On the first day of sophomore year in high school, my English teacher picked up a musty tome, thumbed its pages snapping from his nail, and breathed in the moving air. He said, “A good reader re-reads.” This stuck with me. I make comics now, so “A good reader re-reads” has transformed in my mind to, “a good humorist re-visits old jokes.”
I will argue for why I edit my old work to refurbish comics for style and humor.
First, an argument for why you shouldn’t edit your old work
Any good argumentative paper will include the counterargument. Let’s start with that.
As a webcomic artist three things are true when it comes to publishing over the internet:
- The posts are evergreen, meaning they’re publicly available for good unless you delete them
- Archived comics represent the progression of your craft
- Your webcomic website is in part a representation of your abilities
On most webcomic sites, artists focus on posting new comics, and leave older comics available for fans to amuse at the evolution in style. I have no quarrel with it. There is merit in preserving a timeline of your artistic development.
Historical posts allow fans to participate in the artist’s progress on an intimate level. Compare it to witnessing a child grow into an adult–you feel like you know that person because you’ve been privy to their development along the way. From this view, editing your old work is like re-writing history. It almost seems wrong.
Why I’ve decided to still edit my old work
A long time coming
Writers have access to innumerable contradicting tidbits of advice for how to write well, which overwhelms. I’ve tried them all, but there is one which produces consistently improved results. Let’s call it “walking away.” You write a thing. You get up. You go do something else. You come back to it later with fresh eyes to spot improvement opportunities. It sounds like a business operation, but it works.
Ruminating on this made me realize that there are tiers. You can walk away for 5 minutes, a day, a month, a year. What about two years? Writers create manuscripts that sit for decades until revived into something remarkable. Comics, and in particular the gag-a-day variety that I draw, have a regular, rapid publishing schedule, so there’s not much time to let ideas sit. I use the walk away method to create my comics, but sometimes it’s not enough. I need months or years. So I’ll edit my old comics as though I’d walked away from them and only just came back.
The nature of humor
Another reason I’ve started editing my old comics is because my sense of humor has developed (I think).
I think about my favorite stand-up comedians who admit on late night talk shows to feeling embarrassed by videos of old routines. There’s nothing they can do about it. A webcomic artist on the other hand has a degree of control to self-curate their archive. As my humor develops, I start to see how older comics missed the joke entirely. I think there’s value in editing old work in order to reveal whatever funny I was aiming for back then and missed.
It is a shame to abandon a joke that came so close to working. And it’s detrimental to leave a flopper up on the website, if this site is a representation of my abilities. So I will reinvigorate old comics with new style and more effective humor.
Re-imaging the role of the webcomic website archive
I’m editing my old work because I want to conceptualize this website as more than an archive of old comics. “Archive” is such an archaic term. It feels dismissive of anything found there. Old comics have potential for future readers, but they are stored, shut away in the dark. An archive is like a seed bank, you have to dig to find value. I don’t like it.
Instead, I want to treat this website as a garden. Some plants have been around longer, but they are no less important than newer ones. When some begin to ail, they need attention. The “archive” becomes a garden that requires tending. That’s why I now link to many more old comics from newer ones.
This is the internet, not print
There’s nothing inherently collectible about digital webcomics. The webcomic business model is:
Later on, artists create Kickstarters, self-publish books, pitch ideas to agents and print publishers, create a Patreon page, etc. But in the meantime, Search Engine Optimization for comics is relevant.
SEO people agree that “content is king.” In my interview with Zach of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, he gave good advice that I’ve heard from all the most successful webcomic artists: keep making great stuff. Taking that one step further, or backward, the consensus in the SEO and internet marketing world is that you should edit old posts. As an artist, I shy away from the word “marketing”. But I also recognize that I’ve engaged in creating webcomics, and if they don’t help me publish and distribute in print, then I’m stuck with an online business model that needs regular attention.
In SEO the bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who leave your domain from the page they arrived to without navigating to other parts of the website. A low bounce rate is good. If a visitor comes to this website thanks to a quality comic, but then navigates using the ‘random’ button to older or lamer comics, then the user experience fails and he or she might bounce away.
The bottom line is: improving old comics makes this website better, and more consistent. Editing your old work is good.
How I’ve edited old comics
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