Category Archives: Webcomic Discussion

Cover Up the Past

I’ve always been a fan of webcomic sites that have a new ‘cover’ from month to month – even though the update schedule of these sites is often on a daily basis, thus negating any real attempt at portraying monthly ‘issues’, it still lends a nice little touch, a small surprise at the start of every month.

On the other hand, it also tends to result in weaker website design – the two places I’ve really seen this in action are Girlamatic and ComixTalk, and both commit some design sins in their cover use. Girlamatic keeps it on the front page of the site, which coincidentally features nothing else – you have to click through to see the latest updates, which can become annoying for a site that users theoretically check daily.

ComixTalk, on the other hand, has it as part of every page, where it sits at the top of the screen – and unfortunately shoves all the proper site content beneath the fold. This is more forgivable than in webcomics proper, since there is always enough info on the site you’ll be doing some serious scrolling anyway, but it is still a rather unfortunate choice.

I suspect someone could come up with a better format for displaying covers on these sites – but that isn’t what I’m here to discuss, and I’ve already let myself be sidetracked.

Up until now, of the two sites, I’ve always paid more attention to the Girlamatic covers, largely because it was more prominent. ComixTalk’s have never stood out as much – until this month, which features a brilliant cover by Spike, the mind behind Templar, Arizona.

The cover in question features a ghost-haunted graveyard – perfect for the month of October, right? But it goes a step further, and has five gravestones lying around, each with the name of webcomics that sadly were cut short before coming to a proper end.

Now, I could give a little speech about the tragedy of how easily such comics fall by the wayside, and what a tragic loss it is for webcomicdom when another enters the “permanent hiatus” – but to be fair, I can’t really blame people for keeping their regular reading lists focused on comics that still update.

But I do find it something of a shame how easily such comics vanish from sight – both completed ones and those that will never see a proper end. I’m guilty of this myself – Strings of Fate, one of those featured on the cover, was a long-time favorite of mine… that I forgot the name of when it went away. Every so often I tried to track it down again (how many zodiac themed webcomics could there be?), but no such luck.

As such it is nice to occasionally see a bit of remembrance and recognition for the fallen few. So props to ComixTalk for doing so, and props to Spike for creating such a classy cover.

Bad Dog

Today’s Gunnerkrigg Court caught my notice.

Now, this isn’t to say that most updates of this strip aren’t quality pieces of work, because they are. While the recent arcs haven’t quite had as much momentum as the early chapters, I attribute that more to the need to deal with a developing plotline, rather than being able to focus quite so clearly on small concepts and story-arcs. I think it would be a challenge to deny that this comic is a masterpiece, both visually and conceptually – but I’ve spoken on that before.

No, what caught my eye was how well it captured a demonstration in contrasts.

The strip features Coyote, trickster god of some reknown, and a minion of his, Ysengrim, who has flown into a rage. In panel one, we see Coyote stopping his minion’s rampage with a swift blow. It is comical in appearance – the image of the oversized Coyote dwarfs the other figures, even obscuring their features, and the blow itself appears as merely a playful tap, like that of a child playing with a toy.

In the following panels, we see Ysengrim’s broken and bleeding body hurled across the room, shattering marble pillars and cracking the stone wall.

Gunnerkrigg Court is all about contrasts. It blends science and magic without hesitation – melding the ordinary and the extraordinary is Tom Siddell’s stock in trade. Coyote is a silly being, full of mischief and pranks – but also incredibly powerful, and vastly dangerous. Indeed, Reynardine also falls into that category, as a killer demon trapped in the body of a stuffed animal. And, in fact, the mystery that surrounds the entirety of the strip revolves around things not being quite what they seem – there are many secrets throughout Gunnerkrigg Court, from the teachers to the students to the school itself, and exploring those differences is the driving force of the strip.

What makes today’s strip truly great is that it establishes the contrast so well – and more than that, it establishes it within the reality of the strip itself. Plenty of comics mix humor and story from one day to the next, but that is something largely experienced by the reader. For the denizens of Gunnerkrigg Court, that dichotomy is something they live with every day.

