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]