Poll: Is the term “webcomics” becoming obsolete?

Fleen reported yesterday that Websnark is back at a somewhat new web address. I checked in to see if he’s looking into webcomics again. The answer, I think, is no… since “webcomics”, in his opinion, is becoming an obsolete term:

Back in the old days, we had a lot of distinctions we threw out. Newspaper Comics. Webcomics. Independent Comics. Mainstream Comics. Comic Books. Editorial Cartoons, Cartooning, Cartoonists, et al ad nauseum.

That was then. It’s 2011 now, and it seems to me we can simplify all of the above.

It’s “Comics.”

That’s all. Just “Comics.” Webcomics are increasingly meaningless as terminology — I have access to several thousand of Marvel’s archived comics at will. I can buy almost anything from DC at a moment’s notice. There are few to no comics available in newspapers that can’t be seen on a website. Setting up an artificial distinction based on… well, community identification from 5-10 years ago just seems silly.

I argued that webcomics are still a valid term a while back myself. However, I’ll leave, you, the readers of the Webcomic Overlook, to decide. “Webcomics” — meaningless or not?


Posted on June 21, 2011, in The Webcomic Overlook, WCO Poll, webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Webcomics has become a broader term, I think. It’s not quite as amazing as it was, it just means comic on the web. But that doesn’t mean the term shouldn’t exist.

  2. I see where Eric (and Brad G too) are coming from, but I still think webcomic is not only valid but a great word for what you do with the comics medium on the world wide web. To deny webcomics is to pretend that words like comic book, comic strip, and graphic novel don’t exist. Sure it’s all “comics” but we’ve always tried to further describe the comics to reflect their particular format and presentation.

  3. I think this is a bit of an arrogant statement. DC and Marvel aren’t the end-all, be-all of comics. Not even close, as a recent article on this site proved. To imply that their venturing online suddenly erases the validity of the concept “webcomic” is completely ridiculous. And to make such a statement about comics as a whole based on these two companies while discounting manga and Euro comics entirely is both arrogant and incredibly stupid. I have not a good word for this man’s opinion.

  4. It’s still a valid term. To me at least, a “webcomic” is a comic that first appears on the web. Even if it’s then collected as a floppy or graphic novel it will always still be a webcomic. If you look at the criteria for all the big comic awards that’s generally the one requirement they have for “online/web comics” category.

    As to the issue of Marvel and DC having their comics online… that’s just digital distribution. That is a whole separate thing.

    The biggest place you can really tell that “webcomics” is still valid is by industry folks. A lot of print readers and those that work in the print business still look down at webcomics. They see a clear difference between print and web. I can’t say count the number of times I’ve been at a convention and gotten weird looks after mentioning my webcomic. Then if I mention I have a published graphic novel and work as an editor it’s like all is forgiven. So until the stigma of “webcomics” dissipates (and god it’s 100 times better than it was even five years ago) the term will be valid because those working in the industry will make sure there is a clear differentiation between print and web.

  5. We should start demanding people stop using “manga” when describing comics from Japan while we’re at it then.

    • as long as they don’t call them “manga comics”….

      and I agree with Scott King: webcomic = comic that was originally published on the web.

  6. People can call all comics comics but only comics from the internet can be called webcomics. BTW: My spell-check doesn’t count webcomics as a word.

  7. The difference between self-published indie comics and webcomics has disappeared. I used to see comics that were stapled together by local artists in the shops. Nowadays it always turns out that it’s also available as a webcomic, or that this comic is a side project and the author also has a webcomic.

    Given how much printing costs vs how much webhosting costs, this was inevitable. It’s also not a bad thing. Webcomics are the new indie comics! Long live the new indie comics!

    That said, there really is a huge difference between indie/webcomics and Marvel/DC/newspaper syndicates/the majority of imported manga. I don’t see the difference between indie and “major label” (to borrow a term from a different art) going away anytime soon.

    • There’s also a huge difference between webcomics and the old style of indie comics, tbh. Indie comics always remind me more of Rcrumb than webcomics.

  8. Well, print, like the movie theater, is dying, and pretty soon we’ll only be able to watch Sergio Leone movies and read Winsor McCay strips the way they were always meant to be seen: Glaring out of a three-inch smart phone screen. With any luck I’ll be hit by a bus before we get there. With better luck the bus will hit everybody else.

    But that’s the glorious future! In our prosaic present, there are still distinctions between webcomics and print comics.

    I think of it like movies. Yes, it may be that you’re a netflix junky and you never go out to the movies anymore. But there is still a big, noticeable distinction between a theatrical release and a straight to video release. I mean, look at these two titles: Cloverfield; Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus. Just seeing those titles is enough to know which one was released straight to video. Whatever the future holds, there’s still a difference today, and people are justified in drawing a distinction.

    Same with comics. Gamer comics, to name one example, are a genre confined almost entirely to the web. Superheroes are mostly in the floppies. Mary Worth probably wouldn’t exist outside the newspaper.

    I mean, obviously they’re all still comics and you’re totally justified in looking at comics as a whole; but as of today, they’re still distinctive, and focusing on one group is also perfectly sensible. Think how much Comics Curmudgeon would have to change if Josh decided to include DC comics on the site.

  9. I think this is BS, “comic” is an outdated term with a negative side to it. Comic originally came from comedic that was from a time where comics where generally “comedic” in nature, juvenile and immature. This is however not the case any more, I mean most comics these days are dark and edgy, while the general public still thinks about Micky Mouse and Garfield when they hear the word Comic.
    It’s coll that comics as a medium have so many different terms to describe so many different types and formats.

  10. Seems like wasting time on semantics. Again. (Oh, wait, it’s the internet – it’s driven by porn, cats, and semantic butthurt. And I now know what my next band will be called.) None of the terms that describe comics, including the word “comics” itself, hold up to close inspection. People don’t generally get to choose what words go into the public consciousness anyway. I really don’t care how you categorize my sequential art creations as long as you spell the URL correctly. I consider them “graphic novels” but I serialize them online before print. So I have no problem with them being called “webcomics” even though full-page long-form is not what first comes to mind when MOST people hear the term. It still fits no matter how loosely. I want to be inclusive, baby.

    Found a quote from Gary Groth:
    ” I think what the future is going to hold is that books are going to be on multiple platforms, in digital and in print. I don’t think one is going to necessarily overshadow the other. ”
    There are and will be multiple paths of distribution and I don’t think it matters which one comes first. It only matters whether the comic was designed for one format over the others. This goes for web vs apps within the digital category as well, since every device is a little different.

  11. Webcomics are comics but not all comics are webcomics. I would have thought this was clear as day but apparently I am too kind.

    Comics is a large artform that encompasses several subcultures. Webcomics culture is totally different from direct market superhero culture. Obviously. So yes, terms of distinction are appropriate.


  12. It is a medium in transition, so neither is correct. One day it will be superfluous to say webcomics just as it will be superfluous to say digital music or ebooks, or even email.That day will bewhen there is really no other kind. We’re not quite there yet, but we will be.

  13. Very interesting article and comments, thanks ;).

    To quote Motmaitre, in my opinion “It is a medium in transition” is all we can say for now.
    With time and experimention we will reach “Global Media” / CrossMedia / Transmedia, with multiplatform art.
    But the barrier between comics and webcomics is still there and really solid, since a lot of webcomics remain on web, and a lot of comics remain on paper.

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