The webcomics blog about webcomics

From The Far-Flung Corners Of The Commonwealth

Readers of this page will have long since recognized the esteem in which we at Fleen hold David Morgan-Mar of Irregular Webcomic and many, many, many other endeavours (especially, for the purposes of this discussion, mezzacotta, about which more momemtarily).

Those in the know will remember that Morgan-Mar (perhaps I should say Doctor Morgan-Mar, as he is part of a proud tradition of STEM PhD-holding webcomickers) does not make comics as anything other than a hobby; he works in optics research for a division of Canon (all the more surprising given that he may be responsible for more pages of webcomics of anybody this side of Andrew Hussie, especially considering mezzacotta, which I promise we’re about to get to). We typically don’t see Morgan-Mar on this side of the Pacific Ocean (or the equator, for that matter), except for his occasional attendance at a scientific conference, which he was coincidentally doing in the immediate past.

When he returned from the annual SIGGRAPH, Morgan-Mar responded to an email that I’d sent him on an unrelated topic (wine, to be specific), and he had some interesting observations about the overlap of the conference and webcomics. I found his experiences to be fascinating and I’m sharing them with you; lagies and jenglefenz¹, please welcome David-Morgan Mar. Yaaaay!

There was a talk by Ozge Samanci (who you’ve mentioned on Fleen:²) titled “Impact of Digital Media on Comics”, which of course I attended. It wasn’t really about webcomics per se, but rather a Scott McCloud-esque survey of what new things the digital presentation format can bring to comics. Looking at my scribbled notes:

Digital media can give 4 things to comics:

  • Procedural — you can generate content computationally.
  • Participatory — you can interact with the viewer.
  • Encyclopaedic — you can segment and categorise ad infinitum.
  • Spatial — you can play tricks with the spatial layout.

She showed examples of some comics with looping animations in each frame — each individual animation does not progress the story, it only provides atmosphere for the short segment of time captured in the panel, so it remains a comic rather than becoming a work of animation.

She said in 2014 there are still no true examples of McCloud’s infinite canvas, only approximations which fall short of the true potential. (xkcd came up as an example.) A true infinite canvas comic, she said, would need to be procedurally generated, so you could really scroll *anywhere*. I actually talked to her afterwards about mezzacotta, which is procedurally generated and offers an almost-infinite scope temporally with its archives. She wasn’t aware of it and said she’d include it in future revisions of this talk!

She talked about geocomics — making a comic readable via GPS coordinates, where you physically have to travel to certain locations to see given panels. She mentioned using the digital presentation to provide film-like effects such as panning and zooming for the viewer within a comic panel. She talked about engaging the reader as a character within the comic, letting them interact with the other characters. Or control the presentation of the panels, by allowing the reader to stretch the frame borders, for example.

She concluded by saying that webcomics pretty much haven’t really explored all of the possibilities of the medium yet, and there’s a very long way to go. The problem as she sees it is not the conceptualising, but the executation — you need an artist and a good programmer to collaborate (or be the same person).

After the talk I also mentioned to her my attempt to make a collaborative multi-stream branching comic with Infinity on 30 Credits a Day, and she said the problem with collaborative comics is always lack of participation. (Too true!)³

Anyway, it was plenty of food for thought.

On another minor note, in the interactive exhibitions there was a gadget someone had designed to provide haptic user feedback through an airbrush — to allow the roughest amateurs to paint desired works of art. They let you try the airbrush, and pulled up a stencil on a computer which guided the feedback system. They had a collection of several stencil shapes for people to use, most of them rather anonymous animals shapes, but one of them was a very familiar looking T. rex.

Many thanks to David Morgan-Mar for the info, and for the use of the photos.

Spam of the day:

Is your website about generating traffic from top of the page postings no matter quality with the content when you are ad supported. Things can be extremely starting to heat up since pre-season games are simply weeks away. … Think about the non native one who learns English language but can not utilize it properly and does some hilarious errors which will change the meanings of entire statement.

Believe me, it’s tough to not think about the non native one who learns English language but can not utilize it properly and does some hilarious errors which will change the meanings of entire statement.

¹ For some reason, I only ever think of that gag when I’m writing about David Morgan-Mar. I don’t know if he’s an especially big fan of The Muppet Show, Harry Belafonte, or Mister The Frog in general, but given that all right-thinking people are, it’s probably pretty likely.

