Three Years of Comixpedia
A little love letter to the magazine that could.It's the third anniversary of Comixpedia this issue.
2006 is the fourth year we've been writing about webcomics. We've put out 38 monthly issues of the magazine and published more than 600 reviews, interviews and other articles about webcomics. We've posted more than 2500 news posts (that's not counting the magazine).
When we started Comixpedia, Frank Cormier wrote, "[W]ebcomics ARE a viable art form, a new medium branching off from our print foremothers and fathers -- a medium in which to expand, elaborate, experiment, and perhaps most importantly, enjoy." I wrote in that same first issue, "Our mission, simply stated, is to bring to your attention the best and the brightest of webcomics and in the process, promote this new art-form."
We've had server crashes and drama clashes, discovered great webcomics, new and old and introduced you to exciting new talent and we've been lucky enough, like many of you, to read lots and lots of great webcomics.
A lot of folks have said some nice things about Comixpedia to me over the years and a lot of folks have called Comixpedia things that you couldn't publish at a family-friendly website. Luckily Comixpedia has never claimed to be a family-friendly website.
There are several pieces of Comixpedia -- the magazine, the news, the forums, the special events and more recently the wiki and the library. Here are a few thoughts about the highlights of Comixpedia:
Our news is second to none. Sometimes our judgement is a little off -- when we had a non-worksafe "cover" picture (It really is NSFW!) when we were talking about adult webcomics struck me as silly. We could have easily found a suggestive image that nevertheless would not have caused people to avoid the image at work. - Al Schroeder
It's great at keeping track of the drama, and the day-to-day headlines - like when Kurtz offered PvP free for print for a year, and it actually caught the attention of some print people (like Wiley). - Boxjam
For the most part Comixpedia outlasts drama, events, articles, issues, changes. Comixpedia simply... is. Its steadfastness is a rock-solid virtue in this world of constant tidal shifts. - T Campbell
24 Hour Pixel People, the forerunner of present-day webcomics blogging, was one of Comixpedia's high points. I really rather miss it, even if I wasn't in a position to contribute as frequently as I wanted to. Likewise, the wiki's formation shone. I'm still stunned by how quickly it came together. - Wednesday White
It is a bit overlooked that Comixpedia pushed blogging about webcomics well before there were any blogs actively writing about webcomics at all, let alone exclusively. It was inevitable that we would have to start a webcomics blog if no one else would and so we did. (The staff blog is also where Erik Melander began contributing to Comixpedia.)
The magazine has always been an equal partner to the news in driving the Comixpedia site. Our first editor in chief, Frank Cormier set fairly high standards that we've been trying to live up to ever since. Since then both myself and Kelly J. Cooper have taken turns at the EiC reins. It's not easy to read, edit and assemble features, reviews, interviews and columns every month. It's a lot like a second job actually, except for the compensation part...
I look back on the magazine archives, however, and there are so many great articles in there.
My favorite of my own work is History of Webcomics: The Big Panda chapter. My favorite of someone else's is probably Geek Women -- Your Little Standards-Compliant Fantasy by Wednesday White. - T Campbell
I keep coming back to Shaenon Garrity's Stop Drawing Bad Manga. In the OEL boom's wake and at the dawn of its incipient bust, it's more relevant than ever. - Wednesday White
My single favorite article by another contributor would probably be Stop Drawing Bad Manga by Shaenon Garrity. Sheanon had lots of great advice applicable to any artist, not just manga-influenced webcomicers going through obsessive Sailor Moon fan-fiction phases like myself. My favorite article that I wrote was Ready.gov Made My Skin Turn Blue. It was fun to make, fun to research, readers got a kick out of it and it had a point beyond just "Here's my latest junior-high-school-level book report on a webcomic. - Eric Millikin
Of my interviews, I think perhaps my interview with the creators of A Lesson Is Learned was my favorite. - Al Schroeder
We've also been blessed to have a number of talented creators and critics write regular columns for Comixpedia where they've shared their skills and knowledge and provided insight into all things webcomic. In fact, I still consider it one of the smartest things I've ever done was immediately upon discovering Websnark.com to send Eric Burns an email asking him to write a column for Comixpedia. (The second smartest thing I may have ever done was to buttonhole Bryant Paul Johnson at last year's SPXPo about doing something for Comixpedia.)
