Category Archives: Webcomic Discussion

Split Vision

Today’s Freefall was a shock, and through one simple thing – the coloring of the comic.

Freefall is a science fiction comic, and a good one. It sticks to genuinely plausible science, and explores a futuristic world that feels both feasible and natural. The main characters – Florence, a genetically engineered humanoid wolf; Helix, a fun-loving and innocent robot; and Sam Starfall, an alien swindler – are among the most original characters around. Freefall, for all its fun, is a strip that is good at helping the reader learn – learn about science, learn about society, learn about personal interactions.

But I’m not here today to talk about the story of the strip – though it is a good one – or discuss how capable Mark Stanley is at balancing casual humor and plot. Instead, I wanted to talk about the strip’s art.

Freefall is drawn in black and white. It is a good look for it, and the characters have a simple, cartoony look that fits in perfectly with the light and upbeat tone of the comic. His strips in the archives, however, are fan colored. The current fan handling that task, one George Peterson, does a good job with this, and his colors mesh perfectly with that same cartoony feel.

Today has a different guest colorist, known only as Patch. I’m not sure who this individual is – but their take on the comic transformed the strip into something else entirely:

Suddenly, we have a completely different world in front of us. Instead of a light sci-fi strip, I could see this as center stage for an intense space drama. The context of the strip, the plot thus far – all of it moves through a subtle shift in my perception, and everything suddenly seems much more solid, much more real, much more alive.

Which isn’t to say that one vision of the strip is better than the other – they are different, and that is the key. It reminds me of Arbuckle, a retelling of Garfield classics through another view entirely. That goes a step farther – removing Garfield’s text, and redrawing the strip in a different fashion.

In this case, it is the coloring alone that is a change, but man – what a change!I wasn’t expecting it when I clicked the link on my favorites – and being hit by such a scene when the page loaded was almost a physical shock.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about perception lately, and the way different people might observe the same object in different ways – and maybe that is why I was so struck by today’s Freefall. It didn’t leave me feeling that this strip will be lessened without this new style in future strips, nor believing that this style ruins the strip for me through a single appearance. It really has nothing to do with Freefall at all – instead, this was more of a lesson on the nature of the media in general. What it did was make me realize that there are many different factors in every comic that help guide my understanding of it – and that changing even a single element can transform the whole into something else entirely.

As usual, Freefall is busy teaching me lessons – and this time it did so before I even got to the content of the strip itself.

Down to Earth

Am I the only one that thinks Real Life has been… completely and totally on fire of late?

This strip has been around for over seven years, and was a pretty big name for a time – but I haven’t heard much discussion of it in recent years. Oh, it never went away – it has been steadily moving along and doing its thing, and doing it well enough to get by. School and life reduced the consistency of updates (though in an ideal world, three to four strips a week should still be enough to keep anyone happy). For a while, it felt like it was just going through the motions, and not much more.

Basic EconomicsBut recently… recently, things seem to have changed. I felt like there was a spark flaring back to life. I couldn’t pinpoint a single strip where it happened… but I noticed that it had migrated from the bottom of my reading list up towards the top. Real Life had gotten its groove back, and was moving along a cut above the rest.

From a personal perspective, I’d say what has helped is getting back to telling tales of… well, of real life. As of today we’re embarking on recollections of Greg’s adventures in I.T. – I can already see it is going to be a goldmine of humor. Before that we saw Greg’s experiences at culinary school, his cooking externship, him and Liz traveling around and just plain old living life. Lots of fun, lots of funny, and all close enough to home that the reader could connect to the jokes. Storylines and strips clearly based on the very real experiences of Greg Dean (the creator), which could then be easily applied to the life of Greg Dead (the main character).

I first discovered Real Life because it had won a WCCA for Best Reality Comic. I can’t remember what other comics it beat out, only that I felt they deserved. So I went in to take a look at this strip called Real Life… and was furious. Time travel, supervillains, artificially intelligent consoles – there wasn’t anything Real about at all!

