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Looking Forward

Years come, and years go. We're looking at the end of another one. And we're looking at a discussion of it.

A lot's happened this past year. A lot of TEH DRAMA, a lot of really cool things, a lot of minor things. There's been tons written about it already, and there will be a ton more.

And me? What am I doing as we sit on the cusp of 2006?

What else. I look forward.

The very nature of webcomics is immediate. We have archives that let people delve into our past, but our present and our future are all encompassing. Tomorrow drives us more than today, because we always have to be thinking about tomorrow. It's the nature of webcomics. We're always producing to deadline. Our first drafts become our only drafts.

And yesterday? Yesterday becomes just that. Every morning is a new day to load up tabs in safari, check pages, see what's happened today. Yesterday always seems so... yesterday in comparison.

So, here in the Year in Review issue, let's look ahead to 2006, to immediate hopes and long term plans. Let's see some predictions, baby!

  1. Modular services: If 2005 was the rise of the webcomics collective -- not that there weren't small collectives before, but this was the year the model was proven to be solid -- 2006 will be the year that modular services will come into their own. Right now, the components are out there. Search engines for text. Content Management Systems with a variety of options. Advertising outlets (including press releases to Comixpedia). Easy print o�n demand options through Lulu or ComicXPress. However, we're seeing the acknowledgment of those different services growing. Right now, if you look at the user pages of Webcomics Nation, you see instructions for submitting press releases to Comixpedia, links to services like Oh No Robot!, and recommendations for other stats tracking services. Over the coming year, I expect all of those services will be incorporated directly into WCN -- if you use Oh No Robot!, you click a setting "on" in the control panel, and you get a specific blank to insert the javascript you get from Oh No Robot! I would expect Comic Genesis to do the same.
  2. Splitting the fandom for energy: with the emergence of Comixpedia.org's wiki and Oh No! Robot! we are seeing more and more tools that let the passionate fans of a webcomic put their passions to good use. Already, Girly now links to its Comixpedia.org entry for cast lists and other information, and I suspect that other tools that let fans do the updating and management will emerge over the next year. The fan base of a popular comic is a zealous and potent entity, and giving it productive channels for that energy will both make things better for comics and keep them out of trouble.
  3. We will begin to see increased nexii for comics recommendations: a plethora of independent critical commentary and review sites have begun to rise -- Websnark, obviously, is one of them. The increased profile of some of the others shows that the model will continue to grow and the discourse will grow along with it. That's fantastic for the evolution of the art form -- however, one of the clear needs out there is core level communication between the critics and the fanbase. I get a lot of comments from folks saying that they found a number of their favorite strips through Websnark. I know folks like Phil Khan and Robert Howard say the same things. Now, with the rise of blogs and podcasts and other forms of critical commentary, the iron is hot for independent sites devoted only to recommending webcomics. Somewhere between Websnark and The Webcomics List is a website of eight or nine contributors who do nothing but maintain lists of their favorite comics with short blurbs about them. These nexii (it's the plural of nexus. No, really) will be the next step in getting the word out there. There are good strips none of us have ever heard of. It's time to build an infrastructure that will let that happen.
  4. More minimalist experimentation: Dinosaur Comics really paved the way to an entire subgenre of comics. By reducing art needs to next to none, Ryan North managed to effectively parlay a lack of art skills into a dynamic (and funny) comic strip. We'll see more static and minimalist art strips (Alexander Danner's already taken the next step, in making a blank panel comic strip), and more people jumping in as a result.
  5. A lot more crap: With all the really cool stuff, there's also going to be tons more crap. More Drama. More imagined slights. More really bad comic strips full of bad art and bad writing. Horrible strips, written by mean people -- the textual and artistic equivalent of flinging feces against the bars of our collective cage. And of course, there won't be any consensus o�n what is crap and what isn't, which will lead to even more crap and more Drama. Drama without end. Crap without end....
  6. Someone will produce a comic strip that will blow your mind: along with the crap -- and with perfectly serviceable, even competent or good strips -- will be that entirely new strip you never saw coming. It will all come together perfectly. It will excite you. It will thrill you. You'll discover it has archives, and you'll devour them as quickly as you can. You'll get to the end of those archives and gasp out in pain as you realize you have to wait one day at a time for the rest. It will reaffirm everything you love about this medium. You will find yourself evangelizing the strips to all your friends about this new strip, and about webcomics in general. You will find hope again.
  7. Someone will absolutely savage that new strip you found that you love, on a forum or in a review, and your hope will curdle into rage and ennui. Hey, no one promised an end to human nature.

