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Cameron Stewart on the stigma of webcomics

Cameron Stewart of Sin Titulo is embarking on a tour across Canada, the US, and England to promote the print version. Robot 6 guest contributor David Scheidt interviews him. Of particular interest to me is Mr. Stewart’s insights into the world of webcomics, and the differences in perceptions between webcomic audiences and traditional comics fans.

I hate to admit this, but I had no idea this comic existed until I saw it on the shelves at Challengers, and I’m fairly familiar with your work. I just assumed it was a new graphic novel you released that I somehow didn’t hear about.

It is new to a lot of people because there are a lot of people out there who just don’t like reading webcomics. There’s an opportunity there to treat it as a new book.

There definitely seems to be a distinction between webcomics readers and traditional comics readers. Where do you think Sin Titulo fits between those two worlds?

A lot of webcomics seem to be these humor strips or long-running, almost soap opera-type things. I didn’t want it to be a humor strip or something that I’d want to run indefinitely. I set out to do it as a finite story, even though I started it not knowing what it was gonna be. The end game was always to have it in print. I definitely like using the Internet for publishing comics — I think it’s a really, really valuable too, and in a way I think it’s much better than self-publishing. It’s closer in spirit to typical, printed graphic novels compared to other webcomics.

Yeah, It seems like a lot people already have a preconceived notion of what webcomics are. It’s great that more and more that different genres are popping up, since it’s just as capable a medium as print comics.

Absolutely. I think a lot of people kind of look down on webcomics. I won an Eisner Award for it [Sin Titulo] for the category Best Webcomic and it doesn’t really seem to me be fairly judged against other webcomics, but there’s a stigma kind of attached to them. Almost like they aren’t considered real comics. One of the things I wanted to do was, because I already had an established career in print comics with Marvel and DC and mainstream comics, I wanted to be if not the first, one of the early people to go and attempt a serious work on the web in that medium and to see if it was successful, and hopefully by doing that encourage other major names to do the same.

The stuff Mark Waid and all the creators at Thrillbent have been doing with digital comics, those could just as well be print comics but they are created and played to the strengths of the digital medium.

I think there’s no distinction certainly between what’s possible in the medium. I don’t think there is any distinction really, between webcomics and print comics other than your reading them on a computer or tablet rather than in print. I think as time goes on, as digital comics grow in popularity, I think that distinction will fall away completely. I don’t think there will be a distinction between the two. It’ll just be the same thing.

Why is this interesting to me? Well, mainly because webcomics have been around two decades, and it seems folks are still talking about how the distinction between print and digital will fall away. Maybe so, but I think fans for Thrillbent and Comixology offerings will always be a distinct crowd from the webcomics group in the same way that fans of Marvel and DC aren’t necessarily the same fans as those of Peanuts and Calvin & Hobbes.

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The Webcomic Overlook 2010 Eisner round-up

Now that I’ve done reviews for all the Eisner candidates, it’s time for the guessing game everyone loves to play: who’s going home with the Award? This year’s crop proves to be one of the strongest categories by far.

But let’s never forget that the Eisner voting body has a different thought process than you or I. After all, if you looked at the nominees in 2007, you might have predicted that the award would have gone to the immensely popular Girl Genius (reviewed here) or the delightful black humor of Minus (reviewed here). There’s probably even good cause to root for Bee or Phables. Who could have foreseen that a 12-page Sam & Max: The Big Sleep comic (reviewed here) written for Telltale Games would emerge the winner? Truly the ways of the Eisner voting body are strange and mysterious.

Thus, along with my pros and cons, I am including a Sugarshock-o-meter, named after Joss Whedon’s 2008 Eisner winning effort (which I reviewed here). It’s perhaps the most reliable gauge in determining the true winner. Who will joing an illustrious pantheon that includes Finder, Sugarshock!, Sam & Max, PvP, and Mom’s Cancer? Let’s find out.

Power Out

The webcomic in brief: No video games and no computer makes boy get really, really horny.

Pros: With the unflinching scenes of self-centerness and loneliness, Nathan Schreiber’s comic feels the most awkwardly personal out of all the nominees.

Cons: There is a scene with a naked granny, which is one naked granny scene too many. Also, that main character … Justin? Kind of a chump.

Sugarshock-o-meter: 57/100. The very first Best Digital Comic winner was the sunnily titled Mom’s Cancer. Power Out has a chance if the Eisner voting body wants to return to its more introspective roots. However, Act-i-vate is always the bridesmaid and never the bride when it comes to these things.

Full review can be found here.

The Guns of Shadow Valley

The webcomic in brief: Superpowered cowboys, assemble!