² Editor’s note: want to swell my head way the heck up? Report on something fascinating and relate it to something I wrote. I have such a grin on my face right now.

³ Or perhaps too much; Hussie famously relied upon reader input to determine the action in the next update of Homestuck for a good long while, but ultimately turned away from it due to it being too difficult to tell the story he had in mind. I almost said a logical story, but just as there are different algebras, there are different logics, and Andrew Hussie’s logic does not always resemble our Earth-logic.

Guest Column: Kate Beaton On Contests Abound

As hospital waiting rooms go, this one isn’t bad. Especially since my phone is picking up good signal and allowing me to post this column by professional Canadian and amateur internet sensation Kate Beaton. Hopefully all the formatting is good, but if there are problems, I’ll fix ’em as soon as I’m at a proper computer. That includes the awesome graphic Kate sent along which I cannot load now loaded!.

Hello citizens of Fleen! I am reporting to the newsdesk for duty while Gary puts his feet up. Yes yes is the camera on, how is my toupe, let’s roll.

I think it is the season for contests on the internet. Everywhere I go, someone asks, “Are you feeling lucky, punk?” but then if I am feeling lucky I have to make a skilled entry into the contest that is better than the other entries, and that is never going to work.

Did you see the winners posted for Dylan Meconis’ Bite Me photo challenge? They are all winners for Having The Most Fun! You may take this as a reminder to buy Dylan’s book, which just came out. I am going to fight someone to the front of the line for it next time I see her.

But there are other contests with no winners yet. This is important because that winner could be you.

First up: Jess Fink’s lovely and sexy (but unsafe for work, young sirs) comic Chester 5000XYV is holding a little thing called Win a date with Chester that I think, with the promise of “Receive tremendous boners!” is contest in which we all win. (We win boners).

Next: I am an enormous fan of Dean Trippe’s Project Rooftop, where people submit new costume ideas for well known superheroes, and the entries are judged by an extremely knowledgeable jury. The submissions are delightful and varied, and so much fun. If you missed it, they just opened a new contest, starring Wolverine. This makes me very happy! Wolverine is one of very few Canadian superheroes, and like all Canadians he can shoot knives from his fists. It was a thing we learned to do during the beaver hunts, and it helps in extracting maple sap from trees.

Also, as I am writing this in fact I just got an email from James Harvey about his Cats Wearing Hats Challenge. James must have been reading my mind, which is handy in this case but suspicious activity otherwise. If you haven’t seen his stuff, check it out! He is a crazy talent.

Guest Column: Brad Guigar Again, This Time On Webcomicker Appearances & New Books

Picture? Nah, same guy as yesterday, only now looking twice as sinister as he takes over the news & information feed direct to your brains. Want in on this sweet, sweet channel to literally tens of readers? Email me at the contact link, and I’ll reply with the address you can use to send your piece in.

Here’s your calendar of Webcomics books and appearances for May 2009:


May 2-3: Chris Hallbeck of Book of Biff will be at Penguicon 7.0 in Romulus, Mich.

May 2: David Willis of Shortpacked will be attending the Canadian G.I. Joe Convention in Hamilton, Ontario.

May 2: Jeff Zugale of Just a Bit Off will be appearing at the Bats Day Black Market at the Anaheim Sheraton, 900 S. Disneyland Drive, Anaheim, Calif. Jeff will be doing caricatures and selling merchandise. He’s also premiereing his new exclusive Bats Day Coroner Art Card, which is one of a pack of 5 cards being offered for the first time this year at Bats Day. Noon to 10. Free admission.

May 9-10: The Toronto Comic Arts Festival at the Toronto Reference Library will host the following webcomics greats: R. Stevens, Jeph Jacques, Meredith Gran, Jeffrey Rowland, and David Malki, and Ryan North, Kate Beaton, and Emily Horne & Joey Comeau. Scott McCloud will be a headline guest.

May 29-31: Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum of Unshelved will appear at Book Expo America in New York City.

Book releases:

CRUSH ALL HU-MANS by R. Stevens is 64 pages of Red Robot’s best appearances from nine years of Deisel Sweeties. Totally edited down to their essence and rebuilt for this collection, this is a perfect jump-on point for non-fans who simply like evil robots. And who doesn’t? Check out the advance reviews from Notcot and Boingboing if you don’t beleive me. Available now at the DS site.

