Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Darwin Carmichael gets a store!

Right before New England Webcomics Weekend, Sophie Goldstein and Jenn Jordan, co-creators of Darwin Carmichael is Going to Hell (which is currently on a hilarious story arc about virgin-crazed pet unicorns -- seriously, go check it out), mentioned something about bringing shirts to the Easthampton convention. My little Twittter ears perked up. Darwin Carmichael tshirts? FOR REELZ?

*Ahem* I may be a tiny bit obsessed.

Lo and behold, a mysterious link appears below a recent comic page leading to none other than a Darwin Carmichael store. And there was much jubilation. The inventory is a bit anemic at present, but you can buy art prints and this handsome t-shirt, plus a canvas bag featuring Skittles the tween-brained Manticore.

I'm thrilled to see these ladies finally getting in on the webcomics commerce. Now, more Manticore shirts, please?

Siblings with Guest Comics

I love this: Danielle Corsetto asked her non-cartoonist brother to create a guest strip for Girls with Slingshots, and he found the process a bit...well...frustrating. Cartooning ain't easy.

Super Stupor Returns

Something Positive has finished out for the year, but Randy Milholland is giving us some happy end of the year treats by updating his other comics: Super Stupor, Rhymes with Witch, and Life with Rippy (sadly, no Midnight Macabre). He's kicking off the week with a two-part Super Stupor in which Punchline faces down a Lex Luthor-style villain. Do I smell a new Super Stupor print issue?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Self-Portraits of Webcartoonists as Pokemon

This is way old, but I just stumbled across it the other day and had to share.

Featuring some of my personal favorite webcomickers, including Meredith Gran, Lucy Knisley, KC Green, and Box Brown as Pokemon at various stages of evolution.

Portrait-Dex [via Indistinguishable from Magic]

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Dresden Codak Guide to Dressing Your Characters

Wow. I always knew that Dresden Codak was an incredibly detailed, beautifully colored comic, but I never really thought about all of the decisions that go into all those details and all that color.

Yesterday, Aaron Diaz posted "Costumes: the Wearable Dialog" to his art blog, an illuminating dissertation on costume design in comics: why it's important and what to consider when designing a character's clothes. I'll admit, sometimes art blogs go a bit over my head; I have trouble interpreting them as anything other than "Draw better than you already draw." But Diaz takes us step by step through the elements of design an outfit -- know what your character looks like naked, how she stands, what her goals are when she gets dressed in the morning, repeat features throughout an outfit or article of clothing. I had quite a few aha! moments reading through this.

It's also worth reading through the rest of Diaz's blog Indistinguishable From Magic for more insights into comic art, although just the thought of "How a Dresden Codak Page is Made" is stressing me out.

Oh, and Diaz has an "Ask Me Anything" thread up on reddit. A word of warning: those things can be a major time suck.

Think Geek Honors xkcd's Coupon Code

Think Geek knows the way to its geeky clientele's hearts. Hardly does Randy Munroe (who apparently sucks at taking a vacation) post the above comic than the Think Geek team tweets: "If you read today's xkcd & wondered, 'Does that work on ThinkGeek?' you might wanna try SUMMEROF1987." Sadly, it doesn't zero out your order, but it does take $10 off orders of $50+ with the message, "We know what you did. Now aren't you ashamed?"

Also, they warn, you could still end up with a bobcat.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

An Early Christmas Present: Chris Baldwin Draws Ripley

Now that Chris Baldwin is busy with his sci-fi/action/dramedy Spacetrawler, he's got science fiction on the brain. And, since Baldwin has a proven affinity for the curly-haired ladies (Bruno, Little Dee), it's only natural that his artist's eye would be drawn toward corkscrew-coifed ass-kicker Ellen Ripley.

Baldwin was selling this beauty for $50, and it immediately got snapped up. Any chance you'd consider selling prints, Mr. Baldwin? Or maybe doing a full series? I have some space on my wall that's just begging for a Sarah Connor.

Ripley (Scroll Down) [Spacetrawler]

Kate Beaton's Christmas Cookies

I don't need to tell you guys how amazing Kate Beaton is. But it's not just that Beaton routinely puts out incredible comics; it's how versatile she is in her comic making.

Beaton describes "Cookies" as a memory from Christmas 2005, when she was working in the tool crib of an oil sands mine in Alberta. But, for all its apparent simplicity, it reads like a well-crafted piece of fiction. The dialogue is spot-on, and Beaton knows just which details to show: the sad fake Christmas tree left unattended on the floor, the miners nearly anonymous in their cold weather gear, the burn of frost on everyone's cheeks. And it manages to tell a heartwarming Christmas story without ever becoming saccharine.

Cookies [Hark, a vagrant]

Kenny Loggins is the Reason for the Season

I'm not entirely convinced that Hyperbole and a Half is technically a webcomic; it's more like a blog and a webcomic got together, dry-humped one out, then spawned some weird bastard child.

It's a weblogmic. And it's infertile, like a mule or a liger.

That doesn't mean it's not funny. "The Year Kenny Loggins Ruined Christmas" is actually killing me, and it gets bonus points because it's sure to start some horrible meme about how Kenny Loggins is immortal.

The Year Kenny Loggins Ruined Christmas [Hyperbole and a Half]

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Death gets personal for Box Brown

There's a funny thing about some artists where they can work wonders with a subject that's at arm's length, but when they get too personal, things start to crack. That's how I've felt for a while about Box Brown's work.

Everything Dies has been a brilliant stroke from Brown. Brown's refined style is a perfect match for his accounts of false prophets and rhyming religious email forwards. But it's often jarring when Brown talks about his own faith, or rather his lack of faith.

I noticed back when Brown published the lovely Love is a Peculiar Type of Thing that when Brown talks about his lack of interest in an afterlife or a divine governor, he lurches from the narrative to the didactic. Against the rest of he book, it comes off as weirdly preachy. The same problem plagues Everything Dies in the early chapters. While Brown is trying to explain what he himself believes, it's a strange contrast against the memetic spread of the idea of Rapture.

