Become a Tool!
Erfworld has a new website, and it comes at a pretty key time. Order of the Stick – the main comic at Erfworld’s host for Book 1 – is going through heavy plot, and even upgrading to a new server is only going to go so far with the level of traffic the site is seeing. Erfworld itself is wrapping up the aforementioned Book 1 (The Battle for Gobwin Knob) even as it moves to its new site, and prepares for a less active summer followed by the start of Book 2.
But that isn’t the interesting thing about the move.
What catches my eye, instead, is their plan for financial support. There are many different approaches taken by many different webcomics – merchandise, donations, advertising, and often a blend of all of these – and there has been no one single road to success for those who are able to make a living from their work. Recently, I’ve seen more and more ‘subscription clubs’ offered, where the user pays a monthly fee for a variety of perks: often removal of ads, bonus strips, extra content, private forums, and so forth.
Erfworld now has its own: The Toolbox.
And it brings many of the standard bits of premium content to the table, with various extras, forum perks, ad-free browsing…
…and every single dollar you spend on the subscription gets turned into store credit, that you can go right ahead and spend on anything in the store you want.
Which is just awesome. For anyone who would have interest in buying their current or future products, there is little reason not to sign up. It is a fantastic incentive! It encourages both joining the club and buying stuff in their store, in a nice little profitable feedback loop. There is certainly no guarantee, of course, but it seems a pretty great offer for readers, and will hopefully be quite successful on their end. I don’t think any other webcomics have quite gone down this route, so I’m very interested to see how it does.
This comic has returned! This is obviously good news. This is one of the few comics where what really wins me over is the art – most comics, I enjoy the art, but read for the story. This comic is the other way around – not to say that the story is weak, as I am enjoying it, but it is the gorgeously vibrant colors that keeps me coming back.
Whenever a comic goes on a hiatus – even a reasonably brief one – I tend to feel the need to read through the archives to get caught back up. With some comics, that is too much of a burden, and I either view it as an agonizing task… or a reason to simply ignore its return entirely. With Kukuburi, on the other hand, I’m all too glad for an excuse to dive back in.
Yet Another Starslip Crisis
The brave crew of Starslip have barely encountered a new and unique alien civilization before throwing the race into terrible and cataclysmic disarray.
Which is fantastic!
I had held faith, since the reboot, that the comic would continue to build up to the sort of powerful moments and significant beats that characterized the pacing during its previous, plot-intensive run. My wait paid off in the latest arc, which is suitably intense despite being self-contained… and also, I think, helps one of the more recent cast members to really find their niche in the group.
This remains a comic of superb craftsmanship, and that’s really all that needs to be said.
Penny and Aggie is hardly the first time that a webcomic writer has lost their artist and needed to shift to another. It isn’t even the first webcomic T Campbell has had in that position! And yet… in this case, it still feels like a very powerful blow to the comic.
In this case, the project was very much a collaboration between the two. T Campbell and Gisèle Lagacé both helped make this comic what it has become, and so losing one of the two was going to have an undeniable influence.
On the other hand, they timed the transition as perfectly as possible – following the culmination of the central plot of the entire comic up until now, nearly five year’s worth of development. The status quo of the strip was altered in fundamental ways, and this meant that pairing that change with a shift in the art would not be nearly as jarring.
And to be fair, up until day, it was working. I barely even noticed the change at first, as Jason Waltrip took over and found a style that closely mirrored Gisèle’s, and remained distinct enough from his other work to avoid pulling me out of the scene.
Until… today, a week into his run, when sudden cartoony elements completely throw me for a loop.
Now, this may well be intended – the comic itself has the characters suddenly acting far more cartoony and slapstick, and that may well be the direction in which they want to take the comic. Especially given that a break for some lighter fare is probably a good thing after the intensity of the previously mentioned plot climax.
But it is a fundamental shift in the tone of the comic… and, honestly, in the characters as well, who are really what the strip has been built around. And I can’t help but thinking it is something of a shame – the initial plot of the comic has finally been concluded, and only then did it feel like it was reaching the original promise and potential it had to offer… only to suddenly, with the change, shift gears.
That’s momentum it may never get back.
I’m certainly not calling it doomed yet! Nor rendering any final judgement for the current form it finds itself in. But I am certainly sad to see the change come, just when I had finally felt myself fully invested in the comic.