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The Internet Entertainment

The Rebirth of Comics 186

Malfourmed writes "The Sydney Morning Herald is running a story on web based comics and how the new medium can change the traditional "left-to-right in a rectangular frame" paradigm. Concentrating on the work of Scott McLoud it also mentions geek favourites Dilbert and The Matrix, among others. Micropayments are discussed, with the article claiming that after you pay your 25 cents "most of which goes straight to McCloud, cutting out the middlemen that make it difficult for comic artists to make a living from their work, and in the process doing justice to their talents." One of the more interesting sites discussed is the Oz Comics 24 Hour Gallery, the result of a competition in which artists had 24 hours to create an original, 24-page comic. So popular was the contest that the server suffered from a veritable slashdot effect."
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The Rebirth of Comics

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  • no middlemen? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by proj_2501 ( 78149 ) <> on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @02:23PM (#6852053) Journal
    Then who are web hosting providers and ISPs?
  • by larsoncc ( 461660 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @02:26PM (#6852090) Homepage
    I check Penny Arcade [], Little Gamers [], and Real Life Comics [] an awful lot. Probably too much to be healthy.

    Why? Because the web provides me access to humor that is very, VERY specialized. Find comics like these in a Sunday Paper, or a comic shop, or anywhere else.

  • I think that media like comics, video, etc. will start to flourish online with things like Micropayments, but more with the increase of bandwidth. It is remarkably difficult to set up a server that will receive & redistribute 10,000 comic strips a day, versus one that just gets 10,000 hits per day.
  • Unfortunatley. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by anonymous coword ( 615639 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @02:27PM (#6852104) Homepage Journal
    A lot of the web comics are poor quality, make obvious jokes [], and have lame characters. Sure there are some good ones. and I do like the cheap laughts, but reducing the barrier to entry also reduce the quality level.
  • Okay... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mschoolbus ( 627182 ) <(travisriley) (at) (> on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @02:29PM (#6852115)
    I assume "The Rebirth of Comics" is following "The Death of Comics"? Anyone?!

    Up next, "The Rebirth of Linux!"
  • Re:no middlemen? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lawbeefaroni ( 246892 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @02:33PM (#6852167) Homepage
    They're like the pen, ink, and paper suppliers. The provide the medium (or access to it). You might say they're like the distributors, but print comics aren't really traditional in that sense, what with the syndicates and all.

  • by Brahmastra ( 685988 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @02:37PM (#6852209)
    e-comics, e-books, et. al. just don't work for me because I cannot lie back on the sofa, sit on the toilet seat, read while eating, etc. Good old paper is my preference until there's a more handy way to read e-books. Handhelds don't work well for me either since they just don't contain as much information in 1 page as a book and require frequent scrolling.
  • I recall (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @02:39PM (#6852231)
    I remember an article that Scott Kurtz ( posted a while back, on how the sunday comics haven't been funny for the past 10 years. Blondie, while starting off in the depression, actually had a plot based on romeo and juliet, with unlikely characters Blondie and Dagwood. Anymore, it just doesn't have the magic, or the humor. The great thing about web comics is that they do not have to have an audience in order to thrive. The greats like Penny-arcade, Megatokyo, and Mac Hall, are all very specialized and niche-based humor. Whereas, in a syndicated comic, it would be hard to be successful while making jokes about video games, anime, and other relatively 'outside' subjects.

    Not to mention the fact that free hosting and no need for an editor produces a lot of general crap, but that's really just the price to pay for the really good quality webcomics that are out there.
  • Books vs. Strips (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shelleymonster ( 606787 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @02:44PM (#6852278) Homepage
    The article is also mixing comic books and comic strips. Sure, stuff like Dilbert [] , User Friendly [], The Boondocks [], and Achewood [] work well on the web. They're short and easy to read. Most people who read comic books, however, relish the strip to the store, holding it in their hands, filling up the long white boxes...
  • Re:no middlemen? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lawbeefaroni ( 246892 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @02:44PM (#6852280) Homepage
    Well, generally middlemen tend to take a cut. ISPs charge a fee non-dependent on what an artist takes in. Of course the more viewers, the more bandwidth so probably more charges but $10 a month or $0.25 a month they don't work off of revenue.

    Is the owner of a building a shop keeper leases a "middleman?"
  • Re:no middlemen? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Zathrus ( 232140 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @02:44PM (#6852281) Homepage
    No more so than the telephone company is a middleman when you make a long distance phone call. Yes, without them you wouldn't be able to make the call. But they're not buying the conversation from you and selling it to the person on the other end.

