Tweaking the paston February 6, 2013 at 12:00 am
There comes a time in every webcomic’s life, assuming it lasts past the first several months, that a creator will look back at the first pages and think, “Man, that’s some rough stuff.”
Some people go so far as to completely redraw these pages in a frenzy of revision, which can lead to some real strangeness if their motivation doesn’t last through the entire archive… I remember reading at least one webcomic where I was really, really impressed with the quality, and then all of a sudden around the 12th page there was a sudden nosedive and things got much simpler and sketchier. I was confused until I realized that the author had done just what I mentioned above… marshalling their more recent skills, they’d gone back and overhauled some of their starting pages to match the quality of the later ones, but hadn’t followed entirely through. As a result, that 12th pageÂ was a reader’s first taste of the actual, original art from several years prior.
The Least IÂ Could Do comic is another Â one I remember causing some controversy when big chunks of the early strips were redone, especially because they were redone by an entirely different artist.Â Â It turns outÂ that was only for a print book version, though,Â and the decision madeÂ because the original strips weren’t made in high enough resolution– which is actually a very good reason. The old strips are still available online, but it’s not particularly easy to navigate to them… so you could argue that they’re effectively hidden away in favor of the modern, more polishedÂ Lar DeSouza look. Since Ryan Sohmer is one of those guys who is reportedly very concerned with being seen as “professional” and LICD is a big business for him, I can seeÂ why he might want to de-emphasize the past, even if there weren’t the added muddle of those strips being done by completely different partners he’s since parted ways with.
In fact, another writer/creator friend of mine had to hire a new artist to redo his first chapter of comics not because he felt they were particularly bad, but becauseÂ the former artist asserted ownership rights over what he had drawn even though he no longer had any interest in continuing. There’s a lot of reasons to go back and make changes, and not all of them stem from embarrassment.
Now true, the biggest reason is probably still the idea of first impressions. Most comics are going to have their current strip/page posted for a visitor, but a natural reaction for a newcomer, particularly where a story comic is concerned, would be to want to start from the beginning. If, in the creator’s humble opinion, their early artwork looks like warmed over ass, they will feel a certain anxiety about scaring away potential new fans. A good story may keep people hooked, but first they have to snap up the shiny bait, right?
The flipside to this is that there are a good number of people out there willing to overlook roughness in the early presentation, especially considering they’re getting the content for no more cost than a bit of their time. Some fans actually go so far as to find the reworking of early strips something of a betrayal, because they enjoy seeing how far a creator has progressed from when they started to where they are now. Heck, when you’re a beginning creator yourself, sometimes it’s nice to look at a success story who arose from humble beginnings, and an unrevised archive can show a wonderful roadmap of that.
As for us? Dawn will be first to say she feels her art has improved quite a bit since the early days, but early on we made a mutual decision to “play it where it lies” as far as the visuals went, except in occasional extreme cases with a comic page that just recently went live. That’s extended to our print issues, and yet we still get purchases at conventions even though Issue #1 was made with far more enthusiasm than experience. Now I admit, where the lettering is concerned I went back through Episode 2 and Episode 3 and fixed that up a lot for the print versions. The art has stayed in its original form though, for better or worse. Hopefully for the better, at least in terms of most of our fans. One man’s junk is another man’s masterpiece, right? And I hope my writing has enjoyed a certain consistency to it… though that might be backhanding myself in the sense that if I started out “good”, I haven’t really improved at all.
Anyhow, we probably won’t be touching any of the artwork for the foreseeable future. The lettering? Well, I actually have done some touch-ups here and there already, and I’m pondering really digging in and fixing up that aspect of the early comics just to make things more readable and more consistent. But then again, it could be that such an effort isn’t really necessary… so if you’ve any opinions, I’ve got a new poll up on the left sidebar for Yea or Nay. And/or you can comment here. Let me know!