There’s a tab on several of the more popular TV  Tropes pages with the initials “WMG”, which stands for “Wild Mass Guessing“. If you’ve ever debated with your friends over something like whether Cobb is awake or asleep at the end of Inception, you’ve experienced this phenomenon. It can be a lot of fun to look back at something you’ve enjoyed and consider its bits and pieces, especially if there might be a follow-up in the works. I think we all have a little bit of detective in us where we’d love to put together the clues we’ve been given and see our theories come to fruition on the screen (or page, wherever).

Is it sometimes a recipe for disappointment? Sure, especially if you get your heart set on things turning out a certain way and the creators take matters in a different direction. X ended up engaged to Y instead of Z?! Sacrilege! Nonsense! Meanwhile the creators can end up bitter at the backlash of their fandom—who are you to tell me how things should go? Who’s running this story, anyhow?

It seems like any popular work of fiction will run into this problem sooner or later, but webcomics can be particularly vulnerable what with their ongoing nature and the ease of access to the creator(s). At least to start with… it seems like many of the biggest ones today started off with an open comments section… then at some point started moderating the comments… then killed comments altogether, perhaps continuing to respond on a forum… and then eventually they stop really interacting on the forum, either, and the conversation becomes mostly that of moderators and fans talking into the wilderness, wondering if anyone hears. At that point it’s basically become indistinguishable from the traditional mass media set-up, right? Except maybe the people that were there from the beginning feel personally shunned now in a way they wouldn’t if there had always been a clear divide.

I wonder sometimes if everything that gets popular is doomed to this same progression, a progression that seems to start out of simple, innocent speculations that are made with no more motive than pure love and enjoyment. And on the creators’ side, don’t we want to have people excited about what we’re doing? Don’t we, to put it plainly, want to get people to care? To get them talking?

I know I do. I love hearing your reactions and your guesses on where things are going. With the amount of cliffhangers I put in week to week (especially lately), what else should I expect? I love hearing someone “call out to the screen” and tell Chuck to spray his antagonist in the face—knowing that yes, that’s exactly what they’ll see a week from now (predictable but satisfying), but will they have also guessed that an angry billy goat subsequently butts the man off the roof (surprising, but hopefully no less satisfying)?

Maybe this is another reason I’m reluctant to push too hard for recognition. Yeah, there’s the occasional comic which engenders no comments at all, but I’d just as soon have a small handful of neat responses than a page full of “FIRST!”. It’s at the level I can still personalize things… not to say I respond to every single comment, but if you stick around I tend to end up knowing names. It’s sort of like Cheers in that way. Please get the Cheers reference so I don’t feel terribly old.

Just something that’s flitted across my mental radar from time to time. Don’t get me wrong, of course I’d love to get to the point where more people than not have heard about Zombie Ranch when I bring it up, at least in comic/webcomic circles, but I hope that won’t ever have to go hand in hand with feeling overwhelmed by wild masses, guessing or not.

P.S. speaking of word getting out about the Ranch, has a review of us up this week. Check it out!