For a long period I kind of forgot most of my family have never read a webcomic before. I was posting the odd page on my Facebook feed and wondering why my site was chugging along with three or four regular readers, until my mum came to visit and confessed that she had trouble following the comic because “it didn’t seem to have a normal narrative.” I thought it was rather straightforward, so I dug a bit deeper and realised that those occasional pages I was putting up on Facebook were all she was reading of the comic, and I suddenly got why my comic was struggling.

So I made a rather snippy little Facebook post explaining in pedantic detail exactly how the comic was supposed to be read. As far as marketing strats go, shaming people is definitely a novel one, but it seems to have worked. Kinda. Now it still putters along with three or four regular readers but spikes up to twenty-five or so every Tuesday. Not every Friday, weirdly. I guess people prefer reading it in two-page increments, which is fine, I guess. But it made me think – there’s a lot of conventions surrounding webcomics that us internet-inhabiting folk take for granted and I’m wondering if we artists are artificially limiting our audience by sticking so doggedly to them?

In many ways it’s similar to how janky wall-clipping collision detection in video games is easily forgiven by habitual players but puts casual observers right off the whole medium – we’re trained to expect it and so don’t even notice it happening, despite it being clearly ridiculous to someone who’s never played a game before. In webcomics we’re trained to expect the story to progress one page at a time, appearing on a set schedule over days and weeks, and if we miss a page we can just hit “back” and catch up where we left off. Even regular print comics don’t work this way, let alone novels or TV shows – the closest equivalent would be three panel strips at the back of the papers, and come to think of it I’m not even sure newspapers do those anymore. You certainly don’t tell complicated long-form narratives that way, and for someone who’s never read a webcomic it must feel like an unreasonable expectation. Who does this artist think he is, demanding we lick a table scrap twice a week over the course of literally years?

If I hadn’t read webcomics before, I’d be mad at the implications too. Just sayin’.