It’s because webcomic cartoonists appear to be generally hostile to critics and often vocally so. There is a common refrain that a lot of webcartoonists repeated for a long time: that since their work is available for free, people shouldn’t complain about the work. I don’t agree and find this line of thinking disrespectful of the art form, the audience and the artists themselves. There is a dual tendency for the internet to breed yes-men cheerleaders and degenerate trolls in equal number, you have a subculture that results which is hostile to examination.
It also must be noted that many of the major early attempts at webcomics criticism were largely attack-websites that existed to tear down certain webcomics. This part of webcomic history cannot be ignored because it is important to why the central identity of the community of webcartoonists appear to be very protective of in-members.
That said, I have seen it said often enough that I’m content to withhold scrutiny of webcomics altogether.
File under “we don’t get paid enough for this shit,” know what I mean?
most webcomics creators are heavily invested in ‘geek culture’ which similarly equates criticism with bullying. Add this to the incestuous buddy-buddy social sphere of webcomics peers (convention friends and the like) and you basically have a closed circuit.
This can be an interesting thing on its own, as many webcomics, even relatively popular ones, are so bizarre, personal and insular that they may as well be outsider art. there are some major creators putting out rank insanity on the regular.
the major problem is that criticism is, traditionally, a form of gatekeeping between creators and academic figures. (i pose this in contrast to REVIEWS, which are a form of gatekeeping between creators and consumers). but there is no webcomics academia. as for reviews, ‘consumers’ have so little starting investment that they simply need to click and look rather than hauling ass to the theatre, making reviews redundant.
(freely released music on bandcamp and soundcloud has the same problem. who’s actively listening rather than just hearing? where are the tastemakers? do we need them? brilliant free stuff tends to form cults, and the works cross over into the critical / mainstream domain only when the cult gets large enough to draw their eye.)
in webcomics, the same. the only time a webcomic will get ‘critical attention’ is after it’s printed in a book, the book gets buzz, and a copy lands on the radar of TCJ. maybe this is how it must be. i dunno.
I like the questions raised in your parenthetical paragraph. I’m going to give this some thought.
I had no idea about much of this since I am not deep into the community part of it, but I wonder what other folks think about this, too.
Man, I LOVE having my work reviewed and/or critiqued, but real critique is so hard to come by for us! Ayo is right when he notes that early attempts on “criticism” were often just attack sites, with zero constructive content, and that hit when a lot of us were still calibrating the thickness of our skins. And likewise, readers saw us reacting to these “critiques” and saw us as being unable to handle criticism (not seeing that they were never constructive criticism to begin with) and they stopped trying to critique us.
Asshole troll attacks are poison. Fan messages overflowing with praise and love are sugar. Thoughtful critiques are vegetables. I might not love eating broccoli as much as I love cupcakes, but those vegetables are gonna keep me healthy so I need those sometimes.
I think there’s also a pervasive misconception that a medium or format without heavy gatekeeping is somehow inherently inferior, rather than Sturgeon’s Law applying across the board. Some folks see that the barriers to self-publishing and webcomics are much lower than large press and print comics, and assume that means the whole shebang is junk at worst, not worth taking seriously at best.
Which is a shame, because professional and academic gatekeeping, intentionally or not, tends to make admission tougher for writers and artists who fall outside the intersection of white, male, and middle/upper class.
EDIT: That said, I have seen a couple of webcomics folks react with disproportionate hostility to legitimate and measured criticism. But hey, fiction authors (Anne Rice, for a notable example) do this too, and no one shies away from reviewing and discussing novels because of it.
A message from sadnessfactory
Why do you think there's almost no discussion of webcomics by any comics sites or critics? Is it because they're free? Is it the subject matter?