I'm not happy about it, but I also recognize it as reality.
But in this era of crowdsourcing, Patreon and the like, the relationship between the artist and the consumer is more tightly-knit and blurry than ever. The script I'm working on for issue six started out as a commission someone wanted me to do, for instance.
And in the world of webcomics, this is complicated by the fact that there is a certain "amateur hour"-ness about it. Some of the most popular comics are stick figures; some of the most gorgeous art is done by people who refuse to monetize at all.
There aren't a whole lot of us who make a sustainable living off webcomics; however there is at least one prominent one who's been in the business a long time and is making money by the bucketload. I'm being cagey about naming said artist here because some of this particular artist's methods really put me off but I'm not in the business of calling people out. I'm talking here about my own mind, not to pick fights with other people.
The artist's regular comic frequently includes what I call "Rat Pack humor," the sort of casually sexist and privileged crap that make Joel and the Bots on MST3K say things like "I would like to apologize on behalf of the entire male gender, thank you" or "I'd slap this movie if I could." It always annoys me to see this kind of thing get applause in the first place. Said artist then takes this a step further by doing what is basically a porn spinoff comic as well, that is behind a paywall.
(In fact, almost everything this artist does is behind a paywall of some variety. They really buy into the idea of "content sold separately.")
I don't object to adult comics; I've got no problem whatsoever with Oglaf (wow, that's a NSFW link) or Oh Joy Sex Toy (holy crap that's NSFW) for instance. Gene Catlow's silly sex-addled side-stories get a thumbs-up from me. But I am very uncomfortable with the prostitution of characters.
At a convention some years back now, when I was still learning what to say "yes" or "no" to, someone commissioned me to do a picture of Tiffany in lingerie with one of his OCs. The guy had sheets of OCs to choose from– all of them being variations of the standard comic book woman figure, in different cliché "sexy" outfits. (Insert rant about it always being guys who do this shit... later.) I was uncomfortable with the request, but as I say, I was still learning these things. I did the picture, but I was unhappy the whole time, the result was not very good art, and I ended up only charging a portion of what I would have normally asked for.
And... well... I felt like I owed Tiffany an apology. ¬.¬
According to the philosophy of the artist referred to above, this is exactly backwards. The correct reaction would have been to let out a whoop, charge an extra $75, and draw the Best Damn Tiffany Tiger Porn any fanboy could dream of.
Said artist has set themselves up as a kind of industry expert on webcomics, sort of like the business writer whose main qualification is that they sell a ton of books on becoming a business writer. I can't really argue with their reasoning I suppose, given that they are one of the few people making a ton of money as a webcomic artist.
But their actual content makes me itch. -.- Their business practices make me itch. -.- And seeing people flocking to them and emulating them makes me itch more. >.<
Everything they do, from the format the comic is shown in, to the pacing of every gag, is designed to maximize the money squeezed out of the audience. If the artist's blog is to be believed, even things like character design/story arc and personal connection with the readers are also weighed against this metric. I used to follow their blog and social media presence on the grounds that they were, y'know, actually making a living in a field in which I am not, but I have finally reached the point where I just can't keep looking at it.
If money is the object of the game, why bang your head against webcomics? There are easier and more profitable ways of making money without caring about what you do.
I don't pretend for even a second to have a viable business model for my own work. And yes, that's a problem. But I can at least look my characters in the metaphorical eye without wanting to slap myself.