NEVER LEARN ANYTHING FROM HISTORY by Kate Beaton is a 68-page collection of Beaton’s best comics from the past year or so. Available now through Topatoco.

Just noticed that in our downtime, our first real out-of-spec advertiser has shown up in the PW buttons. If you like cam-girls, best check ’em out before I have a chance to kill that ad.

Guest Column: Brad Guigar On Free Comic Book Day

So Kate Beaton (Official Sweetheart of both The Internet and Canada) figured that while I’m away from regular updates, there may still be news items to be shared with Greater Webcomicstan; she has begun rounding up people to submit items that can run here, because she is awesome. Also, this gives me an excuse to mention that her new book is well on the way to being sold out, so if you want a copy get to her store like yesterday.

I can’t thank Kate enough for taking the time to prod people for guest pieces; today, we have Brad Guigar rounding up this weekend’s Free Comic Book Day.

Even though webcomics have been disinvited to the Free Comic Book Day party, several of your favs are making in-store appearances to mark the occasion this Saturday:

If there’s something about webcomics you’re dying to say without much of an editorial filter, this is your chance — but keep in mind that any illogic or typos will be severely mocked once I have the time. Contact me through the form up there to the right, and I’ll let you know where you can send your copy.

Fleen Guest Column: Christopher Wright In, Threat And Menace

Editor’s note: Today’s the first day of our two week festival of canned content; we at Fleen thank you for your patience in these trying times. To help make up for it, here’s a doozy: Christopher Wright took at look at the writeups of the Threat or Menace? panel and ideas started perkin’ around. Please enjoy.

I was thinking about your panel (Webcomics: Threat or Menace?) the other day — mostly musing about the crap that the professional webcartoonists have been taking from the professional justcartoonists — and it occurred to me that everyone is wrong.

Webcomics: Threat and Menace. There you are.

The fundamental point I think everyone is missing nowadays is that it’s harder for professionals to make money doing what they do because the barrier to entry in those fields has been drastically lowered, if not utterly obliterated, by advances in technology over the last twenty years.

Consider that it is possible, right now, for someone to spend about $1,000.00 and set up a studio in their home that is as good as or equal to the recording equipment that was used to record the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Of course in order to make an album as good as a Beatles album you still have to have the skill of the Beatles and George Martin, but the tools are there for a comparatively minimal investment. And you can spend less and still get something that sounds good depending on what you’re going for.

And that’s just in the music world. In terms of print publishing it’s even easier.

Once upon a time you needed complicated machines to mass publish. In the 80’s this started to change because the personal computer allowed you to do all the typesetting, which used to be something that required equipment that cost thousands of dollars — with PageMaker and other similar programs you only had to shell out $800-900 or so. And as time went on the software got cheaper (not PageMaker — I refer you to my general opinions about the Computer Industry as to why — but these days you can download a program called Scribus that will do most of that for free, and you can even alter and recompile the source code if you are so inclined).

But there were still two other barriers to entry: mass production and distribution. You still had to go to a printer, and you still had to get people to buy it — or at the very least, to read it — once you were
done. And the most effective ways of doing this were through publishers, because they had the capital to most efficiently create large volumes of hardcopy to market and sell.

Enter the World Wide Web.

Suddenly anyone who logs on and buys web hosting has a distribution medium comparatively equal to everyone else who logs on and buys web hosting. All that’s required is to get people to come to your site and look at your content. There it is. And while these days the main focus of that kind of publishing seems to be monetizing that content, at the very root of it, the content is a form of communication.

And the plain and simple fact of the matter is that any jackass can use the web to say their piece in whatever form they like. I am solidly, unflinchingly, unapologetically proof of that. I can’t draw, have never been able to draw, and don’t forsee any time in the future where I suddenly uncover hitherto untapped veins of drawing talent that spurs the quality of my art to unparalleled heights … and yet I am a webcartoonist and have been one for 12 years. I decided to start a webcomic because in my opinion the medium was better suited to what I wanted to say (the webzine already had funny editorials — I thought a comic would have more editorial punch) and it worked well enough to give me little reason to stop doing it.

Justcartoonists dislike webcartoonists because webcartoonists are doing more work to make less money and therefore devaluing their product. Some professional webcartoonists, in turn, are more than a little annoyed by us amateurs because we’re not really trying to make any money at all, which makes it harder for them because they’re competing with people who are saying “just come on and have a look!” And I know for a fact that there are people out there in the webcomicking community who fervently wish that a great swath of people doing webcomics would just STOP, so that some standard of quality control and self-respectability can be put in place.

