The webcomics blog about webcomics

Well, This Is Different

Ever since the So, what are webcomics anyway? question popped back up a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about what I like about webcomics. I’m midway through a conversation which I’ll eventually write up and post; both of the folks have interesting, smart, and somewhat critical things to say about webcomics, much to do with definitions. I’m still making up my mind about much of it, though I have to say that I have shifted a little in my thinking. Initially I took this kind of inclusive position, thinking about accessibility.

I realized tonight, midway through my banjo lesson (yes, really), that I’d made kind of a weird glide in my thinking. If something’s online, ostensibly anyone could access it. That’s great. But how do you get people there? And how do you get them to click back on the second day? I’ll never be able to read all the webcomics out there; as it is, I can’t keep up lately with the ones that I like! I have a fabulously geeky friend who just twigged to Questionable Content; he’s trying to read all the archives. I’ve been trying to read through the archives for months.

Peter, my banjo teacher, has a MySpace page (about which I give him much grief). He’s got another website as well, but, primarily, he uses this social networking stuff as a way to keep people updated about shows and releases and such. Now, I use him as an example because I did the artwork for his most recent CD. While that artwork’s available online, I don’t at all think of it as online art. You can’t see the quirks in the design, the individual aspects of the print (we hand-printed ’em), or any of that stuff. Still, if not for the link, you might never have seen it at all. Or you might have run across it through some wayward Google search, or someone might email you a link, or whatever. Who knows?

This is a little more complicated with minis, which have an ‘original’ drawn image, which is then reproduced and published (making a new, different art object). I’ve been thinking about some of the connections between online/webcomics and minicomics/zines (both, now that I’m thinking about it, have similar definition issues; are we using terms interchangeably which we shouldn’t? I’m not implying, though, that these are parallel terms!). What I like about them both is also perhaps part of the problem: while webcomics are easier to get (but maybe tougher to keep folks reading) than minicomics, anyone can publish pretty much whatever they want. Doesn’t matter if people are reading; in fact, one of the best pieces of advice for a young webcomics creator is to labor (and post regularly) in relative obscurity for half a year or more while you hone what you’re doing.

Anyway, none of what I’ve just written is really all that new to the discussion. Last week I wrote about minis which appeared online and thought hat I might this week find something else, something more toward the other end of the spectrum. I think I got it: Sarah Zero. It feels a little Tank Girl to me, which is good, and the color is kind of unlike too many other things I’ve seen so far. It’s certainly got the largest frames of all I’ve seen so far (it is both deliberate and well-explained). It took some digging around to find what Stef, the creator, calls “the boring details.”

He writes, and this quotation is right from the site, “This story is big, and it’s only beginning. This sucker is gonna be AT LEAST a thousand pages long, so you may not understand everything right now. That’s koo. SZ is planned out, solidly-written, and as more pages are completed, you’ll get it. You’ll LOVE it. And you’ll want MORE.

Sarah Zero is presented in SARMAX widescreen format and new spreads appear online 28 seconds after they’re completed. If you don’t have broadband, a 28 foot wide monitor and digital surround sound, you’d be wise to ramp your EQ settings and righteously experience this Cinematic Art Novel in its full glory.”

Yes. You read that correctly–cinematic art novel. I haven’t ever seen this phrase before. But not a webcomic? (Not even anything about being a comic, let alone a webcomic; this creator isn’t seemingly much a fan of comic books though “graphic novels” are okay) I don’t know. It’s pretty; I enjoy looking at it, but I feel like I’m missing some other component somehow. (Maybe that’s part of the point?) I was really smitten with the site and the artwork, which I still am, but something about the definitions strike me as maybe a little much. Is this an example of someone wanting to do something really different, and thus wants to work to have what he produces be very separate from words like “webcomic” and “comic” and maybe even “sequential art” if we go one more step? Is this the kind of thing folks meant all those months ago when I first started asking these questions?

(Oh, by the way: I did finally met Jeph Jacques. He was very nice. I even bought a t-shirt.)

Take Brian Wood’s Channel Zero, mix it with liberal doses of Punks and Nightly News, run it through a graffiti-style art blender, and slap it in the Zuda format. Voila – Sarah Zero.

And I’m not putting it down. Gotta say what I’ve read so far is an original mashup of what came before it. It’s a really good piece of comic pop-art. Although I did get tired of clicking the next arrow so much.

Unless I didn’t read far enough, I don’t see what the big deal is about him not calling it a webcomic. It’s non-animated sequential art. It’s a comic. And it’s presented for primarily web viewing. Fred Gallagher doesn’t like calling MegaTokyo a webcomic either, because he formats it for print. But it’s read first (and in larger numbers) in the web. I prefer calling my webcomic an “online graphic novel” for the same reasons, but that label is the least of my worries.

I think the reason it seems like something is missing in Sarah Zero is that clicking through at that speed didn’t make it seem like a movie, it made it seem like fast food. They call themselves “QSRs” now – Quick Service Restaurant. Maybe Sara Zero isn’t a webcomic – it’s a QSR comic.

I tend to avoid using the word “webcomic”, as most people are unfamiliar with the term. I usually just say, “I have a comic strip I put on the internet”. Silence and weirdness have been known to follow.

As far as Sarah Zero being compared to a QSR, I think that’s more of a personal decision of the viewer. One could sprint through the Louvre at top speed, skim over J. D. Salinger, or sprain a finger cruising through webcomics at full force.

Sara Zero is one of the few webcomics with art that I actually “look” at, but that’s just me. Either way you process it, I think it’s worth some attention.

Yeah I use the term “online comic strip” when in polite company. It explains what I do better than “webcomic.”

In impolite company, I yell “FUKKEN SNOOPYTRONICS” and heave a whiskey bottle at their head.


I predict that will be your next t-shirt.

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