Friday, March 4, 2011

Designing A Webcomic Award

So last week, I reviewed the Webcomiclist's 2010 awards and found they were, well, less than spectacular.  But I can't very well issue a broad criticism of their system without having some idea what I would do instead, so this week, I will.

Now, before I begin keep in mind that details here can be modified.  Time for nominations, who exactly is involved and such can be changed over time, but the core elements presented here would be what I would insist upon.

Picking the winners is actually easy compared to picking out the nominees.  There are tens of thousands of webcomics, and since I'm not affiliated with any particular group, I have to consider them all.  To help here, there should be three ways to collect nominations, and there will be some time rules.  The nomination rules are as follows:

1.)  Comic can not have previously won in the given category within the last 2 - 5 years (varies depending on category).

2.)  Comic nomination must be for the award year period.  Things like "best new comic" have to be within a very specific time frame, other comics can cover longer periods.

3.)  Comic must be active for the length of the award year period, meaning the comic updated regularly over that time frame.  Only exception might be a "completed comic" award, or "short comic" award.

4.)  Comic must qualify for the given category.  A color comic cannot be entered in the black and white category, for example.

Initial nominations are elected by three methods:

Judge Picks - The judges of course will have their say in the final vote, but in collecting nominees, they instrumental.  Each will be allowed up to 3 nominees for any given category.  They will also narrow down the total initial nominations (except certain exceptions, which I'll also get to later).  Most likely judges should be divided up by specialty (art, story, etc).

Artist Nominations - The actual artists/writers of the comics will also be allowed to nominate their own works.  The restriction is they can ONLY nominate their own work, allowing smaller comics to get in on the awards that more popular comics would normally dominate.

Readers Choice - Speaking of popular comics, fans will have their say, being allowed to nominate their favorites.  The top 20 picks for each category will be allowed into the first round of vetting.  Probably will be forum based or something so it can easily be counted and tracked.  They can pick ANY comic they want, of course.

Vetting is the next step.  There will likely be, oh, 100 or so initial nominees for each, and that's way, way too many to ever properly list.  So the judges will have to narrow the group down to no more than 5 overall nominees per category.  The best initial nominees are to be chosen, and then those get a more thorough examination and the best is given the award.

Yeah, I know, it's a bit complicated, and the judges get a lot of say here, so there should be several of them.  Even then, I doubt it'll actually work out in the end.  Like many of my ideas, it's probably too complicated, but the main thing is to set up solid nomination rules and the basics of the process. So let's get into the different categories starting with the ones that definitely should be part of the awards, and then a few that I think are neat ideas, but don't think they'd actually work.

  • Best Comic - Obviously the last and most important award.  The best comic should have excellent marks (though not necessarily perfect) in the categories of art, character, plot, writing and update regularity over the length of it's lifespan.
  • Best New Comic - Best comic started within the award period and having more than 3 months or 30 strips, whichever is greater.  New comics cannot be nominated for the Best Comic category and are only eligible their first year of publication.
  • Best Character - The best single character in a comic.  Typically the character should show development, growth and personality that makes them stand out from their peers.  Only one character per comic may be nominated.
  • Best Cast - The best collection of main cast members in a comic.  Winners should have an interesting and well developed dynamic with each other, strong personalities and presence that makes no one character stand out without the others.  Only for main cast members.
  • Best Longform Comic - Longform comics are built around a single, overarching story, and while they may have shorter, sub-stories within their length, said sub-stories are there to enhance and define the greater story.
  • Best Shortform Comic - Shortform comics are built around multiple interconnected, but generally independent stories.  There is no intention or design for a single, overarching plot for the comic even if one eventually does solidify out of the mass of tales and adventures.
  • Best Gag Comic - Gag comics focus on telling a joke, or gag, with every strip and typically have extremely short stories that typically have no, or very few, consequences outside of the original story in a form typical of traditional newspaper humor comic strips.
  • Best Non-Traditional Comic - The winner should be a comic that makes best use of non-traditional art, storytelling or joke telling formats.  Strips using computer generated images, photo comics, strips based in flash and other comics that don't use the normal means of presenting art and story are all eligible for this award, but are NOT eligible for other art awards.
  • Best Color Art - Comics that feature superior color art in a mostly color strip.  Good color art features excellent choices in color (duh), shading and contrasts that make the art stand out above and beyond other comics.
  • Best Black and White Art - Comics that feature superior black and white art in a mostly black and white strip.  Good black and white art features good use of shading, contrast and line work above and beyond other comics.
  • Reader's Choice - Essentially a popularity contest, the winner is voted on by the readers. 
Those eleven MUST be on a final award list.  The rest of this list, however, is a bit less sure for me.  They're good ideas, but I'm not sure if awards are really necessary for them.

  • Best Long Story - Single storyline that has ended within the award period.
  • Best Short Story - Single storyline that was started and completed within 3 months or 30 strips within the award period.
  • Best Single Strip - Single strip that represents the best webcomic artists can produce.  This one is probably an artist nomination only category.
  • Best Guest Strip (single or series) - Single strip or series of strips from a single guest artist representing the regular comic's characters, personalities and style.
  • Best Completed Comic - Comic whose run lasted at least 2 full years and ended within the award period.
  • Best Short Comic - Comic whose run began and ended within the award period. 
  • Best Supporting Cast - Award for supporting characters who provide excellent support to the main cast, either through plot design or simple characterization of the main cast members.
I'm sure I could come up with more as well.

So that's my webcomic awards concept.  Hmm, I guess I should give some examples.  Well, I'm the only judge, but I'll go ahead and do my own version of these awards next week.  Well, the nominations anyway.  Until then kiddies.

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