But the sad and simple truth is that the internet is a communications medium, not a professional publishing for profit medium, which means that there’s not a damn thing any of them can do about it. The unwashed masses have a chance to have their say, show their drawings, record their music and film their movies, and the only effect it can have is to drag the professionals down due to saturation alone.

While I don’t begrudge people actually earning a living off of any of this — in fact, I’m very happy to know that people do, and I hope that they manage to continue doing it — there’s a bigger picture that makes that harder than it used to be. The idea of the “Web as the new public commons” is old hat and has been turned into one of those trite catchphrases spouted by people who want to appear like they know what they’re talking about, but it’s still fundamentally true: it is easier to access ideas, discussions, plans and collaborations on the web (and the internet as a whole) than in any other medium, and that is far more important to me than whether I can retire by 40 on t-shirt sales and ad revenue alone. Of course this new public commons is a treacherous place: along with the clear-sighted eloquent visionaries thoughtfully discussing serious and important ideas you also have weird-smelling twitchy guys with Tourette’s Syndrome who spout off about aliens injecting beetles into their ears at night while they sleep, and people who are trying to actually make money are going to have to fight through ALL of that noise, battle idealists and cranks and loud-mouthed know-it-alls, and then some in order to make a buck. There are professionals who consider this grossly unfair. Me, I consider it a necessary component of a healthy, functioning republic, which is probably why there’s so much resistance to the idea.

In short, the fundamental element of publishing is communication, and the web opens up communication to everyone. Therefore: Threat and Menace, with no apologies.

Fleen Guest Column: The Kea In, Comparing Computer To Television

Editor’s note: I received the other day, out of the blue, a guest column submission from my favorite flightless bird that doesn’t sell shoe polish. And since I’m working on something that requires a bit of actual research and thus my own contributions have been a bit slight, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Please enjoy, and remember that I’m more than happy to run your guest column — email gary at this-here website for details.

If there’s one thing I love to do, its watch DVDs with the audio commentary running. And I mean I love it. You know that moment when the commentators invariably suggest that if you are watching the movie for the first time with the commentary on, you may want to turn it off, in case the events of the movie and the experience of the story are spoiled for you? That otherwise trite piece of advice is for me. I have nearly slipped up when putting in a new DVD many a time.

I love finding out the little tiny pieces of trivia that pop up. Those fragments of understanding as to why a particular word was used or a sign was painted just so. It’s not very often a reference to another piece of work or something designed to enhance the plot if you notice it (though the times when it is are really enjoyable, realising just how much work was put in to creating a coherent and rounded world inside the screen); more often it is some crew member’s nod to his own interests or life. And that’s good too, there’s something nice about getting to know the people who made something I enjoyed (or even didn’t enjoy. Watching the commentary on a piece of crap gives one the chance to discover just what went wrong or if the creators were idiots from the word go) in another way.

And it mirrors in so many ways the common setup in our wonderful world of web comics. Because, for some reason or another, comics appearing on the web has included creators keeping fairly well updated communication along with it. We DO know about the little things that pop up in some strips, because the creators will tell us. We DO know what they intend (maybe only in the broadest terms) and we DO know what’s working for them or not.

It’s this interaction, this means of adding webcomic creators to my FaceBook, of watching their lives unfold on LiveJournal, of seeing their reasons for being unable to keep updating (or not, as it were), that keeps me skimming through my favourites even though I have other things to occupy me at the moment.

Which leads me to the actual purpose of this random scrawling. I am absolutely loving the Director’s Cut of Narbonic.

I’m sure that comes as no surprise to anyone, it does after all, seem to be an involving and just plain clever comic. In the short time I’ve been following it so far the art has improved in leaps and bounds to become something iconic instead of cramped sketches like it appeared in the beginning. Running gags aplenty have established themselves, Heh. Heh. Heh. Characters have appeared and made their mark.

And through it all the readers have been privy to exactly the sorts of tidbits of information that I love about commentaries.

This was one of the times that I began watching the DVD with the commentary on. And so I have been spoiled about some aspects of what is to come through the comments and what Shaenon has said (Not a complaint mind you, I knew it was likely to happen when I started!). But recently I have grown impatient waiting for the commentary to get me to those places. And so I’m reading ahead now in my spare time. And looking forward to reading the commentary when it catches up.

