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.