Lately, Brown has gotten better at explaining himself. Or maybe he's better at easing us into his mindspace. "To Exist" is a personal meditation on Brown's frustration with responses to the ubiquitous "Coexist" bumper sticker, and while it takes a firm aim at evangelicals as anything Brown writes, there's something gentle here as he explores the notion of difference and how intolerance threatens to ever-narrow our definition of difference. "But I Don't Want to Die" chronicles Brown's personal history with religion and his gradual transition to atheism, and here, working in a more narrative framework, Brown comes off as far more honest than he does in "Pre-Need" and far less finger-wagging than in "Demonstrable Proof."

But "Ben Died of a Train" is the comic I've been waiting for Brown to write, the comic about a person who dies young and tragically. When Brown writes about death, he often envisions himself dying as an old man, something that feels oddly like a comforting fable in a series that's so often critical of comforting fables. But "Ben" is something else: art-making as a funereal act, coping with death by rewinding and distilling memories and spinning them through Brown's own peculiar lens.

I hope that in the coming year, Brown focuses more on his more his more historical and journalistic religious comics. They're great fun to read, and I find I learn a lot about a particular belief or religious group that I didn't know before. But I'm also glad he took the time to offer a deeper view into his non-religious psyche, one that's less about instruction and more about point of view.

How the Grad TA Stole Christmas

From PHD Comics, this one goes out to all the undergrads who just finished fall term finals and must now bite their nails at the thought of their graduate TA grading the damn things. Worried yet?

How the Grad TA Stole Christmas [PHD Comics]

Monday, December 20, 2010

Not everything needs to be a t-shirt

I suspect that, when webcomickers get together, they have roughly this conversation once an hour.

From Thursday's Scenes from a Multiverse.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Susie Cagle wants to count you

Earlier this year when I was less employed, I applied to be a census enumerator, but apparently too late. I'll admit, a large driver was that I was curious about the census taker's experience. Fortunately, Susie Cagle has the skinny with her comic series "I'm Here From the Government" on The Rumpus. Cagle captures all the bureaucratic weirdness of the census, complete with allegedly time-saving acronyms and overly chipper supervisors.

Also worth checking out is Cagle's site this is what concerns me, which hosts even more of her comics. Cagle puts her journalism degree to good use, turning a critical eye on the social and political goings on around the Bay Area and beyond.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Year in Digital Comics

What are the best new digital comics of the past year? Who moved and shook in the webcomics world? Is the line between digital and print comics growing blurrier?

I had the honor and the profound pleasure to take part in ComixTalk's 2010 end-of-the-year roundtable with a lovely and knowledgeable group of comics commentators and journalists. Check it out.

Danse Macabre Illustrations from Dylan Meconis

Looking for a last-minute gift for the art-lover in your life? I wouldn't turn my nose up at one of Dylan Meconis' Danse Macabre illustrations. At $40, they're terrifically underpriced, and come in "The Celebutante," "The Foodie," "The Pundits," and "The Rock Star."


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Penny and Aggie Crossword Challenge

The end of the year is a tough time to be a webcomics fan. As creators spend time with family -- or desperately attempt to preserve what little sanity they still have -- they often take a couple weeks off, or post up filler.

If you're going to post filler, though, nothing tops filler that rewards your readers. I'm digging T Campbell's Penny and Aggie crossword puzzle -- and not just because crossword puzzles got me through many a law school lecture. Many of the clues are P&A-themed, with the key to the puzzle being "Pairings" (prepare for a lot of Brangelina-style naming).

I'll take more filler like this, please.

Penny and Aggie Crossword

Thursday, November 18, 2010

John Allison: Quit your diary comics

So, I'm about the billionth person to write about John Allison's advice to indie comickers. That's what I get for going to work.

In case you haven't already seen it, Allison wrote a handy list of bullet points nudging comics creators in a more professional direction. It's hard to dispute what Allison has to say ("Make comics for people who don't make comics," "Forget what you learned at art school and read some business books").

By the way, have you been reading Giant Days? Such a fantastic stand-alone story, and you don't even have to be a Scary Go Round devotee to enjoy it.

Anyways, a few words of Allison's advice: Diary comics: stop it. Now, I love a good diary comic. Hell, I love a mediocre diary comic. But Allison's right. He's not saying no one should ever do diary comics. Personally, I think diary comics are good practice for fledgling creators, and there's value to putting them online while you're working on your more polished creations, but man cannot live on diary comics alone. Not everyone can be an Erika Moen or a James Kochalka, and even those folks don't rest on their diary comic laurels.

Of course, that's just Allison's advice if you want to be one of those money-making cartoonists. If you're happy being poor, keep sending those diary comics my way.

A scene that celebrates itself has nothing to celebrate [A hundred dance moves per second]

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Ordinary Adventures of an Entry-Level Superhero

Faith Erin Hicks is my new girl cartoonist crush. First her Hunger Games adaptation, now this. The Adventures of Superhero Girl tracks the daring and not-so-daring events in the life of a twenty-something superhero.

The early, more mundane adventures of our heroine involve such riveting tasks as saving cats from trees and doing laundry, but I cheated and read ahead at The Coast. There the story evolves into something else. It's not just that Superhero girl has to deal with household chores or forgets her mask when she goes to the library; she's a young woman trying to follow her bliss, like so many of us. Superhero Girl can battle tentacle beasts from outerspace, but she also needs some publicity, an arch-nemesis, a paycheck (or, at least, a government grant). She lives in a world where the supervillain doesn't just beat her up; he'll beat her out for a job.

A young woman trying to make it in the world while doing what she loves? Maybe Superhero Girl's secret identity isn't so secret after all.

[The Adventures of Superhero Girl]

Monday, November 15, 2010

Meredith Gran on a Train, on a Train

There's something I love about seeing a cartoonist with a very polished style doing quickie off-the-cuff comics, and Meredith Gran's train comics are no exception.

And honestly? They still look pretty awesome.

A couple of lunchtime train comics [TwitPic]

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lucy Knisley: It Gets Better

Stop Paying Attention is back! Hooray!