(It should be noted that I felt similar frustration at Questionable Content winning outstanding Slice-of-Life comic this year. It isn’t that these comics aren’t great comics – but I’ve always felt they’ve sleazed their way into these categories and taken the prize away from comics are that genuinely down to earth in a very real way.)

(Which might just be an argument for adding a Magical Realism category to the show. But that, really, is a rant for another time.)

Anyway.

Eventually, I realized that the comic itself was good stuff, even if I felt the title something of a misnomer. And I’ll be honest – it was fun to watch Tony act out the criminal mastermind, and see the cast and crew get into antics that clearly didn’t happen in the real world.

Fourth wall? What fourth wall?!But lately there has been more of a focus on the autobiographical, on the genuine stuff itself… and it works. Man, but it does work.

The strip has also come a long way from where it began, and I hadn’t realized how much until I took a glance back through the archives. It isn’t a surprise, really – almost any strip that has been running for that many years (especially with a consistent update schedule) has a tendency to improve. But while the basics are the same, we’ve gone from simple talking heads to… bright and dynamic talking heads in a world of detailed backgrounds and vibrant colors! Sure, I imagine it’s all just a collection of sets he created for continual re-use, but that doesn’t make it look any less good.

So… yeah, this post is pretty much just to show a little love for Real Life. I’ve definitely been enjoying the solid fun of the strips, and it has been getting a grin from me with surprising constency of late. We haven’t had any big stories of late, no epic tales or crazy adventures – and I’m perfectly fine with that. Just solid humor, day after day, and a look into something that really is, these days, genuinely down-to-earth.

That’s the mark of a damn good comic in my book.

Shifting Focus

Let’s talk about Wikipedia.

Wait, wait, wait! Don’t run away! At least not yet!

I know that the subject has already been beaten into the ground. Repeatedly. I know that the majority of people are either tired of the entire debate, or only growing more upset the more they hear about it. And, honestly, I’m halfway in both camps – equally frustrated by the situation itself, as well as all the drama (often meaningless) it’s creating.

So why, then, am I writing about it?

That’s a very good question.

Quick summary for those who somehow missed the rest of the drama: Wikipedia has had a tendency to delete non-notable webcomics listings from their site. Their definition of non-notable clashes significantly with that of the webcomic community itself. Thus, conflict.

One thing I’ve noticed, recently, is that many people seem to have a hard time pinning down the purpose of webcomic listings on Wikipedia. They aren’t there to lead people to the comic – if you are listed on Wikipedia, it isn’t going to get you any noticable new traffic. It is a nice mark of accomplishment – but a webcartoonist who has thousands of readers should feel that regardless of whether Wikipedia recognizes them as notable or not.

The primary use of those Wikipedia entries, in my mind, is to provide information. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. It is a catalogue and compilation of information. With the majority of its topics, that information isn’t something easily found elsewhere on the web. If I am trying to learn about a specific novel, and I don’t have that novel on hand, Wikipedia just might have an entry with some valuable information.

I don’t go to Wikipedia to find new books to read – I go there to find information about books I already know about.

When I go there looking for webcomic information, it is usually to dig up random facts about the webcomic itself. When it began, names of characters, etc.

All information, by and large, that I would much rather have on the webcomic’s site itself. After all, webcomics are on the web. If I can get to Wikipedia, I can get to the webcomic’s homepage. In a perfect world, everything I need to know about a strip would be right there next to the archives.

Unfortunately, many webcomics don’t have much more than the bare bones around. They’ve got archives, and usually a forum or place for comments. If we’re lucky, a cast page (which, more often than not, isn’t up to date).

If I get more than that, I count it as a genuine accomplishment. Having a storyline guide, detailed character pages, searchable archives – those are amazing things. But generally, the webcartoonists are too busy with, say, actually producing new material (entirely for free), and simply don’t have the time, energy, or know-how to put those features in. I can’t complain about it – that’s just the way it is.

