Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Stopover at 2005 Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards: The Problem with WCCA

Here comes part two... there'll have to be a part three, because there are just too many categories.

First thing I'd like to do is clarify something I said in my last post though. I clarified it in the comments of the other post, but I know a number of you don't read this through the blog but rather the RSS/Livejournal feeds, so I'm repeating it here:

Joe Zabel pointed out this following paragraph...

I have nothing against the said big guns, but throwing awards at comics that are already widely-acknowledged to be at the top of the field seems rather redundant to me. It's a waste of resources, and I highly suspect it makes very little difference to those that receive the awards.

...and argued that the WCCA is about selecting the best comics, not the little guys of webcomics. And in a way, he's right, but I realise that my very poor wording of the statement (my fault) gave the wrong impression of what I'm trying to say.

Here's my clarification:

My reasoning behind the statement was made after looking through the WCCA mission statement:

....This kind of recognition comes in a diversity of levels and a variety of forms; financial rewards, critical acknowledgements, and of course fan recognition. Every form of entertainment also promotes itself and it’s participants, as well as encouraging their strife for greatness, through some kind of award system ... But every kind of award helps to feed this desire for recognition from a target audience.

A fair goal, and don't get me wrong... I'm not talking about excluding the Big Guns just because they are big guns. I'm talking about turning attentions elsewhere because they've already won it.

The problem here is that the WCCA was created to emulate the Grammys/music awards. But unlike the Grammys or movie/music awards, webcomics don't come in crops of a completed one a year. Some of them last forever (seemingly) because it's a constant work-in-progress. They may be good, but because of the extended time scope, they also end up being accoladed for the same thing multiple times over for no reason other than a stretched time frame to completion.

The big guns have already gotten their accolades and awards long ago. Getting it again for the same thing over and over seems... redundant.

Imagine a "Grammys" where all movies ever made are eligible instead of the new ones completed. No matter what new movie of whatever quality comes out, movies with cult followings are probably still going to dominate. (Because they believe their comic is the best, and out of loyalty they want it to always be named as the best, to the point of fanatical voting to ensure it defends the 'best' title... even if it ceases being the best out there at one point.)

I see WCCA in the same situation. Instead of rewarding the best AND the new, they're giving the awards to the same people over and over again. And this breeds stagnation in the 'industry', because it's not about who's best anymore. If it's about those with the biggest fanbases who will vote for them. Isn't that what Top Web Comics and Buzzcomics are for?

It gets to the point where the awards start looking worthless to everyone else because it's been warped out of its purpose.

And ironically an effect of this is people stop bothering to nominate comics, so you have this narrow list of nominations comprising of fans of the previous winners.

If the WCCA was all about "The Top Webcomics" or "Most Popular Webcomic Championship", then by all means, Best/Most Popular Webcomic, small fry, big gun, I wouldn't care. (No offense to TWC or Buzz intended, but I see their systems more of championships-type contests, something different entirely.)

But I think WCCA is about what is acknowledging best that comes out. I know everyone and their mother will disagree with me, but I think the WCCA started on a flawed premise. They should be about the BEST and the NEW, not just the same old few BESTS that have already been acknowledged the best of their batch time and time again.

As time goes by, it's going to become a bigger and bigger problem, especially at the rate webcomics have been growing. The WCCA need to realise this or risk becoming obsolete (much like Webcomics Awareness Day). Something needs to be changed, one way or another.

Okay, soapbox over. On to round 2 of nominations:

Nominees, Part 2

Outstanding Use of Color - This award recognizes an online comic that has a highly successful use of color in its art.

Oddly enough, my first choice is A Lesson is Learnt, but the Damage is Irreversible. I don't understand the comic, but the colouring-work is quite the something else!

Others under consideration were Inverloch and Copper.

Outstanding Layout - This award recognizes an online comic whose art is notable for its highly successful compositional elements.

Another obscure comic you've never heard about, but Mute. It takes comic layout to a whole other level. Panels? Speech bubbles? Forget that. Comics can be so much more!

Outstanding Use of Flash - This award recognizes comics that make superlative use of Flash or a similar program to achieve in webcomics what cannot be done in print comics.