Being able to show that is just one of the elements that makes this such a damn good comic.

For Worse

I’ve been reading the Comics Curmudgeon for a while now, and have laughed along with the rest when Josh mercilessly mocked the direction For Better or For Worse has taken – even if I could remember, not so many years ago, thinking it was one of the best strips in the newspaper.

When I read Shaenon’s essay on Why She Hates Anthony, I nodded along in agreement – and even a bit in relief, at finally being able to pinpoint exactly why my opinion regarding the strip had shifted.

But from there… when Davi Willis added his two cents, I found it a bit lackluster. When T Campbell and Amy Mebberson had their say, I found it downright uncomfortable. And when a parody showed up in Least I Could Do, almost haphazardly thrown in for no reason, it seemed like people were beginning to simply try and jump on the bandwagon for the sake of publicity.

But the matter seemed to die down. Most seemed resigned to the direction the strip was going in, and put it out of their minds. The Curmudgeon continued to bash it – but then, that’s what the man does.

Then along comes Eric Burns with a simple proposal. And his proposal… well, it isn’t a bad one. In many ways, it rings true – he proposes that all those who remember the glory days of FBoFW band together to recreate the elements that made the strip great. When the strip goes into the upcoming time freeze, why shouldn’t fans step in to take over the story and tell it the way it should be told?

Well… I’ll admit, at first I thought it sounded like a neat enough idea – more from the perspective of the joint effort it would become. But still, it didn’t quite sit right, and the commentary from William G and R.K. Milholland really helped to put things into perspective – this was really, really disrespectful to the creator of FBOFW, a comic these people once loved.

Now, there isn’t anything saying they have to play nice on Lynn Johnston’s behalf – but I found myself pondering what the response would be if people tried this with a popular webcomic. Say someone came up with Debatable Subjects, wherein Donna and Freya realized they didn’t all need to fall in love with nerdy Marvin, and Freya managed to actually overcome her insecurities and begin leading a well-balanced life, and so forth.

People would be outraged. It would be the most thinly-veiled of rip-offs, no matter the intent, and it would be treated as such. Regardless of whether there was an audience that thought it was a better vision of the story, it would come off as a downright dickish thing to do… and yet here we are, proposing just that, only for a newspaper comic that doesn’t have a broad base of supporters in the circles we tread.

Now, some would say that there is a difference between copying off an ongoing story versus a completed one. In some respects, this is true – but that doesn’t really change the attitude it is displaying towards the creator of the work. And hell – FBoFW isn’t just vanishing away, it is simply transitioning from story-driven to gag-driven, becoming like the majority of the newspaper strips, or like any number of countless webcomics. Johnston has hardly given up the rights to her characters – and the fact that the proposal recognizes the need to change the characters’ names seems to tell me that, on some level, those suggesting this know that it is wrong.

If you want a strip in the spirit of FBoFW, then by all means, go for it. Celebrate the lessons that the early days of the comic taught you. Share the inspiration of a strip that was willing to touch on death, and differences, over a decade ago, while most newspaper strips would be scared to do so today.

But what does it really accomplish to produce an imperfect replica of the strip, tuned to your own personal tastes? It might not be entitlement – but it is indulgence, and perhaps a healthy dose of spite, directed at Johnston for “ruining” the story you used to like.

I’m not going to claim I like the story she is telling these days – I’ve argued with my mom, trying to get her to see the downward spiral of the strip.

But she doesn’t see it – and she doesn’t have to. Some people do enjoy the strip just as much as we all used to. And trying to prove them wrong, trying to prove the creator wrong, is not only a needless insult to someone who entertained you for years, but a complete waste of energy that could be spent making something new and inspirational.

Pioneer Spirit

I’m surprised I haven’t seen more discussion on Looking For Group’s plans to produce a feature length animated film in late 2008. I’ve seen a lot of comments regarding the teaser for it, and it certainly merits it – I mean, I’m not usually a fan of the silly, mindless violence that Richard embodies, and I still found the video fantastically funny.

