So you’ve found a webcomic you really enjoy. You really like the art and the stories are entertaining. You’ve backtracked through the archives and read the entire thing from the beginning. The comic updates are part of your regular routine. You’ve even logged onto the comics’ forum and chatted with the creator and other fans. Then, one day, instead of seeing the normal comic update, you find a message that says the strip is ending.
Maybe the comic was designed to have a finite story and the creator just reached the end. Maybe life got in the way and the creator isn’t able to maintain it anymore. Maybe the creator didn’t like where the comic was going from a creative perspective. In any event, there won’t be any new installments of the comic for you.
With many (but certainly not all!) printed comics, the characters and stories are owned by a large company. If Dan Slott stops writing Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel can just hire someone else to write it. That kind of financial flexibility isn’t an option for the vast majority of webcomics. Besides, most webcomic creators see their creations as deeply personal expressions and wouldn’t want others in control of them anyway.
Frequently, the creator will not simply end their webcomic but will provide a sincere, if not always detailed, explanation. Mark Ricketts ended Moose Mountain Comics after a hiatus this way...
Derek Hunter halted Pirate Club this way...
Pirate Club, for now, is on hiatus. I know, it’s a bummer cause we’re right in the middle of a story, but I wanna be honest with you…my loyal readers. Cause I love you... I need a fresh start. Fresh stories and fresh characters. I have a new OGN I’m working on, and I still want to produce new mini comics to sell at conventions and through mail order.
… While Rhys McDonald concluded the story in RiverSide and added this message...
Well, that’s all she wrote guys – I hope you enjoyed the ride as much I enjoyed working on story... What my future holds, who knows! I’ve got a new story I’ve written primed and ready to be drawn. I’m practically champing at the bit to start it. Right now that’s what I want to invest my time into.
They all also used their sites to point to other ways to keep up with them: blogs, Twitter, etc. Typically, since fans have a more direct connection with the creators, they tend to express their disappointment, but measured with a fair amount of understanding. With printed comics, that understanding isn’t always apparent as Batman’s adventures have already outlived many of their architects and it’s not as reflective of a single creator’s voice.
With all that said, though, nothing is permanent and creators’ situations are subject to change. It’s not at all unheard of for webcomic creators to revive their projects, frequently to the gratification of long-term fans who have made attempts to keep up with their work.
Hans Rickheit, who I interviewed just a couple weeks ago, has already returned to the story in Ectopiary, saying...
Although I am still jobless, my finances are now sufficient for an (extremely) modest existence. During the next few months, I will be making some dramatic changes to the website to improve my chances of livelihood... Whilst struggling to eat & pay rent, I still found time for pursuits related to my comics and similar projects.
Jane Irwin stopped publishing Clockwork Game back in mid-2009, citing that she was really unhappy with the script she had worked up. But this past month, to the delight of her fans, she began posting updates again, restarting the story with her new script.
The reader’s challenge, then, is to be able to keep up with a creator whose work they enjoy without a regular webcomic to follow along with. A few years ago, fans were limited to the occasional, and often sporadic, email distribution list. Today, there are any number of channels a creator might continue to keep people informed. As suggested earlier, creators will often cite what their preferences are. “Follow me on Tumblr!” “Like me on Facebook!” In both Iriwn’s and Rickheit’s cases, fans who had previously subscribed to their RSS feeds just had the new strips delivered to them once they were published and never had to hunt down anyone with “whatever happened to” questions.
Just because your favorite webcomic ends does not mean that the creator won’t return to the materials. Nor does it mean that you’ve seen the last of him or her. While the specifics of a single webcomic might not capture the audience’s broader attention, the talented folks that you’re more likely to enjoy have a tendency to keep popping up. Maybe a slightly different venue or with a slightly different message, but it’s worth keeping your eyes peeled because they’ll likely have something clever up their sleeve; you just don’t know what it is yet!
Kleefeld on Webcomics #10: The Grey Area