It would be nice if every webcomic had all the info we needed right there on the page, but it just isn’t going to happen.

Hence why I go hunting through Wikipedia. Or, with Wikipedia yanking out entries left and right, to Comixpedia.org. Gilead Pellaeon, over at the Webcomicker, gives his own response to the matter – he plans to work hard at fleshing out Comixpedia.org and the information there. Which is an idea I can certainly get behind, and I plan to do my own fair share of work on the database there.

There have been those who have… well, let’s not say criticized, but rather, been dubious of the use of Comixpedia.org. The arguments have often been that it isn’t going to do what Wikipedia does, and that only people already in the webcomic community will even know about the page.

But that’s ok. The purpose of Comixpedia.org is to be a collection of information on webcomics. Not a guide to introduce us to the outside world, not a guide to lure newcomers into the fold. Which isn’t to say we don’t need more along those lines – but being posted on Wikipedia certainly didn’t do that. It collects knowledge in a place we know where to find it.

The more people working on it, the better a tool it is. Gilead’s got the right idea. If you want to worry about notability at Wikipedia… well, go for it. I do agree that their current standards are fundamentally flawed, regardless of whether the concept itself is or not. But I think Wikipedia is a lot less important to us than we think – and while it is easy to feel it is a personal attack, the amount of energy wasted on the matter could be put to far better use.

Like fleshing out the websites of the comics themselves. Or working on Comixpedia.org. Or finding new and innovative ways to draw people into webcomics.

I suspect if we could spend half the time being productive as we do ranting, we’d see a world of difference.

Com(ics) Unity

ComicSpaceSo… there’s now a MySpace for Comics.

I like the idea, certainly. I don’t know how much I, personally, will make use of it, as I never really entered the MySpace craze… but nonetheless, I like the concept of it.

There is often a lot of discussion regarding the so-called webcomics community. Sometimes the talk centers around whether or not there actually is one. A year or two back, when it seemed drama lurked around every corner from one month to the next, it seemed like the community was nothing more than small dedicated camps devoted to their favorite authors, ready to tear into each other at the slightest provocation.

Hmm. That might, just might, be overstating the case a tad. But it is certainly true that many people, time and again, have proclaimed the need for more of a sense of… unity, among the movers and the shakers of the webcomic world. It’s a young medium, sure, but that can be all the more reason for people to be presenting a undivided front, all the more reason to work on improving the entire field as a team.

Now, this is another idea I like. It’s a great sentiment. That said, I don’t expect cartoonists to feel any obligation to work together or devote valuable time and resources to building up the ethereal concept of a webcomic society. The fact is, the majority of webcomickers have enough troubles working on their own comics alone. It’s enough that they put up free comics once, twice, three times a week – if not daily – and expecting them to work on things beyond that scale is, well, somewhat unreasonable. More than that, many of the greatest strides and recognitions earned for webcomics comes from individual successes – Penny Arcade’s work with PAX and Child’s Play, for example.

So I don’t expect much. I can’t demand much – most webcomics are free. I support them where I can, I enjoy their works and recommend the ones that impress me, and as long as they keep providing them, they’ve already done far more than they are obligated to.

But it’s still damn nice when I see groups like Blank Label form, with members pooling their resources to work together. It’s nice to see more and more panels on webcomics, especially with some going an extra step to really discuss more than just your stand Q&A. It’s nice to see, in the last year, a lot of previously antagonistic webcomic camps acting reasonably civil with each other in various matters.

Sure, the drama still pops up from time to time. And sure, the webcomics ‘community’ remains something hard to pin down and point at. But there is more and more discussion going on, both among those who want to take a more intellectual approach, as well as those who just want to sit around and talk about comics. There are more and more gatherings of fans, more and more webcomic collectives, and more and more independant locales for fans of the medium to gather.