Happy end of the year, gang. I hope you have fun with the year to come.

Best Examples?

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

A good point Bup. I guess it depends on how excited you want to get about the "same art, every day" concept as opposed to cutting and pasting from a limited array of artwork.

I think North is much more consciously making a decision to put himself in a pretty narrow box then some of those other examples. So narrow in fact that I don't think in that sense he's that influential at all - it's too constricting for most people to want to pursue. So in terms of the broader idea of "can I make a comic with a limited set of artwork(s) available to me" - yeah he's not doing anything new there.

And dude - Ghostz and SCW - how could I forget those!

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Best Examples?

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

Bup

I'm not sure if I agree with Eric or not. It's hard to tell sometimes whether 2005 is better or just better known but in terms of minimalist work (maybe better described in Dinosaur's case as formalist?) what are you thinking of? I know David Lynch did that Angriest Dog in the World thing but that's not really a webcomic...

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Use the Visual Editor or use html

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

You should get asked whether you want to use the visual editor or not when you click on the comment box...

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Best Examples?

...says the guy who has flown "Superstar Car Wash"'s flag lo these many years.

I don't think it's so innovative that the artwork is literally the same for each one (although that's been done before too, I think - Banana Who Wishes He Was A Penis).

Is that what Eric's so excited about?

Ghostz. Sprite comics. Help Desk. Really, has "Dinosaur Comics" lowered the artistic barrier for people just interested in writing any more than those?

"Dinosaur Comics," I'm going to venture, is just the first one Eric has gotten into.

Best Examples?

Wow. I'm still internet famous after all these years. Anyway, unless Dinosaur Comics is supposed to be making fun of static image comics by taking it to the extreme, which I doubt is what's going on, it's really nothing particularly special, just another mildly amusing web comic.

Also, my friend Brandon, who can't draw either, did a blank panel comic called "Jason and Randy" years ago.

Nexus

MHPayne's picture

Actually:

The plural of "nexus" is "nexus." It's a 4th declension noun in the Latin, and they don't get a special form for the nominative plural. It isn't fair, but there it is. :)

Mike

m_estrugo's picture

Gah. Gotta use <BR> more often on this new edit window thingie.


"More minimalist experimentation: Dinosaur Comics really paved the way to an entire subgenre of comics."

I call bull. Static art comics have been around for a long, long time. Dinosaur Comics is excellently written, but I don't think it's paving any ways.

Best Examples?

This has gone far enough.

I challenge Snarky-man to a DUEL.

Oh, and Ryan North too.

Regarding "minimalist" comics

EricMillikin's picture

I find that much of the praise for clip art comics comes from people, like Eric Burns, who can't draw and don't have a strong background in art. That seems logical enough (non-visual people gravitiate towards text-centric comics) but I think it's a bias we ought to keep in mind. I take with a huge grain of salt a webcomics critic who can't draw but wants to make his own webcomics who goes about championing "minimalist" comics -- that seems to cross a line into being self-serving. It's like reading: "2006 should be a break-out year for comics like mine."

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Fetus-X is the greatest comic in the world.

Regarding "minimalist" comics

EricMillikin's picture

No shit -- that's central to the point I'm making.

A comic that "shows the creators skills as a writer" and where "the art is beside the point of the strip" will probably appeal more strongly to people with literature degrees than it will to people with art degrees.

