At the back of the first Penny Arcade book (long since passed into the realm of legend) is this bit of dialogue:
Gabe: Bacon Robots.
Tycho: Well, Giant Robots. But they really like Bacon.
Guess we know who won that disagreement. For lo, these many years, I’ve clutched my copy of the Year One book, wondering when, oh when, Gabe and Tycho would be able to once again publish their stuff. And at last my local comic shop got my copy in (they’re pretty much sold out), so Fleen can now bring you a review of Attack of the Bacon Robots!
First impressions: the vertical trim on AOTBR! is much more convenient for reading than the horizontal Year One. It’s got more than twice as many strips, is cheaper by about $20, and presumably Dark Horse are kind enough to actually give Gabe and Tycho money, instead of attempting to screw them sideways in the ass like their insanely Michael Jackson emulating first publisher did. The colors are vibrant and the printing quality is noticeably higher, with 7 year old strips coming in crisp and sharp instead of washed out and fuzzy. Tycho’s intro is a hoot, as is that of comics-page fellow geek traveller Bill Amend. But what struck me most was the afterword.
You don’t read afterwords? Read this one. It’s somewhat ambitiously titled The Webcomic Manifesto, and goddamned if it isn’t the finest piece of writing Tycho’s done since the famous Carrot Cake Soup. It’s wrong to try to excerpt it, because every part of the argument he puts forth in the manifesto is strong and compelling and part of a whole; we’re going to anyway, because it’s hard to find the book right now, and more people should read this:
Typically when people discuss the “ramifications” of Webcomics (capital W, proper noun) … the dialogue tends to focus on how digital distribution of comics alters the power dynamic between creators and publishers.
I guess so.
The most startling change we’ve seen hasn’t been betwen creators and publishers, it’s between creators and readers.
Most of the people considered “big movers” in Webcomics are considered so not because they have substantially contributed work to the medium — indeed, they might not even produce a regularly updated comic. No, they are thought of with reverence because in each case they laud some new barrier between people who read comics and people who write them. The barriers they’re so proud of take a number of forms, but Byzantine pay mechanisms and subscription-locked archives are two of the more celebrated anchors.
If you are using systems like these, I need to ask you why you don’t trust your readers.
What are you afraid they’re going to do with your comics? Read them?
When you’re ready to stop treating readers like thieves, come check out this Web they’ve got going. I hear it’s going to be big.
There’s a window of safety glass that separates the adherents of different business models in webcomics; roughly speaking, they’re divided into those who think that Understanding Comics was the better book, or Reinventing Comics was (Me? I’m the guy who kinda liked The New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln). It gets breached every once in a while, slammed open so that angry exchanges can fly back and forth, then closed again and calm returns once more to the land. That crunching sound you just heard? That was the firebomb that Tycho just chucked through the window. Now go buy a copy of the reprinting and see if you agree with his argument or not. But for the love of all that is good and holy, base your opinion on the full argument, not the excerpt above. And no burning my consulate.