Lucy Knisley returns with a take on Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" message that applies to all teenagers.

Although, to be honest, I liked high school lacrosse. A lot. Of course, it's a lot less dangerous when you're the goalie and laden down with a helmet and pads.

It Gets Better [Stop Paying Attention]

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Awesome: Caricatures of Cartoonists from Webcomics Weekend

I didn't get a chance to hit up this year's New England Webcomics Weekend (for coverage, I defer to the always wonderful Gary Tyrrell), but here's a bit of loveliness that came out of the weekend: caricature sketches of famous webcomickers from JJ McCullough.

Check out the whole set! [via Erika Moen]

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Why "Machine of Death" is important for webcomics

So I've been working two slightly more than part-time jobs for the last week and a half, and in that time THE INTERNET EXPLODED.

Maybe it didn't actually explode. Maybe it was just a little gas. But that gas reached Glenn Beck's nostrils and forced him to choke back a few coughs.

Machine of Death, for those not in the know, is an anthology inspired by this comic from Ryan North's Dinosaur Comics, co-edited by David Malki ! and including stories from the likes of Jeffrey C. Wells, Yahtzee Croshaw, Shaenon Garrity, and Randall Munroe, with illustrations by Karl Kerschl, Brandon Bolt, KC Green, Kate Beaton, Aaron Diaz, Danielle Corsetto, Dorothy Gambrell, Cameron Stewart, John Allison, Jess Fink, Kris Straub, Dylan Meconis, Rene Engstrom, and Ramon Perez. It's like an entire webcomics family came together for a really morbid picnic.

Machine of Death also turned out to be kind of a big deal. When North, Malki, and their supporters got the Internet publicity machine cranking, they bumped the anthology up to #1 in the Amazon rankings, and incurred the wrath of Glenn Beck when his book debuted at a measly #3.

Even if Machine of Death hadn't reached the top of the Amazon list, even if Beck hadn't lambasted the "culture of death" that made its success possible, the anthology would still represent something very important for webcomics. Last week, Shaenon Garrity wrote her "Ten Things to Know About the Future of Comics," which has attracted both head nodding and criticism, as such things are wont to do. I would be remiss if I didn't also link to El Santo's response "Ten Things to Know About the Future of Webcomics." One of the points on Garrity's list is that the comics audience is becoming increasingly fragmented, more so when you're talking about webcomics. El Santo addresses that point by looking to the next logical steps: that webcomic creators will gravitate toward corporate entities (With all the neophyte and not-so-neophyte creators scrambling for that Zuda contract, I'd be shocked if this didn't turn out to be true.), that there will be a webcomics canon (Possibly, but I think that burgeoning canon is in for a shift.), and that webcomics creators will band together to create an awesome Marvel/DC-style superhero universe (Um, I guess anything is possible? It would be cool, but I might shorten it to "awesome shared universe" myself.).

I think El Santo is right in his basic premise -- that webcomickers will find a way to address audience fragmentation -- and I believe projects like Machine of Death will be one way they do that. What better way to defragment your audience than to show them stuff they already love alongside stuff they might love? If I'm already reading Dinosaur Comics or Wondermark, I might pick up Machine of Death and suddenly it's "Ho! What's this Cat and Girl business?"

And there are more projects like this in the pipeline. It won't have the same broad appeal as Machine of Death, but TGT Media is publishing Webcomics: What's Cooking? which is exactly what it sounds like: a cookbook with recipes written and illustrated by webcomic creators. Spike Trotman's Smut Peddler, which is accepting entries through December 2011, is bound to find a cushy audience with porno comics from the likes of Erika Moen, Tom Siddell, and Spike herself.

Some of these creators still have a lot to learn about their own ecosystem. But what Machine of Death tells us is that they are organized; they are skilled marketers; and they are sprinting happily into the future of comics, whatever that may be.

Monday, October 25, 2010

KC Green's "The Skull of Regret": The Movie

Whew. There's been so much KC Green around the Internets lately. First, the Gunshow creator is revealed as Topatoco's new funployee (meaning we'll see bunches of him on Jeffrey Rowland's comic Overcompensating). Now, "The Skull of Regret," Green's Pictures for Sad Children guest comic, has been adapted for the YouTube. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Saucesome Goes to San Francisco

Cruising around the Alternative Press Expo last weekend, I got a chance to meet Sarah Becan and it was -- dare I say? -- sauceome. Becan is every bit as friendly and approachable as her comics would suggest, and she seemed genuinely surprised and delighted that her very personal comic about body image and health has found such wide appeal. I also picked up a copy of her print comic The Complete Ouija Interviews which has a very simple premise and style, but manages to be quite creepy and sad.

It was doubly exciting for me when Becan posted her I think you're sauceome comics from the APE weekend, and saw one of my personal favorite eateries made it in. Becan was staying in Hayes Valley, not far from where I lived in San Francisco, and ate at the Lower Haight outlet of Rosamunde. Do not underestimate the deliciousness of duck and fig sausage.

Okay, so this probably isn't nearly as exciting to anyone else as it is to me. But it's not often that I get to see my real world cross with the webcomics world.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ch-Ch-Changes: The New Pictures for Sad Children

I realize I'm particularly susceptible to this sort of thing, but Pictures for Sad Children depresses the hell out of me. For personal reasons, I had to give up depressing media a while back after crying while watching Caprica one to many times. But I couldn't give up Pictures for Sad Children. It's bleak. It's cynical. But it's also terribly smart.

It has also been, up until last week, a very simple comic, visually. Like Dinosaur Comics before it, Pictures for Sad Children has been a very specific artform, one who impact is heightened by its spare art.

More recently, though, John Campbell has been experimenting with his art form, presenting his comics as book art. Campbell says he was inspired by his recent art show to experiment more with his style.

I'm always excited to see the next stage in a cartoonist's evolution. After all, what is the Internet for if not to give artists a space to grow? (Oh right: voyeurism.) But what I'm really interested to see is if and how these experiments change Campbell's writing style.

