The webcomics blog about webcomics

Dr McDrivethrough

Items of some note:

  • When I think awesome, one of the first things that pops to my mind is insane webcomics experiments. And the current gravitational center of insane webcomics experimenters may be found at a commune in Mexico where Ryan Estrada and John Campbell cackle with glee each time they come up with a new mad scheme:

    hi gary!

    john campbell here, from the cartoon commune, pictures for sad children, etc. i’m starting my third year of hourly comics, which is this thing where i make a little journal comic every hour i’m awake for a month. they’re going up at i’m wanting to see what journal comics look like if they are kind of preposterously detailed. because with daily journal comics i rarely feel like i get a grasp of what the author’s average day is like. the comics go up each hour i’m awake with a 24 hour lag time. which is part of this thing where i was wondering what if a website updated hourly is that something that is interesting (it is not all that interesting).

    On my first reading, I actually thought that Campbell would be trying to stay awake for a month, and a new comic in every hour would provide us with documentation of his descent into madness. Alas for my sense of schadenfreude but luckily for Campbell, a more careful reading reveals he’s actually doing a comic for every hour that he would be awake anyway. But there is an upside!

    the important thing is that you will get to see ryan estrada say and do what i am sure will be all sorts of dumb things.

    I am so there.

  • Chris Hastings, abetting the beffudlement of through-drivers everywhere.
  • An epic story started here (or possibly here), ended here, and now offers a jumping-on point for new readers here.
  • Looks like 500 strips on January 3rd 2008 wasn’t just a Karenic Phenomenon. Behold.
  • Finally, Friend O’ Webcomics Brian Warmoth has finished his escape from the Den of Satan Wizard‘s website to a different sort of diabolical situation. As of yesterday, Warmoth is now the new Marketing Manager of Devil’s Due Publishing, and will handle marketing, publicity and convention responsibilities. We at Fleen hope to see Warmoth on the convention circuit, and urge all reading to drop by the DDP booth to say “thanks” for all the great interviews he did.

Holiday Season Laziness Kicking In

Stories are starting to drop off as everybody staggers from eggnog bender to eggnog bender. But hey, we’re still gonna be here for the duration; we’ve kept up the whole “at least five days a week” thang for the past two years, why stop now?

From the We Come To Honor Caesar, Not Bury Him department, the exodus at Wizard magazine has been getting some press, as we can add one more name to it: Brian Warmoth, who originated the Cursory Conversations series of interviews with webcomickers, has given notice and wrapped up his contributions to Wizard‘s website. His last interview, with James Kochalka, is due to run today but isn’t up as of this writing.

Back in April, I wrote:

Hey, ever wonder why Wizard’s online site is so much better (and webcomics-acknowledging) than the print magazine? It’s because there’s two guys that pretty much run it by themselves, and they like webcomics.

Back then, my emphasis was on the “webcomics” part of that statement, but it quickly became apparent that the real story was the “better” bit. To my mind, the contributions of Warmoth and fomer online editor Rick Marshall were what made the difference between Wizard the magazine (and since FHM and Stuff have both ceased publication, it looks like the publishers have decided to try to fill the void on the newstands next to Maxim) and Wizard the website.

But Warmoth and Marshall aren’t just good [web]comics writers and editors, they’re damn good writers and editors period, and I fully expect really interesting stuff from both of them in the future. Guys, thanks for the good work, and if ever either of you got a hankering to write something about this crazy phenomenon we call webcomics, you have a ready soapbox here at Fleen.

Gonna Be A Light Week

Editor’s note: I’ll be away on Thursday and Friday for the American version of Thanksgiving, with no internet access. So as to have enough content pre-written to cover those two days, I’m gonna be stingy on news items now. Also, don’t count on Thursday & Friday being topical.

I’ve been emailing back and forth with Rick Marshall since April or so; right after I met him, I wrote:

Hey, ever wonder why Wizard’s online site is so much better (and webcomics-acknowledging) than the print magazine?

in tribute to Marshall’s (and cohort Brian Warmoth‘s) efforts to make the website more than just Maxim with slightly more comic book content. Well, he’s not at Wizard anymore, and we at Fleen are still trying to wrap our minds around that one.

He’s spoken to The Spurge about his recent experiences, and you ought to go check out what’s on the mind of this friend of webcomics.

And if you happen to run any kind of publishing enterprise, Rick is an extremely capable editor, fast, dedicated, able to produce as much work as any three people you have now, and a fun guy to have beers with. Hell, in less than two years he took Wizard‘s monthly pageviews up by two and half orders of magnitude, and that was with a site saddled with clueless management and crap content. With luck, we’ll be running some of his stellar prose here in the coming weeks.

Sticky In The Legal Sense

So over the weekend I was talking with my wife’s sister, the lawyer, and an interesting term came up that’s new to me: Contract of Adhesion:

n.(contract of adhesion) a contract (often a signed form) so imbalanced in favor of one party over the other that there is a strong implication it was not freely bargained…. An adhesion contract can give the little guy the opportunity to claim in court that the contract with the big shot is invalid.

