Depending on who you talk to, 4chan
is either The-Site-That-Must-Not-Be-Named or just another image board frequented by passionate, tech-savvy users. For all its fun contributions to memedom, however, the site's definitely earned its reputation as a force to be reckoned with. Just this week a fringe group of 4chan users called "Anonymous" managed to shut down Gene Simmons' website
with a traffic-flooding DDoS attack in response to his outspoken (i.e. douchey) comments on copyright law.
That's why the outcome of Whiteout artist Steve Lieber's recent interaction with 4chan is downright heartwarming. After being alerted to a 4chan thread that posted the bulk of he and writer Jeff Parker's "Under Ground" limited series from Image Comics to read for free, Lieber stepped into the site with a level head that generally won over a number of users before posting the same material for free
at the Underground website.
Rather than berating the thread for more or less pirating he and Parker's creator-owned work in a public forum, Lieber instead answered questions about his career and pointed out that those who liked what they read could buy the book in print. The response was almost resoundingly positive with a lot of readers expressing interest in paying for the comic or simply being excited to have access to a creator willing to share insights about the industry.
A few comments, as expected, were a little nasty, but Lieber's grace kept the thread rolling with a positive vibe. We asked Lieber if his handling of the matter was made easier by his experience on other prominent comics message boards, but he seemed to feel the same rules of engagement apply everywhere on the Web.
"I've been hanging out with other fans on comics message boards since Usenet
in the early '90s. I didn't do anything different here. The only 'secret' is to talk to people like they're human beings, and don't get bent out of shape if someone says something mean. It's the internet. Someone's always gonna says something mean," said Lieber.
As for 4chan's rep as one of the potentially nastiest sites online? Lieber's genuinely more interested in engaging its users with poise than being paranoid. After all, criticism is the name of the game in any creative field.
"For me, part of the process of learning to draw was getting some serious criticism from people I respect. No one online is ever gonna tear my stuff apart harder than Joe Kubert did when I was a student. When you've had your faults broken down for you by a guy like Joe, the internet doesn't seem quite as harsh," said Lieber.
If fans have gained one thing from Lieber's 4chan experience, it's that the creators are now working on finding a digital outlet like comiXology
to distribute Underground
through. Until then, readers who would like to sample the book in .PDF form
can pick up the entire 5-issue series at the official Underground blog
and purchase it in print form
at the Periscope Studio Etsy shop.