ComicSpace isn’t really anything world-shattering, or even entirely dedicated to webcomics alone – but it’s a neat place on several levels. “A place for comic fans and creators to connect with each other.” Sure, you have plenty of those in the form of private forums and messageboards – but an impartial one, open to all? That’s a bit scarcer. Also, free comic hosting. That’s never a bad thing.

Even if it isn’t anything more than a nice little idea, that’s good enough for me.

This has been your daily overanalysis of a very simple topic. Tune in next week, same bat-channel, same bat-time!

Happy Halloween!

Boo!

I hope everyone is enjoying a Happy Halloween, filled with elaborate costumes, delicious candy, horrifying nightmares, or whatever element of the holiday is your very special favorite part. Or, if you hate the whole get up, enjoying a very happy… Tuesday.

And if you hate Tuesdays, I’m sorry, not much I can really do for you.

Anyway! All Hallow’s Eve seemed a good occasion to throw off one look for my journal and find a new one – and more importantly, adjust a few things behind the scenes.

I went through a pruning of my webcomics today, and it was no easy task. Suffice to say that, when the job was done, I managed to whittle my way down to a meager 200. Yes, a meager 200. No, you don’t want to know how many were on the list previously.

I was amused that the number came out so rounded, and while not a fully accurate accounting (as some of those links include collections or multiple comics within), it seemed a fortuitous sign. More over, when I then divided that list into the “A Team” (those comics which I can’t get by without) and the “B Team” (the ones that, while fun, I read as much from habit as anything), I discovered that I ended up with nigh spot on 100 on each side.

Speaking of those links, you may have noticed I’ve added quite a few off to the side. This includes a pick of the week, as well as a selection of the top ten comics that have been on my mind. These include old favorites as well as new discoveries, and quite a few comics that after a long stretch of meandering have pulled it together and reeled me in big time. I plan to keep the list updated on a regular basis. Also, I blatantly stole the entire idea from Comics Rock, another webcomic blog.

Speaking of which, I’ve also added a list of other blogs that I keep my eye on. Some, sadly, have gone off into the wild beyond of hiatus, but they are in large part the blogs that inspired me to start this up, and have a wonderful repository of past articles.

And finally, I threw up the entire list of the “A Team” strips that I read – my personal recommendations for the best and the most brilliant strips out there today. While that list may also shift over time, it will probably not be quite as regularly as the top ten.

Now unfortunately all this work is done, in part, in anticipation of a distinct lack of free time in the upcoming month. You see, there is this little thing called NaNoWriMo. You may have heard of it.

If not, a summary might read as thus: It is a challenge for aspiring writers to sit down, over the course of November, and crank out a 50,000 word novel. Quality does not matter. Depth does not matter. Subject does not matter. Just words. It is, at short, perhaps the most elaborate writing exercise developed. It is a chance to show that one has the stuff to go the distance, and can produce the content, if nothing else.

I tried and failed last year. This year, I plan to give another go at it.

I will also have the grim spectre of Final Fantasy XII hovering over my shoulder the entire month. (And most likely absorbing as much time as it can tempt me to burn on it.)

Now, despite these little side-projects, I plan to keep up with my posts here. But in an attempt to do so, I plan to pace myself with a nice little schedule. Even beyond helping keep me on track, I like the idea of adding a little focus to my blog – as much as I enjoy torturing everyone with the chaotic meanderings of my mind, a little order could be nice.

The plan is as follows:

Mondays: Reviews and Remembrances. I’ll devote each Monday to either a review of a lesser known comic that I think could use the exposure… or to taking a look at a comic that has ended, and may be in danger of fading from public view.

Wednesdays: No Strings Attached. This is my chance to let loose! Whatever random topics are on my mind will hit the page midweek. Might be on more ephemeral aspects of the webcomic world, might deal with different things entirely. It will no doubt be a surprise to both you and me.