[Pictures for Sad Children]

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Gabrielle Bell Takes on Comic Con

On the list of things I've been enjoying immensely is Gabrielle Bell's "San Diego ComicCon Comicumentary," where diarist Bell chronicles her early misadventures at San Diego Comic Con, then gives a blow-by-blow of this past year's absurdity. Comic Con diary comics are always fun, but this one features mysteries (Who keeps sending anonymous gifts to Gabrielle and her friends?) and celebrity cameos (including Bell's ex-boyfriend, director Michel Gondry, and her friend cartoonist Ariel Schrag).

The Comicumentary is already eight hefty pages long and still going strong.

San Diego ComicCon Comicumentary [Lucky]

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lucy Knisley Illustrates Her Breakup

I admit, I've been silently cursing Lucy Knisley for going so long without updating her webcomic. I realize my impatience isn't fair; Knisley's dealing with a rough breakup and a consequential move, but I need my brain crack, dammit.

Earlier this week, it finally occurred to me to scoot on over to Knisley's LiveJournal to see if she'd left any breadcrumbs there. To my surprise and delight, I saw that not only has Knisley been busy cartooning, she's got a 25-page comic available for digital download. Score!

 "Salvaged Parts" is a set of short pieces about Knisley's recent upheaval centered around a handful of objects -- a bedframe, a bicycle, a skateboard, and an unusual family heirloom. It's a neat complement to the essays at Stop Paying Attention, and at $2, it's well worth the price if you've been jonesing for more Knisley.

Salvaged Parts [Lucy Knisley's LiveJournal]

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Webcomickers Preparing to Peddle Smut

Now this is exciting.

Spike Trotman, the immensely talented cartoonist behind Templar, Arizona, is pulling together comics of the smutty kind. Inspired by the Smut Peddler minicomic anthologies published by Saucy Goose Press, Spike is collecting her own Smut Peddler anthology -- this one a square-bound, full-sized book. And each pornographic story will be written or drawn by a woman (if not written and drawn by women).

And she's got some amazing talent lined up so far:

Spike of Templar, Arizona
Erika Moen of DAR!
Jess Fink of Chester 5000 XYV
Lee Blauersouth of Godseeker
EK Weaver of The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal
Tom Siddell of Gunnerkrigg Court
Mary Magdalene and Mr. Darcy of Curvy
Kel McDonald of Sorcery 101
Ben Riley of Heliothaumic
Magnolia Porter of Bobwhite
Diana Nock of The Intrepid Girlbot
Amanda Lafrenais of Love Me Nice
Lin R. Visel of Effort Comics
Ross Campbell of Wet Moon

Want to get in on all the hot comics action? Spike is still looking for contributors (and she's paying). The deadline is December 31st, 2011, so you'll have plenty of time to practice drawing weiners. Check out the submission guidelines here and the FAQ here.

Smut Peddler Proposal [Iron Circus]

Friday, September 17, 2010

Want to work for TopatoCo?

Okay, this may be the greatest job listing ever.

I don't know anyone in the Easthampton/Northampton area looking for I job, but I think it would be fun to work for TopatoCo.

Then again, maybe I'm just curious to see how I'd look in Overcompensating.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How you can be as popular as The Oatmeal

Matthew Inman, creator of the absurdly well-trafficked The Oatmeal, explains how you, too, can get 5 million visitors to your website. Apparently you should 1) be really funny, 2) constantly come up with cool ideas, 3) write about things everyone is thinking about but no one talks about, 4) write grabby headlines, and 5) be an SEO ninja.

Of course. It's so obvious now.

[via Metafilter]

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Danielle Corsetto gives "All New Issues" a helping hand

Last week, I wrote an email to a friend where I commented that Girls with Slingshots is "the best comic on the Internet. I have no idea why." But when I think about it, there are plenty of reasons why GWS is so wonderful and so resonant. Danielle Corsetto is a highly instinctive cartoonist, someone who makes her art with little calculation (but I suspect she's a workhorse, too; her comics are always so polished -- and now they're in color!). She's content to let Hazel make mistakes and draw the ire and eye-rolling of the readers. Her characters openly discuss sex, but in a natural, "this is how life is" sort of way, never a "hey look, cute girls talking about naughty things" way. Her characters do stupid things sexually, but the recent storyline where everyone gets tested for STDs felt more like an airing of dirty laundry (intelligent, educated people can still be morons once the genitals come out) than an after school special. Okay, so maybe it was a little bit of an after school special, but one that was realistic rather than overly moralizing.

Corsetto takes risks. If she feels like having a kitty-centric crossover with her buddy Randy Milholland, then we'll be treated to squishy pink kittens. But even at her most self-indulgent, she still puts out a high-quality product that is accessible to her audience and in keeping with her characters and their history. Oh, and it's funny.

In the latest storyline, Corsetto has brought in Robyn, who we're told is Hazel's cousin. Robyn just happens to be a character from All New Issues, a new comic by Corsetto's friend Bill Ellis. Corsetto has been pimping All New Issues hard. It's a cute comic, and it has a bit in common with GWS, both in visual style and tone. And now it looks like Corsetto is hoping to drive a few more readers Ellis' way by having his fledgling comic crossover with her venerable one. It also means that we're seeing GWS simultaneously crossover with All New Issues and Something Positive.

And you know what? I dig it. It's a gentle way to promote another creator's work, and I suspect that, for folks who haven't been reading All New Issues, it's pretty unobtrusive.

I just worry that when Girls with Slingshots ends, we're going to find out the entire series only exists in Tommy Westphall's imagination, and the whole webcomics universe will crumble in on itself.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

On Webcomics and Reddit

I spend more time on reddit than I probably should. For an Internet addict like myself, there's really no better resource for ephemera and offbeat articles -- and I cringe to think how much time I've wasted perusing the Ask Reddit and Ask Me Anything sections.

Smaller websites tend to find more success on reddit than the somewhat more famous Digg, so it's not surprising that a handful of webcomickers regularly submit their comics to reddit in hopes of finding a wider audience. Comics like Oglaf (NSFW) and Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal can now expect a steady stream of traffic from reddit every time they post a new comic.

