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Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Ratio of Ideas to Words


Posted by Nathaniel at 1:03 PM
ComicsThere's an argument brewing in the webcomics community, and everytime an argument appears, I'm there to offer my screams of disapproval. It's the least I can do. But I'm hoping you can stomach this, because I think this discussion is a very valuable one that we should be having. This particular discussion revolves around the idea of webcomic discourse. Some webcomic artists are trying to say that there shouldn't be any discussion on the topic of webcomics, at all, ever, which is laughable. From Scott's own commentary (which I've quoted previously):
From the public displays of dirty laundry to the self-important internalization and faux critical review of the work that's out there...it's all making me sick to my stomach. Can't you guys just let the work speak for itself? Seriously. The comics are going to do a much better job than you guys ever could.
Now, I agree with Kurtz that it was careless of Manley to discuss the idea of webcomics drama so early in his series of articles. That's not the face we want to present to the larger internet universe, beyond the pockets of webcomic warmth we all tend to hide within. However, I disagree with everything else.

You want to consider webcomics an art form? You want legitimacy and recognition and value? Then you have to be ready to accept the fact that so long as there is art, there are people discussing said art. People discuss movies, people discuss literature, people discuss architecture. People discuss webcomics. If you don't like it, enter another industry where there is no discourse whatsoever. Like, underwater basket weaving. I minored in that in college.

T Campbell has a more appropriate thoughts on the subject:
I'm really starting to tire of webcomics roundtables, honestly. They were always long-winded (and I take my share of the blame for the ones I participate in), but it feels like they're not getting any shorter and the ratio of ideas to words is slowly decreasing. Asking so many people to participate tends to exacerbate the problem.
And more:
But ultimately, I got to give Kristofer Straub a nod on this one... these huge, undigested masses of words are difficult even for webcomics aficianados to follow, and completely impenetrable to everyone else.
Now, understand that T is mainly speaking with regards to webcomics roundtables, but consider some of these thoughts on a grander scale, encompassing all of the webcomics discourse category. I've said before (and Daku backed me up in the roundtable), I will read all of Eric Burns words, written anywhere, regardless of length, because I admire his skill at voicing his thoughts. He has droves of adoring fans that pour into his website at every update to hear his opinion of the latest webcomic, or--maybe even more significantly--his opinion on the latest webcomic drama.

And part of Eric's draw is his ideas. His perception. His point of view. There have been numerous times I've come away from Websnark with a deeper understanding of something I had previously thought trivial. He changes my perspective. Often. And I think that has to be the point from now on. That has to be the focus.

I'm beginning to feel like there are times that people are putting words on their websites not to present an idea but to simply feel important. I'm guilty of that more than probably anyone. The most important thing I took from my experience in the Comixpedia roundtable is contained within that simple phrase from T Campbell: the ratio of ideas to words. He said it's decreasing, meaning there's more words, and fewer ideas. We need to change that. If we want Scott Kurtz and others in the webcomics universe to accept us meddling in their creations, we need to offer them all something more.

The sad part is, I haven't the slightest clue how to do that. This is just a noisemaker. I'm going to sit and think on this a while. Maybe I'll come up with an idea.

EDIT: I'll include Straub's comments on the subject here, as well, because they're completely valid:
Maybe what's not needed is a clamping down on overlong webcomics dissection. Maybe what's needed is a clamping down on the length! God knows the first thing that stops me from wading through critical review in webcomics is the fact that one must often wade.
There's a subtle difference in the thoughts expressed by Straub from my own rambling musings: where Kris says we need to say less, I say we need to idea more. Or something like that. In any case, I think we all agree that the idea to word ratio needs to be more idea and less word. Word.

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