It’s the third annual Comixpedia People Of Webcomics List. This was the hardest one yet to compile. There’s a lot of webcomics and a lot of people doing interesting things in and around webcomics. This list, as in past years, is an odd effort to compare apples and oranges: artistic achievement, audience popularity, technical achievement, business savvy, news-making impact all go into the mix. In re-reading the list as compiled this year, I might be tempted to describe it as a combination of those people who are casting a large shadow on webcomics and those we think should be casting a large shadow on webcomics. Undoubtedly you (yes, I mean you!) will disagree with some or even all of the list — that’s what comments are for.
For our third annual List of People Of Webcomics (or as I’ve come to think of it — The POW! List) let’s stipulate right up front that most of you are going to disagree with some or most of the list. A lot happened this year. And a lot more people got their fingers into webcomics in some fashion or another. The lines of "webcomics" if they ever were clear are very blurry now.
And yet what we cover at Comixpedia and what most people think of first when they think of webcomics still has a center of gravity distinct from comic books and newspaper comic strips. And the potential of webcomics remains unfettered. Webcomics are well-positioned as a concept, as an attitude, as a means of distribution, as a medium and as an ethos to overcome any limitation previous forms of comics have imposed on themselves or been trapped in by the expectations of the general public.
This year’s list is quite different than previous year’s installments although there are still some familiar faces, some of whom did really interesting things in 2006 — as interesting as they have ever done previously. And we still say no one should ever make too much of the individual rankings on the list, but for the record, the number ones for the 2004 list (Scott Kurtz) and the 2005 list (Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins) do return to the list again this year.
The list is an attempt to highlight those persons who through art, innovation, business, or just plain presence have cast a big shadow on the webcomics landscape this year. We tried as much as possible to focus on 2006 which helps to explain why some otherwise very influential people are not on this year’s list.
No matter why they’re on the list, we think all of them, in their own ways, were just plain cool to watch this year. So without further fanfare, check out The POW List for 2006.
25. Thomas Siddell
Tom Siddell started his webcomic Gunnerkrigg Court in August 2005. By the time the 2006 Web Cartoonists’ Choice Awards were handed out for 2006, Siddell’s webcomic was chosen by his peers for the Outstanding Newcomer award.
Siddell lives in Birmingham, UK. Like another artist from England, Siddell’s Gunnerkrigg Court features well-done, yet interesting art combined with a whimsical fantastic story that contains hints of darker tones to come.
Find out lots more in Comixpedia’s interview this month with Tom Siddell.
This is Thomas Siddell’s first time on the POW List.
24. T Campbell
T Campbell had a slightly lower profile year in 2006 then in years past despite the publication in May of his A History of Webcomics book. Still the History book, based in part on a series of articles Campbell wrote for Comixpedia was the first effort to capture in print the details of the first decade of webcomics. Perhaps it’s inevitable that any such "first draft of history effort" particularly one written as said history was still unfolding would cause at least some controversy for who or what was included and left out. The actual debates that unfolded online seemed fairly tame in light of the potential the subject holds. And clearly there’s room for additional writing in this area, both to refine what’s already been written, but also to uncover islands and continents of webcomics still overlooked.
Even though prior to 2006, Campbell had wrapped up or stopped several previous webcomics, such as Fans and Rip & Teri, Campbell still had his hands full writing for comics this year. Campbell’s webcomic Penny & Aggie, with artist Gisele Legace, returned to Keenspot and continues to update. The pair also put out a collection of the comic in print: The Best of Enemies: A Penny & Aggie Collection.
Looking ahead to 2007, Campbell will soon see the debut of the long-planned monthly series Divalicious! which is based on Pop Star, a comic Campbell did with artist Amy Mebberson for Tokyopop’s Rising Stars of Manga, Volume 5. The comic will be published by Tokyopop and the series is already available for pre-order.
Campbell is also a regular commentator on webcomics and comics generally, maintaining a regular podcast called Meanwhile, while also blogging. Most recently he’s taken on a position as "webcomics editor" with the comic news site Broken Frontier.