Fridays: The Latest Happenings. Here is where I’ll be pondering recent events and surprises in the comics I read. There will likely be exclamations of surprise, joy, and dismay. There may even be, dare I say it… rampant speculation.

So that is the plan, gentle readers! I’ll be spending the next few days getting a start on my NaNoWriMoing (my apologies for inflicting that verb upon you), so it is likely you won’t see any sign of me until Friday. But a few last Halloween happenings first…

Yes, at last, the maniacally smiling visage of your humble blogger.Easiest. Costume. Ever.My, my, my, quite a lot of activity for this simple blog. Why, all this plotting has driven me positively… mad!

Actually wait, no… that would simply be my Halloween costume, going as everyone’s favorite mad computer scientist (as inspired by Lord_dave’s coloration of Kirk Tiede’s fan-art, to be profoundly technical.)

Yes, I know, exceedingly lazy costume.

Nonetheless, I like it.

Finally, a few props must be awarded today in honor of some excellently done comics.

Most Stunningly Genius Storyline: Elf Only Inn.

Best Katamari Costumes: Krakow!

Most Shocking Reveal: Scary Go Round.

Absolutely Best Costume: VG Cats, with Aech.

Edit: It has been pointed out to me that the true mastery of costuming is on display over at Penny Arcade. This, in truth, I cannot deny.

Till next time, safe hauntings…

Pumpkins!

The Art of Advertising

Advertising has always struck me as one of the mundane elements of the internet experience.

It is something one does to pay the bills. (Well, to pay a bill. A small one. Maybe.) I’m not entirely sure how much selling advertising space really pulls in – I’m a consumer of the webcomic experience, not a producer. I see the flashy ads and shiny buttons, but not the numbers behind the scenes.

Despite that, it seems clear that it is a hassle to deal with selling ad space, and the business has gone through rough stretches without substantial returns.

The market doesn’t seem as bad these days – I’ve seen many comics running google ads, presumably due to it being low management. Something*Positive is one of a handful I’ve seen that run personalized advertisements. And while most places generally run ads from other webcomics, or online merchandising stores, Penny Arcade has ads from big hitters in the video game industry. Some of these companies are genuinely recognizing the webcomic audience as a player base – that’s definitely a good sign.

Still – advertising isn’t fun. It isn’t really interesting. It is, more often than not, a chore.

But lately a few folks are trying to change that.

Project Wonderful hit last week, presenting a transparent system for bidding on ad space, allowing a method that results in cheap advertising paid by the hour, not by the clickcount. More than that, it debuted with style. The front page is dominated by a randomly selected piece of powerful photography. The page’s motto: “Advertising online just got totally awesome.”

There is no question about whether or not it looks nice. It is a damn elegant site. Whether it will actually be a success? Time will tell. It looks sweet, and looks like a great deal for those buying ads… but that’s only half the business. Selling ads stupidly cheap doesn’t do great things for those on the other end of the line. But it is an innovative concept, and one it will be exciting to watch as it develops.

It was with a bit of surprise that, only a week later, I got notice of another new advertising project: One Simple Ad.

Continuing with the elegance, One Simple Ad seems to set out to present advertisement in a new fashion – rather than have ads hidden away on the sideline, on this site they are the very focus of the page. One ad at a time, allowed to be as large and imposing as desired.

Again, conceptually exciting. Again, potentially not feasible. Advertising is almost always parasitic, attaching to some other medium that people are already observing. Standing alone, can advertising attract an audience for its own sake alone?

Hard to say – other gimmick based sites have certainly had success in the field. If word spreads and enough people find it interesting enough to keep an eye on, it may do well. Or it might not – again, I don’t know if I’ll be able to judge until I’ve seen it in action.

That said, I’m hoping it will succeed. The mind behind the project is T Campbell, who has contributed vast amounts to the culture of webcomics. He has had his hand in writing webcomics, editing them, contemplating them. But… creative minds don’t always have the greatest business sense, and from the sounds of things, all he came away with was debt. Which is a damn shame, because the man really did do a hell of a lot for the world of webcomics.