For the record, I think is a VERY poorly named category. It really should be "Outstanding Achievement in Digital/Web Media" . The "Flash" in it is misleading, and most people are only going to think "Why only Flash?! What about Adobe Photoshop/Paint Shop Pro?"

The other thing about this is that the description of "what cannot be done in print comics is extremely vague. By that definition, Infinite Canvas would qualify, but that has a category of its own already.

I think I get what the gist of what they mean, of course...

Unfortunately I can't think of much, other than:

The Infinite Gag Strip, which uses Java... but you get the point.

Outstanding Use of Infinite Canvas - This award recognizes comics that make superlative use of the "infinite canvas" popularized by theorist Scott McCloud, where a large section of narrative is on one "plate" and the browser window is used to navigate along the narrative, rather than click to bring up new pages.

One thing I'd like to see other than this is a category for webcomics that use animation. I think that's an area that has been under-explored in webcomics still.

Ascent. I think the impresses me about it is how Sylvan Migdal makes use of Infinite Canvas without it being annoying, and creating it in such at way at it fits together in separate installments so well. It's not constantly eye-blowing and mind-shattering, but it's subtle and pleasant to go through.

Outstanding Website Design - This award recognizes outstanding website design of an online comic, where the design and interface of the entire site enhance the experience of reading the comic.

Alpha Shade. I like how they attempted to emulate a really book in digital format. It sometimes feels a bit crowded, but the points go for the experimentation.

Outstanding Comic- This is the over all most outstanding comic most effectively using every element of the creative process; art, writing and technical. This is the category that best represents the collection of all of the other categories

Copper. There are a lot of comics that shine is their own categories, but Copper is the best all-rounder I know of.

And that's for todays' batch of nominations. Whew!


  1. Hey, Thanks.

    Go me!

    I like the new header muy mucho.

  2. Good heavens, Ping! I didn't mean for you to devote a comment post and half of a blog post to responding to my rather cranky comment! There certainly are better things you can be doing with your time!

    I didn't read the WCCA mission statement, you got me there; and you make some good points about how continued series get recognized over multiple years for basically the same story.

    But I certainly hope the eventual winners of the awards can take away from the experience the conviction that a lot of people thought their work was the best, without an asterisk next to it.

  3. I do agree with you on the problems with the thing, Ping. But it is set up to emulate a popular vote. And anyone can set up a webcomic without having the slightest clue what makes for a good comic or not.

    I know this makes me sound elietist, but I do think there needs to be some sort of screening. Not for something like a judgement of quality, but more for keeping the ballots from getting spammed by fanboys with a Keenspace* account. I think it's pretty obvious when it happens (Homestar Runner)

    *(I chose keenspace because it's a hosting service and not because I think the Spacers are hacks)

  4. I should step aside this debacle, there was much grievance around it last year as I recall.

    I do believe things changed, tho. Penny Arcade & Co. won their awards alright, but I believe it was the first time they actually mentioned it to their readers. EOI and CYS won a lot of awards (some I didn't believe were deserved, but that may be just me) too.

    Overall I hope this year things will keep getting better. I'm still not going to end my boycott so soon, tho.

  5. Hey Ping, thanks! I'm always chuffed when non-gamers like my strip, it makes me feel a tiny bit less of a geek ;)

  6. Dammit Pin!

    If you think things have gotten bad, and you want to change it for the better, then we need everyone who can tell the difference between "the most popular" and "the best" like yourself, MUST vote.

    The WCCA's as flawed as they can be, are also one of the best ways for webcomics to get some sort of legitimicy. And unless people start making their voices heard, and start shouting like madmen over the deafening bleating of the sheep, then it'll never get better.

  7. It's a good point, but my boycott is more of a personal reason than anything. It's because they denied me access to voting the first time I registered.

    Yeah, it was probably just a mistake on their end, I get it. But if you need a better reason, on the webcomics break I just took, I lost touch with whatever is new and hype about webcomics. If I were to vote, I'd end up choosing my limited circle of friends and idols, and isn't that the thing we're questioning here.

    Choosing not to vote is an exercise of democracy as well, I think.