But we’re talking about a webcomic movie. That seems like a big thing. That seems like it merits some recognition of what they’re trying to do.

I suppose it might be the lack of knowledge keeping the discussion silent at the moment, and that’s fair – at the moment, there may not be genuinely that much to discuss. I am curious as to what sponsers they might find, and what format the movie will be released in – but until more details are known, it’s hard to really judge the impact this will have.

I don’t think this will revolutionize the meaning of webcomics, or anything like that – but I do think it will get the gears turning in a lot of people’s heads. Let’s be honest – I’m sure many webcomickers would be eager to see their creations come to life on the screen. If they can be shown it is viable to do so, even if only as an internet feature or direct-to-dvd release, that might be all the encouragement they need to make the attempt.

Not every comic out there has the sort of story or characters that would work in a change of medium… but at the same time, I bet everyone can think of two or three that would brilliantly.

Regardless of where this all goes, I think a very cool precedent is being set, and props to DeSouza and Sohmer for getting the ball rolling. I’m definitely eager to see what comes next.  

How Not to Hype a Webcomic

“Achewood is better than what ever webcomic you are currently reading.
It is actually a verifiable fact.”

“If you didn’t find Achewood funny, you probably had some type of disease or damage to your brain.”

“Not appreciating Achewood is evidence of either moral laxity (not being willing to read it until it starts to make sense) or cognitive defect.”

“If this doesn’t work, then…I just don’t know what’s wrong with you.”

The last few days there has been an ongoing discussion at Scans_Daily, wherein some devoted fans of Achewood have tried to convince the masses that, no, really, it’s a good comic.

The comments above are a sample of the attempts to do so, from a variety of different posters.

I… am not impressed.

For some reason, this seems to be a recurring trend with fans of Achewood – this is certainly not the first place I’ve seen this sort of attitude of “If you don’t like it, there is something wrong with you.” And you know what? That is far and away the last thing that’s going to convert someone into reading your favorite comic.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not actually a fan of Achewood – but I am someone who respects it. I read The Great Outdoor Fight, which strikes me as the comic’s definitive arc. And I understand why people like the comic – Onstad clearly has a fantastic grasp of language and characterization, and a gift for clever ideas. But in the end, I have trouble getting past the art, and it just isn’t my cup of tea.

Insulting me isn’t going to change that. Telling me that my opinion is wrong is just going to look silly. Explaining how this is a sign of my mental failings is just going to drive me even further away.

It is ok to be excited about a comic you like. I’m writing a post on a website devoted to doing so – I’m not going to say there is anything wrong with it. And I won’t deny that even I’ve been taken aback from time to time in discovering that a friend doesn’t like a webcomic I find brilliant…

But them’s the breaks. Different people have different tastes, and while it might be a good thing to try and spread the word about a good comic, you can’t force it down someone’s throat. Seriously, you’re not winning the comic any points with that sort of behavior.

That’s what really gets me here – I’m confident this attitude isn’t even remotely connected to Onstad, the strip’s creator. From the (admittedly little) I’ve seen of him, he strikes me as a mellow sort of guy. He’s got the respect of a ton of people I think well of, and judging by the very nature of Achewood, it doesn’t seem like the sort of thing he would try and make proclamations regarding.

But the fans… man. Like I said, I know a ton of people who like the strip and are calm, rational, thoughtful folks… but this is a comic that seems to have a disproportionate number of fans who are practically rabid in their devotion to the strip, and seem to take it as a personal affront that their evangelism hasn’t born fruit.

And hey, all the better for them that they’ve found a comic that has inspired such levels of dedication… but given the path of ill will they’ve been leaving in their wake, they might just be the sort of fans a comic is better off without.

A Micropayment by any other name…

I saw this article over at ComixTalk today, as well as its predecessor, both revolving around the continual struggle to make micropayments work.

Now, the battle to make micropayments successful was pretty much lost before it began, and even the most dedicated proponents finally set it aside. But that was, really, only the original conception of micropayments itself – Joel Fagin wants to look at new and improved ways to try and make money for webcartoonists.

