Archive - Dec 2004 - Article
When we discussed the Year in Review issue it seemed like it would be a natural to write a list of people in webcomics for the year. But what to call it? Most of the time when media magazines talk about people in film, television, music or what-have-you, they can call their articles "The Power List..." or the "The It List..." because, well, those media have power and star power. Webcomics have those things, but alas, still in smaller quantities.
One more little conversation with a webcomics creator, this time Justine Shaw of Nowhere Girl. When Nowhere Girl first appeared, as a fully-formed, smartly written, and beautifully drawn 40-page comic, it obviously created a sensation.
Justine was the firstâ€”and so far onlyâ€”comics creator to be nominated for an Eisner award without ever having any work in print. And sheâ€™s great to talk to, as youâ€™ll see here:
Hi Justine. When and why did you start putting comics on the web?
My first webcomic was Nowhere Girl issue 1, which was October of 2001. The Web, for good or ill, lets anyone, including yours truly, put their stuff out there, no editor (more than likely), no compromises in the way you want to do what you do.
This year, Dave Johnson of Dog Complex was offered a deal with Ucomics Mycomics page, a step further in the quest to a syndication deal. Certainly it would have meant more exposure and some revenue, which means he was making a move several webcomics have done over the past year, for greater exposure and reaching into the non-Internet world. And for many webcomic creators such an opportunity would be considered the highlight of a successful year.
Only Johnson was next presented with an interesting choice. He was offered a full-time job, with a major company, in a job he loved doing---a video games programmer. It meant security, stock options, and a chance to truly start a family. But he felt he couldn't do both. Like many who pursue comic without much in the way of monetary reward, Johnson was torn between his responsibilities and his webcomic, and he had to make a choice.
So Dog Complex, for now, is ending. You can read about the whole rather bittersweet experience here in this interview.
As 2004 packs its bags and prepares to turn over the keys to the new year, we thought we would take this opportunity to look back at certain significant or just really amusing webcomics-related news stories throughout the year.
If we missed your favorite event, feel free to add your own thoughts.
Since I could really only get away with writing an entire column out of quotes from previous columns in a year-end review, I thought I'd go ahead and jump at the opportunity. This is my last column for a while, but I'll keep in touch. I already have an idea for my new webcomic. I won't give away much, but let's just say it involves a fire-breathing monkey who is addicted to Ebay, and a cow bent on changing the world so it is black and white "just like the old days."
But I digress.
There was a time, back in prehistory, when the key to a popular webcomic was lots of computer-programming jokes. Then cheesecake art. Then video-game references. Then, when the competition started growing fiercer, computer jokes and cheesecake and video games. Those days are long behind us, and aren’t we as a people better for it? Today, the secret to webcomics success is Cute.
The Beginnings of a "Modern" Age?
Conventional wisdom held, as late as 2001, that the only sustainable economic models for online comics were ad-based. Either the comic carried advertising in some fashion, or it was itself an advertisement for its own merchandise. Pay-to-read models were mostly based upon speculation and mostly spectacularly unsuccessful. Even Scott McCloud found his position as comics pundit threatened over his endorsement of micropayments.
The Collective Convective
Keenspot and Modern Tales were Big Pandaâ€™s most influential descendants, at least as of late 2004. But they were far from the only ones. As the number of webcomics continued to grow, the formation of collectives became as easy as the joining of bubbles in a bathtub. And like bubbles, they defied attempts to keep track of them all.
But categories began to emerge: (1) dropdowns, (2) kaffeeklatches, (3) showcase hosts (closed and open), (4) subscription sites, and (5) one pay-per-view store.
These collectives are worth studying, both in success and in failure, for every success shows where webcomics may be heading and where they may not be heading.
Webcomics is, of course, a global phenomena. 2004 saw webcomics proliferate, not just in America and Europe, but all over the world. Webcomics can be American, Brazilian, Japanese, British, or...Malaysian, like Lynn Lau, the creator of Jupiter, a webcomic set in a literal circus, not just a metaphorical one.
Recently Marilyn Scott-Waters got a chance to talk to Lau about her current webcomic, her past work and her future plans.
Do you know something? "Year in Review" columns are a bitch and a half to write.
It's not that things didn't happen this year. Tons of things happened this year. Strips started and strips ended. Grand plans were launched and grand plans failed and -- every now and again -- succeeded. Arguments were launched and flamewars fought and webcomics were turned onto their head nine or ten times.
And sitting here in front of the Smith Corona, I have trouble recalling any of these things.