This is T Campbell’s second time on the POW List (#8 on the 2005 POW List).
23. Tim Demeter
Tim Demeter has quickly become one of the hardest working folks in webcomics. His action, anti-hero webcomic Reckless Life appears on Graphic Smash and on the comics for iPod site, Clickwheel. This year he took over the editing reins of the Graphic Smash site where he has helped steer the site in its transition from subscription to free webcomics. He also took over as Associate Editor at Clickwheel where he has a hand in determining the comics produced for the Clickwheel service.
This is Tim Demeter’s first time on the POW List.
The collective Act-I-Vate made a significant spash in 2006. The collective features work from indy comic "stars" such as Dean Haspiel, Nick Bertozzi, Jason Little and Jennifer Tong. Although the idea of a "virtual studio" was not as groundbreaking as Act-I-Vate’s press releases might have made it sound ("Act-i-vate is an experimental cyber studio generating new comix content owned by the respective creators," explained Dean Haspiel. " Act-i-vate is a hub glued together by the love and art of eight authors.") it was significant that major talents from the world of print comics banded together to publish comics online in what is essentially another webcomic collective.
And despite the less-then comic friendly navigation system of a LiveJournal site, the members of Act-I-Vate have consistently published webcomics on the site throughout the year. Another break in the (webcomics) wall.
This is Act-I-Vate’s first time on the POW List.
21. Scott Rosenberg
Scott Rosenberg is the chairman of Platinum Studios which made a splash in webcomics this year with the purchase of the webcomics host Drunk Duck and it’s subsequent efforts to combine web and print publishing for title such as Cowboys and Aliens and Hero By Night.
This is Scott Rosenberg’s first time on the POW List.
20. Charlie "Spike" Trotman
Spike’s webcomic Templar, Arizona won the WCCA awards for Outstanding New Character Design and Outstanding Character Writing. Templar is not Spike’s first webcomic, but it is the first one that has gained significant traction with audiences. Previous works such as Lucas and Odessa and Sparkneedle were also critically praised.
This is Charlie "Spike" Trotman’s first time on the POW List.
19. Zach Miller
Zach Miller is the creator of the popular Joe and Monkey webcomic and the founder of the Boxcar Comics webcomic collective which features a diverse collection of webcomic creators including among others: James Turner, Ali Graham, Fred Grisolm, Joe Dunn, Gordon McAlpin, Mitch Clem, Clay and Hampton Yount, Tom Brazelton, and Wes Molebash.
In 2006, Miller’s first print collection, Totally Boned: A Joe and Monkey Collection, won the inaugural Blooker award in the webcomic category. The webcomic category of the Blooker Awards (sponsored and organized by digital printing company Lulu) accepts nominations for books based on webcomics with nominations evaluated by an independent review committee and finalists selected by a panel of judges. This year’s panel of judges consists of Paul Jones, Arianna Huffington, Julie Powell, Rohit Gupta and Nick Cohen.
This year, Miller released his second collection of webcomics, The Definition of Awesome: Another Joe and Monkey Collection.
This is Zach Miller’s first time on the POW List.
18. Randy Milholland
Randy Milholland won this year’s WCCA award for Outstanding Dramatic Comic for his webcomic Something Positive. Something Positive has always mixed drama and outrageous humor and this year was no exception. With archives stretching back to 2001, Something Positive may seem an almost intimidating world to enter, but if you can appreciate the dark humor of its very first installment there’s no question you should be reading this comic.
This is Randy Milholland’s third time on the POW List (#23 on the 2005 POW List, #9 on the 2004 POW List).
17. Jeph Jacques
Jeph Jacques may be the tallest man working in webcomics (he’s neck and neck with Ryan North). He is also the current winner of the WCCA award for Outstanding Romantic Comic for his webcomic Questionable Content. Questionable Content, particularly since Jacques quit his day job to focus on the webcomic, deservedly continues to grow in popularity. Jacques has always handled the writing on his comic particularly well, mixing story and humor consistently, but it’s his art that is remarkable, moving from average to a level that is now quite equal to the writing and seems to continue to improve, albeit imperceptibly in the short-term.