His main proposal is the sale of downloadable high quality collections of comics – paying a small bit of money so that you have a permanent electronic collection of the strip, allowing you to avoid internet load times when reading from comic to comic, and though these strips would be the same as the ones available online, you would benefit from much higher quality, no ads, easy browsing – lots of little advantages designed to make it worth the $2-$3 price tag.

Now, the articles themselves are very well-written, and analyze some interesting ideas. The proposal of the downloadable comic archives is… well, not a terrible idea. At the core, there is something solid there. I don’t think it is something the majority of readers will care about, as Joel seems to believe – but there could definitely be enough to make a production of it.

At the moment, the biggest weakness I see (outside of the market for it being much smaller than imagined) is that there really isn’t any software capable of fully presenting such material – not in the way they want. CBR is the format they are using, and it is certainly serviceable – but the entire idea is to boost the experience well beyond reading it online. CBR gets the job done, but that’s pretty much it. If there was a really dynamic bit of software out there that could truly enhance the reading experience, then I’d start seeing it as worth-while. As it is… it isn’t quite there.

But it did get me thinking on Joyce and Walky, which I realized is both a successful micropayment and subscription system – and just about the only one out there in webcomics. The deal – $2 gets you access to a month of strips (updated on Tues and Thurs). The strips continue the adventures of Joyce and Walky (a-duh), and unlike the free strip he updates each weekend, they have their share of the classic drama for which he is reknowned. They are good stuff, primarily designed for the more dedicated fans – and despite costing around 25 cents a strip, people are willing to pay the price.

The advantage of them is that, once paid, you have indefinite access to the month of strips you’ve purchased. Unlike with ModernTales, where you are cut off from the archives when your subscription ends, you are effectively purchasing lifetime access to the month you buy. The downside – especially now that this has been running for almost two years – is that anyone who wants to catch up on the plot has to purchase pretty much every single month they’ve missed out on.

But still – it works. It’s been working since August, 2005.

Now, I don’t know the numbers on it. I don’t know how many subscribers Willis actually has. But it seems to be enough to make it worth continuing – and seems to be proof that somewhere, somehow, something resembling micropayments can actually work.

We don’t need to call it micropayments, of course – but it is darn near the closest thing out there, and the only thing I’ve heard of that is remotely successful.

So… what makes it so?

Well, Willis had a built-in audience when he started it up – It’s Walky ran for years and ended up with a decent sized following. More importantly, I would estimate it had a much larger percentage of truly devoted readers, likely due to the intricate nature of the story. When it ended, readers proved willing to pay for more content – so Willis was able to start the subscription system without walking into it completely blind.

The Walkyverse is, at heart, one that focuses on elaborate characterization and plot development. So unlike a daily gag strip – though it has those too – it brings with it a lot of motivation for audience members to keep reading. And once they get into the habit of buying their monthly subscription, it is awfully easy to keep going.

Willis is also a webcomic powerhouse. He’s able to crank out content at an unbelievable rate – such that he can offer free content in the form of three to five Shortpacked strips every week, plus a weekly Shortpacked!@TNI and Saturday Joyce and Walky strips, in addition to the two strips a week for subscribers. He’s able to retain a presence with those who aren’t subscribers, and that in turn lets him potentially attract new readers. Very few webcomic artists could produce that much material without getting burnt out – that’s probably why few have tried it, since in order to move to subscription strips, most would have to halt their primary work in the meantime.

Willis managed to make it work. Not everyone could do so, of course, and it is only part of the income Willis gets from his comics – he’s also got plenty of advertisements, merchandise, and the occasional limited prints.

But still. This is a demonstration that it is possible to sell webcomics directly.

It might be in a limited form, it might require a very specific set-up and set of circumstances to make happen – but I suspect there are more than a few out there that would be able to pull it off. I don’t know if they should, of course – but I also don’t think the discussion over micropayments is quite as dead as some people think.

Joyce and Walky is proof of that.

