T. Campbell, You Silly Bastard

posted March 14, 2006 by Jer


T. Campbell is a big fat self-absorbed disappointment spawned inevitably by Scott McCloud. McCloud and his self-righteous proclamation that web-comics are the future of sequential art gives delusions of grandeur to the Webcomic community, thinking they can be one of the .2% (by my research) who actually make a living with an online comic. The result is that artists who are already timid about publishing their work become even more reclusive, terrified of making any major leap with their work and instead hide behind a rock, gently leaving their comic on the street for passersby to nod at and maybe say "that's amusing." Putting a comic on the Internet is the sequential-art version of having a garage band. You can easily make a few bucks, but the likelihood that you'll make a living is extraordinarily slim. You need to get out of your garage and start getting your music in record stores, by big labels or by indie labels. You Webcomic artists are potential rock stars, but hiding on the web is sapping your confidence and preventing you from stepping up and becoming what you were born to be.

A prime example would be my friend Mookie. The man is a genius, a celebrated writer and a dedicated artist. Despite this, he refuses to acknowledge that with his current portfolio he could easily step into printed comics. He instead cowers behind niche publishers like Keenspot. I've had this conversation with the man himself (albeit a couple years ago), and the result was that he just wants to stick with what is safe and familiar. This is the feeling across the Webcomics board. I don't want Webcomics to go away - that would be an exercise in futility, anyway. All I want is for Webcomic artists to stop hiding behind the Internet. Use the web to strengthen your skills, connect with your readers and develop a fan-base, but do not let it hold you back. When the time comes, be ready to take risks, get out of the garage and become the next generation of comic superstars.

As for T. Campbell, most of what I need to say has been said, but the truth is I identify with him. I did a Webcomic for 2 years and it never really went anywhere. While I eventually took a bow and left the stage gracefully, I too felt the delusions of grandeur that Campbell is still caught up in. Like me, he has a comic that is okay, but certainly not huge. Also like me, he sought out other methods to greatness, shortcuts to catch up with the giants he so idolizes. I however, realized the futility in trying to be like someone else. Once I realized it was not my destiny to mimic the greatness of others, I was free to become anything I wanted. Campbell is still caught in this trap. He is chasing the shadows of giants, trying to ride on their backs and claim he is as large as them. The sad truth is that he is fooling no-one but himself.

I'm working on SplurdNet again these days, which is the resurrection of SplurdLink. The main difference this time is that my motivation has changed. The first time, I was thinking like T. Campbell, trying to inflate myself by leeching off of the fame of others. It was utter coincidence that I managed to build a tool that benefited the community, but the initial motivation is what lead to its collapse. This time, my motivation is the community itself. My own self importance is relaxed, and my heart is set on the medium and the culture of Webcomics. I'm not trying to control the future of comics like Scott McCloud or ride on it's back like T. Campbell (anymore, at least). If I have a wish, it's that I can do something that will help the medium itself decide its own future.

In all these years, Webcomics have yet to really define themselves. Too many people look towards the lucky minority who profit from it, or the self-righteous charlatans who delude the masses into thinking they all could all be that minority. Not enough people look at what they have already accomplished themselves. I can't say what Webcomics are, but the point is that no-one can. Artists, don't let others write a book about you. Don't let others tell you what you are or what you should be. The one thing I do know is that Webcomics are the last great free medium. It's time to step up and write books about yourselves! Get out of your garage, stop hiding on the Internet and start printing the next age of comic books! Yes, you are allowed to! You have the skills. You have the talent. The future is you!

Besides, T. Campbell published with the bastion of publishing quality that is Antarctic Press. What the hell are you people worried about?