Webcomics (alternately Online Comics, web comics, though webcomic appears to have become standard) are a highly addictive phenomenon. Webcomics can be loosely defined as comic strips that are primarily or entirely online; though they include strips that appear in college newspapers or small-distribution newspapers, and often have dead-tree version compilations (through such agencies as plan nine) or comic books, the majority of readers and the main target audience of the artists are online. Strips such as Dilbert and Doonesbury which are primarily paper comics usually are not included either. While there are also a large number of online manga and comic books, webcomics usually use some variation on the familiar newspaper strip serial format. Scott McCloud's ideas, and other experiments with online capabilities have helped to expand the limits of the form, perhaps most explosively in the Framed Great Escape of the summer of 2001, which included characters from over 60 comics and eventually encompassed all of reality.
The downside of becoming a webcomics junkie is that there are many, many exceedingly bad webcomics out there. There are also many good ones. The mantras "the comics industry is dead" and "all newspaper comics are crap" are far too frequently heard among devotees, but in some ways are correct, and the best webcomics are as good or better than anything in print. There is no generic webcomic. One of the strengths (and weaknesses) of the form is that anyone can draw about anything and find at least a few readers somewhere in the world who will like it, and despite many boring formulaic comics, there's more variety here than anywhere else in the comics world.
At the moment (Late 2001) probably most influential on the webcomics scene is Keenspot.com, though some of the niftyest comics are non-Keen.
Many people read one or two comics related to something they enjoy; members of the webcomics community often read several dozen, and there are rumors of people who regularly read several hundred. They also often attempt to draw their own, regardless of drawing skill, post obsessively to message boards, and have raging PSL for many characters.
A short history of webcomics (which I am neither qualified nor unlazy enough to do properly) would have to include, among many other things:
-Early 2000: The great BigPanda flap ends with the founding of Keenspot
-Early 2001: The dot com crash
, leading to drop in ad banner
revenue; many comics attempt pay memberships and donation drives.
-Summer 2001: Keencon, a gathering of webcomic artists at the San Diego Comic