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Alexander Danner

A Survey of Digital Comics Readers

This article was originally published on webcomics.com in 2008.

Every few years, a traditional comics publisher makes a renewed plunge into the webcomics market. And each time they do, they feel the need to introduce some “revolutionary” new piece of comics presentation software, as if this is what some purely hypothetical online comics industry has been waiting for. “Finally,” we are meant to exclaim, “we can actually read comics online!”

Given how the vast majority of webcomics do just fine as a succession of image files on web pages, it is a curious phenomenon.

A Stray Thought on Digital Comics Hardware

This article was originally published on webcomics.com in 2008.

When reviewing reader applications for online comics, I was struck by just how much effort Marvel put into solving the problem of presenting vertically oriented comics on a horizontal screen. With multiple layout options, including full page, double page, various zooms, and their elaborate Smart Panels solution, Marvel’s designers might be a bit overly concerned with this problem; after all, most readers don’t get up in arms over vertical scrolls these days. But I do have to admit, it really would be nicer to be able to see a full page of art at a readable size, rather than having to choose between full pages with illegibly small text, or readable text on incomplete pages.

Still, after reviewing five different comics readers, all of which attempt to address this issue to one extent or another, none entirely satisfactorily, I can’t help thinking that the final answer to this issue won’t be new software, but rather new hardware.

Three Technologies I'm Just Not that Excited About

This article was originally published on webcomics.com in 2008.

I love technology. Whether it’s little gadgets like my iPod, or useful applications like Google Calendar, I love all the little tech innovations that make life easier and more fun. The first time I heard about webcomics, I was thrilled. Automated content management? Fantastic! Integration of multi-media elements into webcomics? All over it. Do I want an iPhone or a Kindle? Oh my god, yes. Can I afford them? Not remotely. But I want them nonetheless.

Webcomics Versus eBook Readers

This article was originally published on webcomics.com in 2008.

Okay, so the Amazon’s Kindle can’t handle images. Neither, for that matter, can Sony’s Portable Reader System, a similar E Ink product that arrived in 2006 but received considerably less buzz. This lack of image support has caused much complaint both within webcomics and in the general market. Obviously, a device without image support is useless to webcomics readers and creators. But the level of disappointment surprised me. It hadn’t occurred to me that webcomics readers were really waiting for a new portable display technology.

RSS Reconsidered

This article was originally published on webcomics.com in 2008.

Last month I presented a list of webcomics technologies that have failed to ignite my technophilic enthusiasm, despite their popularity or general usefulness. Over the past several weeks, I have given one of those technologies, RSS, a second chance.

Check Back Later When This Post Is Finished -- Okay Done!

I've been posting some good stories Alexander Danner wrote for the prior version of webcomics.com.  Another one today on whatever happenned to four (briefly) rock stars of webcomic.

Life Imitates Art Comics: James Kochalka wrote in a comic about a game in a dream he was having, somebody actually makes the game, now he makes a comic about it.  Hmmm... That's a tempting power over the universe he seems to have developed.

AWARDS: The Canadian Joe Shuster Award nominations are out - the webcomics category is outstanding: Kate Beaton, Michael Cho, Lar De Souza & Ryan Sohmer, Kathryn & Stuart Immonen, Karl Kerschl, Gisele Lagace, Ramón K. Pérez, and Cameron Stewart.

INTERVIEWS: Newsarama has an interview with Bellen! creator Brian Brown about his new book and winning a Xeric grant.

SMALL SCREENS: Sean Kleefeld had a good post on some of the inherent challenges of smaller screens as a way to read/display comics.

NOT WEBCOMICS: The browser-based ZORK! game is out.  Jim Zubkavich did gobs of great art for this.

JUSTIFY MY HYPE: Some comics I'm checking out: Rooby Moon and Schoolhouse Daze.

Off the Radar: Catching Up with Past Luminaries

This article was originally published on webcomics.com in 2008.

Webcartoonists disappear every day. Not off the face of the Earth, of course, but certainly out of the collective conscious of the webcomic community. Creators may take a hiatus, or decide to focus on print projects, or complete a well-loved work and move on to something less wildly popular. Or they may simply not bother with self-promotion, so that when the initial buzz surrounding their work calms, they are not active in maintaining the level of attention that was briefly paid to their work. And fickle as the Internet is, it’s easy to go from famous to forgotten at any given moment.

Of course, just because a creator isn’t dominating the critical sites or public discussion forums the way they once did doesn’t mean they’ve stopped working, or publishing, or playing some other role in the comics community. Presented here is a survey of the current projects of four of those creators whom we haven’t heard much about over the past year or two, despite their notable accomplishments of the past.

The Old Made New: A Look at the Static Comics of Daniel Merlin Goodbrey

This article was originally published on webcomics.com in 2008.

“I’ve always felt driven to keep trying new things creatively and experimental web comics just started to feel a little too familiar, y’know? Too safe. I wasn’t going to improve as a creator sticking to that ground.”

–Daniel Merlin Goodbrey

Best known for his impressive formalist experiments, usually featuring Flash interfaces (eventually culminating in his Tarquin Engine), Goodbrey was one of the early pioneers of the new artistic realms that web publishing opened to comics creators (For my thoughts on Goodbrey’s early works, see my contribution to The Webcomics Examiner’s article "Aggressive Experiments"). In the past three years, however, Goodbrey has produced only one of his “hypercomics,” the 24-hour comic Never Shoot the Chronopath, which he published this past December. Most of his efforts these days have gone into more traditional seeming fare: two static humor strips and a longform tale of undead cowboys.

It would be a mistake to think that Goodbrey has given up on pushing himself creatively just because he isn’t inventing wild new interfaces, though. “Experimental” is a relative term, and nothing stymies innovation faster than repeating oneself. And even the most traditional methods can help a creator to break new ground if they’ve never tried those methods before. In fact, the least interesting work that Goodbrey has produced in recent years is the most overtly experimental; “Never Shoot the Chronopath” is an enjoyable little comic, but nothing we haven’t seen Goodbrey do before.

On the other hand, Goodbrey’s Brain Fist, All Knowledge is Strange, and The Rule of Death all incorporate forms and ideas that are new to Goodbrey’s body of work, even if they don’t look so different from the kinds of comics most people read every day.

B. Shur’s New Rocket

This article was originally published on webcomics.com in 2008.

The old guard of boundary-pushing, technologically-empowered, makers of web-native, interactive, experimental comics have largely moved on to other things. Sure, most of them are still involved in making comics, one way or another. But they’ve left the work of exploring just how much farther technology can take us to the next generation.

Happily, B. Shur has stepped up to continue that work, and is busily taking comics in fascinating new directions.

Interviewing Bryant Paul Johnson

Bryant Paul Johnson is the creator of the long-running "semi-historical micro fiction" webcomic title, Teaching Baby Paranoia.  I met Johnson at an SPX several years ago and I've always enjoyed reading his wonderfully smart, intellectually wacky comic.  It's a bit like reading the history of a much more interesting world than our own.  He also created a limited comic series for ComixTalk titled The Antecedent that might be described as semi-historical micro nonfiction and often illuminated many interesting parallels between American history and our recent era under that Texas yankee who used to be President.

I was really happy he was able to do a cover for us last month and than an interview now.  Especially interesting is an update on the graphic novel titled The Lower Kingdom that Johnson is working on along with a preview of its first chapter.