Practicality

I recieved my copy of Start of Darkness yesterday, along with the rest of the OotS books, and it is just as good as I was expecting it to be. It arrived a little weathered from the journey, unfortunately – just enough dinged and dented to be frustrating, but not enough so that I would feel justified in doing anything about it.

But as for the content within the book, I have no complaints. It serves as a good example of the changing state of Order of the Stick – while the first prequel book was from the days when humor held a stronger presence than plot, Start of Darkness stands as a very clear example of the primary focus on story. The jokes are still there, of course – but they take a back seat to character developments and plot twists.

Art, of course, comes in a distant third between plot and humor, but is nonetheless an undeniable aspect of the comic. I’m sure most everyone has heard about Josh Lesnick’s artistic critiques by now, but it is a post worth reading – though in this case, his discussion on OotS was one of the few areas where I disagreed with his analysis.

Now, I’m not going to argue that OotS is the subtle work of a master artist. I like the look of the strip, yes, but is by no means an artistic triumph.

What it is, however, is profoundly functional.

Josh L’s argument is that Rich should spend “the time he saves to really go broke on the expressiveness and body language of the characters,” but as much as I enjoy Girly – and I do – it’s own brand of chaos wouldn’t have any place in OotS. One of the comments in Josh’s critique – and one I was disappointed in how easily he blew it off – argued that Rich uses his time “on elaborate sets and subtlety in expression” – but I don’t think that is necessarily true either.

The expressions are generally appropriate to the moment, but they are usually not subtle. Backgrounds are fleshed out, but they are not elaborate.

What Order of the Stick does have is twelve-panel strips detailing entire action sequences, fully colored and with backgrounds and props – however simple – always present.

One of the things that has amazed people is the sheer amount of happenings in OotS. I would argue at least part of that is due to the art. It is practical – it allows for an easily identifiable cast and the ability to pack a ton of action into every page. It is simple, sure. I am confident there is room for improvement within that style, at least from an artistic perspective. But functionality is not something that should be so easily dismissed.

Too much expression can be cripple the personality just as much as too little. That's not a character - that's a muscle spasm.I read too many comics that are fantastically good strips, but are immensely hard to follow. Not just from day to day due to complicated plots or dialogues, but often within the strips themselves. Templar, Az, as I mentioned the other week. Girly itself, which is wild and unrestrained – but as Foibos very succinctly described it, is approaching the webcomic equivalent to WRITING IN ALL CAPS. Even Penny and Aggie occasionally loses me in exaggerated expressions and sudden panel transitions.

These are all comics that are right near the top of my daily update list. They are some of the best strips out there, both in general and artisticly speaking. And they are perfectly free to draw their comics however they desire, regardless of what it means for me.

But as a reader, I have learned to appreciate accessibility.

I’m not saying that OotS is artisticly better than any of the above comics – it isn’t. But analyzing it without paying heed to the benefits of its functionality is doing it a disservice, and one I wanted to comment on.

On Criticism

There has been some discussion, recently, on the role and value of webcomics criticism, and it has me thinking about the posts I write here – both their nature and their purpose, and how they relate to the field itself.

First, a brief summation on what I percieve as the ongoing debate over webcomic discussion. On one side, there are those who are frustrated by seeing the majority of “reviews” consisting of butterflies and sunshine – endless praise that sounds nice and swell, but doesn’t actually accomplish anything, other than to make the reviewer feel good about the nice words they’ve written. Beyond that, many webcomics have enough devoted followers that offering honest criticism is an invitation to be assaulted by thousands of rabid fans, and that scares people from writing what they feel.

On the other hand, there are those who see the countless diatribes about the flaws of webcomics in general, repeating the same vague points over and over, and focusing on how terrible webcomics are – rather than what can be done to improve them. More than this, so many of these pieces fail to look at specific webcomics, and pinpoint the areas of weakness, and explain why that weakness exists.

So. Both these opinions are extremely valid ones, and while I personally agree with elements of both sides, neither side really seems open to dialogue with the other. My own posts break down into five real categories, and each one is pretty different from the rest.

