Saturday, October 3, 2009

Death By Hiatus

There is a disease that holds the entire webcomic community in fear.  It could strike anytime, anywhere.  Hundreds have fallen to it, and more likely will.  You could be next, it is:


Which is more dramatic sounding that it really is, sadly enough.

Webcomics, unlike their newspaper counterparts, die.  They die in a number of ways, but the vast majority will go on for a few years, then pass away.  This isn't a bad thing, how many of the comics in papers are over 50 years old?  Yeah, that many.  With webcomics generally being a very personal work, once the artist dies or grows bored with it, the comic is done.

Some comics die of "natural causes."  AKA the artist ends them.  Parking Lot is Full, the Call of Whatever and most recently Scary Go Round were ended by their respective artists for many reasons, but mostly because they wanted to move on to something else.  Thus the comics end, usually wrapping up whatever plots they have in a nice, effective way.

Then there are some where the artist gives up on a comic.  The result is similar to natural causes, but getting a text version of what happened is the best one can hope for.  Timescapes, Return to Sender, and Avalon (the last one had a text completion) are examples here, and while it is sad, often this is the best thing for these comics.

But most comics, when they die, they are killed by hiatus.  Hiatus means "taking a break," basically, which is fine.  Many comics, even the most popular ones, take breaks that last a week or so, time to go to a convention or on a vacation trip or something like that.  Often, however, the artist, claiming every intention of coming back, never does.  There's no update on status, no "sorry," nothing.  Daily checks slowly shift down to weekly and eventually no checks at all, and the comic basically ceases to be.

The number of comics that this has happened to is frightfully large, and infuriating.  Yes, it pisses me off, as a great many of them are actually pretty good, and they simply stop.  So why?  Why does it happen?  At least TELL us the comic isn't going to update any more, give us a reason, medical, insanity, you lost your arm in a bar fight, I don't care, just tell us why!

On rare, very rare, occasions, a comic does come back from hiatus death.  Sea of Insanity was dead for almost 2 YEARS when it suddenly started updating again.  It was shocking, but it happened.  Some comics SEEM to go into hiatus, but really have just really long periods between updates like No Rest for the Wicked.  These are exceptions that prove the rule though, when a comic goes into hiatus, it typically never comes back.

There are warning signs, though, and keep these in mind as you read your favorite comic:

1 - Missed updates.  The comic is supposed to update M-W-F, but the artist starts missing updates, shifting them to Tuesday or Thursday, and never says exactly why.

2 - Complex art and frequent updates.  They don't mix, the more detailed the art, especially in a young comic, the less likely they'll make their daily updates.  And the more updates they miss, the more likely you'll be in number 1.

3 - Complaints about school.  Most comics are started by students, college or high school, and as school gets harder and requires more work (and it does), the less likely the comic will update.

4 - Comments about mental disorders.  I know artists have a tendency to be a little nuts, but when they start talking about it, expect an extended period of hiatus to strike, possibly a fatal one.

Even with these signs that something might be wrong, hiatus can strike at any time, because the law of the internet is this:  Real Life comes first.

And now, a memorial to comics that hiatus has taken well before their times:

Anne Frank Conquers the Moon Nazis
Ashita and Yesterday
Gin and the Devil
I Am Rocket Builder
Life of Riley
Mad About U.
No 4th Wall to Break
Ordinary Day
Panel One
Porridge Cooling Darkly
Road Waffles
Schoolbooks and Brimstone
Strange Case
The Broken Mirror
The Pretentious History of Everything
Too Late to Run
Voices in My Hand

And these are only the ones I've read.  There are more, many more.

Until next time kids.

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