On Reading Webcomic Archives

That I read webcomics should come as a surprise to nobody. I have made no secret of my nerdiness, and webcomics–a combination of online life and graphic narrative–represent a junction of two of the more traditionally “nerdy” arenas of human endeavor. Nor should it be a surprise that I read them voraciously; there are several I check regularly (depending on their update schedules), and others I poke in on occasionally to see what all is still going on in them, if anything.

Relatively recently, I read through the complete runs of both Something Positive and Questionable Content. I did so in part to refresh my memory of plot points that had been coming up in more recent comics–and, once I started, I figured I had to read through the rest of the archives. Completeness matters, after all, and I do tend just a little bit towards the obsessive/compulsive, nerd that I am.

As I read through the archives, I did note the shifts in graphic art style across the many years of each comic’s run. The quality of writing has remained largely consistent, however, which I am sure I could try to parse, somehow, to make some statement about the relative development of artistic techniques and media. (I will leave that for those who are not quite on the fringes of academe, as I still am, to handle.) And I was reminded of why I have continued to read those comics for as long as I have; I find the characters compelling and the plots intriguing, even if there are occasional fumbles of both.

More to the point, however, I found myself strangely hollow after completing the reading. I do not know if it was a matter of having finished the things and not yet having more of them to read–but I have not tended to react thus when I have re-read such writers as Tolkien, Asimov, or Hobb. Their works are reasonably complete, however, so that might be the reason–except that Chaucer’s, which are not complete in any copy of which I am aware, do not evoke the same hollow longing that I feel from reading once again the webcomics’ incomplete runs (for both are still in production, so far as I know).

Wherein the sense of dissatisfaction lies, then, I am not sure. There is more to explore, to be sure, so it is not the foreclosure of possibility. And I admit to having been greatly distracted by the re-reading, my attention taken from other matters with which it ought probably to have been more fully occupied, so that I should be relieved at being released from the task of plowing through several thousand strips (is that the right word?) in each webcomic. But I am not happy to have ended the re-reading; still do I not know why, and I think it will bother me that I do not–at least for a while.

Until, of course, I either do it again, or something else emerges to ring hollowly within me.

Care to help support my webcomic habit?

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