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The latest thing that’s killing comics

Nah, it’s not webcomics or big crossovers or the usual culprits for once. Over at The Beat, there’s a new theory: too many good reviews.

The general crap economy and general malaise among many comics series are mentioned, and a new threat is raised: too many comics that were lauded on the internet. According to a theory espoused by several commenters, over the last two or three years, a whole class of must read books were promoted by internet reviewers — and a lot of people got on board, only to find they are now on “bored.” reader “QwayLewd” advances the theory:

I’ve cut way back, but it’s more to do with my personal stack problem. I went on a buying orgy the last 3-5 years, spurred on, to no small degree, by iFanboy and other online communities and podcasts. I sloooowwly realized the need to downshift because of that finite resource: my time. Have others experienced this? Is there a slow deflation of the comics bubble that resulted from the “new golden age” of the past several years.

Reader “AvengersAssemble” backs it up:

I completely agree! The internet reviews and online trade buying made it so simple to find a good jumping on point!
Some 2 years ago I read the one or other great-awesome-cheering review and instantly bought 3-4 trades to get in and catch up.
It was just during the last 1 1/2 years, I more and more realized, how crappy those titles have gotten /been-are at some times.

We really are onto something, aren’t we?

I sorta sympathize with The Beat’s and “QwayLewd”‘s position. It’s why I don’t subscribe to the general theory that “only good webcomics should be reviewed” … hence why this site makes serious effort to mix negative reviews in with my positive ones to temper the perspective.

I do wonder though: can webcomics also fall victim to the same malaise? Good word of mouth only gets readers so far before the fatigue sets in. And remember that qualifier that “QwayLewd” put in his quote: it isn’t so much the economy as it is “time.” That’s a limitation you can’t escape whether you pick up a comic from the store or read it on the internet.

In fact, I wonder if the effect may be magnified in webcomic world. After all, there’s probably a thousand webcomics for every print comic out there. Which means way more recommendations from blogs like the Webcomic Overlook and online communities on the hot new thing to read. Does the online nature of webcomics accelerate readers’ fatigue?

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About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on October 22, 2010, in The Webcomic Overlook, webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I’ve been reading excellent webcomics like Dilbert, Doonesbury, Atland, Sinfest and Oglaf faithfully for a very long time and am far from bored.

    The real problem is the low entry barriers on the web allowing a flood of mediocre and bad comics. Now the ones that cause fatigue are not the atrocious ones: those I just ignore. It’s the middling ones: good enough to put in your feed reader, but not quite good enough to recommend to your friends. Those are the ones that wear me out over time.

    I’ll be launching a new webcomic soon, and would be interested in hearing your thoughts. Peace.

  2. To me it seems as though a bad review would generate more traffic than a good review. It is our innate desire as human beings to watch a train wreck. I click on more of the badly reviewed comics on this site for the same reasons that I actually rented Superman 64. I just wanted to see if it was as bad as everyone said it was.

    They usually are, but I still have to kill the curiosity and check for myself. And I know I’m not the only one. 🙂

    It isn’t that I won’t click on a webcomic with a good review. It’s just that a good review necessarily isn’t going to make me want to read it. It’s still gonna have to meet my personal tastes. However, a bad review could be of a genre or style that I wouldn’t normally be interested in, but I’ll still click just to see the awfulness that is set before me.

    Granted, print and web are different as you don’t have to pay to read a bad webcomic. But I probably wouldn’t plunk down money to read a bad graphic novel.

  3. I’m not sure reviews good or bad would affect webcomics as much as actual comics. Like a good news magazine such as the Economist, its an investment and so when you’re reading bad reviews or get tired of reading the same old stuff you tend to get fatigue and then move onto the next thing. You’re making an investment thus its more sensible to invest your limited income elsewhere where you’d have more enjoyment.

    Webcomics I feel are different because you’re not paying anything. You can just flit in and out of webcomics according to your moods and interests of the month and if you’ve spent a month or two away from Penny & Aggie you can always catch up. Free of charge.

    So users moving from webcomic to webcomic according to good (or very bad) reviews is a good example of the fluid and open nature of Webcomics.

  4. The problems facing the print comic industry are entirely of their own making and no amount of pointing at the web is going to change that.

  5. Why.. I mean why on earth get a comic because someone said it was good >> you should look into the comic if someone says that and buy it if you like it. Not buy it because someone says so.. If I did that I might have gotten Amazons Attack >>

  6. Reader fatigue is a problem that needs to be looked at and prevented, if possible.

    Say you’re a Spiderman fan. You get it in your head (maybe from a good review) that you’re going to buy all the Spiderman feature books. You do that for six months or a year and then you tire of it and start playing more video games or something.

    Is that accelerated in online comics? For some, certainly. Comics go on hiatus, suffer delays, take weird story turns and otherwise don’t finish their promised story. There is also the webcomic drama that turns up from time to time that some tire of, as well. Any reason could cause one to do something else with their time besides find new webcomics to read. If you read a lot of webcomics, perhaps it is easier to burn out.

    Review readers are looking for something new to entertain them, good or bad. If they run across reviews of the same kinds of comics (all fantasy, all comedy, etc.) then I think they are more likely to drop out for awhile before they come back.

    Because of that, I don’t believe that reader fatigue would result purely from (any kind of) reviews or discussion of the hot new thing.

  7. I really don’t get their problem. There’s a lot a good books out there…but your not under contract to buy them all, or any. If you get bored of a monthly title, just stop picking it up. Its not magic, its common sense. Not everything can B.P.R.D after all.

    “sloooowwly realized the need to downshift because of that finite resource: my time.”
    No Sh*t Sherlock, time management is important.

    Also, shouldn’t we be happy that theres so many good books? Are we really suggesting to pick up crap books so, what, we’ll lower the industries standards?

  8. There have definitely been a few webcomics that came highly recommended, but for the most part the ones that are well-regarded are well-regarded for a reason. I do recall reading a few comics just because I felt I should, and then dropping them once I realized I derived no actual enjoyment from them, but, tellingly, I can’t remember a one of them. Someone else brought up something that resonated with me: For me, the real fatigue comes from so-so comics. I feel like my internal reasoning is that if a comic is amusing enough I might as well read it, but I think reading the same uninspired stuff has lead to a general malaise with webcomics. I should pare my list down or something.

  9. Ehh whenever I get reader fatigue I go through my bookmarks and delete all the unworthy ones…

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