The best on-going Comixpedia feature of the past three years was Meaghan Quinn's Webcomics are from Uranus. Meaghan managed to cover probably everything important to webcomics at the time, using her intelligence and sense of humor rather than silly shit-flinging. Although, if I remember correctly, she made her fair share of monkey shit-flinging jokes. Also, just the name of the Webcomics are from Uranus was priceless. I remember reading the first one and thinking "Finally, someone else understands that all webcomics can be traced back to ancient visitors from a distant ice planet and cultists who worship the pre-historic father of a race of freakish one-eyed giants." - Eric Millikin
Dalton Wemble's column was a real highlight - that was a great year of columns. - Boxjam
More recently, we've launched services designed to making finding and learning more about webcomics and their creators even easier. The wiki, library and portal parts of Comixpedia are still in their first generation, but already they've become another key part of how readers use Comixpedia.
Back To The Future
Let me take you back to 2003 and the early beginnings of Comixpedia. Like Saturday Night Live, I'd say Comixpedia started off not quite fully-formed and that it took a few episodes for it to gell into what it is today. We had a lot of ideas and we threw a lot of articles at the readers to see what worked and what didn't. Over time we learned to make the most of our resources and keep a little sanity for ourselves. (In those early years, Comixpedia often ran issues with up to 25 articles each. We were younger then and high on webcomics. Nowadays we still love webcomics but we've gone through a bit of detox.)
The first issue where we began to more fully focus on a subset of webcomics was the April 2003 issue where we looked at the then blossoming new genre of journal webcomics. Frank "Damonk" Cormier wrote several features about the form and interviewed just about everyone who was experimenting with the form for the issue. Shaenon Garrity talked with Derek Kirk Kim. Leah Fitzgerald talked with Jennie Breeden (The Devil's Panties). Kelly J. Cooper reviewed Drew Weing's The Journal Comic.
Another early issue that worked well was the June 2003 issue that zeroed in on manga with an on-target cover from Hyung Sun Kim (Kung Fool X). Frank Cormier again interviewed countless creators of manga-flavoered webcomics about their knowledge of Japanese comics culture. (And wrote a column about another cultural influence - french comics, "Bandes Dessinnï¿½es".) Shaenon Garrity wrote "Stop Drawing Bad Manga!", one of the most popular pieces ever published at Comixpedia. Leah Fitzgerald interviewed Hard of Sexy Losers.
Personally, I feel that the September 2003 issue is another major highlight of our archives. A great cover from Christopher Baldwin, countless features and columns on topic with interviews and reviews all related to relationships in webcomics. Bill Duncan wrote a great feature on the real life relationships of webcomic creators. And it featured the first installment of one of the most popular, yet reviled columnists at Comixpedia: Dalton Wemple's I Hate You All. Wemple was in the business of dishing out tough love to webcomics (and if you've never read that column, it's all still worth reading). Plus we got the straight scoop on how webcomics brought together Frank Cormier and Meaghan Quinn.
Our November 2003 issue was notable for featuring Comic-Fire! - a three part series of debates in comic form between Justin Pierce and Eric Millikin. That's actually something I wish we could do again (maybe this year). We also caught on to Get Your War On relatively quickly and Dan Carroll wrote a column about how webcomics can and should adapt to the instantaneous nature of the Internet.
We headed into the year of 2004 with both a great magazine issue and a big old server crash. Our gamer issue managed to provoke some of the largest ire we had yet encontered from fans. After reviews of both Ctrl-Alt-Del and Little Gamers, the creators of those webcomics sent their fans to Comixpedia to reply to those reviews. Needless to say those are some of the longest comment threads we've had at Comixpedia. And then Little Gamers took it a step further and mocked Comixpedia in one of their webcomics. We felt like we had arrived...
The January issue had a great cover from Gabe of Penny Arcade and we really did cover a broad spectrum of pixel-based and gamer-culture webcomics and creators like David Anez of Bob and George, Sean Howard of A Modest Destiny and Dan Miller's Kid Radd.