This is Jeph Jacques’ first time on the POW List.
16. David Hellman
A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible is one of the most visually interesting, even beautiful, webcomics. Drawn by David Hellman and written by Dale Beran, it generally does not pursue any continuity and many installments are best described as surreal. This year, Hellman won the WCCA award for Outstanding Artist.
This is David Hellman’s second time on the POW List (#17 on the 2005 POW List).
15. Dave Kellett
Dave Kellett and his merry band of fellow webcomic creators at Blank Label Comics had another big year. The webcomic collective, founded in 2005, had by all accounts a successful and busy year in 2006.
Kellett in particular had a very eventful year as he transitioned his comic Sheldon away from its former set-up at United Feature Syndicate. Kellett who admittedly had pursued a newspaper syndication deal to accomplish a lifelong goal of appearing in the nation’s newspaper funny pages, finally decided that continuing to operate under essentially a standard deal with United Feature was not working for him or his comic. A major downside of Kellett’s deal was the restriction of Sheldon‘s web presence to comic.com which cut-off archived installments of the comic after 30 days. Once Sheldon and it’s large archives were moved to Kellett’s independent website and made fully available for free to readers, Kellett noted a tremendous explosion of pageviews, presumably from pent-up demand from readers new and old alike.
This is Dave Kellett’s first time on the POW List.
14. Fred Gallagher
Fred Gallagher continued creating his popular webcomic Megatokyo. Gallagher, one of the first webcomic creators to devote himself to work on his comic fulltime, continues to publish one of the most popular webcomics.
In print, Megatokyo has also been very successful, with Gallagher this year switching from previous publisher Dark Horse to DC Comics CMX Manga imprint. Megatokyo: Volume 5 is schedule for publication in April 2007.
This is Fred Gallagher’s second time on the POW List (#19 on the 2004 POW List).
13. Gene Yang
Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese was one of the first webcomics featured on Modern Tales when it debuted in 2002. American Born Chinese tells three stories in parallel: one focused on Jin Wang, a son of Chinese immigrants; one focused on the legend of the Chinese folk hero Monkey King; and one focused on a sitcom starring buck-toothed Chinese stereotype Cousin Chin-Kee.
In 2006, it was published in print form by a new graphic novels imprint First Second Books (with coloring by Lark Pien) and this fall it became the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award. Although Yang’s book did not win the Young People’s Literature category, it really is a long overdue milestone for a graphic novel to be named as a finalist for any category of the National Book Awards.
This is Gene Yang’s first time on the POW List.
12. Kazu Kibuishi
Another year and another successful volume of the popular anthology comic, Flight. Volume 3 of the series, again edited by Kazu Kibuishi, came out in June 2006 and featured 26 stories over 352 pages. Plans are already afoot for next year’s Volume 4 (check out the amazing cover art here). The Flight series of books has done as much as anyone to showcase the talent of many creators who have published much of their work on the web.
Kibuishi also continued work on his own comics. His webcomic Copper went on hiatus mid-way through 2006, but stated plans are for it to return. (Even with only a half year of production on the monthly strip, Kibuishi still won the WCCA award for Outstanding Environment Design and snagged nominations for Outstanding Layout and Outstanding Use of Color as well.) Kibuishi’s webcomic output will likely remain on hold as he continues work on Amulet, the two volume graphic novel that will be published by Scholastic. Current plans are for Amulet to come out in Spring 2008.
This is Kazu Kibuishi‘s third time on the POW List (#7 on the 2004 POW List, #9 on the 2005 POW List).
11. Ted Rall
You may not think of Ted Rall as a webcomic creator, but he has embraced the talent that exists on the digital landscape. In the third installment of his Attitude anthology, Attitude 3: The New Subversive Online Cartoonists, Rall highlights a roster of creators exclusively drawn from the web. His list includes, among others, a few Keenspotters: D.C. Simpson (Ozy and Millie, I Drew This) and Thomas K. Dye (Newshounds); a few Dumbrellistas: R. Stevens (Diesel Sweeties) and Steven L. Cloud (Boy On A Stick And Slither), a few Modern Tales folks: Dorothy Gambrell (Cat and Girl) and Eric Millikin (Fetus-X) as well as many others familiar to readers of Comixpedia, including: David Hellman & Dale Beran (A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversable), Nicholas Gurewitch (The Perry Bible Fellowship), Rob Balder (Partially Clips), Ryan North (Dinosaur Comics), Brian McFadden (Big Fat Whale),and August J. Pollak (XQUZYPHYR & Overboard).
