I spend a lot of time posting my work online, and like any other artist, I’ve built up a relatively close-knit circle of friends, readers, appreciators, and casual bystanders. I know when I post artwork, usually a few people will go ‘heh’, a few might share it, and then we all move on.
As creators, we form these little bubbles around ourselves, safe spaces to share our work with people we (kind of) know. Unfortunately, the bubbles are more restricting than we realize. They don’t encourage us to try new things. Worse, they perhaps stop us finding new audiences. An artist’s success depends on how many eyes fall on their work, but hasn’t social media reached a point where we’re all just showing our work… to each other? A mutual appreciation, nurturing and supportive of course, but not reaching anyone new?
Traditionally, that has been the publisher’s job, to sail the ship into brave new waters. But increasingly, they just won’t take the risk. Unless a character, property or artist comes with a ready-packaged brand, a pre-built audience, it’s safer to keep sailing around in port.
Part of this is financial constraint, of course, but there’s often a lack of imagination too. An unwillingness to stand up for a great idea. Publishers follow trends just as artists follow briefs, and it takes the occasional break-out idea to break the cycle. This is where comics should really come into their own. Comics have always been one of the more unrestrained artforms, the most willing to question and change, the angriest and the sharpest. A uniquely independent form of expression.
And yet, the comics most shared online are usually the calmest and simplest – they’re gentle gags about cats, or introverts. The universal truths, racking up thousands of Shares and Likes. This is what non-comic readers think comics are, a brief amusing distraction on their Facebook timelines, then forgotten. The true potential of comics, this dangerous, wonderful world, remaining forever unlocked except to those in the know.
That is where, perhaps, social media is doing comics a disservice. We’ve huddled in groups, and not shared our creative wealth in the real world. Children, most of all, have been left out. They can buy The Beano or, more recently, The Phoenix – but they’ve not been shown why they should. There has been no educating in comics, culturally, no love borne inherent like we all grew up with.
As artists, we 100% have the power to turn this situation around and inspire the next generation of readers. To bring comics into schools, hospitals, hostels, to share not only our spoils, but our knowledge. To engage and inspire, and ignite a thrill for adventure.
Moose Kid Comics, the free, online children’s comic I edit, is currently running a fundraiser throughout December to help do just that. Please consider joining in with our fundraiser, or even sharing it. By using comics socially, making people laugh and think, we have a real chance to not only find new audiences, but to spark that lifelong love for comics which everyone deserves to have.