Thoughts on Webcomics Nation

So, the current topic of discussion right now is the premiere of Webcomics Nation (WCN). Bob Stevenson mentioned how all the other “pundits” have thrown in their sentiments on the thing, and I figured I may as well, too. Especially since I haven’t had a “Snarkworthy” webcomic installment come to my attention for a while now.

Webcomics Nation is going to kick all sorts of ass. I see it succeeding with flying colors, provided that the costs of upkeep are met. I imagine that they would be without too much problem. After all, it’s a $9.95 monthly subscription fee for hosting, so it can’t require too many users before they meet costs.

I haven’t seen the inner workings just yet. I didn’t get a Beta like Eric Burns or Ping Teo did, so I’ll have to sign up before I can see the inner workings. But, from everything I’ve read, it seems that it’s one of the most user-friendly systems of all ever. Allegedly, it’s to do the same thing for webcomics that blogger does for webloging. Which is a hell of a thing to claim. As blogger remains to be the easiest way to run a blog (although I still prefer LiveJournal for the accessibility, privacy settings, and ability to keep up with other LJs).

And of course, it sparks a great debate. Comic Genesis vs. Webcomics Nation? Which is better? Who’ll take home the cup? In my book, the honest answer lies in what you need the service for. Sure, they both provide the same essential service, which is to say hosting webcomics. But they go about it completely differently.

Comic Genesis, formerly known as KeenSpace, will have the upper hand in several ways. Primarily because it’s free. And when it comes to internet content (Heck, even physical content), free is always better. No monthly cost to Comic Genesis, all you have to do is have their banners run on your page, and even then it’s only one banner at a time. And the sites run off of basic HTML and the Autokeen code script, so it’s way simple to build your own page (I had trouble working mine, way back in the day, because I of course suck at coding of all kinds).

WCN is offering a damned plethora of features. Every one of them is cooler than the last. Automated RSS feeds, Tooncasting, even the capability of creating downloadable packs tailor made for viewing on the PSP. That one pulls a resounding “WOW” out of me. Also, a very useful tool they give you is the ability to run multiple series at once. This would be useful to me, so I could run my strip and the “Stick” version of my strip separately. Or you could have a zillion individual, standalone installments, that aren’t a part of a continuous series. A good example of using multiple series at once is looking at the works of Edward J. Grug III (But also look at his stuff because it’s really groovy). I suppose most significant of all features is the option of implementing subscription policies on your comics. Which is to say you can make your comics subscriber only, or only certain comics subscriber-only, or still have the option of making all your work freely accessible. The ability to do that is at your own whim and WCN, as I understand, does not take a cut. Whatever you earn subscription wise on your comic is yours (after, understandably, you pay your monthly service fee with WCN).

What they both feature, is networking ability. The Comic Genesis Newsbox, which appears on every page that participates, and WCN has the opportunity to have free advertisement on several pages in the Modern Tales network. Most importantly, they both refrain from encroaching on your copyright and creator ownership. Neither service takes ownership of your stuff. And they both have an automated archival system. So you can see they both provide an equal amount of the essentials when it comes to running a webcomic.

The disadvantages? As far as Comic Genesis, there’s a lot of work to go through before actually getting your space. Lots of registration details and having a certain amount of content ready beforehand. And for WCN? It costs money. And I don’t know what their page-customization abilities are, but from what I’ve seen so far everything looks pretty cookie-cutter.

What’s the bottom line then? After you draw the line between a free service and a pay service, I’d say the line between Comic Genesis and WCN is drawn in the same space as the line drawn between amateur and professional. If you’re new, and you want something to learn on, get your roots planted, develop skills and otherwise screw around and have fun while learning how to make webcomics, I’d go with Comic Genesis. If you want to showcase multiple projects, while at the same time making money with subscription-based comics and advertising, and having access to a promotional network almost synonymous with Modern Tales, then go with WCN.

I’m Just Saying.

Postscript: The premiere of WCN, I feel, is a pivotal moment in the business model of subscription-based webcomics. Because now, with WCN as a fully accessible service, the presence of subscription comics will grow quickly. And having more subscription comics in existence makes the idea more conventional, and if the idea’s more conventional, more people would be inclined to participate. That’s the way I see it anyway.

4 Responses to “Thoughts on Webcomics Nation”

  1. william G says:

    free is always better

    Personally, I think that it should be “Free is always prefered” because you do get what you pay for in your entertainment.

  2. You just totally made me spit all over my screen!


  3. I was so excited I misspelled my own name!

  4. Phil Kahn says:

    Well Grug, I calls ‘em like I sees ‘em. And I couldn’t think of a better example for WCN use than yourself.