Probably the next highlight of the archives is the infamous May 2004 issue (really, the cover is NSFW. I'm not making that up). We had readers swear they would never read Comixpedia ever again after that issue (the closest to canceling a subscription you can get with a free online publication!). We did not, however, get sued by Apple. And if you do click on that link to the issue (remember NSFW!) just remember that the iMac had a flat surface underneath so let's not revisit the debate over exotic, imaginary iMac peripherals she may have installed.
The sex and webcomics issue was frustrating -- I don't think that anyone was ready to give that subject the treatment it deserved, and I'd like to see the theme revisited in a couple of years, when it can be done justice by a larger and better seasoned group of veteran writers. -Wednesday White
No doubt it was a difficult issue to assemble and one that didn't really come together in the way it was envisioned on the drawing board. For starters, as initially conceived it was supposed to be more of a look at the type of adult content webcomics could and were doing. The cover unfortunately sent the message that it was all about sex.
Looking back on the issue, however, it did feature a sober article on nudity in webcomics by Emanuella Grinberg, a review of the successful webcomic porn site Slipshine and one of my personal favorites, my own list of 17 notorious events in webcomics. It was also (although we didn't quite realize it at the time) the end of Dylan Meconis' and Bill Mudron's wonderful column Juxtapose This - the last installment was a direct criticism of the magazine cover.
And there were actually a couple of great articles that had nothing to do with sex, drugs and rock & roll like T Campbell's Strips' Ends and Ericka Crouse's well-researched A Brief History of Syndication.
Right after that in our June 2004 issue we hit on geek culture with reviews of Joy of Tech and Help Desk. The Help Desk review was unfortunately the last one from our intrepid reviewing team of Stickler and Hat-trick, Canada's and webcomics' answer to Ebert & Roeper.
We also had one of our most widely-read articles, Wednesday White's feature Geek Women -- Your Little Standards-Compliant Fantasy.
Yes. Women play games. Women tend to computers. But the assertion that a woman can do these things in spite of herself, and somehow still be beautiful, doesn't establish her as a character. It reinforces the idea that the "age old stereotype" is, in general, truth; it makes her a tool, an abstraction. A wish fulfilment.
Fast-forwarding a bit, we finally figured out how to tackle a year-in-review issue in 2004. We launched our now annual feature, 25 People In Webcomics, we recapped the year in news and had an interview with Adrian Ramos, the creator of Count Your Sheep which racked up six WCCAs that year including a share of the Outstanding Comic of the Year award (a tie with Penny Arcade) and Outstanding Newcomer.
Mixing It Up In 2005, we really had a major changing of the guard at Comixpedia. All of our original founders (save myself) had mostly moved on and it fell to a new team to figure out what to do with Comixpedia. That second squad consisted of myself, Kelly J. Cooper, Wednesday White, Al Schroeder, and Erik Melander.
Our first issue in January was the Funny issue with a cover done in the classic Chris Crosby manner. Even though I felt like I was juggling like crazy to pull Comixpedia together those days this issue really has a lot of good pieces in it including a roundtable on humor with T Campbell, John Troutman, Randy Milholland, Maritza Campos,David Wright, Brad Guigar, and Ryan North and reviews of Goats, Diesel Sweeties and Questionable Content.
In April, we published the Women in Webcomics issue with a great cover from Faith Erin Hicks. It is probably the only Comixpedia cover that actually broke the image up into panels. (I don't know why that is actually but most cover artists tend to go for a single image.)
Erik Melander did a fantastic job on Crunching The Numbers: A Look At Gender And Comics, which presents all kinds of data Erik compiled on the state of women and webcomics at that point. I, on the other hand, did no research for my 88 Lines About 44 Webcomics, but I did get a few nice comments about it nonetheless.
April was also the debut of Ryan Estrada's Welton Colbert at Comixpedia. Colbert strikes me as a softer, more befuddled version of Dalton Wemple but in truth he's a funny as hell, totally original creation from the mind of Ryan.
In our June issue we looked at webcomics in print with two great features on printing your webcomic, one from Rob Balder and one from Ben Thompson as well as an interview with Peter Zale, who took his early webcomic Helen, Sweetheart of the Internet into print syndication. We also had a great roundtable on copyright issues and webcomics led by T Campbell and featuring Stanford Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig, Neeru Paharia and Mia Garlick of the Creative Commons project, webcomic creator J D Frazer and author and copyright activist Cory Doctorow.
