Monday, April 4, 2011

The Curious Case of Comicspace

While updating the WCG Comics website, I decided to simplify and remove MySpace, Comicspace, and the Hanes Briefs forum from my list of community links. The WCG website, this blog, and new WCG Comics/Rob Hanes Adventures Facebook page will remain my primary promotional vehicles.

While my initial strategy focused on trying to be at as many places as possible to maximize the ways people could find me, I decided that it was time to consolidate and cut loose dead weight. Although my MySpace and the Hanes Briefs forum accounts still exist for archival reasons, the emergence of Facebook as both an effective networking and chat site has rendered them superfluous, so I thought it was time to abandon them altogether. The strange, puzzling case of Comicspace, however, remains a mystery and is what precipitated these changes in the first place.

Screenshot of my old Comicspace user page
Comicspace was originally created as a sort of comics industry version of MySpace, where fans and many aspiring and emerging cartoonists hung out. ComicSpace had a simple, bright, appealing interface that allowed users to network and post webcomics. (I primarily used it for the latter, to preview upcoming issues.) Though the site received positive attention and gained a respectable following, it never achieved real critical mass or was embraced by the broader comics community, particularly among industry professionals. 

Some excitement was generated in 2007 when ComicSpace merged with Webcomicsnation (a dedicated site for webcomics) and OnlineComics. Nothing really changed, however, at any of those sites until the fall of 2010, when ComicSpace abruptly and without warning completely revamped itself, seemingly in a half-baked attempt to reinvent itself as a social networking and blogging site, with WordPress now as its main engine. Not only was the site’s original simple design completely gone in favor of WordPress, but, unfortunately, no one was given any warning. Frustrated and blind-sided users suddenly found their stored images and webcomics missing, and scrambling to redesign their pages in the new system. And though Comicspace’s identity was never well defined, the redesign in my view completely obliterated the unique and quirky personality that had previously distinguished it from other comics community sites.

Though I eventually found my images buried in my account (I primarily used the site to preview upcoming stories), despite a lot of effort, I found the new interface completely confusing and unwieldy, with no support or directions provided by Comicspace. Comicspace had suddenly shifted focus to become a blogging site and, worse, nobody was available to help users understand or make the transition. In fact, the site owners don’t appear to have posted since the fall and most of the blog posts appear to be spam.

Given the domination of MySpace and now Facebook, and the rise of dedicated webcomics sites like webcomicsnation, Comicspace never established a strong footing, let alone a strong focus or identity. Regardless, it did host a small, thriving community and embodied a unique and welcoming interface that gave it a unique personality, but it seemingly completely threw that out the window in a misguided and sudden re-launch that confused and alienated existing users.

Fortunately, inconvenience aside, there are plenty of sites out there that can fulfill much of what Comicspace did in its heyday. But Comicspace had a distinctive feel and design to it, which I will miss.


Postmaster said...

What they gave us as a new interface completely wiped out the usefulness I had for the site. It became purely linear, suitable for an episodic comic, but not for somebody looking to showcase a variety of subjects like I was. I deleted my account.

Randy Reynaldo said...

Me too. I really liked the old interface. What gets me is that they didn't seem to bother to warn anyone (or did I miss something?)

Matt S. Mundorf said...

All it is now is a spammer "Chatchai Hematulin" trying to Spam sell wrist watches and other junk.

Shannon said...

And, now my archive site is completely gone. It seems as if Comicspace has dumped the Wordpress feature all together, and now we are left with a "store in beta".

That means, goodbye my 200+ comic strips that went back to 2007. The abrupt change doesn't surprise me one bit. It just irks me that I still don't know if my stuff is out there somewhere, or if it is truly "gone". Ah...