You get me coming and going Shaenon.

Fleen Guest Column: The Kea In, “Orphans”

Editor’s note: The Kea took our search for writers last year as a challenge, and started pumping out some high-quality commentary on [web]comics. Unfortunately, real life intruded, and despite a couple of comebacks, it’s been a bit quiet in the Godzone corner of webcomics comentary. That’s why I was thrilled to see that he wanted to drop a guest piece on us. Enjoy!

Having tried coming back from my hiatus, I found that I really don’t have time to keep The Kea’s Nest regularly updated, and that’s no good for anyone who might be interested in seeing what I’ve got to say about the world of webcomics. So I decided to take Gary up on his generous offer to put up my musings here at Fleen. If I find something else to say, I’ll see if he’ll let me post that too. [He will. -Ed.]

Something I’ve noticed about the very few New Zealand webcomics I’ve managed to track down is that they generally seem to have come from print media first. There are similarities to the various political cartoons I enjoy reading, they tend to be published in alternative newspapers before realising the benefits of coming online too. I’m not sure why it is a rule that could be applied to a whole country though. Perhaps it’s caused by our generally poor broadband connection to the wider web which makes us wary of uploading images, or maybe its something set in our heads that leads us to think that we need a physical presence to really have achieved notice.

I used to link to the comics of the Monsta artist, a guy who drew cute little green critters I remembered from my youth, when he was making regular updates. They were generally editorial cartoons such as one might find in newspapers next to the kinds of letters that make you sorry to share genomes with most of humanity. But after awhile he must have grown tired of updating or maybe he got too busy. As we are all aware, that’s very easy to do.

Most of the one-off NZ comics I’ve linked to in the past are likewise newspaper or magazine comics first (I would love to link to the weekly comic Max Media, which other kiwis might agree seems perfect for the web, but he has no website…). One of the few that actually seemed to be designed and put out on the web first was Newton Ghetto Anger which hasn’t been seen in quite some time…

The latest comic I would like to talk about is called Fishing For Orphans and is really just scans of James Squire’s comics for his university’s student newspaper. In particular this can be seen in his guide to student living:

Hopefully these all show you some of the more treacherous aspects of student life here in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Particularly the pointing knights. That’s just creepy. I mean, sometimes they don’t just point.

Squire has a gift for the obvious humour, and I don’t mean that in any sort of crude way. His is not the realm of fart gags and random nudity, merely for the cheap gag. No, instead he creates a situation which may be fairly mundane or perhaps totally off-beat and then follows it through to its hilarious yet completely foreseeable finale. Sometimes this means pounding the joke in more than strictly necessary but we are all the more enriched by such beatings.

There are a few times when you might begin to wonder if he’s picked up on tropes that have been floating around before, but as this is a print-to-web comic I wouldn’t assume he’s been so crass as to simply read someone else’s idea and use it. I have in mind the perils of Robots Hugging and the art stylings of the Perry Bible Fellowship.

A major theme of his is the Child on the Stool. As seen in some of the above examples, Child is not a complex character, he just wants to be accepted for who he is but not lost among the crowd and blended in. He has that insecurity we all share of wondering if we are special or whether in fact we just don’t fit in. He’s also not very clever… This mainly manifests in silly decisions made with the confidence of being sure of himself as well as the secretive protective nature of someone who needs to verify their place.

I have another kiwi comic in mind that even more clearly betrays its origins as a comic aimed for print, but I’ll talk about that some other time. I have seen in hobby/comic stores in this country many many independently produced black and white comic books and I think that this is the avenue a lot of beginning artists and writers are taking in their quest for recognition. I just want to buy all of them and send letters to each creator, letting them know about the benefits of putting their stuff online and hopefully finding a much wider audience than the sheep and busy busy office drones they might snare by their print books in New Zealand. I know there’s examples of this in the wider international webcomic world, but I’m fairly sure the trend has been the other way, am I right?

We at Fleen thank The Kea for his contributions, invite him to send anythign else that may occur to him, and owe him a beer if we’re ever in the same hemisphere.

Fleen Guest Column: Robert Anke In, “The Good Kind Of Stealing”

Editor’s note: Robert Anke is the creator of Running In The Halls; he teaches 5th and 6th grade somewhere in the great vastness of America.

