So this is what my free comics are bagged in today. Truly a first for webcomics.
Also unexpected: Axe Cop action figures?!?!! Huh.
One of the earliest games I’d programmed, though, was some code available in a library book. It was a text based adventure game. I’ve never played Zork, but through cultural osmosis I can tell you it’s something like that. You could type things like “Go West” and get stunning replies like “You can’t go west.” I suppose I have no one to blame for these geographical limitations since I’m the guy who technically programmed them in.
Anyway, this particular game went something like this. Your Uncle Simon has just passed away. One day, you receive a mysterious letter in the mail. After doing some fetch-quest things, you end up activating a portal to another, fantastical world.
Mysterious packages seem de rigeur im adventure settings. It’s a somewhat humble way to receive a ticket to adventure without necessarily having the ambition to follow the hero’s path. Greatness is basically thrust upon you wrapped neatly in brown paper. It’s a gift that drives the hero of Falke’s webcomic, the superhero adventure Parallax.
The AV Club website has been running a weekend piece called the Comics Page. On a periodic basis, new artists are brought in to write a comic that features pop culture commentary. A recent piece by Luke Meeken caught my eye, and I wrote in saying it was a shame that he didn’t do webcomics more often.
He replied back with a link to a previous project he’d worked on, currently archived at his website, Gilded Green. The series, entitled “A. V. Dreamzzz”, are stream-of-consciousness musings about how you process pop culture as you drift off to sleep. For example, leaving your headphones on and mixing up all the different podcasts you have on queue. Meeken heightens the dreamlike state by mixing in animated gifs to great effect. Most other webcomics use these gifs to elicit humor or horror. Here, the effect recalls how you cede control to the dream world in your subconscious.
Animation is one of those tools that are rarely used, likely due to the time commitment in creation and implementation. However, it’s also one of those things that only webcomics can do, and it can never be effectively translated to paper.
People, let me make a stark confession here. I have no idea what’s cool, especially with regards to webcomics. I am a total poser. I pretend like a cool person with some semblance of authority, but the reality is that I am a fraud. I crave the desire to have people look up to me, despite knowing zilch about how to make webcomics or how to judge them by their quality.
These characteristics place me on roughly the same level as Lucy of Never Satisfied. Apparently it’s got quite a few fans. One such is Comics Alliance, which awarded this title as the Best New Webcomic of 2015. “A delightful webcomic by Taylor Robin, with sharp artwork, artful storytelling, and a colorful, diverse cast of characters” raves the revered comic website. Shamefully, I’d never heard of this comic before, but, you know, I’ve already explained my poser credentials.
So since I started blogging about webcomics, I’ve been massively curious about the entire “webtoons” thing. That’s one of the benefits of taking two years off. When you’re blogging consistently, change never seems to happen. It’s mainly because you’re observing things on a constant basis, making actual changes seem static. But the moment you step back, you’re forced to catch up. Every change over the last two years are compressed, and revolutionary events start to shift more into focus.
And webtoons, to me were the most exciting new thing to pop up in quite sometime.
But wait… what are webtoons even? Are they like motion comics or Flash comics or whatever new fad that claims they’re going to replace webcomics? Not exactly. Webtoons are webcomics. Or rather, they’re a term interchangeable with manhwa, which are South Korean webcomics. While similar, webtoons evolved in a path that seemed to favor mobile devices over desktops and laptops. Which is to say: the panels are layed out vertically.
Apparently, quite a few of these became huge successes. Early webtoon Ragnarok became the MMORPG Ragnarok Online. Others have made inroads in TV and movies. Orange Marmalade, a romance webtoon about a vampire girl, ended up getting a live action TV series in 2015.
I’m assuming that there may have been some followers in the West through fan translations. (Hmmmm…. I wonder if manhwa was subject to an entire “subs vs. dubs” debate?) A Google Trends query, though, kinda shows that the term itself didn’t gain much traction until about two years ago. Most of this is probably attributable when publisher Naver launched an English service (snagging the all important webtoons.com domain) in July 2014.
It’s a great looking site, though it’s at the same time daunting and overwhelming. The design reminds me of an iTunes or app store. There are all sorts of different icons representing different comics, and each comes with a mouse-over description and a star rating. Curiously, only a few of them appear to be of the manga-style variety. As part of their branching out into new markets, Naver seems to be adding artists with more Western sensibilities. The one that resembles a traditional webomic the most is Shen’s Bluechair, a slice of life comedy strip.
Once upon a time, two guys write a webcomic about video games. This got everyone’s attention because no one had ever done it before. The comic seemed to say, “Hey guys, we have a hobby that no one has ever made jokes about really. Come here and enjoy our gamer jokes and our references that people in the mainstream won’t make because they think it’s too obscure.”
There guys got successful, and people paid attention. Many readers loved video games too and also loved to draw. Suddenly, new comics seemed to pop up all the time with jokes about video games. People kept reading them and buying T-shirts depicting licensed products like the kind you’d find tightly sandwiched between other shirts on a table at the neighborhood flea market.
But as video games became more mainstream, a lot of the humor seemed tired and repetitive. There are only so many times you can mock politicians who are critical of video game violence, after all. Especially when that fount of rage ceases to become a pressing issue anymore. After almost 20 years, there had to be some way to keep the humor fresh in a world where The Big Bang Theory is the highest rated show on television.
What about a website that combines the internet’s biggest obsession in the aughts: video game webcomics … and cats?
Eisner Awards, eh? What is this malarkey! Some people are bechuffed — bechuffed, I say! — about some of the candidates that were passed over this year! Why, it’s enough to incite a riot!
… OK, so no one is bechuffed. They’re barely even bedraggled. I mean… there’s like a dozen comic-related award ceremonies this year.
But that doesn’t stop Lauren Davis from listing 51 Awesome Webcomics that she believes are deserving of recognition come Eisner time.
The category for Best Digital Comic launched in 2005 and it’s always been perplexing for avid followers of webcomics. We’ve hoped that the category would be an opportunity to highlight independent comics by lesser known creators and in some years, it has done an excellent job of doing just that. However, the nominees tend to include creators who have strong ties to the world of print comics, and sometimes digital offerings by big-name creators edge out people who have been working in webcomics for years. (Case in point, Joss Whedon and Fabio Moon took home the 2008 Eisner for Best Digital Comic for the Dark Horse digital release of Sugarshock!)
You dare impugn the name of the Honorable Master Joss Whedon, Ms. Davis? What, are you just asking for a thousand browncoats to be mailed your way? Because if you are … can … can you loan me one? It’s sorta chilly out here. My size is Extra Large.
Lauren Davis’ list is quite comprehensive, ranging from JL8 to Unsounded to Dresden Codak to Something Positive to… well… there are 51 of them. Read it for yourself, homies!
(Full disclosure, Ms. Davis mentions this humble site in her piece. Thanks for the shout-out!)
The Dave Kellett and Frederick Schroeder joint Stripped! hit Kickstarter donators last month. The video was made available last week on iTunes, with the option of getting it on DVD. The movie is filmed in interview style, with a bunch of sit-down chats with comic strip and webcomic luminaries. The narrative takes viewers from the history of comic strips to the newspaper crisis, and provides different viewpoints as to the future of comic strips. Also, Bill Watterson totally drew the poster for it.
But I’ve spoiled too much. What do you, the viewers at home, think of STRIPPED?