But dealing with reddit's active community can be frustrating. Reddit has a lot of great qualities, but many of its more vocal community members are shockingly misogynistic (and no more so than when someone points this out), politically rigid (Ron Paul being the favorite in the last presidential election), cynical to a fault, and will proudly announce that they "don't get" the appeal of something, as if it's the creator's fault for not tailoring it to their interests. The Comics and Webcomics subreddits tend to see the same comics float to the top over and over again.

And woe be to the creator who crosses the reddit community. Last week, there was a bit of a tempest in the comics subreddit's teapot when an anonymous poster revealed that members of Webcomics.com (a subscription-only website for webcomics creators) had a reddit upvote thread where members would upvote each other on reddit. Technically, this is a violation of "reddiquette," the rules redditors are asked to follow.

Okay, so first of all, I'm not a member of Webcomics.com, but it's kind of a dick move to post screencaps of a private website on a public one, especially over something so small. The anonymous poster could have just as easily sent the screencaps to the subreddit's moderators and let them deal with it. The poster apparently felt some personal ire toward Scott Kurtz, and the post seemed more about embarrassing Webcomics.com than fixing a problem in the reddit community.

As I've mentioned before, I used to run a social voting website, and I've found that violations like these are usually pretty innocent. People get super excited about promoting their content and sometimes they go a bit overboard. I'd guess that most -- if not all -- of the webcomickers in this thread had no idea that they were violating reddit's terms. After all, Digg has long legitimized so-called voting cliques with its "shout" feature. Plus, I'm not sure how much effect these voting cliques really have; reddit is a pretty sophisticated system, and I suspect that a bunch of voters coming from the same page would be canceled out.

Still, many (vocal) redditors were outraged by the revelation. How dare these webcomickers not realize that reddit is the most important site on the Internet? How could they not know the terms and conditions chapter and verse? What makes them think they can use reddit as a self-promotion and not engage with the community? Because really, who wouldn't want to engage with these lovely commenters?

Alright, kids. Lesson learned: just say no to voting cliques. But how do you get yourself some of that sweet reddit traffic? The short answer is that not everyone will. Some comics simply aren't built for reddit; it's yet another spot where long-form epic comics are at a disadvantage. Gag comics do better, although it seems to help if they're geeky, surreal, ribald, cynical, or somehow point out the irrationality of women. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule; I wouldn't have discovered Luke Pearson's gorgeous short comics if not for reddit. But it's telling that some folks go so far as to make comics specifically for reddit. Matthew Inman  of The Oatmeal has basically built a business (and from what I gather, a rather successful one) around writing comics aimed at the Digg/reddit crowd. And then there's this post, which hits on the magic formula: boobies + talking about reddit = the upvotes.

Just because redditors have very specific tastes doesn't mean webcomickers shouldn't try to market to them. After all, redditors are missing out on some great content. I was encouraged to see someone submit a stand-alone single-pager from Octopus Pie, and even more encouraged to see it receive some nice attention. Sometimes, getting attention from reddit (and other similar sites) may be a matter of choosing the right page or coming up with a catchy title. And yes, it may also mean participating in the community, dropping comments in the "What webcomics should I read?" threads or just saying, "Hey, here's a comic I enjoy."

Whenever I come to the end of one of these rambles, I tend to come to the same conclusion: that's it's we readers, not just creators, who need to step up when it comes to marketing their favorite webcomics. Great content is great, but it doesn't always stand on its own. Sometimes it needs a little boost, and those of us who use social media sites like reddit should pipe up and talk about the comics we love.

Ugh, I guess I've talked myself into engage more with the reddit community. Thanks, brain.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Box Brown Takes on the Alpha and the Omega

Box Brown doesn't waste any time. No sooner has he wrapped up the romantic Bellen! than he launches the site for his latest comic, Everything Dies.

Unlike Bellen!, Everything Dies began life as a print comic, and Brown now has four issues available fore sale. The comic looks at religion, myth, transcendental knowledge, and, of course, what happens to us when we die. They're issues Brown has touched on lightly in his book Love is a Peculiar Type of Thing, but Everything Dies is a more thorough meditation, examining the Book of Job, creation and apocalypse stories, Mormon beliefs, and Buddhist wisdom.

The Everything Dies website offers a taste of Brown's religious travels -- three "web exclusive" stories -- and I'm mightily impressed at how his visual style has grown in the past several years. I'm not a particular fan of "Demonstrable Proof," simply because it doesn't add much to the atheist's manifesto (although perhaps it codifies it), but the imagery is striking. And the style carries through the more narrative "Christ of the Ozarks," which details the life of Gerald L.K. Smith, the controversial (read: anti-Semitic and racist) political figure who commissioned the giant statue of (Caucasian) Jesus near Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

My favorite of the stories so far -- and the most revealing -- is "Pre-Need," where Brown outlines what he would like to see happen upon his death. So much of religion involves the stories we tell about death and what comes next, and Brown spins a comforting death for himself. He imagines himself getting old, dying in a hospital, surrounded by loving family, leaving behind friends who mourn his death -- but not too much. For all of Brown's personal detachment from religious faith, he still hangs on to that very vulnerable, very human desire to control the circumstances of his death and what happens next. It works nicely as a personal prologue before his adventures into other people's beliefs.

Now I can't wait to see those end-of-the-world stories.

[Everything Dies]

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mimi and Eunice Sing the Copyright Blues

Nina Paley, best known for the Ramayana-and-jazz-flavored animation Sita Sings the Blues, has ventured into the webcomics world with Mimi and Eunice, a three-panel meditation on religion, politics, and other aspects of the human condition. And, after Paley's trials and tribulations with song licensing for Sita Sings the Blues, Mimi and Eunice have plenty to say about copyright.

