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The March of the Collectives

A collective, loosely defined, is any sustained grouping of webcomic creators. What they do together varies greatly from group to group. Some are largely a peer group offering each other critical feedback and encouraging support. Others throw in cross-promotion for each others' work. Some build a collective brand with logos, advertising and a central website. Some share business experience and expertise in areas as varied as merchandise, books, conventions, hosting and website creation.

And what did I find from my research? There's a tremendous number of collectives out there (and that I never want to attempt another "survey" article again). And, oh yeah, checking out collectives can be a great way to find excellent new comics.

There's no one way to form a webcomics collective. A collective, loosely defined, is any sustained grouping of webcomic creators. What they do together varies greatly from group to group. Some are largely a peer group offering each other critical feedback and encouraging support. Others throw in cross-promotion for each others' work. Some build a collective brand with logos, advertising and a central website. Some share business experience and expertise in areas as varied as merchandise, books, conventions, hosting and website creation.

There's no one way to join a webcomics collective. Some creators are fairly exclusive with much or all of their webcomics activity within one collective while others are more promiscuous, joining multiple groups and spreading their webcomics identity and work across the landscape. Some creators join up with their friends and some look for a common theme or genre of webcomics.

There's no one way to run a webcomics collective. Some collectives are collaborative, some are democratic, some led by a few. In general though the idea of a webcomic collective evokes a smaller group of creators working together -- an organization model on the opposite end of the spectrum from something like Marvel or a newspaper syndicate where a corporate owner employs a large group of work-for-hire employees. Still there's a tremendous amount of space in-between those two extremes and just about anything organized at all in webcomics to date seems to fall much closer to the "collective" ideal end of that scale.

A tremendous number of them too, I tell you. Even the list at Comixpedia.org is starting to get lengthy (although if your collective is not in there now would be a good time to start an article for it). I won't even pretend to have scratched the surface of what's available online today. In February and on into March, I contacted as many collectives as I could find and a number of them did get back to me with additional details about their efforts.

 

OLD SKOOL COOL

Back in the mists of webcomics pre-history I was part of a small collective called Altbrand that had a website, did comics together, organized events for the "webcomics community" and even hit a convention together (well most of us did - a few got sidetracked in Alaska...). Altbrand is no more.

There are other collectives that come to mind when I think of old skool, including Tragi-Comix which includes Bryant Paul Johnson, Thomas Gale, Chris Shadoian and Kelli Nelson; and Ape Law which includes Dan Christensen, Mike Hawthorne, Justin Ison, Jon Morris, Norm Scott, and Neal von Flue. I'm sure there are countless others that started up early on. Most collectives, like most webcomics, probably don't garner attention beyond their own immediate fan base. There may be no way to know how many collectives there were in the web's earlier years. One of the oldest of the old skool however, has to be THE NICE.

The Nice was founded by Terrence Marks back in 2000. The original members besides Marks included Peter Gullerud (Grootlore) and Jason Furness (Pixelated). Marks explains the origins of The Nice, "We're loosely affiliated with Purrsia; there's historically been a fairly high overlap between comics hosted on Purrsia and comics that are in The Nice, but it's never been 100% either way."

What (if anything) does the collective do as a collective? What are you doing on the collective website?

Marks: In the past, we've done swaps and crossovers for Halloween and April Fools' Day. We also have a forum that most of our comics share.

The Nice has 31 members:

  1. Scott Kellogg - 21st Century Fox
  2. Susan Rankin - A Doemain of our Own
  3. Henbe - Adventures of Fifine
  4. Tiffany Ross - Akaelae, Alien Dice
  5. Ian McDonald - Bruno the Bandit
  6. Graveyard Greg and Redkam - Carpe Diem
  7. Matthew Bett - Cascade Failure
  8. JB - Catharsis
  9. Amber Williams - Dan & Mab's Furry Adventures
  10. Denise Jones - Eversummer Eve
  11. Robert and Margaret Carspecken - Faux Pas
  12. Mark Stanley - Freefall
  13. Graveyard Greg and Webtroll - Gaming Guardians
  14. Peter Gullerud - Hueby, Pastor Dick
  15. Leonard Cachola - Innies & Outties
  16. Jodi Tong - Lang-Lang
  17. Dawn Douglas - Leon & Kay
  18. Dutch - Misty the Mouse
  19. Richard Matheson - Mynarski Forest
  20. Shaenon K. Garrity - Li'l Mell & Sergio, Smithson
  21. Thomas Dye - Newshounds
  22. Jason Furness - Pixelated
  23. Flinthoof - Roomies
  24. Terrence Marks - Spare Parts
  25. The Brothers Grinn - Supermegatopia
  26. JD Calderon and Daphne Lage - Tall Tails
  27. Mike Russell - Vicki Fox
  28. Candy Dewalt - Vinci & Arty
  29. Bryan Richter - WLCD
  30. Mari Rose - Wings of Change
  31. Mark Mekkes - Zortic

 

BIG, BIGGER, BIGGEST

Today, however, some collectives are becoming quite well-known and their creators are helping each other to achieve greater success creatively and financially from webcomics. Some of the most visible names in this category would be DUMBRELLA, DAYFREE PRESS, BLANK LABEL COMICS (check out the community interview with the members of Blank Label Comics) and BOXCAR COMICS. Zach Miller, one of the co-founders of Boxcar Comics talked to us about their collective.

Boxcar Comics was founded by Zach Miller and Mitch Clem in 2005. Miller describes the theme of Boxcar as "Awesome."

What (if anything) does the collective do as a collective? What are you doing on the collective website?

Miller: We don't do much as a collective. We usually just help each other out with ideas and answering questions. We were going to get a booth at the San Diego Comic Con, however, it was completely sold out.