    A middleman is someone who purchases from the producer and sells to the consumer. The ISP/webhost isn't doing this -- they're merely providing transport. And, yes, this is an important economic and (more importantly) legal discrimination. The ISP/webhost is not responsible for policing their content because they aren't creating or selling it.
  • by YllabianBitPipe ( 647462 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @02:45PM (#6852293)

    Ah another comic thread on /. I really like the idea of web comics but the comic world is going to run into the same problems the music biz is dealing with. First off, there's a lot of people saying, let's do a comic on the web, it's so cheap, we'll get more of an audience, we don't have to go through a publisher. Well, then there's the whole issue of how do artists get paid, how do artists keep their work from getting ripped off, etc. but I think a lot of these topics miss a key element of web comics ... is the medium even appropriate for the type of comics that you create?

    I think the type of comics that are most suited for the web are strip comics like the dailies in your local newspaper. Reading a graphic novel on a computer screen via the web is, frankly, a huge pain in the ass. I don't care how you present it, panels to fit the screen, no scrolling, click on the image to go the next page, I just find it tedious. The content is too long for the medium in my opinion. And I WANT to read graphic novels ... it just seems like, not on the web. I think what needs to change is, higher resolution monitors.

    So I think graphic novel type stuff CAN work on the web, it just needs to be created with the web in mind from the beginning. Make the pictures standard screen size, use nice readable anti aliased fonts, make the art appropriate for web reading: large, not tons of tiny characters that look like blurs, and LENGTH. I don't really want to click through 100 images and bore myself to death.

    And, I would argue, as soon as you start thinking of putting multimedia geegaws like audio, just go Flash all the way and animate your whole project.

  • Re:Unfortunatley. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Saige ( 53303 ) <evil.angela@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @02:48PM (#6852331) Journal
    It also allows a lot more comics that are far from mainstream in their topic, but are well done, to survive with audiences of varying sizes. Yes, I agree, there are plenty of amateur comics around, plenty that haven't been updated in months (most of Keenspace's comics fit that), and so on.

    But every once in a while one does well - such as Venus Envy []. Perhaps only a few hundred fans, but very dedicated. Heck, the author needed a grand to make a move across the country, and the fans had no problem donating to her.

    I wonder how many little webcomics with small groups of dedicated fans there are out there, especially as compared to failed webcomics.
  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @02:53PM (#6852392) Homepage
    Some of my favorite weekly comic strips have made the journey from print (in news weeklies) to online. Presumably, these guys don't get paid to reprint their comics on the Web, but it increases their exposure and maybe convinces their fans to lobby to get them into local weeklies.

    Tony Millionaire's Maakies [] is pure genius.

    Try Underworld [] , by Kaz, if you want to tickle your cynical side.
  • by ReyTFox ( 676839 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @02:55PM (#6852404)
    I think these two comic formats have very different venues from each other. A comic book is meant to have more than a 10-second total viewing time, and usually has a more involved story and has a larger time to develop the action. The strip, on the other hand, must be satisfy the reader on a daily basis, and usually has to stick to formulaic jokes in three or four panels to succeed.

    Correspondingly, in the physical world, the comic book is sold by itself, while the comic strip is tossed in amid a sea of other reading material(other comics, ads, articles...) and left to "sink or swim" as it will.

    I think a similar dynamic applies online. The web-comic in strip format generally relies on advertising to succeed, but a full web-comic book might get somewhere through micropayments.

    But I can say fairly confidently that nobody would pay money to view one strip.
  • Re:Unfortunatley. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jandrese ( 485 ) * <> on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @03:06PM (#6852490) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, these guys should strive for the level of quality found on the comics page of your local paper where the jokes are always fresh and the characters interesting...

    If you hadn't noticed, 90% of the comics page is stuck in a rut so big it's been reclassified as a box canyon. It seems that paper editors choose the least offensive most watered down cheap fare they can find for the comics page. This practice has turned the whole thing into a tremendous waste of time, as the same few jokes are told over and over again by the same old tired characters.

    so, what are the Lockhearts up to this week? Fighting again? Andy Capp is in a bar or falling down drunk? BC is preaching again? Ooh! The Family Circus has another one of those dotted line things.
  • (Score:4, Insightful)

    by efflux ( 587195 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @03:10PM (#6852520)
    not comics (more like an interactive cartoos)...but definately worth a look, and it definately shows off the media potential of the internet.
  • Good point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by YllabianBitPipe ( 647462 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @03:27PM (#6852672)

    I think the web (as I posted below) is most suited to strip comics. Not graphic novels or comic books. But collecting, I agree, is a huge deal to many comic book collectors. There is no value in an "issue 1" of a website comic, if it's been blasted all over the web. I don't even know how one would begin to value jpgs and gifs. Will the print versions always be more valuable just because of rarity? What if there is no print version?