[Mimi and Eunice via The Beat]

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Columns from Either End of the Webcomics Career Spectrum

There's that great speech at the end of Ratatouille where the restaurant critic Anton Ego -- who's had his icy heart thawed by a well-executed mesh of eggplants, peppers, and herbes de Provence -- notes that while not everyone can cook, a great chef can be anyone and come from anywhere. That's more or less true about webcomics. The Internet allows unprecedented access to webcomic creators, meaning webcomickers can come from anywhere and webcomics can be about anything. But not just anyone is going to become a successful webcomic creator. Even accounting for different definitions of success, successful webcomicking takes resolve, hard work, luck, and maybe even a smidgen of talent.

Plenty of comickers have have offered blanket advice to aspiring comic creators that can't be dismissed: draw everyday, don't fear failure, connect with other creators. But that's very different from creators actually reflecting on their experiences.

Fortunately, the world wide web has gifted us with two multi-part columns on webcomics: Brad Guigar's "Ten Years of Webcomics" and Sam Costello's "On My Own in Independent Comics." It's worth checking out both as Guiger and Costello are in such different places in their webcomics lives. Guigar, who created Greystone Inn, Evil Inc., Phables, and Courting Disaster, is one of the more venerable forces in webcomics. He's seen the rise and fall of Keenspot, founded Blank Label Comics, written a book on making webcomics, and had his strips published in newspapers.

Costello, by contrast, is a relative newbie to the webcomics scene. Where Greystone Inn and Evil Inc. are both long-form, syndication-style strips, Costello's comic Split Lip is an anthology that's more comic book than comic strip. And, while Split Lip does have two print volumes to its name, Costello is still an amateur in the literal sense of the world. Split Lip doesn't make him any significant amount of money -- in fact, it costs him quite a bit to operate. Perhaps most significantly, unlike most webcomickers, Costello isn't a cartoonist. He scripts the individual stories and hires artists to illustrate them (incidentally, someone will have to explain to me why Argentina has more cartoonists-for-hire per capita than anyplace else).

Guigar's column is, appropriately, more of a reflection on his career in webcomics -- and by extension, the history of webcomics. He talks about working with different webcomics collectives, his decision to try different kinds of comics projects, podcasting, charitable work, and setting up Webcomics.com. Costello's column is geared more directly at his fellow neophyte cartoonists, outlining his personal victories and stumbles, discussing his writing regime, and revealing his bottom line (As I'm learning from personal experience, paying artists per page adds up. Oof.).

I also woke up this morning to see DJ Coffman (Hero By Night, Yirmumah) plugging his ebook Cash for Cartoonists, which promises to teach cartoonists the $ecret$ of making the big bucks. I suppose the fact that I'm familiar with Coffman largely because an acquaintance hired him to draw the pitch pages for her comic says something about his money making powers, but the book costs forty-seven freaking dollars (for an ebook no less!), and his pitch reminds me of all those "make money from home" listings I keep flagging on Craigslist. It's going to take more than a few testimonials to shovel off the pound of salt that comes with those claims.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Morning Reading: Tuesday Moon

A little bit of cuteness for a Tuesday morning: Todd Webb brings us "Tuesday Moon," a short story about a girl named Tuesday who, after a no-good day, has a brief nighttime adventure with the Man in the Moon.

It's a simple, sweet little story -- the perfect antidote to a rough day.

[via reddit]

Monday, August 23, 2010

"The Hunger Games" Fan Comic

I probably read more YA fiction than any person in her late twenties should, and I'm a total sucker for Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy. While my fingers are twitching in anticipation of the third and final volume, now I at least have something to tide me over.

Faith Erin Hicks (artist and author of Zombie Calling and artist for Brain Camp) drew a five-page fan comic of the opening of The Hunger Games. It's presented without text, although it looks like Hicks was working with a script that includes text. And, in just a few pages, she manages to capture the grim depression of the coal town where Katniss Everdeen lives. Folks on Twitter are already calling for Scholastic to hire Hicks for a full-length adaptation. As much as I'd love to see a Hunger Games graphic novel, I wonder if Scholastic would actually go for it. After all, the Hunger Games series centers around an annual Battle Royale-style murder game (minus the panty shots). It's one thing for kiddies to read about teenagers slaughtering one another, and quite another thing to actually watch it unfold. Then again, Lionsgate has already acquired the movie rights, so maybe all bets are off.

The Hunger Games [Faith Erin Hicks via Raina Telgemeier]

Friday, August 20, 2010

Xander Harris Makes a Webcomic

If minor celebrities are jumping on the webcomics bandwagon, does that make webcomics trendy?

I only ask because of yesterday's news from Robot 6 that Nicholas Brendan -- best known for his role as Xander Harris on Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- plans to launch a webcomic called Very Bad Koalas this September. To the best of my knowledge, this makes Brendan the second Buffy alum to write a webcomic; Emma Caulfield, Brendan's on-screen girlfriend, is the wordsmith behind the thinly amusing Contropussy.

What's behind this, I wonder. Two people could hardly be considered a trend (even if they were on the same TV show), but so many celebs (including Tyrese and Rashida Jones) have attached their names to print comics with visions of producer credits dancing in their head. Contropussy and Very Bad Koalas don't seem destined for the big screen, but could these be test drives for animated cable series?

Buffy co-star Nicholas Brendan is launching a webcomic [Robot 6]

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Drinking at the Movies: The Fart Party (Almost) Grows Up

When I moved to San Francisco, several people informed me that I had to start reading The Fart Party. Like a lot of people, I was a bit put off by the title (and it didn't help matters that one of the first pages I read involved Julia Wertz decapitating a guy and then shitting down his neck hole), but I quickly fell in love with Wertz's no-nonsense art style and her foul-mouthed forthrightness. And it wasn't just me; amidst all the flashier comics on my shelves, The Fart Party is most frequently picked up and read by house guests.

There has always been a teasing quality to The Fart Party, however. The books have been, in many ways, a character study of Wertz herself (or at least a study of the person Wertz thinks she is). Although there are snatches of the narrative of her life -- her relationship with her boyfriend Oliver and their subsequent breakup, her drug-addicted her brother, the food service jobs she picks up and quits -- they never quite rose to the level of memoir.