So if all I can do to repay that is to link his new project, and spread the word… well, here it is once more:

One Simple Ad

A Step Beyond

It’s funny. I’ve spent the entire week thinking, quite a bit, about webcomic peripherals. The little things that are part of the web experience – that, in many ways, help define webcomics as seperate from print comics.

You’ve got the basics – things that are pretty much just requisite, such as a good archive system, decent layout, cast pages, and a forum / email / tagboard or some other form of contact and communication with the reader. You can get by without them – but these are the building stones of a good site.

But the things that has been running through my mind has been the goodies, the extras. Newsposts that are as humorous in their own right as the comic. Fan art, side strips, puzzles, games, alternate scripts – the whole shebang.

And alt text. Man. I’ve recently fallen in love with alt text. Some comics just use it for a bit of witty explanation, but in the hands of a master it can add an entire new level to the joke. I mean, we’re talking about comics that already twist ideas in ways that I have trouble following, and here’s a chance for them to finish up with a final one-two punch. Or one-two punchline, as the case may be.

Unfortunately, after spending all week pontificating on this, my train of thought on these web-only wonders was completely derailed yesterday when I picked up Penny Arcade Volume 2: Epic Legends of the Magic Sword Kings.

If I really wanted to emphasize my point, this text would be some incredibly witty humor. Instead you have to settle for some self-referential self-depreciation. Yeah, I know, I never find that quite as funny either.(Momentary tangent – I am only now picking it up because I tend to favor purchasing such works in a local bookstore. Not out of any irrational fear of the internet, but because I like the confirmation that they’ve infiltrated right out into the open, where anyone can pick them up and take a look.)

In any case, the book proved that print comics can have plenty of bonus features too – I was blown away by the commentary on every strip, along with news posts transcribed from their electronic haven, a collection of their illustrations for the Penny Arcade card game, and a selection of other unfinished works of theirs. To quote the back of the book – it was filled with “bonus content that defies description!”

…though I suppose I did just describe it. Hmm. Hyperbole or not, the book was more than just a collection of strips, just as all the quality webcomics online are more than just a series of pictures.

And I began to wonder if the real lesson wasn’t about the medium, but about the creators – the artists behind webcomics have a tendency to love their works. To want to make more out of them. To add in historical backgrounds and imaginary blogs; to lay out lengthy story guides; to both create and invite guest strips; to explain how they create their art; to produce livejournal icons, animated strips, podcasts.

That’s a lot of extra effort they put into their works, well and beyond the already pretty momentous production of the comic itself.

And, well… I guess the only real point to all this is to say that it’s appreciated. I like finding the easter eggs, reading through the extras, downloading the wallpapers. I like the immersion into the strip.

I like that for a lot of webcomic artists, it goes beyond just creating a work – it becomes about creating a community, and building attachments with the reader.

That’s a really good feeling.

Retroactive Repetition

It strikes me as a lapse that, in my thoughts yesterday, I didn’t think about all the times I go back through and re-read a comic on my own.

Occasionally it happens because some comics and books are just that good. Especially short works where, a few years after first reading it, you can go back through and experience it all over again.

More often than not, however, it is due to a story growing complex and difficult to follow, and there being a need to refresh oneself on what has come before. I keep getting sucked back into the Wheel of Time, and with several years between books in the past, I have felt the need to immerse myself in the thousands of pages, just so I have some faint recollection of what’s going on.

(This, by the way, is the real kicker. The stories that are complex enough to lose you are also the ones with the heaviest content to slog through.)

Now, I obviously wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy the re-reading anyway. Sluggy is a great example – if I really feel the need to get back to speed (and if I should actually have the time to take on such a task), it’s an enjoyable experience. It’s also right there – the easy access of webcomics helps.

