Years come, and years go. We're looking at the end of another one. And what am I doing as we sit on the cusp of 2006? What else. I look forward.
The theme this month is mystery webcomics. And for the first time since I took this gig...
...well, I have no freaking clue what to write. It's like they said "this month, the theme is finbotz comics," and I'd smile and nod and sit down in front of the word processor.
It's back to school time, which has me hopping around like a bunny on crystal meth. I work at a school, so had many, many long days behind me. For most of the rest of the world, however, August is a time of bittersweetness. Even folks who don't operate on an academic schedule any more know that summer is waning, and autumn is coming, and it's time once more to prepare ourselves for a slide into winter.
So here's the thing. I like porn.
I don't talk a lot about liking porn, because you're not supposed to come right out and say it. "Man, what a beautiful morning," you never say. "I think I'll have a cup of tea, and maybe go down to the market, and when I get back I'm going to enjoy the bounties of porn that are my birthright as an internet consumer." People would look at you funny if you did, and your boss would stop letting you have complimentary coffee and donuts in the morning.
But I do like it. And most of you probably do too. We might not be cheerful about it - we might not march into gas stations with our head held high, grabbing the latest magazines off the rack and marching right up to the gas station attendant to make our purchases (that might be the one situation in life where you are that concerned about what a gas station attendant thinks of you) - but we do like it.
Which leads us inexorably to porn comics, which I don't often talk about either.
I've talked, a few columns back, about Superguy. Superguy was (and still is) a mailing list for amateur fiction, started in the late eighties. Not really 'fanfiction,' since the stories and characters were original, but instead a wholesale satire on superheroes, Superguy let people who loved the media, or loved humor, or just loved typing a chance to build an audience, create, experiment, learn the craft of writing, and in general build whole new worlds. Also, there was a supernatural talking fish.
We're discussing print this month, which is an interesting topic for webcomics. Once, it was the goal. Everyone who was doing the web had an eye to print -- the early successes, like User Friendly, Sluggy Freelance, and Kevin and Kell all moved into print collections as a matter of course. Plan 9 Publishing became the earliest resource for webcomics to bridge into dead trees, and it remains a vibrant publisher of comics and cartoons from both the web and print sides of the aisle. Derek Kirk Kim is perhaps the most successful example of a person who has bridged from the web to a print collection, with the clear and obvious exception of Megatokyo, which has transformed itself from a webcomic with collections available in print to a manga produced by Dark Horse that happens to put up teaser pages in sequential order on a website.
Mel Hynes and James Grant do a comic together called Two Lumps, which is the self-proclaimed anti-Garfield. Grant is also (in)famous for his prior webcomic FLEM. Eric Burns interviewed both of them about working together on Two Lumps, collaboration in general and Grant's secret plan to get on Keenspot.
This month's "Feeding Snarky" represents a milestone, at least for me. Up until now, the columns -- for better or worse -- have reflected my critical opinions as an observer and consumer of webcomics. They were, naturally enough, my opinions on the subject, and they came from an outsider's perspective.
This month, however, the theme is "collaboration," and that's a topic I have -- dare I say it -- first hand experience in. In fact, I have experience both in collaborating on a webcomic and in not collaborating on a webcomic, and therefore I can speak to the advantages of having someone on hand who knows what the Hell they're doing with a pencil.
There is a kind of dichotomy inherent in any civil rights movement. On the one hand, it's generally felt that the minority should be given every opportunity to succeed in competition with the majority. On the other hand, it only seems fair that the minority should be given compensatory advantage to level the playing field with the majority.
When I was your age our webcomics didn't have pictures That's right -- they were made out of words. Words! And we liked it that way. You don't know how it is, with your 'webs' and your 'graphical user interfaces' and your 'more than 1200 baud modems.' You don't know how good you have it. We had mainframes and LISTSERV and BITNET.