In reading several of year end wrap ups for the webcomics scene, I’ve seen the term “evolution of the art form” of comics used several times. I just have one question: What does this phrase mean?
There are two ways in which the word “evolution” is used, and I’m curious what people intend. In everyday speech, “evolution” means a growth into something more advanced than it was before. More (scientifically) accurate, it means an adaptation to/from/with a new environment, but not connoting any sort of advancement or progression.
If people mean the second sense of “evolution,” then I can totally understand it. The Internet is very different environment posing interesting avenues for adaptation.
However, if people mean “evolution” in the first sense, regarding a progression to something better…
In what qualitative ways has the “comic medium” really become more “advanced” in the last hundred years at all? People are still drawing pictures in sequence and pairing them with words. Yes, the structure has changed – a la “language change,” but this type of gradual unconcious change isn’t what I think people mean.
So, some new methods of coloring have emerged from new technologies, and the Internet allows for different packaging in layouts. For formalists, I can understand how these experiments provide a fertile realm for experimentation, but in most cases they don’t radically change the content of the story much (that a “message” is being conveyed by sequential images). To me, layout change like the Infinite Canvas seems a little superficial to call a major evolution – it just provides interesting (artistic) formalist experimenting.
And, some may argue that writing and storytelling have gotten better over the years, which in some domains is certainly true. Then again, pick up a book of Winsor McCay and it might surprise you. Of course, good writing and storytelling aren’t dependent on the media they’re enacted on. Someone could write a masterpiece on the nearly-infinite-canvas of a toilet paper roll and it could be just as good writing as something on the Internet.
I’ve also seen the term “evolution” used regarding economics and fandom. Without a doubt, the web provides economic potential for creators that has never been seen before. And, inventions like OhNoRobot! for fandom does provide a resource unique to the power of the web. This is certainly adaptationist.
So, what I want to ask then, is the “evolutionary potential” of the Internet simply for economics purposes and for formalists? If these are what people are using this term for, it has nothing to do with the “art form” of sequential images. Am I right that this is somewhat of a flowery vacuous term, or am I just missing something?