As well as the ability, if I don’t want to hunt down everything, to go looking through this or that random storyline to find whatever it is I’m looking for. And even with the clunkiest of archives, its a lot easier to root out specific storylines than to find one specific passage in a book. Or, even more so, it is easy to go back and read one specific plot arc, and enjoy it, then it is to go and enjoy one single chapter in a novel.

I’d say, in the end, that there are a handful of strips I like enough for them to be worth reading over and over. But given the size of archives that most comics begin to develop – and even more importantly, given how many other comics there are on the web – it isn’t something I am as likely to do as pick up my well-worn copy of the Hobbit and dive back in.

Lessons Learned

Sean Howard, producer of a variety of pixelated webcomics, has recently returned to the field.

He left the webcomics field just over a year ago, due both to having a little one enter the family – and, of course, the fact that his webcomics career was plagued by dramadramadrama. I won’t go into the who, hows, or whats, since I’m sure everyone and their kid sister can dig them up from the archives of the interweb.

Instead, I’ll state that I was sad when he left, because drama aside, he produced a damn fine strip. Enjoyable and entertaining plot, combined with pixel art that wasn’t incomprehensible, made for a charmingly good strip, if not one of the web’s heavy hitters.

As such, when he announced his return, I was pretty cheered by the news. Unfortunately, A Modest Destiny hasn’t quite yet resumed – instead, we’ve been treated to the Athiest, the Agnostic and the Asshole.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not commenting on the quality of these strips. (As a matter of fact, I found quite a bit of amusement in his latest one, largely due to pondering how the Heisenberg uncertainty principle applied to Wikipedia.)

So it isn’t that they are bad comics, persay. The problem for me, rather, is that they are political comics.

I don’t know why it is, but the fact remains – I have quite a bit of trouble reading comics with heavy opinions. It doesn’t matter if I agree with the opinions or not – Sore Thumbs turns me off as much as Winger.

Is it that I can’t stand listening to an artist’s opinions? I don’t think that’s it – there have been plenty of strips I’ve seen influenced by some measure of personal interest that haven’t driven me away. It may just be that when the strip focused on a topic that I’ve seen a hundred times before, it just isn’t able to trigger any function other than disdain, no matter how valid the point or how well it is presented.

In any case, it leaves me all the more eagerly awaiting the return of AMD – and the sincere hope that he will be able to simply re-enter the webcomics world, update his strips and do his thing, and avoid any drama (real or imagined) taking away from the joy of it all.

What may the future bring?

Wonder of wonders, Blogger is finally letting me post images again!
So, as I’m sure that everyone has heard by now that Narbonic is free again. For those who may have been hiding at the bottom of the ocean, or on the moon perchance – go, check it out, yadda yadda.

In any case, in celebration of it being free, I’ve been perusing the archives here and there. Not the entire thing, being that, these days, I am frightfully busy – but various key segments, especially in light of the grand finale the strip is heading for.

The main arc that I took a browse through was the time travel arc, for somewhat obvious reasons. I had remembered little hints of the things to come, of course – what I hadn’t remembered was the sheer quantity of them, nor how direct some of them were.

I really, really, really like foreshadowing like this. The idea that a story is already thought out years in advance, and that the bones of what is to come are already laid in place, is greatly appealing to me. But it can’t be easy to do – I can’t imagine the thin line an author has to walk between leaving hints versus directly giving away the story.

And how does an author handle it when someone does see what is coming, and accurately predicts the ending? Most seem to stay silent on all counts – you know, smile the mysterious little smile, and let people wait and see. I’ve noticed some take a more active approach – Rich Burlew, creator of the Order of the Stick, prohibits any predictions about the strip that aren’t given the spoiler tag, so he can avoid seeing what guesses are being made, and thus resist the urge to change things and ensure an unexpected plot twist.

On the one hand, I can see the value of wanting the readers to be surprised – but I generally value the integrity of a story more.

In any case, I was pleased to see how well the stage was set in Narbonic – and again, because I haven’t said it enough, go read it if you don’t already.