After the publication of Attitude 3, Rall, along with several other cartoonists, started up a webcomic collective called Cartoonists With Attitude. Okay, they describe themselves as "a group of ground-breaking social commentary and political cartoonists, many of whom appear in N.B.M. Publishing’s fine Attitude series of books edited by fellow C.W.A.er Ted Rall", but take a look at the group’s website with its blog, its merchandise store and consider the fact that many of them publish their comics online (if not exclusively), and how is Cartoonists With Attitude any different than Blank Label Comics or Dumbrella? Not only is Ted Rall a webcomic creator, he’s now a member of a webcomics collective.
Rall has also played a key role in the just-after-New Year’s springing of Rich Stevens’ Diesel Sweeties onto the unsuspecting newspaper-reading public. Rall has a formal position with United Features Syndicate where his job is essentially "scout". The first webcomic creator Rall tapped in this new role was Stevens and getting Diesel Sweeties into America’s newspapers, assuming all goes well with the planned launch in January 2007, has happened remarkably fast.
This is Ted Rall’s first time on the POW List.
10. Chris Crosby and Darren Bleuel
The two public co-CEOs of Keenspot and webcomic creators in the their own rights, Chris Crosby and Darren Bleuel have about as much "old school" webcomic cred as anyone. (It’s telling that Keenspot’s slogan is "Still The Best Damn Comics On The Web".) Their webcomics site Keenspot continues to be one of the biggest networks of webcomics despite the departure this year of the popular webcomic Sinfest. Keenspot added several new webcomics to its lineup, including D.J. Coffman’s Yirmumah and Tarol Hunt’s Goblins.
Keenspot also continued its efforts to license Keenspot webcomics to Hollywood and announced that a new animation series called Angelipups (based on characters from Chris Crosby’s Superosity) was under development. Development also continued on the previously announced deal to produce an animated television series based on Owen Dunne’s You Damn Kid! with webcomic creator Dunne working on a pilot script.
Individually, Crosby continued working on his long-running webcomics Superosity and Sore Thumbs; and Bleuel continued working on his webcomic Nukees. Cumulatively ,Crosby and Bleuel are responsible for… well more webcomic strips than I can count.
This is Chris Crosby’s third time on the POW List (#2 on the 2004 POW List, #13 on the 2005 POW List)
This is Darren Bleuel’s second time on the POW List (#15 on the 2004 POW List)
9. Joey Manley
Webcomics publisher, codesmith, and all-around entrepenuer, there isn’t much Joey Manley hasn’t done in connection with webcomics. This was a particularly interesting year for all things Modern Tales as Manley, long associated with the subscription model of webcomics publishing, made a serious commitment to free.
By the end of 2006, all of the formerly subscription-oriented webcomic sites in the Modern Tales family (Modern Tales, Girlamatic, Graphic Smash, Serializer) had relaunched — each of them now including a substantial number of webcomics on their sites available, archives and all, to readers for free. In addition, WebcomicsNation, the webcomics hosting service which Manley had launched earlier in the year, introduced an additional tier of the service available to creators for free.
In addition, Manley launched the long-delayed Adult Webcomics and announced that Warren Ellis would be introducing a webcomics site, Rocket Pirates, using the Webcomics Nation code. Rocket Pirates which is now slated to debut in early 2007, promises to feature webcomics "Warren likes".
This is Joey Manley’s third time on the POW List (#3 on the 2004 POW List, #2 on the 2005 POW List).