Boxcar has 15 members:

  1. mmr21 (21 Dead Monkeys)
  2. Ali Graham (Afterstrife, HOUSD)
  3. Josh Meinzer (Aikida)
  4. James Turner (Beaver and Steve)
  5. Desmond Seah (Bigger Than Cheeses)
  6. Fred Grisolm (Hate Song)
  7. Zach Miller (Joe and Monkey)
  8. Joe Dunn (Joe Loves Crappy Movies)
  9. Brandon J. Carr (The Kenmore)
  10. Gordon McAlpin (Multiplex)
  11. Mitch Clem (San Antonio Rock City)
  12. Clay Yount and Hampton Yount (Rob and Elliot)
  13. Tom Brazelton (Theater Hopper)
  14. DJ Coffman (Yirmumah)
  15. Wes Molebash (You'll Have That)

 

OPINIONATED CREATORS

Webcomics have tackled opinion and politics with a renewed vigor not seen in traditional editorial cartoons. It's not surprising that collectives have organized around a shared interest in making opinionated comics. A couple of collectives featuring such comics include CARTOONISTS WITH ATTITUDE and SPINZONE COMICS. Cartoonists With Attitude was started by many of the cartoonists profiled in Ted Rall's anthology series, Attitude (Comixpedia reviewed last year's edition Attitude 3 here). Brad Hawkins, one of the co-founders of SpinZone Comics talked to us their collective.

SpinZone Comics was founded by Brad Hawkins, Jonathan Fischer, and Eddie Caplan in July of 2006.

Hawkins describes SpinZone as "a collective of webcomics that deal with political and social issues. At present, our political leanings skew leftward, if only because there are so many more left-leaning webcomics than conservative ones."

What (if anything) does the collective do as a collective? What are you doing on the collective website?

Hawkins: We haven't scheduled any group activities for the moment; our members are highly independence-minded, some are in other collectives as well. There isn't a lot of time to do the gang thing at the moment.

SpinZone has 7 members:

  1. Brad Hawkins (Monkey Law)
  2. Eddie Caplan (Line Item Vito)
  3. Jonathan Fischer (Death of the Party)
  4. J.E. Mills (Cosmic Awareness)
  5. Ben Smith (Fighting Words)
  6. Matt Bors (Idiot Box)
  7. Scott Morris (Debt On)

 

ALL AGES ARE GO!

One thing I looked for but wasn't as successful in finding as I thought I'd be was genre or other theme-focused collectives. It's possible they are out there and I've missed them all but this doesn't seem to be that common yet. Not quite what I was looking for but still fairly focused in terms of subject matter (or rather approach to the subject matter is the new self-described "all ages comics" collective Lunchbox Funnies. Co-founder Tyler Martin talked to us about their collective.

Lunchbox Funnies was founded by Tyler Martin, Dean Trippe and Ryan Sias. They hatched the idea in mid-2006 and launched the collective's website just this past January. Martin describes Lunchbox Funnies as "All-ages comics for everyone!"

What (if anything) does the collective do as a collective? What are you doing on the collective website?

Martin: Currently the site serves as a launchpad for our comics, including information about the comics and creators, a shared forum and a blogsharing the latest news and offerings of the comics and creators.

Can you tell us anything about the plans/goals you have for your collective for 2007?

Martin: In addition to our own, we would like to feature other great all-ages comics, that aren't just for kids but that can be read, shared and enjoyed across generational lines. We'd like to promote the genre in general and become a site that can be used by readers as an all-agescomics hub.

We also plan to provide original content at the site including sketches, collaborative projects, tutorials, discussions and more.

Lunchbox Funnies has 8 members:

  1. Aki Alliance by Ryan Estrada
  2. Astronaut Elementary by Dave Roman
  3. Butterfly by Dean Trippe
  4. Cow & Buffalo by Mike Maihack
  5. Lunchbox by Ovi Nedelcu
  6. Silent Kimbly by Ryan Sias
  7. Wally & Osborne by Tyler Martin
  8. Zip and Li’l Bit by Trade Loeffler

 

HYBRID MODEL

There's no rule that a collective can't contain creators and critics, cartoonists and columnists. PANEL 2 PANEL would break that rule if it existed. Panel 2 Panel was founded by Amber "Glych" Greenlee in 2005. Greenlee describes Panel 2 Panel as "Graphic work, good storytelling, rants, and reviews. Basically, I consider p2p to be 'your grown up webcomics and media site.'"

What (if anything) does the collective do as a collective? What are you doing on the collective website?

Greenlee: Well, all of us are working together behind the scenes on several different print publications. Barb, Steve, and Rob all have finished novels, and all but Rob have been published professionally in print mediums.

Currently, my main focus has been updating the site from an HTML codebase to a PHP one to allow for ease in updates and the like (For want of a code-monkey, a website could be lost). Once that's finished, we'll be able to more fully concentrate on our publication efforts.

Panel 2 Panel has 6 members:

  1. Amber "glych" Greenlee (No Stereotypes, Red Dahlia, NonPersons)
  2. Barb Lien-Cooper (Gun Street Girl)
  3. Park Cooper (Gun Street Girl)
  4. Ryan Howe (Gun Street Girl)
  5. Robert Howard (review column Tangents)
  6. Steve Anderson's (review column Reel Advice)

 

Transplant

Unityflow's picture

I'm a member of Transplant Comics... another collective. Well worth coming and having a look at such great members as Toy Division, The Bean Men and Lonely Fetus, just to mention a few.

 

It's also one of the few collectives that has a transparent membership system. You submit your comic and the other members, and more importantly, registered users vote to see if you get it.

  Visit The Flowfield Unity - www.theflowfieldunity.com – it's OK.