Webcomics and Archives

Webcomics shatter so many of the barriers presented by traditional form web comics. As we discussed with Bitch Planet and Orange is the New Black, while they are bringing representation to mainstream media, they are operating within the capitalist system. Their ultimate goal is profit, popularity, entertainment and appealing to the masses. Webcomics are not screened through editors and do not need to be censored in the same way that publishing companies may censor author’s work.

The direct link the creator has to the public is also powerful. Not only does the creator have more power, but the audience does as well. As Nami Hatfield points out in “Transforming Spaces: Transgender Webcomics as a Model for Transgender Empowerment and Representation within Library within Library and Archive Spaces” there is power in representation.

Accessibility is a key strength of the webcomic medium. Hatfield draws attention to the importance of accessibility in that as a child there was no way to find information or representation in media at the library as a transgender person. Libraries and information spaces are one way that people can access media with limited means; it is therefore critical that people can find representation in these spaces. Not only this, but even when representation exists it is often misrepresentation.

Webcomics are one space in which all types of people have been able to have the platform to express their voices and their stories. In “Oh, Hey! It’s Alyssa” Alyssa Alexander creates an autobiographical webcomic that speaks to an experience with disability as well as being gay. These experience are both distinct and intersecting, personal and relatable. This webcomic could serve as a source of representation to someone with a similar experience. This webcomic also serves as an underrepresented voice in media to create awareness or increase empathy and understanding.

Furthermore, Alexander’s platform is also a strong example of Hatfield’s argument that webcomics foster community and participation. Not only this, but they “do away with the strict distinction between mediators and users” (67). These internet communities can create connections between both the creator and the readership creating a two-way stream of influence. Further, they can create fandoms and bonds between the readers themselves. Webcomics allow for these niche groups to be born and exist regardless of if there is mass appeal or a small group which finds one another. Webcomics also defy physical distance and build national and international groups.

Ultimately, Hatfield’s argument that similar methodology to the “South Asian American Digital Archives” could be applied to webcomics is a powerful one. Creating a space which is democratic and available to all to share, create and interact with diverse stories could influence so many people. Though webcomics have a lot of perks by being on the internet, excluding these forms of representation from information and archive spaces as well of libraries is exclusionary. The transgender community in particular, as Hatfield points out, is severely underrepresented in media. The webcomic medium is a great medium for freedom of individuals to represent their experiences and tell their stories but entry into information spaces would be greatly impactful next step.

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