A note on webcomics popularity as it relates to Da Blog

Extracted from today’s Fey Winds review, as the review was maybe twice the size of any of my other reviews, half of it was about Buzzcomix, and this part in particular was off-point.

I have started to develop a theory that there are three basic tiers of webcomic popularity. Tier 1 comics are generally the comics you rattle off when prompted with the word “webcomic”. Penny Arcade. Something Positive. Sluggy Freelance. Order of the Stick. xkcd. Dinosaur Comics. Megatokyo. Even relatively smaller comics like Gunnerkrigg Court and Irregular Webcomic! Tier 1 is very wide – no one would compare, say, The Wotch with Penny Arcade by any measure, but I put it in Tier 1 anyway because it doesn’t need to advertise on sites like Buzzcomix and TopWebComics.com. If it’s selling T-shirts and people are actually buying them, it’s probably pretty safely a Tier 1 comic.

Tier 2 comics are those comics that regularly populate the top of sites like Buzzcomix and TopWebComics. They’re not popular enough to stop pressuring people to vote for them, but they are popular enough that they get a lot of votes. While it would be nice to get a nice, orderly ranking of the top webcomics in all of webcomicdom from these sites, practically speaking there’s little motivating Gabe and Tycho to ask that much work from their fans, even for the bragging rights. Instead Buzzcomix and the like are actually far more useful to people not in my unique situation (needing ideas for webcomic reviews), pointing people towards good webcomics that have attracted a small, but devoted following, but which have not yet achieved the popularity to go beyond that but are well on the road to doing so. This group is very small; I don’t define it as going beyond even the top 50 of these sites, if even that (probably top 25 should be the cutoff, at most), but Fey Winds pretty clearly belongs to it.

(Rather anomolously, Girl Genius is a Tier 1 comic that still receives Buzzcomix and TopWebComics votes. Goblins‘ recent success against it on Buzzcomix suggests it too may be moving into Tier 1.)

Tier 3 comics are everything else; these include, but are not limited to, the comics that feel the need to regularly change their status lines. It too is very large, including everything from comics seen only by their creators and some friends to comics with a close-knit group of people backing it. In some instances, the only thing keeping a Tier 3 comic from being Tier 2 is just not putting themselves on Buzzcomix (to the extent that some strips could easily blur the line between Tier 3 and Tier 1). In fact, the size of Tiers 1 and 3 compared to Tier 2 is such that I should and probably could divide both 1 and 3 into one or more pieces, and there probably is some “Hall of Fame” subclass within Tier 1. (And it’s very subjective; I consider Misfile a Tier 1 comic because of when I was introduced to it, but it might belong better in Tier 2.)

But this is a distinction that works for my purposes, and it’s clear that Buzzcomix popularity is a stop along the continuum to becoming a truly great and popular webcomic. I review Tiers 1 and 2 comics for Da Blog because they meet a certain popularity threshhold (though to be in Tier 2 for that purpose Top 10 on either list might be needed), and Tier 3 tends to be taken more on a case-by-case basis, with a Tier 3 comic generally needing to be good to get the “fat envelope”.

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