Skipping ahead again, in November we published our mystery webcomics issue with a cover from Tim Broderick. If you missed either Alexander Danner's or T Campbell's great features on writing mysteries, they're well worth going to into our archives to read. And as a twist, we also published dualing reviews of Gary Chaloner's Will Eisner's John Law, one from myself and one from Andrew Leal.
We hit the Year-In-Review issue in December and once again did the 25 People in Webcomics List as well as another Year-in-News roundup. For 2005, however, we added a roundtable of webcomics bloggers, and reviews of two WCCA winners: Scary Go Round (Outstanding Comic) and Beaver & Steve (Outstanding Newcomer).
Still Crazy After All These Years
The preceding recap of issues and articles was somewhat arbitrary - I find myself fairly unable to dislike anything we've published and I certainly don't mean for this article to represent a "best of Comixpedia". It's more of a stream-of-conscious review of three years of writing about webcomics. I do encourage you to check out some of these article from our archives, however, if you're a more recent visitor to Comixpedia. Many of our articles are really timeless and the advice they provide and issues they discuss remain relevant today. In particular, we've had several columns from working creators like John Barber, Jim Zubkavich and Bill Duncan filled with great advice on craft, art and simply being creative. Alexander Danner's new Words and More Words column carries on this tradition.
Comixpedia remains focused on both the readers and creators of webcomics. I think because of the democratic spirit of comics in general and the ease of publishing on the web, it's a creative endeavor where readers often do become creators and where creators often remain active readers. We continue to evolve what we do to best serve our readership. Sometimes our aims exceed our resources, but I believe in giving it your best shot.
I wish there were more practical articles, or references - tutorials on coloring, or just *drawing*, or being funny, or telling a cohesive story, or writing dialogue. How to find a print avenue. How to do t-shirts - should you do cafe press or your own? That sort of amassed knowledge would be great. - Boxjam
We will, I hope, remain completely open and responsive to the larger webcomics community of readers and creators and adapt to feedback positive and negative. We also remain open to new contributors getting involved in all kinds of ways. I view my role as keeping the ship of Comixpedia afloat, but the magazine and the rest of the site works best when the direction in which we sail is the result of wider discussion and input.
I sometimes worry that we've contributed to the self-limiting misconception many people carry of our field as a unified community; I would like to see us try to explode that myth, rather than sustain it. Ultimately, I think we've done well by providing a solid environment for webcomics metadiscussion across the board, above and beyond technical issues or simple cheerleading. - Wednesday White
Perhaps this is true, although in the three years of Comixpedia I am still surprised by how many islands; no not just islands, but entire continents of webcomics I continue to discover. I myself can't help but tend towards cheerleading sometimes. If there is a "team webcomic" equivalent to "team comics" then I am probably a charter member.
One more indulgence. We've had 38 covers so far at Comixpedia. 38 covers from the likes of cat garza, Jeff Rowland, Tristan Farnon, Roy Boney Jr, Hyung Sun Kim, Bill Mudron, Tracy White, Christopher Baldwin, Adam Burke, Indigo Kelleigh, Otis Frampton, Gabe, Scott McCloud, Jon Morris, Rob Niedojadlo, Caleb Sevcik, Nitrozac and Snaggy, Kazu Kibuishi, Liriel McMahon, Scott Kurtz, D.C. Simpson, Kean Soo, Ramon Perez, Chris Crosby, John Barber, Steve Bryant and Chad Fidler, Faith Erin Hicks, Bill Duncan and James Duncan, Mike Rosen, Jeph Jacques, Paul Taylor, David Tekiela, Jamie Robertson, Tim Broderick, John Allison, Nate Piekos and R. Stevens.
That list is kind of amazing to me. Some of these creators are popular, others more obscure, but all represent so much talent and represent webcomics extremely well. There are times I wish we printed Comixpedia magazine on paper if for no other reason than to have that paper artifact 20 years from now and perhaps be able to present it to one of these creators for an autograph and share a moment of "remember when webcomics were..."
Thanks for taking this detour through memory-ville with me. I don't know exactly what's next for Comixpedia, but I suppose it's safe to say it'll have something to do with webcomics.