8. Chris Onstad
Chris Onstad is the creator of the critically praised webcomic Achewood. Onstad’s webcomic might be described as a webcomic beloved by other creators – not immediately accessible to the broadest audience, but extremely smart and a very rewarding read once you "get it". I have seen countless reviews and other online posts about Achewood that begin, "I didn’t get why my friends told me Achewood was brilliant until…" and usually involves the reader finding a particular series of strips that pulls them in. Well this year Onstad’s Achewood storyline "The Great Outdoor Fight" may well prove to be his biggest hook for readers new and old. The response to this sprawling saga (35 episodes) has been amazingly vocal and widespread on the internets with praise coming from just about every corner. Fans of the storyline even started a wiki that now contains extensive detail on the "history" of this fictional event.
While Achewood got shut out of several awards this year, Onstad did receive nominations at the WCCAs for Outstanding Comic, Outstanding Comedic Comic Outstanding Writing, and Outstanding Character Writing; and for Best Online Comics Work at the Harveys.
This is Chris Onstad’s first time on the POW List.
7. D.J. Coffman
D.J. Coffman won Platinum Studio’s Comic Book Challenge held this summer at the San Diego ComicCon. His prize? A contract to publish his pitched comic book, Hero By Night, with Platinum. Although there was some controversy regarding the terms of the contract offered to the winner of the Comic Book Challenge contest, Coffman has been highly enthusiastic about working with Platinum since winning the contest. Subsequent to the Comic Book Challenge, Platinum purchased the webcomic host Drunk Duck which eventually rolled out an improved version of the site. Coffman has begun publishing at Drunk Duck, Hero By Night Diaries, a prequel to his planned comic book series. The comic book series is scheduled to debut next year (you can see a preview cover in the current Diamond catalog).
Coffman also continues to create his webcomic Yirmumah (recently bringing on Wiz Rollins as a writer for the project). He was the initial artist on the poker-themed Life’s A Bluff but dropped out of that project due to time commitments.
This is D.J. Coffman’s second time on the POW List (#22 on the 2005 List).
6. Ryan North
Ryan North is a webcomics creator and he had a very good year. He won the Outstanding Writer award at the 2006 WCCAs for his work on Dinosaur Comics. Dinosaur Comics is all about the writing, as by design North uses the same clip art in the same position for every single Dinosaur Comic ever made. North also released a book this year, The Best of Dinosaur Comics: 2003-2005 A.D., that collected three years of the comic
But Ryan North is also a one-man technology shop for comics. In previous years, North has launched OhNoRobot (which allows webcomics to create searchable transcriptions of their archives) and RSSpect (which allows webcomics to offer an RSS feed). This year North introduced an auction-based advertising service called Project Wonderful. It may be too early to tell the long term impact of Project Wonderful on the ability of webcomic creators to promote themselves with it or use it as a source of income from their webcomics, but what is clear that many creators in webcomics enthusiastically embraced the use of Project Wonderful this year. Perhaps in part that is because many webcomic creators were already offering button size ads on their websites to monthly sponsors — transitioning those ads to Project Wonderful is a fairly small step.
Auctions have their pluses and minuses for all sides involved (will I make more or less money for my ads, will I pay more or less to place ads) but there’s no question that Project Wonderful has developed an efficient and transparent auction system for ads. One key aspect of Project Wonderful is that it does not rely on click-throughs for payment as Google Ads does. The display of the ad is what the advertiser is paying for. This is actually how (almost?) every other medium handles ads and it’s a fair deal to do it the same way online. It also has the side benefit of side-stepping the entire problem of click-through fraud. At this point it’s impossible to know for sure if webcomic creators will be as excited about Project Wonderful at the end of 2007, but it’s almost a safe bet given his track record, that by the end of 2007 North will have rolled out yet another ingenious webcomic tool.
This is Ryan North’s second time on the POW List (#15 on the 2005 POW List)
SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT MENTION: TECHNICAL CATEGORY
There were several folks who have built some really interesting technical things for webcomics that deserve special recognition:
- Josh Roberts who had already created the massive webcomics directory OnlineComics.net very recently rolled out the almost instantly massive social network site ComicSpace.com.
