Comic unimpressed

Yesterday got interesting.

What started out as a twitter discussion between myself and another webcomic creator about site design turned into a fight over the viability of Comicpress.

For those that don’t know, Comicpress is a theme for the blogging platform Wordpress. It’s a free and easy way to make your own webcomic site. Most hosting services offer one-click-installs of Wordpress and Comicpress is as easy as loading a theme into a folder via FTP and you’re off to the races. By example, PvP was a Wordpress/Comicpress site until recently when it was redesigned professionally using Expression Engine as a content management system.

Yesterday I tweeted an opinion about Comicpress that upset a lot of people, including the man currently responsible for the development and upkeep of the Comicpress theme. That tweet went as follows:

“I just feel that Wordpress/comicpress is no longer a viable option for being noticed as a webcomic.”

Here’s what I would should have said:

“Most people these days just install Comicpress and move on. They don’t spend a lot of time or money trying to customize the theme to suit the needs of their content or to differentiate themselves from a sea of other aspiring cartoonists who using the same platform’s default settings to make websites. This is not the fault of Comicpress or any other platform per say. More the fault of the individual who doesn’t have the time, knowledge, inclination or money to make a more custom website. Especially for a project they’re not sure is going to be around in a year.”

The man currently working on Comicpress, who goes by the name of Frumph online, agrees with the 2nd statement. Recently, Frumph has created a new plugin for wordpress called Comic Easel that let’s you turn any Wordpress theme into a webcomic site. Any theme, not just the default blogging one. And the plugin gets around a lot of limitations of Comicpress. It allows custom post type control, media library handling of comics, navigation of your archives via chapters/stories, character and location settings per comic. It’s a bit more robust while maintaining the accessibility of Wordpress. Hopefully more webcomic creators will experiment with it.

And really, that’s all I’d like to see more of. Experimentation. It’s true that the content is king here. Kate Beaton started posting to Livejournal and that limited platform didn’t retard her meteoric ride to success. Certainly the best webcomic in the world can find success on tumblr, and the shittiest webcomic in the world can not be saved by the most expensive team of web-designers. Probably the solution that’s right for a creator changes as they progress as both an artist and an entrepreneur. I know it has for me. Your design needs change as a content provider as you grow and as new media grows.

But most of you fall somewhere in the middle, and it’s important at some point to invest some time, and probably some money in creating a site design that better serves your content. How much time and money you invest will vary from creator to creator. But there are people who can help you with this problem without breaking your bank. And doing so might help your worthy content stand out from the crowd. It’s a matter of timing and knowing what you need. It would be nice if there were more resources out there to help a creator determine what he or she should be worrying about at any given time in their career.

Webcomics.com is a good start.

There’s also the possibility that none of this matters because the website itself is being phased out completely. The url destination for a comics feature may be on an extinction agenda and a new system of posting comics to social networks like facebook, or via mobile apps may be what rises up in their place. Certainly reader habits are heading that way. Groups who would rather just have their content delivered via RSS grows rapidly. And means of monetizing our content without the need of a url destination are not growing in pace.

These discussions make me miss Webcomics Weekly. Sometimes.