Now she’s not IP or entertainment lawyer, but this little concept isn’t particular to IP or entertainment contracts — it’s a part of common law. Anyway, I can’t think for the life of me why I found this interesting in the context of webcomics. Nope, not at all.

In other, completely non-legal (as opposed to barely legal) news:

He Had Me At The Big Lebowski

Why does it not surprise me that Vachel was so well-prepared in yesterday’s Little Dee?

On the merch front, pre-orders present and imminent; stock up for the holiday season, won’t you?

There’s going to be more conversating of a cursory nature in your immediate future; Wizard online scribe (and webcomics interviewer) Brian Warmoth is kicking his biweekly schedule to the curb and going weekly now-ish. It’s my understanding that it took some convincing to get Wizard to run these interviews at all, so if you appreciate ’em as much as I do, drop an email to the comment line and let ’em know that Warmoth’s doing a great job.

And lastly: Chuck is not a vengeful god; the Coyote could have stopped his punishments any time he wanted to if he would only leave the Roadrunner alone. It is heresy to think you could do any better, Randall Munroe! What do you think modern birds (especially the ground-running types) evolved from? RAPTORS. They laugh at your collection of ACME goods.

In The Aftermath Of Estrada Day

Okay, 37 by the count of Fleen staff & readers, and I’d estimate that he probably did in the range of 50 webcomics; in fact, it appears that he hit everything this side of the chronically-underreviewed Simulated Comic Product. I suppose we’ll have to wait for Ryan to come back from India to get the official tally. How about some stuff that has nothing to do with the prolific Mr Estrada?

As promised earlier: photos from the MoCCA reception.

This Woman Wants To Bring Webcomics Into The Rarified World Of Museums

Last night, the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art in New York City opened its latest exhibit, and for the first time webcomics made it into the world of culture and connoisseurs. I don’t get to too many museum exhibition openings, but I do know one thing — when the room is packed wall-to-wall and the air conditioning is insufficient to cool the air from all the people, it’s not because of the snacks or the booze. It’s because people want to see the pretty stuff on the walls. By that criterion alone, the opening of Infinite Canvas: The Art of Webcomics would have to be judged an enormous success.

The show was put together by a MoCCA volunteer/Art History & Archeology grad student (Egyptology, I believe) named Jennifer Babcock; this was her first show as curator, and it featured a wide variety of genres and implementations of webcomics. Per the show’s title, the centerpiece was a vertical-hanging, mounted-on-paper-towel-rollers print of Scott McCloud’s My Obsession With Chess; in the days before the laptop, McCloud would unfurl the full 23 foot piece at the conclusion of talks, but here the height of the gallery space limited Chess to about the first 12 feet.

Gathered around Chess were pieces from webcomics with originals displayed next to final renderings (Goats, Scary Go Round, Wigu, PhD, Penny Arcade) to all-digital creations without preliminary work (Diesel Sweeties, Get Your War On). The displayed pieces ranged in age from a nine year old Sluggy strip to the very first Something*Positive to a Questionable Content from four days ago.

Reinforcing the theme of “Infinite Canvas”, large screen LCD monitors displayed comics that spread beyond the traditional panel boundaries or existed in purely digital form: oft-referenced examples like When I Am King, Pup Ponders the Heat Death of the Universe, and Delta Thrives being joined by the likes of a particularly tall Order of the Stick. Nearby, a Narbonic strip that was drawn in four panels but assembled in a twisty, non-rectangular layout reinforced the theme.

While Babcock didn’t get contributions from all the creators that she wanted (specifically mentioning Kazu Kibuishi’s Copper), she did have more work than could fit on the walls. Those pieces that were gifted to the museum will become part of the permanent collection, she said, and will end up on display in rotation with the general collection, and as long as interest persists, she’d like to mount future webcomics shows.

She particularly mentioned a desire to explore the economic side of webcomics (how can a creator make a living by giving away the product?) and to see more female creators included in the next show (only Narbonic’s Shaenon Garrity and Finder’s Carla Speed MacNeil are to be found in Infinite Canvas). Intriguingly, Babcock would also like to include demonstrations of webcomics tools like Wacom Cintiq tablets.

Noted in attendance were Jon Rosenberg, Chris Hastings, Carly Monardo, David McGuire, Dean Haspiel, Wizard webcomic interviewer Brian Warmoth, surprise attendee (he realized he would be in New York the day before) Scott McCloud, and about a zillion other people. More photos of the event on Monday, after I have a chance to go through them.

Infinite Canvas runs until January 14, 2008. MoCCA is at 594 Broadway (just below Houston), 4th floor; admission is $5 (free for members) and the museum is open Friday through Monday, noon to 5pm.

I Demand Full Page Comics On Sunday, Dammit

So Agnes is like Peanuts, and Prickly City is like Calvin and Hobbes in this guy’s Weltanschauung, but Diesel Sweeties is crap? Oooo-kay.