If comics are the bastard child of art and literature, it's worth noting which side a critic may favor. It's also probably worth noting that most people who write criticism probably have a bias towards writing since that's what they fucking do. And there's a certain point where writing about comics is like dancing about architecture.

That was basically my first point, which I've probably now sufficiently beaten to death for both of the people reading this. Hi Mom!

My second point was that when I read someone who keeps a blog and creates "minimalist" comics explain that 2006 is going to be huge year for blogs and "minimalist" comics I feel like I'm listening to Stan Lee explain that this is the Marvel Age of Comics and the Fantastic Four is the World's Greatest Comic Magazine. I might think twice before facing front, true believers.

Neither of my two points is that "minimalist" comics are shitty comics. I'm in an upcoming book with both Ryan North and Rob Balder and both of those dudes make some sweet fucking comics with simple clip art. So does Max Cannon, so does Tom Tomorrow, so did David Lynch kind sorta, so does David Rees, so does Jim Davis.

Since this post has been pretty much a re-hash of my previous post, I'll throw in a special Friday night bonus third point for those who don't like smoking hash: I hate the fucking term "Minimalist comics." Call it "clip art comics" or some shit. Minimalist art is Carl Andre and some bricks or Donald Judd bringing some stainless steel boxes or something. It's anti-expressionistic, anti-romantic, anti-narrative. Clip art comics have more in common with pop art than they do with minimalism.

You wanna see some bomb ass collage comics, dig up some of Jess's Tricky Cad stuff from the late '50s.

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Fetus-X is the greatest comic in the world.

I agree with most of this list, though I'd argue that minimalism was already rampant in webcomics looooong ago.

And wellll... I have found Comixpedia.org pretty useful but I really shouldn't stay linked to it forever. WikiMedia is a resource-hog and I worry about what would happen if EVERY comic did what I did.
I'll make my own cast page soon, now that I'll have more free time next year. I'll probably use a lot of the info from the Comix/Wikipedia pages and give due credit. =)

The William G's picture

Okay, Dinosaur Comics wasn't the first static image comic, but it did "pave the way" in the fact that it was the first extremely popular example of the style. Showing that it is a writer's medium.


Regarding "minimalist" comics

The William G's picture

Well, Eric. I do have a few art skills of my own, and I think Dinosaur Comics' art is beside the point of the strip. Ryan North has purposely limited himself to six panels where the dialogue has to carry the weight of the narrative because the images don't. Thiose are pretty heavy contraints for a cartoonist to place himself under, and that Ryan has been able to be successful in it shows his skills as a writer.


m_estrugo's picture

Hmmm... I think comics are BOTH a graphic and a writer's medium, and that every comics author -or team- finds their own balance of those two elements. Hence why we've got comics that graphically are excellent but poorly written, and some others that are wonderfully written but have appaling graphics.

Judging by recent reviews and mintions on webcomics-related sites I've read as of late, it seems like Dinosaur Comics is the most hyped comic of that latter style, and, truly, I don't understand why it's so hyped about, since it looks more like a silly blog rather than a comic itself.

Perhaps it's because there's a number of webcomics fans around who prefer witty texts rather than fancy graphics, and are really happy to see a comic where the written part is more important than graphics, a rara avis on this photoshopped world of webcomics, and are happy to jump and say, "See? See? here's a comic where graphics are near to useless and yet we have a nice comic!" Or perhaps is that webcomics need a new trendy 'thing to do' and we want to start a clip-art trend, to replace the now almost defunct 'sprite' fashion of the early 2000s.

Anyway, everybody is entitled to their own opinion, though I fail to see anything... relevant... on Dinosaur Comics myself.

Besides, I don't know why nobody mentioned "Rock in a hard place" (as seen at the Wayback Machine) yet, one of the first comics that reduced the graphic side of comics to a minimum. So I'll do it. So nyah.