At The Millennial’s Guide To Keeping Comics Alive Panel at C2E2, Kel McDonald, Eliot Rahal, and Kristen Gudsnuk spoke about how social media has changed the way in which we approach and interact with comics, hosted by Dark Horse’s Megan Connor. Kel McDonald has created webcomics, Misfits of Avalon, and Buffy: The High School Years comics at Dark Horse. Eliot Rahal has published comics with Valiant, Heavy Metal, Dark Horse, and more. Kristen Gudsnuk’s webcomic Henchgirl has recently been published in print by Dark Horse.
Kel McDonald likes Twitter the best, because it’s “short” whereas other sites are more of a commitment. Eliot Rahal also prefers Twitter, which in a way is a more professional venue, whereas Facebook is more inter-personal, with family members online as well. Kristen Gudsnuk also likes Twitter the best because it’s where other people will talk to you more, creating a conversational feel.
McDonald likes Tumblr for images and short posts because it’s so “shareable”. Gudsnuk said it’s hard to tell what’s going to get suddenly shared a lot, and the metrics are less clear.
There is an age element involved in platforms—Tumblr is teenagers, Facebook is a “generational” crowd, older, whereas Twitter you are more likely to encounter strangers and their views, the panelists said.
McDonald said that Facebook pages have issues because of people who like the Facebook page, only a percentage get notifications, not all who have liked it.
Getting into strange arguments and discussions, of course is part of posting online. Often people seem comfortable yelling at each other, the panelists said. Rahal said it’s easy to get stressed out or anxious when someone takes a little post too seriously, and then that ruins your day—and that can be strangers or even family members.
Asked how they deal with trolling online, Gudsnuk said there are actual assholes, who are easy to ignore, then there’s people who have good points, but are still really angry and therefore hard to communicate with. Under other circumstances that conversation might go better.
Rahal said that sometimes he thinks of that phrase “stop, listen, change your position”, because some people are not worth the spotlight.
Sometimes you can get positive feelings and feedback too, Gudnsuk reminded, but engaging with people who are rude, other people see that you respond to such, and that kind of repeats the pattern.
Talking about cross-posting on different platforms, the panelists noted that not all “auto-posting” looks good or conveys the full round of information. This is frustrating and makes it less useful.
Asked about trends on social media and what the creators participate in, Rahal said that he uses things like “Inktober” help him find collaborating artists because he sees work being posted during that time. McDonald and Gudnsuk said it’s hard to keep up with internet posting of drawings when you have a schedule of comics to draw, too.
Rahal sometimes tries to get artists to draw his jokes for Inktober, but they mainly turn out to be “dad” jokes, McDonald commented.
Asked about using webcomics to reach readers and then moving to print, McDonald said that way back in 2005, McDonald recalls it was really difficult to put stuff online, but there’s a lot of better art out there now because platforms are easier to use. On Patreon, McDonald establishes different level. At $2.00 a month, people can request her warmup artwork. Her website is geared toward showing that she’s a “comics machine” and showing off everything she’s working on.
Gudsnuk feels that she taught herself how to make comics by constantly making webcomics as a kid. She doesn’t have formal art training, but at some point figured out how to set up a wordpress account, and she just started posting.
Rahal started out in comics by making ashcans and handing them out, but all these platforms are useful to him to find artists to work with and discover people and new art styles.
Some of the panelists’ social media posts were displayed, including one from Rahal about generating enthusiasm about comics, but it’s hard to convey “irony” in posts.
McDonald said that no one can tell when she is making a joke, which is problematic.
All of the panelists use social media to post about locations and signings, but is it ever too invasive?
Most of the time, you’re inviting people to take part in events, so they aren’t too bothered. Rahal likes engaging with people and meeting them, bringing the human element.
The panelists tend to tweet out weird questions into the ether about stories and pop culture, sometimes about books they are working on.
“Being silly on Twitter” is appealing to Rahal. He also uses Tumblr to reach out to people and try to help people make comics. He feels that “building communities” is very important. Comics can be a “brutal business” sometimes, with things happening that cause damage, so creating one’s own community and showing kindness is important to him.
McDonald also does a podcast to increase her community and sphere. It’s called “Dirty Old Ladies”, and she does it with Spike Trotman. They give business advice and talk about how they make comics. It’s on iTunes.
Asked if they think that social media has helped the comics industry, Gudnsuk said it’s definitely given people a voice. McDonald said that self-publishing wouldn’t have been possible for her without social media. Rahal thinks it helps grow the market and community, but at the same time, “ugly discussions” and “adult bullying” goes on. It starts a conversation about heading toward a “better place”, but some people think social media is enough “action” to stop problems, when it’s not. Just tweeting to support a cause is not enough action, he said.
It can’t create an “active community”, in the same way as meeting in person, Rahal said.
The panelists discussed how they handle giving out criticism online, and mostly they don’t post very publically, and try to stay positive instead. It’s hard to tell how serious the impact will be on people if you criticize their art or work. Rahal thinks you should give your opinions, but there are boundaries.
McDonald and Rahal love “mute buttons” and “block buttons” when people get inappropriate.
It’s hard to tell tone, though, and acting as professional as possible is the only clear win for Rahal, he said. Gudsnuk said that she can be very influenced by people liking her comic, and is easily won over by it.
Asked what advice they’d give to creators in using social media, McDonald said you have to produce a lot of content, even small doses, and post them. She also said you should be firm where you boundaries are, and enforce them on social media.
Eliot said you should make comics and be hungry, but don’t be starving.
Gudsnuk said you should make sure to change things up in your posts so you’re not just saying the same things over and over to readers.
McDonald said knowing what intervals to post and tweet is a good thing, and the frequency and how that impacts viewership.
Of course, social media can be used to talk about things that deserve more attention, not just your own work, and encouraging people to become aware of events and things that might be of interest to them.