- Tyler Martin continued to update ComicPress the webcomics-specific theme he developed for the blogging software, WordPress.
- Kari Pahula built Piperka.net which is a surprisingly simple way to organize a webcomics readling list. It tracks updates and the archives for a growing number of webcomics.
- Ash Young previously created the webcomics portal TheWebcomicsList.com and more recently was involved in starting Speechbubble Media, an advertising network focused on webcomic clients. Recently, Speechbubble Media announced it had signed up 140 websites as clients (representing a total of 70 million impressions per month).
And now onto the top five of the POW List for 2006:
5. Shaenon Garrity
It’ll be a sad, but happy day when Shaenon Garrity wraps up her first webcomic Narbonic. Narbonic is a wonderfully hilarious tale of mad science, friendship and love that is both completely engrossing and yet easily accessible. It is a perfect strip for the unique attributes of serialization on the web, with almost any daily installment constituting its own enjoyable blast of humor and yet all of it cumulatively building a world in service to an overall story. Narbonic may not have the largest audience out there (although that is probably due in part to the years it spent behind the subscription wall at Modern Tales), but its readership has continued to ramp up, even as Garrity made it clear she was winding it down.
Garrity already has two other ongoing webcomics that she writes: Smithson (with the artist Brian Moore) and L”il Mell (with the artist Neil Babra). She’s also written stories for Marvel and continues to do freelance editing work for Viz.
This year, Garrity also took on the role of editing the Modern Tales website this year (taking over from Eric Burns) and has shepherded its transition from a subscription approach to one that features a significant number of webcomics completely free to readers.
This is Shaenon Garrity’s second time on the POW List (#11 on the 2005 POW List).
4. Richard Stevens
In 2006, Richard Stevens continued to create his daily webcomic Diesel Sweeties while also by all accounts continuing to make a living from making comics. Moreover, Stevens, who is part of the webcomics collective Dumbrella, has taken over distribution for many of his t-shirt-slinging, merchandise-making webcomic compadres. In fact, all of the Dumbrella creators seem to be successfully selling merchandise such as t-shirts and buttons and that has helped fueled their ability to continue working on their webcomic projects. This model of webcomic, t-shirts and print collections of the webcomic is probably the most widely copied business model among webcomic creators today and although we only have anecdotal evidence at hand, it’s the one model that has led to a growing number of webcomic creators to "quit the day job" and spend more time on comics.
Stevens is now making the move to the newspaper pages through a syndication deal with United Feature Syndicate. Stevens was recruited to the syndicate by Ted Rall. The newspaper version of Diesel Sweeties starts January 8, 2007, and will debut in papers such as the Houston Chronicle, Rocky Mountain News, Seattle Times, Calgary Herald and Detroit News. Diesel Sweeties is not an edgy or extreme comic in the context of the web. On the newspaper page it will be edgy though, perhaps in its own way as edgy as The Boondocks was treated on its arrival. Even the newspaper-specific versions of Diesel Sweeties are not your father’s Oldsmobile.
Maybe more important then the simple fact that America will see a lot more pixel-based art on their newsprint next year is that Stevens struck a new-fangled deal with United Feature, one that previous webcomic creators could not obtain. United Feature apparently took notice of the fact that Stevens had already built an audience for Diesel Sweeties and (i) gave him credit for that in their bargaining and (ii) didn’t require him to give that webcomic aspect of Diesel Sweeties up as a prerequisite to a syndication deal. As a result they will be Diesel Sweeties, newspaper blend on newsprint and online at comics.com while Diesel Sweeties, webcomics blend will still continue at dieselsweeties.com. Maybe there’s hope for the funny pages after all…
This is Richard Stevens second time on the POW List (#8 on the 2004 POW List).
3. Nicholas Gurewitch
The Perry Bible Fellowship won the 2006 WCCA award for Outstanding Comic (it also won the WCCAs for Comedic Comic and Short Form Comic) and the Ignatz award for Outstandling Online Comic. It’s also gotten widespread critical praise (for an example see this TCJ review) and now appears in print in all kinds of places.
