The webcomics blog about webcomics

Beginnings, Endings, And Maybe A Little Of Both


I note with no small sense of delight that Chris Hallbeck’s The Book of Biff has rolled over a conveniently-round number of strips today, namely #1200; ordinarily I wouldn’t mention that particular milestone, but I perhaps made less of a deal out of #1000 than I could have, and anyway Hallbeck has other news today. Namely, Biff is not the only preternaturally pale dude in town.

Welcome, then, to Maximumble, Chris Hallbeck’s second webcomic. Seeking an outlet for jokes that don’t work as well for Biff, as well as a quick, loose, minimalist style — seriously, I don’t think even one eyebrow clears the skull of these characters. Oh, wait, no, one eyebrow does by the smallest of margins in each of four comics. But awesome eyebrows or no, Maximumble bring the laugh-chuckles from a different place than in Biff (dialogue! sharks! sexual perversity!), and despite having launched only two days ago, there are already more than two dozen strips for your reading pleasure.


Well, not yet, but on the horizon. FreakAngels — which only ten days ago I noted was about to start its sixth book’s worth of 24 weekly updates (six pages each), did so as expected. But it was accompanied (via the Twitter of creator Warren Ellis) the following missive:

beginning the sixth & final volume of FREAKANGELS, free to air:

I was just getting used to the big world that Ellis was creating, and could see the first four or so books as an introduction of sorts for a story that could easily go for dozens of books. But I guess Ellis wants to leave the decades of adventures that our dozen mutant English young adults as mysterious as their beginnings (after all, we know next to nothing about the first 23 years of FreakAngels story). Just as well, really — having six slim volumes of story versus dozens saves me a lot of shelf space, as surely Internet Jesus would punish me if I didn’t complete the run and keep it forever.

Begun a while back, hopefully ending soon

There’s a new scraper in town (thanks to Ben Paddon, who apparently noticed it first, and to Indigo Kelleigh, who retweeted). This one goes by the name of Commie Comics, and once again it’s harvesting RSS feeds to strip strips out because it’s apparently … actually, I’m not sure what this is supposed to do for me, since I need an account to see how the strips are presented. But by using the “random strip” link, I got it to show me PvP, which one may compare to PvP in the wild.

So you see that blogpost from Scott Kurtz promoting Kaja & Phil Foglio‘s Girl Genius novelization? And Scott’s ads, store links, upcoming appearances, and such? If you do, you’re looking at Kurtz’s site, because none of those things exist at Commie Comics. At this point, the refrain has been repeated so many times that the authors of these scrapers must have heard that creators generally don’t like for their work to be grabbed like this (at least this one is free — assuming that no value is derived from the data required to open an account — and doesn’t actively strip names/URLs from the lifted strips).

The fellow behind Commie Comics, Hermann Käser, has apparently been flying under the radar for a couple of years now, which makes it all the less likely that he doesn’t know how his work was likely to be taken. He even acknowledges it on the About page where he offers thanks:

to all those funny people who draw comics and who are hopefully not going to send me cease and desist letters!

So once more — send a polite letter and ask to be removed from this “service” if you don’t want to be there; Käser at least seems to be willing to acknowledge that his efforts might not be appreciated (although since he has apparently been neglecting CC since August of ’08, the real question is why it’s still up). And on the off chance that you love webcomics and are thinking about being the next person to put together an unauthorized aggregator/scraper/convenient for you, revenue-stealing for the creator site/app/whatever, don’t. Just don’t.

Edit to clarify: Gary here; in this post, I state that Commie Comics is harvesting RSS feeds, and in point of fact, I don’t know that’s what it’s doing. The About page (linked above) states:

It runs a cron job every 15 minutes that grabs the latest comics from a collection of websites.

… which may or may not pull from RSS feeds. Whether it is or not isn’t the point; the point is I did a bad job of explaining my position above. Let’s start fresh:

The ethics of harvesting comics is situation-dependent; if CC does pull from an RSS feed and said feed features only the comic, then that’s fair game. If the RSS feed features a link to the comic’s page, or features strip + associated content and the aggregator is pulling only the strip minus the original context, that’s not cool. And naturally, if that “every 15 mintues” is a visit directly to the comic in question to harvest the comic, that’s no good at all. In any event, the creator/owner of Commie Comics, by his note on the About page, seems to acknowledge that he’s on shaky ground.

Many thanks to Christopher Wright for his comment (below), which forced me to clarify my position.

I’m going to have to completely disagree with you on this, Gary. An RSS feed is intended to be both scraped and aggregated — that’s how it was DESIGNED. If you don’t want people using your RSS feed to get at your comic images, then stop putting your comic images on your RSS feed.

Based on Gary’s clarification, I want to clarify as well — if it’s not RSS feed based (i.e., if he’s site-scraping) then I formally and officially un-disagree with Gary.

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