The webcomics blog about webcomics

Fleen Multi-Book Corner: Webcomics That Read Better In Collected Form

One of the greatest things about webcomics is the fact that at any time that the whim strikes you (even in your underwear), you can go dig through the archives and remind yourself why you love a strip. New installments show up on whatever schedule, but you can read the whole thing en masse as much as you like. But sometimes, even the online archives don’t quite deliver; sometimes, the ease of just flipping through a book is the only way to go. This is especially true of heavily plot-driven strips, and we have some examples with us today.

At their heart, Starslip Crisis and Wapsi Square are mysteries — in the one case, whether or not the universes survive the reality-bending nature of the Starslip Drive, and in the other whether or not we’ll all survive the reset of an ancient calendar machine (side note: the reset of the universe in 2012 when the Mayan calendar runs out is a surprisingly popular theme in webcomics these days). All the character development and plot evolution that sat in the back of your mind become much more clear and powerful when there are up to a half-dozen strips open before your eyes, with no loading delay or scrolling.

In Starslip Crisis Volume 1, the small clues that indicate that not all is well in the future world of art criticism become more apparent; the relatively short story arcs become much more clearly linked to the central theme, even when (as in the overloaded with future potential “Chronomantic” arc) it’s not immediately apparent where the tie-in sits. Cleverly, Kris Straub has borrowed a page from popular syndicated comics, having released relatively thin collections of about nine months of strips, then aggregating those (and more!) in an extra-thick omnibus collection; this allows for Straub to make books frequently available, and to squeeze completists like me for an extra $15 as I re-buy those same comics in the omnibus. Straub! I shake my fist in impotent rage at you, thus!

Paul Taylor’s second self-published Wapsi Square collection, The Demons In My Back Pocket, shows off his distinctive character design (and occasional forays into infinite canvas) with a gloriously-large trim size (an earlier Keenspot-published collection has a small trim size and doesn’t serve Taylor’s art nearly as well). The Wapsi story has been slowly revealed in little hints here and there, with the character-driven arcs interleaved with the mystery-driven arcs — watching the evolution of both occur in fast-forward gives one respect for Taylor’s dicipline in being able to plan out and develop the story over such an extended fashion.

By contrast, it’s mostly not necessary to read Scary Go Round in big chunks in order to see all the subtleties since the many story arcs (38 to date, sadly not all reprinted) tend to be self-contained. Every once in a while there will be a call-back to an earlier plot point, but John Allison’s tendency is to not revist in such a fashion for months or even years. Regardless of continuity carryover, it’s wonderful to just sit and wallow in Allison’s lush, beautiful art for the year’s worth of comics in Great Aches.

By contrast, the, uh, Big F*ck-Off Book of Panties (or, The Devil’s Panties, Volume 1) doesn’t have a plot, or characters to develop in that it’s a collection of a half-decade’s worth of journal comics. Naturally, journal comics are all fictionalized to some degree or other (here most notably in the condensation of a series of creator Jennie Breeden’s roommates into one character named “Beth”), but it’s the mostly-true story of a girl and her stompy boots.

Reading the 280+ pages provides an interesting progression as Cartoon Jennie (described by Breeden as angrier, more violent, and generally a wish-fulfilment version of herself) slowly sheds her more cartoony aspects and Real Jennie is revealed. Given that the strips cover a period of time starting in Breeden’s college days, this strikes the reader as particularly authentic — after all, doesn’t college seem like a larger-than-life time in your memory? Doesn’t the process of growing up feel like a gradual shedding of personas and weird characters on your periphery as you settle into a committed relationship, career, home, and the rest?

So everybody that enjoys good autobiography (with games and puzzles in the back!) should grab a copy of TDPV1 (and good news for those of you in New York: Midtown Comics had copies on the shelf 5 days ago; if your shop doesn’t have it, the Diamond order code is APR073942). And as a final side note, Breeden has pointed out on her site that a printing error resulted in three pages being omitted; they can be seen here.

In other news, it’s comics week at The AV Club, and the aforementioned Chris Onstad interview is up, along with James Kochalka talkin’ music.

in regards to the big book of panties, I’m happy to say that I am 30 percent of Beth.

The fact is, I didn’t have the money to do a big print run, and POD unit costs forced me to limit the number of strips in a given collection. Now that I’m doing them in big volumes, those books will be fewer and farther between, but I want to supplement that with extra-content books like a Starslip Crisis Companion.


[…] Books No time, almost no network, so we’ll be borrowing a line from the foreword to Starslip Crisis Volume 1 that I should have mentioned […]

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