All that changes with Drinking at the Movies, Wertz's full-length, fully reflective graphic memoir. As soon as it opens, we know this is going to be a more dramatic and more thoughtful book than the first two Fart Party volumes. Wertz comes to at 3am the morning after her birthday in a laundromat, wearing her pajamas, eating Cracker Jacks, and wondering if she doesn't have a wee drinking problem. From there, we flash back to several months earlier, when Wertz decides to leave familiar San Francisco for the wilds of Brooklyn.

The book chronicles Wertz's first year in Brooklyn, including coping with her brother's occasional overdoses, changing apartments as often as she changes jobs (which is to say, frequently), downing far too much whiskey, visiting family (and judging them), and being her usual charming self. With all that, Drinking at the Movies could have been a drearily serious work, but it's all done very much in the style of the previous Fart Party books, with the humor knife always pointed squarely at Wertz's own eye. She mocks her tendency to grumble about her brother's latest fall from the wagon while downing six-packs of beer. When she gets herself fired from one of her better jobs, you don't have to slap your palm against your face because she's already done it for you. She still jokes about her misanthropic tendencies and her favorite low-brow forms of entertainment.

But she also captures something magical about being a 20-something urbanite responsible for no one but herself. The title comes from one of Wertz's favorite Brooklyn pastimes; when her apartment gets a bit too crowded, she indulges in boozy late-night trips to the movies, where she revels in being young, foolish, and alone. It's not a lifestyle Wertz can (or should) keep up forever, but it's one that has it's own simple delights.

I've seen Drinking at the Movies described as a coming-of-age story, but Julia isn't quite an adult by the end. It ends at that moment before adulthood, when you start to sense that you need to make changes in your life, when you think you might someday soon become comfortable with yourself, when you find a place that's beginning to feel like home. It's still clear, though, that when Julia finally becomes a grown-up, her adulthood will still have plenty of poop jokes.

Drinking at the Movies will be available August 31st, and you can pre-order it on Amazon.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Art Shows for Sad Children

"We are Sex Bob-Omb and we are here to make you think about death and make you sad and stuff!"

Oh wait, wrong comic.

John Campbell, creator of the consistently depressing (though strangely compelling) Pictures for Sad Children, had an art show. It's not entirely clear where the show was, but you can see the photos on his tumblr.

It'll make you think about art and make you sad and stuff.

low self-esteem makes you worthless [Boo Hoo Hoo via MeFi]

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dinosaur Guest Comics: Wedding Edition

Okay, so I tend to think that guest webcomics are pretty much the best thing since sliced webcomics. But there's something extra special about last week's crop of Dinosaur Comics guest comics. Creator Ryan North got himself married over the weekend, and there were plenty of love-themed guest comics throughout the week.

Some of the guest comickers use their own characters and styles, but other reinterpret North's own brand of clip art haiku. If you don't already read Dinosaur Comics, check out the fabulous guest strips from John Allison (Bad Machinery), David Malki! (Wondermark), Anthony Clark (Nedroid), Joel Watson (HijiNKS Ensue), Jeph Jacques (Questionable Content), Wes & Tony (Amazing Superpowers), Sam Logan (Sam and Fuzzy), Zach Weiner (Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal), Jeff Rowland (Overcompensating), and Michael Firman (Moe).

Friday, August 13, 2010

Webcomics to Print: Shi Long Pang, The Wandering Shaolin Monk

I have a lot of respect for people who write historical fiction.

I have even more respect for people who so thoroughly internalize their research that they're able to make their books funny. And let's face it, a history lesson goes down better with a scoop of honeyed humor.

Shi Long Pang, The Wandering Shaolin Monk (shortened in print form to Pang, The Wandering Shaolin Monk) is set in 1675 China, a time when the newly established Qing Dynasty was battling revolts in its provinces and the famed Shaolin Monastery may have been destroyed. It's an era of political and social upheaval, one that Western audiences aren't intimately familiar with, and yet Ben Costa manages to make his book fun.

Shi Long Pang is, as the title says, a Shaolin monk who has escaped the violent destruction of his temple. He has wandered into a walled city -- with little understanding of current events -- in hopes of finding his fellow Shaolin brothers. After being taken in by a kindly innkeeper, Pang befriends the man's lovely daughter and, like Aeneas in Carthage, relates the tragedy that brought him to this point.

I've always heard that Shi Long Pang was supposed to be a great comic, but the handful of times I've attempted to read it online, I've never gotten very far. Reading the print volume, I finally understood why. The first 50 pages are dense, packed with information on the Three Feudatories War and Wu Sangui, the former Qing general who will later try to crown himself emperor of China. It certainly reads well on the page, but it just isn't suited to my often ADD webcomic reading.

But it's that attention to historical detail that makes Pang such a rich read. The early infodump is a bit overwhelming, but it's clear those bits of historical knowledge will be important down the line. And Pang, who's spent his life cloistered in the monastery, needs to understand the war that's going on just as he needs to feel that first stirring in his loins at the sight of the innkeeper's niece. And once we've gotten a handle on the larger political situation in China, Costa settles into a much more balanced blend of the historical and the fictional, tempered by his witty use of comic captions and some bona fide jokes, which manage to be funny even when they require footnotes.

Of course, if it's action you're after, Pang has that payoff in spades:

The bumbling protagonist is a very difficult character to pull off. Is he selectively competent? Lucky? Does his heart of gold trump any adversity he faces? Costa has solved this by making Pang a devout and competent monk, but a not-entirely-on-the-ball human being. Yes, Pang is sometimes guided more firmly by his stomach than his brain; he's naive and inexperienced in the ways of the world; he fails to understand how standing up for truth, justice, and the Shaolin Way can result in harm to innocent people. But he's steadfast and trustworthy (if not always reliable), and his wushu is a pretty powerful life skill. Pang isn't a bumbler so much as he is an incomplete person, a relative child waiting to be formed by his experiences in the world. Perhaps that's why Costa renders him so simply; unlike the rest of the characters, Pang has no nose, no ears, and no chin to speak of. He has just enough facial features to register his emotions.

