Well, it’s early 2012. It is a time of resolutions, apparently. Let me make one. But first, a story:
John Troutman, the creator of the webcomic Lit Brick, which I follow and admire, has made a resolution himself. Basically, he has declared that since his comic has existed for over a year and has gained what he has declared via Twitter to be “1000ish readers,” which he doesn’t regard as anywhere near enough to count as success, Lit Brick will be “entering a hiatus” that Mr. Troutman’s tweets are pretty much implying will last forever. This makes me rather sad, as Lit Brick–which I discovered a few months ago, and which, due to a combination of laziness and a complete lack of spare time, I have not added to my links page–is devoted to reproducing the contents of the Norton Anthology of English Literature four panels at a time. Mr. Troutman regularly describes his readership as “niche,” but I prefer to think of it as consisting of people capable of finding this funny. Okay, maybe it is niche. If you remember the end of Beowulf even a little bit, you will likely understand why that strip gives me the giggles.
I completely understand the need not to continue with a project in which one has lost faith; several of Mr. Troutman’s comments have hinted at a general discontent with the episodic nature of Lit Brick and the frustration of not having a proper continuing storyline to work with. However, the “my readership isn’t growing” argument is one with which I must respectfully beg to differ. I suppose this makes me a masochist or maybe just delusional, but I’ve got to say it: West of Bathurst has been running for five and a half years, and it has a few hundred readers at most. Does this mean I am going to abandon it? Hell, no. I shall continue with my aggressively niche comic until the story is finished, whenever the heck that might be, or until my computer bursts into flame, which may very well happen first.
Which of us has the right of it? I honestly don’t know. Do low numbers mean a project is no good? Do they mean that the person gaining them should give up and try something more likely to be popular? It’s true that “success” in the webcomic world equals “ability to gain enough readers that one can make a living via merchandising and advertising,” and it’s also true that only a very few webcomic creators possess such an ability. There are some fantastic comics with huge readerships. There are also some terrible comics with huge readerships. Conversely, there are some fantastic comics and some terrible comics with small readerships. Meh comics can be found in both categories, as well as in between. Does popularity equal success, and does success equal worth? Am I an idiot to spend all this time creating a comic that, in the larger scheme of things, hardly anybody reads?
I don’t care if I am. As far as I’m concerned, West of Bathurst doesn’t have to be Penny Arcade. (You know, now that I think of it, I’ve never even portrayed characters playing video games. I think Baldwin is probably a gamer, though.) It has only a few hundred readers? Well, they enjoy it, and so do I. It’s kind of fun to be a little fish in a big pond. If you do something outrageous, there will be a mere few hundred people who want to kill you.
I don’t mean this as a criticism of Mr. Troutman, though I am disappointed that there will be no more She-Jesus (don’t ask). He’s got to do what he’s got to do. His declaration just got me thinking, and it has prompted me to declare:
I hereby resolve that West of Bathurst will stubbornly continue, even if its website keeps going down and its readers forget about it for months at a time. Have a happy New Year.