    The comic book store is another story. While for the average comic book reader, the comic book store is part of the experience, I think a lot of people are afraid of comic book stores. Seriously. the other day at a comic book shop two of the clerks were slapping shipping tape on each other's heads and drawing on them with magic markers. Don't ask me why. All I can say is, if that were going on in your local Barnes & Noble bookstore many people would say, the help there is retarded, we're not shopping there anymore. Only in a comic book store have I had clerks look at what I was buying and make inane comments like, "This shit scares me". Luckilly I'm used to that kind of crap so I keep going back for more (a couple of comic-cons will harden you up for that kind of banter). I've also had a few embarassing experiences when I take someone into a comic book store for the first time, and all they can focus on are the anime chicks with huge boobs. How many of them there are and how large are the boobs. So many potential customers leave the stores thinking most of the comics out there center around muscle-bound super heroes and over-sexed babes with huge boobs. And I guess, truth be told, this is actually an accurate observation. But many people just don't look beyond that to realize there's other kinds of comics out there.

    I guess if you LIKE that kind of experience, then comic stores are enjoyable but my point is, I think in general the "comic book store experience" is detrimental to the comics industry and in fact is a barrier to comics gaining a wider audience. It's the image, the types of people that shop / work there, the attitudes of store owners that customers aren't a priority, etc.

  • by MsGeek ( 162936 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @03:45PM (#6852821) Homepage Journal
    He forgot someone else too []. You just made Junpei mad. Angry Ninjas are not good for your health.
  • by barzok ( 26681 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @04:01PM (#6852971)
    Watterson went way out on a limb with that decision but he felt it was the right thing to do - and he was very right! He lost space in a lot of papers (my parents got both of the big local Sunday papers and I'd always go for one in particular because they printed C&H properly - large) and lost some papers altogether, but the art was worth the sacrifice.

    I still have the final C&H strip tucked away in my high school yearbook. Yeah, it was a little cheezy. So what.

    I too miss C&H but I'm glad that Watterson went out on top instead of letting the stories get recycled and old. He left on his terms at a point where we could never say "hey, C&H was great until...", unlike other cartoons featuring an orange feline which should have been put to rest a long time ago.
  • Re:Unfortunatley. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @04:20PM (#6853167) Homepage Journal
    "A lot of the web comics are poor quality, make obvious jokes, and have lame characters. "

    So? A comic need only entertain you. It doesn't have to do it every time, it just needs that defining moment.

    The nice thing about the internet is any comic'll find its audience at no cost to the end user.
  • Re:Good point (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ChaosDiscord ( 4913 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2003 @06:22PM (#6854285) Homepage Journal
    The comic book store is another story. While for the average comic book reader, the comic book store is part of the experience, I think a lot of people are afraid of comic book stores.

    True enough. That's because some comic book stores suck. There are also excellent comic book stores where the staff are professional and friendly, the "heroically proportioned" comics aren't shoved in your face, and the "weird" comics that will creep many people out are a bit out of the way. If you're in Madison, Wisconsin Capital City Comics [] is great. It's comfortable enough that my mom shops there (she's not a comic book geek, or really much of a geek at all, but she discovered that she enjoys the Star Wars comics).

    If your local comic book store sucks, see what you can do to improve it. At the very least let the owner know that you think his antics are harming his reputation. If that doesn't work, look for another store within your shopping radius. In the worst case, move to strictly mail order (if you need unusual stuff, many local stores like Capital City Comics [] will ship just about anywhere). As long as you keep going you're saying that the behavior you're seeing is acceptable.

    I think the web (as I posted below) is most suited to strip comics. Not graphic novels or comic books. But collecting, I agree, is a huge deal to many comic book collectors. There is no value in an "issue 1" of a website comic, if it's been blasted all over the web.

    Comic book collectors? I think you mean "speculators," the idiots responsible for the comic industry bubble and crash in the 90s. The majority of the "value" that they created existed only from the price inflation, the original publisher saw little to nothing of it.

    The core of the industry's customers remain people who just want to read good stuff. We buy it so we can re-read it later and share it with others. We re-purchase collections of comics we already have so we have an easier to store and share copy. I eagerly collect print versions of web comics I love. (This isn't a new idea, print collections of newspaper comics also sell very well, in many cases better than traditional comic books.) The lack of rareness will do minimal damage to the value.

    As for not being suitable for comic books, that perception is changing. One of the most popular comics, Megatokyo [] is pushing the edges of a strip comic. At his current rate (about 10 pages a month), he's publishing the equivalent of a 20 page black and white comic every two months, a respectible rate for an independent comic. He's just chosen to release it page by page every few days instead of in comic sized chunks every two months.

As Will Rogers would have said, "There is no such things as a free variable."