I admit it – I tend to write exuberant reviews. I do so often, and without remorse – when I like a comic, why shouldn’t I talk about how good it is? The series of posts I’ve been running lately on the Best of Comic Genesis and Drunk Duck falls into this category – but it is important to realize the purpose for which they are being written. I’m not writing them to discuss the flaws of a comic, but its strengths. Yes, I will tend to mention the elements that need improvement, but that isn’t the focus of the piece.

Because the piece is being written for webcomic readers, not creators. The point of the reviews is to say: “Hey, here is a cool comic I’m reading, why don’t you read it too?” And sure, not every comic is for everyone, but there are enough good ones out there that I can easily find one or two good news ones a week. So I’m spreading the word on quality comics – usually ones that deserve a bit more exposure, for the theoretical benefit of both artist and audience. Yes, they aren’t filled with criticism, but they aren’t meant to be. So that is category one – recommendations. The goal? Simple reviews of good comics, shared with those looking for enjoyable strips to read. Who is it written for? Webcomic readers.

On the other hand, I do occasionally do proper critiques. It doesn’t occur nearly as often as basic reviews – but when I see something that merits mention, I’m going to say what I think. As long as I feel it isn’t going to simply be a waste of time.

See, when I write criticism, it is something primarily aimed at webcomic creators. Let’s take a hypothetical example – say I notice that Spamusement has an unhealthy obsession with pterodactyls. This, clearly, is a travesty. The comic would be perfect, if only it had less winged dinosaurs! I can go run and scream this to the masses – but what’s the point? It won’t accomplish anything, unless I feel that Mr. Spamusement is going to notice the clamor and take my anti-dactyl ways to heart.

I can criticize for its own sake, and point out what I might think to be the worst comic in the world – but that’s honestly just called drama. It isn’t productive. It won’t make people thoughtful, it will just make them angry. So I tend to criticize the comics I like – ones I find to be good comics with a few specific flaws. I want my criticism to make the artists think. Sure, maybe serve as an example of what not to do to other webcomickers – but the main goal, at its focus, is to try and get the creator of the comic to look at what they’ve done, and ask themselves if it could be improved. So, category two – critiques. The goal? Earnest discussion of a comic’s flaws, and what can be done to fix them. Who is it written for? Webcomic creators.

The third category is probably the one where I am most guilty of shameless flattery, and I readily admit is an indulgence on my part – when something totally awesome or intense happens in a well-read comic, and I’ve just got to sit down and comment on it. I’m sure everyone knows what it’s like – a major plot twist is revealed, or the hero defeats a bad guy in a moment of supreme badassitude, or something simple and heartbreaking is captured in a single picture. And you have to talk about it.

So I do. These are often among the most popular webcomics out there, so they don’t get anything out of me talking about the how and why of their awesome moment – but I feel the need to recognize them, nonetheless. They should get praise, and applause, and biscuits. Not because they need them, but simply because they deserve them.

And because, hey, I like talking about the exciting moments. Sure, you can call it rampant fanboyism – but if a scene resonates with me, I’m going to discuss it. If something really makes me think, I’m going to talk about why. Category three – reactions. The goal? To recognize moments of true quality, and analyze my own response to such scenes. Who is it written for? Myself.

The fourth type of post is what you see before you – discussion of webcomics in a more general sense. Thoughts and ramblings on more abstract topics such as criticism, website design, crossovers, etc. Basically – a look at the bigger picture. These tend to be few and far between, if only because it is difficult to compare the many diverse elements of webcomics – but at the same time, I tend to think of these as the important posts. Noticing trends, talking about what elements work and what doesn’t – this is useful information I am trying to share.

I’m not always right about these ideas, either – but they are topics worth discussing, and if I can get other people discussing them as well, that’s success right there. Category four – discussion. The goal? To try and analyze and understand more general aspects of webcomics. Who is it written for? Everyone involved in webcomics.

