I beat the Blerch: cake, running, and webcomics

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this site, hasn’t it?  I suppose I should give out assurances that I’m not dead, though I have in fact been hit with quite a few things in life that make it near impossible for me to update this site on a regular basis.  There are many reasons, both large and trivial, that I won’t go into detail here.

However, for the sake of this piece, there was one particular one directly pertaining to webcomics: I had yet to beat the Blerch.

img_7737My hometown of Seattle is a hotbed of webcomic activity.  The biggest being Penny Arcade.  And while I’ve gone at lengths quite about about the content of the webcomics themselves, I hadn’t addressed the biggest elephant in the room.  Namely, I hadn’t been to a single PAX.  Penny Arcade‘s most impressive achievement is that Mike Krahulik and and Jerry Holkins managed to transform their humble little webcomic into something bigger: a brand that represented excellence in video gaming.  The most successful webcomic branding effort had happened in my own backyard, and I wasn’t on hand to watch it happen.

It can be argued, though, that Penny Arcade isn’t actually Seattle’s most influential webcomic.  I’ve written about Matt Inman’s webcomic, The Oatmeal, on this site five years ago.  While I was a little underwhelmed by the actual content, I was impressed by the reach the comic had managed.  Inman managed to turn an incredible profit, a very difficult trick to pull.  Can a webcomic pull in half a million dollars?  The Oatmeal did.

Inman also pulled another neat trick: he transformed his webcomic into a marathon.  Some time ago, The Oatmeal ran a series called “The Terrible And Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances.”  Inman introduces a character he calls “The Blerch,” a fairy made out of fat that tries to convince him in the futility of running.  “The Blerch represents all forms of glutton, apathy, and indifference that plague my life,” Inman writes.  However, unlike the concept of “hitting the wall,” Inman explains that The Blerch can be silenced.  He goes on to illustrate his exercise and dietary philosophies.  There’s the cynical observations — this time about about bad gym culture — that has given some fans a notion that the comic is being drawn by a grumpy old man.  And there’s also the sublime, such as when Inman recounts a particularly harrowing run in Japan where he had to outrun a cloud of hornets.

The account is deeply personal and quite inspirational.  In fact, I started running myself… a pretty mean feat since I am by no means athletic.  To drive me forward, I imagined a Blerch telling me to slow down every time my feet ached.   It used to be I was winded after 1 mile.  But one mile became two, two miles became three, and so on.  The Blerch pushed me forward.

If I were still doing rankings, I’d give this arc 5 out of 5 stars.

Read the rest of this entry

Hey, why is this site not updating much these days? What does El Santo think he is, Andrew Hussie? Well, it turns out I’m working a gig over at Robot 6, and it’s hard to find time to serve two masters. So if you’re starved for new content, check out some of my new thoughts on webcomics over there! Click in the link below!


Hopefully I can get back to doing reviews here at some point. This site ain’t dead, but it may be in hibernation.

So yeah, Axe Cop

Robot 6: Heroes and pugs and bears, oh my!

Here’s my latest updates on Comic Book Resources blog, Robot 6:

  • Earlier this week, I reviewed JL8, Yar Stewart’s webcomic where the Justice League are little kids doing little kid stuff.
  • Today, I got two reviews posted. The first is for Bearmageddon, Ethan Nicolle’s other webcomic. It’s about bears.
  • The second is a review of Battlepug, Mike Norton’s webcomic about a barbarian and a big dog.

Anyway, I’ve been trying to create a backlog of Robot 6 pieces so I can post a new review on this site eventually. That should be forthcoming any day now. Aaaaannnny day now.

The challenge here, personally, is trying to find time reading new webcomics while keeping up to date with the review schedule at the Robot 6 site. Like, I have read all three of the comics previously, but I found I basically had to reread them to get up to speed with the latest webcomic updates.

Thanks for your patience regular readers. I am going to try to get a new review up by the end of next week at least.

This Week on Robot 6

Thrillbent goes under a paywall

Mark Waid’s Thrillbent has some pretty good titles.


Well, OK, I only read one. Insufferable, which I reviewed here. However, these comics will no longer be free, as Thrillbent will now be charging a $3.99 monthly fee to view those comics.

I’ve always been open with you, our readers, about not only our successes but our challenges—chief among them, how to pay for all this. How to streamline that social contract between us, the content providers, and our fans, who are willing to pay a fair price for what we provide so that we can keep bringing the new.

On our storefront, we’ve experimented with different models—some downloads with fixed prices, some pay-what-you-will, all DRM-free—and that’s been helpful but unpredictable. We’ve always been resistant to putting up some sort of tip jar because (it’s a personal thing, no judgments) that just makes me uncomfortable. Still, we know we have a proven audience out there willing and eager to support us financially so we can continue to bring them new content, and we think we’ve finally figured out how to give readers that opportunity in form that nets them the most value. From Waid himself:

This past weekend, we stealth-launched the Thrillbent iPad app. It’s a thing of beauty. If you’re so inclined, go check it out (and, yes, Android is in the works). Effective immediately, the Thrillbent website will sync up with it—make sure your name is on the mailing list for immediate notification—as we begin to roll out even more new series. There will still be free content on Thrillbent, there always will be—we’re big believers in the marketing power of “free”—but to that, we’re adding a “Hulu Plus” level of new content, if you will….

Ultimately, what we arrived at was this: a monthly subscription model that allows access to all Thrillbent material past and present for the price of one print comic: $3.99.

For that $3.99, you’ll be able to read everything as it rolls out, the moment it’s posted. You’ll receive push and/or e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted. Create a subscription account and your info will be kept up-to-date on the website, the iPad app, and all future apps and platforms, meaning wherever you’re signed in, we’ll keep track for you of what you’ve already read and what’s new so you can tell at a glance where you are in any given series. And, yes, anything you’ve already purchased carries over to the new system, no worries there.

Will it work? SHRUG. Getting money for work online has been one of the biggest challenges for anyone in any field. A few models (Penny Arcade, The Oatmeal) have been successful, but those almost always rely on the popularity of gags that can translate to t-shirts and posters. Making money off of longform comics is a little more difficult. Comixology has proven to be a sustainable model, and Waid is a well respected comic writer. However, his non-Marvel/DC stuff doesn’t exactly burn up the charts.

(h/t Comics Alliance)

Robot 6: sticky notes and fantasy

Two more Robot 6 pieces debuted this week:

As for this site, I’m targeting end of this week for when a new review’s going to be up.

El Santo on Robot 6: Webcomics are for the children

New article at Robot 6 is up! Here, I discuss Stripped‘s subtext about comic strips and childhood, and I theorize how Penny Arcade‘s recent moves may be steering things that direction in the world of webcomics.

EDIT: Also they decided to publish my review of Pole Dancing Adventures, a webcomic about pole dancing. On the same day I did that piece on kids’ webcomics.


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