Did you ever open up the Sunday newspaper as a child (or as a child-like adult) and skip right to the comics section? Back then they were had quite a few nicknames attached to them, but I always called them the funny pages. I would read them for one reason and one reason only: to see Calvin & Hobbes, in print, in their full, gray-papered glory.
Alas, I was born too late for that to have been a long-lived habit; indeed, Calvin & Hobbes stopped syndication just a year or so after I realized they were actually in newspapers and not just the comic books my parents bought for me as a kid. Ah well, c'est la vie.
As it turned out, I came into the world at just the right time, as an entirely new genre of illustrated stories was on the verge of being realized. The Internet, that filthy newfangled thing which was leading to the demise of newspapers and print (except not really), had provided an open platform where anyone who could draw, write, and had some knowledge of photoshop could put together their own comic series. Webcomics were pioneered by an array of young artists who had a story to tell, and finally a public canvas where they could tell it. The best part of it was, for the artist and writer, one only needed about a hundred bucks in hosting fees to have a website on which they could post their webcomic, and for us, the avid readers of the times, it was free! Gloriously and completely free. It was as if the funny pages had returned to us, except this time we didn't even need our parents to purchase the Sunday newspaper.
There is an interesting distinction between when one has to be self-motivated, and are entirely responsible for your own output, versus working in the structure of a job where you are making something for someone else. I happen to believe that there are upsides and challenges to both, but qualitatively one leads to a different set of stories than another. In the latter case, one is essentially working under a mentorship, and a pre-existing intellectual property; fancy words for another person's narrative and universe. You write underneath that umbrella, and while you can branch out, you are always creating within that framework. What was so exciting about self-made webcomic artists was that the tales they had to tell were all from many different universes.
Some of them were very relatable; not surprising in the least, as they were written *by* people just like us. Megatokyo spoke to every teenage anime gamer geek, and popularized esoteric terms to the mainstream such as l33t (a reference to elite, as in an elite gamer, a word that has now become hopelessly obsolete) and otaku, the Japanese word for fan that generally meant someone who was a fan of manga and anime. Those of us who were looking for a cool nerd role model finally had one in the form of Largo, a Don Quixote-style badass with a clownish sense of humor who played the extroverted counterpoint to Piro, the introverted, socially awkward harem-anime style protagonist who somewhat predictably entered into a romance with a robot girl. Megatokyo found itself, after some artistic disagreements between the co-creators, to head down the path too often traveled, with a focus on a single protagonist and a storyline that was nigh identical to the dozens of romantic dramas and comedies that Japan produced in spades. That's a matter of opinion, but the spark, of two characters who each had their turn in the limelight, was what drew me to Megatokyo in its early years.
It is the escape from tropism, from that which has been hashed and rehashed, which separates webcomics from the comic book world. In some odd way the gravitational mass of previous stories makes it harder for the grand duo, Marvel and DC, to come up with something that seems genuinely novel. I attribute that to the fact that many of their stories have to do with superheroes and villains. It is fundamentally about some type of larger-than-life conflict, and while that can make for a lot of entertainment, it also makes it impossible to tell stories which are not oriented towards good versus evil. The webcomic world, in its creative freedom was limited only by the imaginations of its writers and artists, and their necessity of having a job on the side to support their narrative-creating alterego.
It ain't all violets and roses, let me tell you now, and the lack of quality control makes for many comics that have either sub-par stories or artwork, or both; but having to wade through all the prenatal storytellers to get to the gold is worth it. We have a vast world as the playground of our imagination now, and it's all thanks to the internet.