The webcomics blog about webcomics

Collective Experience: About Six Decades

We’ve got a confluence of comicking anniversaries (and anniversary-like events) going on just now, so let’s run ’em down.

  • First up, the person whose work I’ve been reading longest without actually ever meeting in person is possibly Christopher Wright of Help Desk. It’s been around forever, although punctuated with numerous (and sometimes lengthy) periods of hiatus¹, and remains my favorite editorial comment on the world of computer vendors and technical trends. And when I say forever, I mean it:

    There were a few comic strips posted in online bulletin boards like CompuServe² (that’s where Kevin & Kell came from). A web magazine ought to have one too! After a few conversations with my father, where we traded horror stories of trying to get tech support to actually address the problems we were having, I made an off-the-cuff comment that it seemed like Help Desks were actually trained to convince the customer that the problem is their own fault instead of a product defect, and suddenly I realized I had a Theme.

    I created a few comics and sent them to Trevor Smith. He generally liked the idea, though he was wary about posting images that were as large as 13k (in 1996, 13k was a huge freaking file). But on March 31, 1996, the very first Help Desk was posted on line, in the archives section of OS/2 eZine. When the April edition came out, it actually appeared as a link on the front page.

    Heady days! They won’t last forever, though:

    That said, Help Desk is definitely winding down. I’m not ending it tomorrow or anything, but there’s not much chance it going 40 years. The computer industry isn’t nearly as much fun to make fun of as it used to be, because most of the relevant jokes involve courtrooms and lawyers and while the jokes aren’t bad the reality is depressing.

    [A]nd anyway I’ve developed other interests: I’m much better writer than I ever was as a cartoonist, and this whole storytelling thing is awfully compelling, so I’m pretty sure as time goes on there will be more and more of that and less and less of clipart comics about Evil Computer Demons.

    All good things come to an end; it was worth it if only for Clippy³ getting cloned and various iterations going on perpetual tequila benders and/or murderous blood harvests.

  • And as long as we’re talking about things coming to an end, we’ve mentioned that Meredith Gran’s Octopus Pie (which keeps getting better and weirder and more magical-realist I mean have you seen the last halfdozen updates?) is in the end stages. Pretty much every character has gotten their own story arc (some more than others — Marigold and Jane have become far more key to the story than I would have guessed when either was introduced) except for Manuel, and he wouldn’t stand still long enough for you to watch him anyway.

    But over on her Tumblr, Gran took some time to talk about her theory of endings and why they matter:

    My worst case scenario would be that it DOESN’T end. If it was one for the webcomic graveyard.

    You know that end. Frozen in time on its final page, that unremarkable page that neither resolves nor provokes. The page that perfectly encapsulates an artist’s final gasping shred of interest. The drawings on par with everything you’ve ever seen. The layouts woefully consistent. The facial expressions of characters you loved, eyes dead, lightly singed into your mind like a former desktop or lockscreen. Like a poster from your childhood bedroom that you see on Google Images once in a while.

    That’s why when the OP cast is redesigned in hideous 3D and sings “Livin’ La Vida Loca” on the final page, I’ll feel I’ve done things right.

    I love that woman, I love her work, and I’m taking bets right now as to whether or not she actually does what she threatens for the final page. I’m putting the odds at 8:5 in favor.

  • We’ve previously mentioned that KB Spangler of A Girl And Her Fed will be running commentary on old strips three times weekly starting Monday, in recognition that she’s been at this for ten years and all. Today, she let us in on some of her plans [she doesn’t do permalinks on her strip’s newsposts]:

    Anyhow. Beginning Monday, there’ll be the usual Big Anniversary Sale in the store, and I’ll be running the comics from the beginning with author commentary at This should be fun! I love yelling at Past Me. She was a dick. [emphasis original]

    I hope that her yelling is restricted to things like Why did I decide to draw this thing that I hated drawing and now I’ve been drawing it for a decade, because honestly? She’s as far from being a dick as I can imagine, and Past Her was no different. She did have a wicked sense of humor, though.

  • Lastly, the reason that I’m here talking to some number of people on the internet is that one day Jon Rosenberg suggested it over beers and it seemed like a good idea at the time. Jon’s also been at this webcomics thing for a long time:

    Friday is my 19th anniversary in comics. Fuck, I’m getting old.

    Bah. I just turned grunkle for the second time last week, so I don’t want to hear it, youngster. Also, happy strippingversary, you magnificent bastard.

Spam of the day:

Moving? See how Verizon makes it easier.

A) I’m not moving, and 2) The only thing Verizon makes is my inevitable death seem preferable to trying to get them to get this shit together and fix my fucking landline.

¹ Similar to the other serious contender for the longest/never met title: Owen Dunne of You Damn Kid! and other fine comics.

² Ask your parents, or click here.

³ Don’t ask your parents, the wounds are still too fresh.

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