Pros: I mentioned the superpowered cowboys, right? Plus, I appreciate the nod given to the Chinese people who helped build the railroad. It’s got some wonderfully detailed Wild West illustrations, which would not look out of place hanging on the living room walls of some Wild West aficionados I know.

Cons: But who really likes cowboys anyway? I mean, I frikkin’ adore old Westerns, but I also understand that’s not necessarily a popular pursuit anymore. Attempts to jazz ‘em up have met with mixed success: for every Shanghai Noon, there’s a Wild, Wild West. Also, John Henry — the most famous African American Tall Tale character — is Chinese now? Shenanigans! Better keep your hands offa Annie Christmas, is all I’m sayin’.

Sugarshock-o-meter: 68/100. The comic is nice visually, and it packs plenty of action, but it doesn’t quite match the depth of the other four entries. While heavily action-oriented comics can win Eisners — Astonishing X-Men (2006), The Umbrella Academy (2008) — it just doesn’t happen very often.

Full review can be found here.

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The 2010 Eisner Nominations have arrived!

Comics Beat reports that the 2010 Eisner Nominations have been released. Here are your candidates for Best Digital Comic:

Based on the strength of the two nominees I’m familiar with (plus the positive word-of-mouth I’ve heard about Bayou), I’d say that this is a fairly strong list this time around. Last year, I wrote a two-part overview of the 2009 Eisner nominees. I plan on doing the same thing next month. So watch this space for my take on the nominees, plus my predictions on the winners.

Also representing webcomics: Josh Neufeld’s A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge (reviewed here) — which began its life as a webcomic and went on to garner critical acclaim from Wired, Rolling Stone, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, among others — gets a nomination for “Best Graphic Album – Reprint.”

EDIT: Lauren Davis also has her own take on the Eisner nominees up at her site. Her blog, Storming the Tower, has always been great webcomics-related reading, so check it out when you can. She’s much happier about the 2010 nominees than the 2009 version (like I am). She does wonder, though, whether a long relationship in print comics impacts chances of winning.

Quick news post: You’ve got your Sin Titulo in my Batman & Robin

Cameron Stewart — whose webcomic, Sin Titulo, was reviewed here — is apparently the next artist, after Phillip Tan’s run, for the highly acclaimed Batman & Robin series, as reported by The Beat. Now, I do like Mr. Stewart’s art. However, he’s got some BIG shoes to fill.

The artist of the just completed arc, Frank Quitely, is an absolute powerhouse when paired with Grant Morrison. Every collaboration has been memorable: All Star Superman, the New X-Men, WE3…. Stewart has worked with Morrison before on Seaguy, but it’s hard not to shake the feeling that this is a step down. The iFanboy guys in their latest podcasts are already lamenting the departure of Quitely and are patiently counting the days when he returns in the last story arc.

Still, don’t write off Mr. Stewart. His art is moody, atmospheric, and gritty … a perfect fit for the world of Gotham. When I read Sin Titulo, half the story telling was in the panel layouts, which gave me sense of claustrophobia, paranoia, and general unease. If he’d been paired with Morrison from the beginning, I imagine Batman & Robin would still have debuted to the acclaim that the series has today.

I personally will still be collecting the comic. They’re the first single issues I’ve picked up in a long time (as opposed to waiting for the trades), and I plan to continue when Stewart’s on board. Best luck to him!

The Webcomic Overlook #82: Sin Titulo

wcotitle

As I mentioned in my review of The Princess Planet, the Transmission-X webcomic collective has, in my admittedly cluttered mind, been batting at 1.000. Fantastic writing, fantastic artwork, and accessible, friendly creators. Transmission-X is the webcomic gold standard, an admirable example for creators everywhere.

And yet, I was STILL apprehensive about the content of the webcomic for this week’s Webcomic Overlook review. The Abominable Charles Christopher, Kukuburi, and The Princess Planet are all generally peppy, upbeat, colorful, and fanciful. I like those elements in a webcomic. It’s like Pixar in print form. Sin Titulo, by contrast, is dark, noirish, and grounded in the harsh light of reality. It even comes with a “For Mature Readers” tag. There’s nothing sexually explicit in the comic thus far, by the way; the warning is mainly for language and violence.

Also, while I love me some mystery, suspense, and hard-boiled detective novels, noirish comic books are just not my cup o’ Bourbon. I’m not that huge a fan of Sin City, for instance. (Miller sorta lost me with the ninja hookers.)

What to make of Sin Titulo, then? And, a more important question: how do you pronounce the second part of the title? (I’m personally going to go with “Tah-TOO-low.”)

Sin Titulo
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