But this is my blog of sorts, damnit. Once in a while, I'm going to pull an Eric Burns and write what I damn well like on it.
That important confession out of the way, I shall proceed to start my first Hotspot, which I think can be classed as 'Polemically Moot Sessions". I'm sure that must be gramatically incorrect, and neither is it important right now. And no, the acronyms are not a coincidence.
A few months ago, I shared an observation of mine about the webcomics community in general to another person who shall remain unnamed. (unless they don't mind going public, then by all means, go ahead) The exchange in question was brief and the circumstances that led to it were a direct result of this blog, but what is important that in that exchange, I made the observation that:
The Webcomics Community is Deeply Insular.
This should come as no surprise. With the vast reach of the Internet, it's only natural people would confine their interactions in a limited scope, and stay where they feel comfortable and established.
An example of what this insularity is the little grouping of webcomic communities we currently have. My personal breakdown of the webcomic groups, in no particular order, they are:
- The Keen Family
- The Modern Tales Family
- Modern Tales
- Graphic Smash
- Graphic Novel Review
- Drunk Duck
- PV Comics
- The Independents
I'm sure I'm missing out a few collectives, but these are the ones that first came to my head at first thought.
"The Independents" are the webcomics that don't belong to collectives, and are usually self-hosted. Some of them have their own domains, and the big guns of webcomics (PvP, Penny Arcade, Megatokyo etc) form this loose association of non-associated comics. Dizzy yet?
Anyways, in the majority of cases (not all) the people who make these communities are deeply insular. That is, there's not much mixing. Most webcomickers (or webcomic fans) will stay in their respective circles for most of their webcomicking life.
The thing about this is that one person who may be well-known in one circle may be virtually unknown in another. For example, I don't expect everyone in Keenspace or Drunk Duck (No disrespect intended, and I said everyone, not anyone) to know who Barb Lien-Cooper, Steve Bryant, Joe Azabel, Derek Kirk Kim or Xavier Xerexes is. Heck, at one point I didn't even know WHAT Modern Tales or Graphic Smash was until one of the comics I read moved there. (And eventually, when T Campbell recruited me, but that's another story.)
Similarly, I don't expect anyone from the Comixpedia or Drunk Duck or PV comics to know who Mr. Bob from Keenspace is (Incidentally, Bob Oosterwijk has his own... erm... worshipful following now, and is one of the few people to has his own theme song). Nor I do not expect anyone who isn't in Keenspace to know why "customer" is a considered deadly insult.
Back to the topic, on realising the existence of this insularity and my own inclusion, I have tried my best to break out of it. In a typical month, I go through as many different sources of webcomic information as I probably can. Most of them are web-zines and news/creator blogs, The forefront of which is Eric Burn's excellent Websnark, Comixpedia and Sequential Tart. Other sources like Silver Bullet Comics and The Webcomics Examiner, Joey Manley's blog also deserve mentions, although those are more periodical things that I read every once in a while but not regularly.
I trawl various forums, and lurk in many more. I read people's posts, discussions. Sometimes I contribute to them.
I also started the Webcomic Finds blog in an attempt to break out of the reading cycle of the same few comics over and over, and try and explore more comics that I wouldn't read otherwise. I liked to think that unlike the sedantary others, I was a traveller, exploring new frontiers, going where few people have bother to explore. (Sorry for paraphrasing TSG. You'll forgive me, I'm sure)
And in all honesty, for all my attempts, I am still insular. I may know quite a bit about webcomics by doing what I do, but I will never know enough of it. And travel the web though I may, the comics I read will still be only webcomics. I will know little of print comics. I will know little of newspaper syndication, the manga-movment or the indie and mini-comics rebellion.
My 'travels' are still contained within a limited sphere, although the sphere changes shape and expands I'm still stuck on the goddamned same planet.
And thus I have no right to look down my nose at the 'sedantries', and pride myself that I'm more well-travelled, less squestered, more open-minded than they are. I'm not going to stop 'travelling', but I'm going to stop thinking I know more just because I do.
Why am I saying all this? Because I have to be responsible for my mistakes.
I'm learning the valuable lesson that it's easy to start a meme, and much harder to stop it later. On my forum trawls, I'm beginning to see my own words, mouthed by someone else, being thrown at other people, in the form of an insult.
The meme has spread. And this hurts me deeply. I can make observations. And with all my heart I believe those observations are accurate. My intention was to use this observation to improve things. Maybe integrate communities and spread awareness. I never intended it to be a form of derision.
People have a right to do what they want to do with their lives. And 'travellers' and 'outsider observers' have no right to feel superior just because opinions differ. In Alex Garland's novel The Beach the main character felt he was superior to the people who never travelled. But he was wrong in the end. And so was I.
So, the next time someone tells you you're insular prat who stays closeted in your own zone, even though if you're not, then you know who to blame for planting the idea there in someone else's head the first place. (Or maybe it's just arrogant of me to assume they wouldn't have thought of it on their own. Well, I'm at least responsible for speeding up the process and helping it spread.)
No doubt I'll regret this when I wake up in the morning.
Ah well, a little bit of spice won't do this blog too much harm. I'll just go get the fire extinguisher ready.