Like most teachers, I steal liberally. If it gets the job done and kids like it, I’m a low-down, pilfering lesson thief. But I’m also a comic artist. So you know, really, deep down, I’m a pretty good guy.

Anyway, sticking with tradition I was left with no choice after coming across an article in Fleen that caught my interest: a guy at a Library using comics as a tool for teaching writing? How cool is that? More importantly: how come I didn’t think of it, and why am I not using it RIGHT NOW?

So I went into class the next day with the spoils from my latest heist and a handful of my comics. I blanked out the text from several that I thought would lend themselves to a wider variety of interpretation and ran off bunches o’ copies of each. I sent an email to the staff with a link to the article, hoping to inspire, and set to work…

…herding Nicolas (we’ll call him Nic for short since he doesn’t mind, and that’s not his real name anyway).

Nic’s autistic. Within that spectrum he’s high functioning. In his case that means he’s successful — with regard to standards set for him in his independent education file — if someone’s standing next to him reminding him of the task at hand, is helping him with a subject he finds interesting, doesn’t require him to write, and gives him a good, long break every ten minutes or so. As you can imagine, teaching writing to a child who’s physically able, but chooses not to write, can call for some inventive measures. I was hopeful. He likes comics (he’s a pretty good guy too).

Usually Nic spends a good portion of his day in the company of our resource teacher and her aides. There he receives the small-group and individualized attention, and constant refocusing, necessary for him to reach his goals. If he stays with our larger class he requires so much redirection from me it’s actually a detriment to the class as a whole. But, on occasion, when the content will be something that hooks him, I keep him with us and hope for the best. And literally, we win some, we lose some.

But we didn’t lose that day.


That kid, as well as all the others, wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. It was amazing. Just as readers take their past experiences and combine them with text to create subjective realities within the pages of books, the kids took in the illustrations, put them in their brain blenders, and came up with an incredible array of interpretations. The teacher in the room adjacent to ours had even more renditions. It seems the blanked out comics provided a training wheel effect that had just the structure and all the freedom necessary for a truly successful writing lesson. We could see almost immediately how this method of teaching could be used to hone in on various modes such as narratives, summaries, or persuasives as well as the many facets in the craft of writing itself: organization, precise word choice, voice, etc. The possibilities are … well … really, as wonderfully messy a science as teaching writing is, you could say the possibilities are close to endless. Now if someone would just write those lessons down and put them in a place accessible enough for us to steal, we wouldn’t have to make ‘em all up as we go.

Fleen Guest Column: David Hamilton In, “A Talk With Jeff Knooren”

Editor’s note: David Hamilton wrote to me last week; he’d done an interview with Jeff Knooren of A Murder of Crows and Out In The Morning, and wanted to know if we wanted to run it. See that, people? That’s initiative, and we like it. Without further ado, David Hamilton and Jeff Knooren.

Jeff Knooren is multi-talented. In addition to drawing and writing “A Murder of Crows� and “Out in the Morning,� Knooren is programming a simulation game (think the money-hungry greed of monopoly, but instead of dice rolls you have to make cutthroat management decisions.) He also designs and sells cat furniture.

He’s not afraid to share his opinion, and he makes it clear that he is not going to be intimidated by the “webcomics community.� I had the chance to ask him some questions about how and why he creates webcomics, and the artistic and commercial direction of webcomics in general.

David Hamilton: How does one get started drawing comics on the web?

Jeff Knooren: Everyone starts out with inspiration. They’ll see what someone else has done, and so the journey begins. It’s no secret that anyone can draw a comic. I mean, a comic is not much more than a few sketched lines, and some text bubbles. Just like anyone can direct a movie, or be an actor. But how many are actually good at it? What separates the good comics, from bad ones, is the refinement and mastery of storytelling.

It’s much more than just text boxes and sketches. There are lots of limitations placed on the author. You might think it isn’t limiting, because you can draw anything you want, and make each panel any size. But each panel must probably fit within a page. Also, the text bubbles cover up much of each panel. When I started, those things hadn’t occurred to me. You have to balance these things while conveying essential elements of a story.