Let’s cleanse our paletes after that unpleasantness, shall we? Chris MacNeil wrote to tell me about his more than 10-years-in-the-making strip, Rooby Moon, which has been archive-ported to the internet, and has new strips being drawn. Check out the newest strip (#134, for those of you playing at home): it’s gloriously full-page, like Krazy Kat mixed with Little Nemo.

Actually, the full page strips are a new thing for MacNeil, but I’m really loving all those panels. It’s like Rudolph Dirks-era Katzenjammer Kids (avoid the modern version as if your sanity depends on it). Anyway, MacNeil is creating these strips the size of a full newspaper broadsheet — pen and ink on 19″ x 24″ Bristol board! — before photographing and coloring digitally.

If the revolution ever occurs and we ditch the teeny-weeny EyeStrain-O-Vision™ that plagues modern newspaper comics, I want Rooby Moon in my paper. The only downside is that size means that Rooby Moon updates only sporadically; if you visit MacNeil’s site and encourage him (maybe pick up a copy of his regular-size strips), maybe we’ll get it more frequently.

Quick things:

  • Mailed by several people: yes, yes, I get it — moustaches.
  • Also via several people (but credit Lem as first, most appreciating the importance, and having an awesome comic): Amazon has decided to take on Lulu in a no-holds-barred stab at print-on-demand supremacy. It could give webcomics creators access to Amazon’s store, but it’ll cost you. I haven’t had time to go through the terms and conditions with a fine-tooth comb, so right now let’s just call this there’s a new player in the game and we’ll figure out the implications as we go along.
  • Wizard. Brian Warmoth. Kit Roebuck of Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life. Interview.
  • See, it’s Gravity’s Rainbow, and it’s gonna fall on his head, so it’s all about gravity! Shut up, I thought it was hilarious.

An Unusual 10th Anniversary

So Sluggy Freelance hit the decade mark on Saturday, with the usual animated GIF treatment (although this one was creepier than even the blinky FOOB eyes). I haven’t seen a lot in the webcomic-o-sphere about 10 years of SF, which I’m guessing is because the comic is what you might call an atypical outlier and people don’t know what to do with it.

For instance:

  • Abrams was an early entrant into webcomics and can get significant names to do fill-in weeks for him, but still claims the number of other webcomics he reads as “none”.
  • Unusually for any creator (much less one that’s been in the game as long as he has), his character designs are largely unchanged from Strip 1 to the present day.
  • His merchandise line is relatively small and static, but he can support a family of four in New Jersey (trust me, that’s a significant accomplishment).

Most weird for me (and keep in mind that what I’m about to say is based on statistical methods that are extraordinarily suspect), Sluggy claims 100,000 readers (per the interview with Pete Abrams that ran yesterday morning on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday), but there doesn’t seem to be much overlap with other webcomics. There’s no links on to other comics, and you almost never see links to SF elsewhere. My own discussions with webcomics readers indicate that the more webcomics you read, the less likely you are to read (or still read) SF. It either acts like a gateway (where people eventually outgrow it) or it doesn’t (in that you may not read anything except Sluggy).

But on the chance that Sluggy is acting as a gateway comic, I’ll note that Weekend Edition Sunday has a nationwide Arbitron rating somewhere in the millions (best number I can find is 20 million for the weekday version). Somebody there has got to be checking out SF this morning, and having been dropped into year 10 of filthy continuity, may actually look to see if other “webcomics” are easier to start with.

Quickly now: Lucas TdS wrote asking about the Zeros 2 Heroes … let’s call it an “initiative” … with the following question:

Is this another sort of dubious-sounding comic-writer bilking machine?

Short answer: kinda. For the long answer, Mr T wrote about it last week, made some assumptions that maybe were reaching a bit, and wound up talking to one of their honchos. For the moment, let’s call it Zuda-Lite™, at least until we see the Zudacontracts.

And new webcomics interview up at Wizard, this time with Aaron Diaz of Dresden Codak, and I’m informed the next one will be with Kit Roebuck of Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life. As usual, Brian Warmoth’s done a good job and you should check it out.

Calm Before The Nerdstorm

That Chris Baldwin interview we promised you is coming soon; in the meantime, check out his Wizard interview with Brian Warmoth. Subliminal note to cartoonists: draw me a moth, ready for war.

The Applegeeks guys had a run on their Eve figures. Guess this means I won’t be getting one just yet. Any chance of a reorder, guys?

The Machine of Death project has finalized its author lineup. As a general rule, you can’t go wrong with Alexander Danner, Shaenon Garrity, Randall Munroe, and not me. To quote David Malki ! on my submission:

After careful review of the nearly 700 entries, we’ve determined that “Smothered by Bunnies”, while funny, ultimately isn’t right for the book. We’re very grateful for your interest, and we’ll continue to keep you informed as the project progresses!

Despite this atrocious lapse of judgement, I believe that the Machine of Death collection will be worth reading, and urge all and sundry to both a) read; and b) enjoy.

Final note for today: flying to San Diego tomorrow, so if there’s a question you’ve been dying to ask your favorite webcomicky types, email it to me. That would be “gary” at a domain that suspiciously shares the name of this here blog.