Costa has just printed the first volume of Pang with the aid of a Xeric Grant, and it's a wonderfully complete opening volume. In addition to the historical state of the union and Pang's backstory, our hero manages to have a complete story of his own in what is clearly just the beginning of a larger epic.

[Shi Long Pang]
Order Pang, The Wandering Shaolin Monk, Volume 1

Disclosure: I've asked Ben Costa if he would contribute to a project I'm working on, and he has agreed to consider it. I have tried not to allow that to influence my review.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Jess Fink is a Five-Year-Old

Jess Fink, she of the fabulously NSFW Chester 5000 XYV (Robots and corsets and foursomes, oh my!) and the Picard-loving Star Trek: TNG review comics, has launched a brand spanking new webcomic. There's only one entry up over at Kid With Experience, but it looks like an autobiographical comic, probably with an emphasis on Fink's little kid nature.

There's not much to say about it so far, but this one gets an automatic add into the RSS reader. I heart Jess Fink, and I'm always a sucker for a good autobio comic.

Kid With Experience [Jess Fink]

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ctrl+Alt+Del: The Liveblog Review

So I have a confession to make: I've never read Ctrl+Alt+Del. It probably makes me a bad webcomic fan, but there are a good chunk of venerable old webcomics I've never dived into, and I don't read a lot of gamer comics. I'm aware that the comic doesn't have a great reputation and that it's particularly loathed for its miscarriage plotline, but I never know if that's genuine criticism or just compulsory Internet hate.

Fortunately, El Santo at The Webcomic Overlook isn't one for bashing on comics without cause. This week, he decided to take on Ctrl+Alt+Del and find out if it's as bad as so many people claim. He liveblogged his impressions of his CAD archive binge with pretty hilarious results -- although he's fair enough to examine why the comic remains so popular. Part one reviews CAD before its Big Dramatic Moment, and part two reviews the strips that come later.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lucy Knisley and Erika Moen's In-Comic Conversation

Once upon a time, a pair of queer, female autobiographical cartoonists decided to have a conversation -- not a chat on the phone, not passing messages over email, but a conversation tucked neatly into the four walls of a comic panel. Erika Moen and Lucy Knisley decided to attempt a collaborative comic with a simple premise: the two take turns drawing and writing an intimate conversation about comics, sex, and identity politics. One artist would draw half a panel, then pass it on to the other, who would finish the panel and then start the next. The result is Drawn to You, a rambling, unscripted dialogue that sets Moen's thick, energetic lines against Knisley's careful, fine ones.

If you're like me, and you already love Moen and Knisley and you enjoy getting a little inside baseball on the comic-making process, Drawn to You is a delightful way to spend an hour. The pair talk about their anxieties around making comics (Is cartooning an innately selfish career? Why does representing one member of a particular group always seem to infuriate other members of the same group?), their sexual identities (both were, at the time, in long-term relationships with men but have dated women in the past), and the artistic perils of being a girl cartoonist (Moen worries that her fart humor, stripper-ogling comics garner so much acclaim because she's female; Knisley flinches at the stigma of being called "cute"). For those not already familiar with their work, Drawn to You might not be the best place to start, although it would be an interesting teaser (although it might send people running for Erika's mini comics or Lucy's art school anthology).

My one complaint about Drawn to You: I'd like it to be about ten times longer and organized by topic. As it stands, Drawn to You feels like the graphic version of a podcast, with two creators interviewing each other and shooting the shit. If Moen and Knisley were to continue it as a series (either with each other cartoonists), this book would stand as a stronger single entry.

Drawn to You [Erika Moen's Totally Awesome Goods]

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Webcomics to Print: Split Lip, Vol. 2

So there's that old yarn about the babysitter. You know the one. She's just put the kids to bed when she starts receiving unnerving phone calls -- heavy breathing, maybe a scratchy voice on the other end, maybe he tells her to check the children. The babysitter hangs up and tries to ignore the calls, but the caller becomes more and more persistent until fed up, she calls the operator to find out who keeps calling.

After a minute, the operator tells her to get out of the house as fast as she can. The calls are coming from inside the house.

Now, sure, there are versions of the story that extend beyond that. There are versions where the babysitter successfully fends off the stranger in the house. There are versions where it's just the children or their father playing a prank. There are versions where the stranger slaughters everyone in the house. But in my memory, the story ends right there, when the babysitter learns the disturbing truth about her evening.

Those are the sorts of stories that dominate the second volume of Sam Costello's horror anthology Split Lip -- stories that end at the moment of the terrible revelation. A knife flashes, a monster is pulled from the shadows, and the story ends. These are atmospheric tales rather than narrative ones, stories made to unsettle and chill.

For those unfamiliar with Split Lip, Costello writes all of the stories, then has a different cartoonist illustrate each one. This allows him to match different scripts with radically different art styles. The Lovecraft-inspired "On the Plateau" looks like a pulp, while tenement terror "The Harvestmen" is appropriately sketchy and grim. Costello has a real knack for matching artists with his tales, and in Volume Two, they're especially up to the task.

Although the art here is strong, the stories don't quite hold up to Split Lip, Volume One. Volume One had the brilliant look left, throw right "Straw Men," the chillingly lovely "Mujer," the simple but effective "Headin' South." There are a couple of gems in Volume Two, notably "Face Blind" -- perhaps Costello's most visually striking piece -- and "Bad Radio," whose scary-because-it-could-be-true plot finds its perfect mate in Nelson Evergreen's realistic watercolors. But the longer, more narrative pieces, like Paris-based mystical mystery "Se Perdre" and Rapture-themed "Ashes to Ashes," are short on texture, and ultimately forgettable against the shorter stories. But overall, it's pure Split Lip spirit: a neat mix of horror subgenres that borrows from the classics while coming up with plenty of ideas of its own.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that there's a blurb written by me on the back cover. It's from a piece on horror webcomics I wrote a while back, and it's a mostly descriptive line. For the record, Costello never asked me to endorse Split Lip (I'm told courtesy is to ask permission to include use a blurb, but I can't say I minded), he only requested my (impartial) review.