It’s difficult to pick “the reason” the web is spawning hundreds of new comics a week. Probably the perception it’s easy, and the limitations of print comics don’t apply. Printed comics are more of a business, and therefore have Editors and deadlines to follow. The most important thing in print comics is doing the work on time, every time. These things really don’t matter on the web, and there is no-one to stop you from poisoning society, with whatever spills out of your head. But, creating a comic for the web has it’s own technical challenges. People who aren’t that computer savvy, usually draw their comics by hand, and scan them in.

Myself, I can’t draw much more than stick figures without a mouse.

Hamilton: What advantages and disadvantages are there to web publishing as opposed to print?


Fleen Guest Column: Anne Thalheimer In, “Closer Than You Might Think”

Editor’s note: I think I’m going to have to put her on staff.

In preparing to table at the Boston Zine Fair next month and in trying to more closely consider my current webcomics reading as part of this ongoing series, I’ve spent some time thinking about the relationships between minicomics and webcomics. This is also kind of tied in with continuing to think about David Malki !‘s recent article (we disagree; I don’t think an association with comics or comix is the death knell of webcomics, by any means. I’m still parsing through the particulars of what and why, though, so some of this piece is going to feel like thinking-out-loud). So I thought it might be worth considering minicomics and webcomics, which feel a little more closely related, maybe, than “comic booksâ€? or “comic book cultureâ€? with all their negative connotations (even though considering “comic stripsâ€? and “webcomicsâ€? might also be an interesting parallel).

Obviously there are certain, immediate similarities between the two. Both can be very cheap for readers to access. Both are—for the most part — free of publishing strictures (quick, nobody think “Patriot Act!â€?). Though webcomics seem generally easier to get than minicomics (even with having to remember to click onto the page for updates), that isn’t a hard and fast rule, and though webcomics may be more immediate in their readers’ responses, audience participation is not a “characteristic native to the Internetâ€? as evidenced by the sheer numbers of folks creating their own minicomics and zines, letters back and forth between creators, collaborations, and so forth. It’s slower, but it’s still there.

In all honesty, I have a great love of minicomics as well as zines. I’ve been publishing one since 1995, and am involved in a number of other projects, like reviewing for these folks. I also have a great love of paper, as previously established, and I’m kind of an indie comix geek (I wrote a dissertation about comix; it doesn’t get too much geekier than that), though, like Malki ! I’m not a fan of the negative aspects of “comics culture� (Who is, really? We all laugh a little too self-referentially at the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, right?). And I don’t think of webcomics and minicomics as so radically different from one another that a new, separate word that doesn’t have “comics� in it warrants coining to replace webcomics.

That said, I was pretty excited to find this fact while poking around the internet, because it sort of parallels my experience — it’s comics that got me into webcomics, not the other way around. (Still, there must be readers who do have that experience of reading webcomics and then getting into print-only comics. Or getting into webcomics which are then only made available in limited ways, like book collections, such as Mom’s Cancer). But I’m also really into certain webcomics, even though the actual reading itself is so different from reading minicomics. There’s a whole lot of webcomics out there, the same way there are loads of minicomics and zines. Minicomics are, in many ways, kind of a subdivision within zines, which have their own long, storied history.

Like comics do. And that’s a history to which, I think, webcomics refer, however indirectly or inadvertently. David Malki !’s recent article notwithstanding, I think severing webcomics from “comicsâ€? in general isn’t possible right now. Maybe in the future, when we’re two generations in to those readers who, y’know, grew up online, but not now. Webcomics are still kind of new-ish, in the proverbial big picture (maybe in their awkward teen years?), and “comicsâ€? (in all its permutations) have not always been regarded as illiterate kiddie fare (and, by the way, isn’t this a decidedly American sentiment?), and the cultural worth of “comicsâ€? has arguably risen in recent years. Webcomics, by many accounts, if I’m getting my history right, first started gaining force in early 2000 or so, even though many webcomics appeared online long before that date (I mean, ten years of Goats?!), and if we’re using the most open definition possible — a description of the delivery system only, with nothing to do with the content — surely there are others earlier even than 1986. Right?

And no, I’m not talking exclusively about Watchmen here, but it isn’t a bad book, and, like the other books usually uttered in the same breath — Maus and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, functions fairly well as a gateway drug for showing folks that there’s more to comics than comic strips or the stuff in the spin rack at the drugstore. Arguably, webcomics can do something similar, perhaps in part due to some of that immediacy we just talking about.

Like I said, I’m still thinking through this stuff….

Anne, how do you feel about occasionally-free beer?