And the final category isn’t really of much relevance to this topic – news posts. These are often about strips starting, ending, restarting, returning from hiatus, going on hiatus, or simply hitting important landmarks – not always vital information, but worth sharing. After all, if I always find out a comic has returned six months late, I have to imagine everyone else is out of the loop of one thing or another, and anything I can do to fix that is worth it. Sometimes I might mention something of real consequence, though those are far from common. Category five – news. The goal? To share information that is worth sharing. Who is it written for? Anyone that needs to hear the news.

The above covers pretty much every post on this site related to webcomics (which is most of them.) Why did I write it? Largely because I wanted to help people understand what is going on in my mind when working on different kinds of reviews – and more than that, to try and deal with the fact that there are different types of reviews. Some lend themselves towards flattery, others towards criticism. There are different goals for different posts, and there is a place for all of them.

Yes, there is a place for praise, for the comics that deserve it. Yes, there is a time when one should point out the things that need fixing. And people need to accept both those types of reviews, as well as accept that they are both out there – and that both those voices need to be heard.

Memes and Manuscripts

Alright, this has gone too far.

…ok, I found the last one amusing. No, not the robots – sorry, Stevens & Jacques.

Outside of the strange world of the internet, I’ve been digging into my print copy of Zap! While my collection of webcomic books is not as vast as some, it is beginning to grow – I’ve got the Order of the Stick books on their way, and am looking forward to hunting down Birds are Weird when I can find it in stores. (Because, among other things, it is really, really cool to see webcomic books on the shelves, stocked as naturally as anything else.)

Reading through Zap! Volume One has reminded me of the benefits of collecting the books, rather than just reading them on the web – a chance to go back through and refresh oneself on backstory, for one thing. Archives are getting easier to use, but few can offer the same ease as being able to flip between dozens of pages at the drop of a hat.

Some webcomics translate to printed form better than others, of course, and I really don’t have the funds or interest to go and buy every single one released. Then again, that just means I can really enjoy the ones I do get – when Zap! arrived in the mail, it outright made my day.

Which is as good an argument for putting webcomics in print as anything else I could think of.

Step One

I’m of the opinion that webcomic donations drive can be a crutch when too heavily relied upon – but also a valuable tool to kickstart a real career in comics.

I’m generally of the mind-set that I want most comics to succeed. Note in the least because webcomics – and the people that make them – seem a lot more personal than most forms of media, but also because more success means I can enjoy them better too.

From what I’ve seen it takes a bit more than just letting the money come to you – it takes planning out an effective strategy that lets you make money off of what is, essentially, a free product. Tycho’s manifesto said that if you trust in your readers, they will take care of you – and this is true, so long as you are able to find the right means for them to do so.

But finding those means requires careful thought and preparations, and it is hard to do that while also producing several pages a week, plus working an actual job to stay alive in the meantime. And cutting back the comics themselves in order to find them time to figure out how to make them profitable is an iffy proposition – you just might lose your readership while in the midst of figuring out your master plan.

Hence – the donation drive. It isn’t something to rely on for a lifetime of survival, but it can give you that boost to start things off. Come into it with reasonable expectations, and take whatever success it gives you as victory – and the seeds to truly start something larger.

I mention this because of one such drive that has just started, by T Campbell and Gisèle Lagacé, the minds behind Penny and Aggie.

Neither of these folks are new to the webcomic world. They’ve been doing comics as long as most of the success stories, and have put out some of the most impressive works on the net. Penny and Aggie has held my attention since its appearance, and I suspect will do so for quite some time.

More than that, they are offering some impressive incentives with their drive – gift cards, artwork, songs, along with a conclusion to Gisèle’s former work, Cool Cat Studio, and a new Fans story – and all of that is for not even reaching their primary goal, which would allow Gisèle to quit and work on the comic full-time.

So… if you feel like donating to webcomics, this is a damn good cause. If you especially like Penny and Aggie, or the creators behind it, this is a great opportunity to reward them for their efforts.

And even if you aren’t able to drop a dollar for them – and no one holds it against you if you can’t – it doesn’t cost anything just to post a mention of the drive, and spread the news far and wide.

Here’s the link: Dear readers…