me into cleaning up my daily lists and kicking a few dead or unworthy comics from their stagnating places. Hopefully I'll also find one or two new gems, missed until now.

Comment from: J. Channing Wells [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 19, 2008 2:34 PM

Good to see you back in action, Eric.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 20, 2008 8:36 AM

Hey, more reviews!

I do like reading your reviews. Even the ones I disagree with.

Comment from: siwangmu [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 21, 2008 8:11 PM

This is entirely too exciting. I was refraining from comment when this first posted, but now that it's followed by several actual content posts that indicate the project is clearly occurring? Hot damn. The hottest damn. Due to some ridiculous inertial force that tells me this place is home, I never quite followed to Banter Latte and have just been checking here over and over like a misguided robot.

I just couldn't be more pleased. And 65 comics to hear about and check whether I'm following is way more manageable than several hundred. All is to the good. (Continue to) Bring 'em on.

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