This is Nick Gurewitch’s second time on the POW List (#6 on the 2005 POW List).
2. Scott Kurtz
This year Scott Kurtz took home the Eisner for Best Digital Comic. PvP was not the first comic to win this award, the category was introduced in 2005 and the first winner was Mom’s Cancer by Brian Fies. But there was something tremendously satisfying to see PvP win this award, perhaps because Kurtz has always maintained daily updates at pvponline.com and so regardless of where PvP goes, it remains unashamedly a webcomic. (In contrast, Fies removed Mom’s Cancer from the web upon publication of the comic in print format.) And moreover, as it looks more and more likely that webcomics will no longer be treated as the bastard step-child of comics, but rather embraced, then there’s hope that the biggest and the best of webcomics will receive a fair shake from the larger "comics community" when it comes to such recognition.
Kurtz also saw PvP‘s audience online grow and he also kept up the monthly PvP comic book published by Image. More recently, Kurtz partnered with fellow webcomic creator Kristopher Straub to begin work on an animated version of the webcomic, PvP The Series, scheduled to debut next year.
This is Scott Kurtz’s third time on the POW List (#1 on the 2004 POW List, #20 on the 2005 POW List)
1. Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik
For the second year in a row, it would be hard to name anyone else as the biggest name going in webcomics. Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, the writer and artist respectively behind the massively popular webcomic Penny Arcade have only increased the size of the very large dent they’ve already put in the larger shiny, jangly object we know as popular culture. And while it’s clear that their success is most evident in terms of their subject matter, video games, the webcomic is still the horse they rode in on. Not surprisingly then, besides topping our webcomic list this year, the Penny Arcade duo also led off MTV’s List of Influential Gamers posted earlier this year.
This year has simply been bigger: bigger audience for the webcomic (even the Penny Arcade forums are huge); bigger attendance at PAX, the gaming convention Holkins and Krahulik started for their fans; and more money raised for children’s hospitals by Child’s Play, the charity Holkins and Krahulik started for their fans and videogame players generally. It helps to put the Penny Arcade phenomenon in perspective to know that almost 20,000 people attended PAX this past August 25-27th and that Child’s Play will likely raise in excess of $500,000 this year.
This year has seen the introduction of books collecting Penny Arcade comics into the mix: Penny Arcade, Vol. 1: Attack of the Bacon Robots came out in January 2006, Penny Arcade Vol. 2: Epic Legends Of The Magic Sword Kings came out in August 2006, and Penny Arcade Vol. 3: The Warsun Prophecies is set to debut in January 2007. (Penny Arcade: Vol. 4: Birds Are Weird is in the works but a release date has not yet been set.)
Holkins and Krahulik are also adding video game developer to their resume by working with Hothead Games on a video game to be called Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness. The plan is to release episodes of the game although the date for the first release does not yet appear to be set. On the announcement of this project, Holkins wrote:
As a self-funded, completely independent project which is then digitally delivered to the three major PC platforms, what we’re doing with Hothead Games is exclusively for readers – so we don’t expect most people to get it. We are not making a mass market product to "show the industry how it’s done." Hothead isn’t licensing Penny Arcade, we are making it together – Gabe and I are responsible for the look, story, and dialogue (i.e., the Penny Arcade) while their sturdy men and women enter the Code Mines in search of pure software.
The arc of Holkins’ and Krahulik’s career in webcomics has been astounding to watch. At its basic core, it’s a story of two independent, unconnected guys who have turned a comic about something they love, video games, into a huge success that has allowed them to continue to pursue their passions even as they got married and started families. They didn’t compromise themselves, nor cynically "sell out" to get ahead. Sure, the reality is that they probably wouldn’t have been able to do this without the intervention of businessman Robert Khoo who now serves as the defacto CEO of Penny Arcade, Inc., but Khoo wouldn’t have bothered with Holkins’ and Krahulik if he didn’t see that they had already "made it" — if only someone could straighten out the way they ran their "business".
This is Jerry Holkins’ and Mike Krahulik’s third time on the POW List (#5 on the 2004 POW List, #1 on the 2005 POW List)