Chris Crosby's A History of Webcomics
Submitted by Chris Crosby on September 4, 2006 - 04:06
Thanks to the fine folks at Comixpedia for inviting me to be a guest blogger. I will attempt to resist the temptation to solely link to vintage TV fall promo videos I find wildly entertaining, like this (watch for the shot of Potsie saluting a magical comet) or this (WARNING: it will take a drill to get this commanding song out of you head). It's both a crime and a national tragedy that the networks don't produce fall promo videos like that anymore. But I digress...
I'm Chris Crosby, and here's a little bit about my comics history. Like more than a few people in webcomics, I started out in small press print comics. As a teenager from 1991-92, I self-published photocopied comic books that I sold for $1 a pop on the counter of my parents' small video store, The Video Studio (which shortly thereafter was put out of business by a massive Blockbuster Video store that set up across the street). I created about a dozen issues in total and had a lot of fun doing it. Around the same time I went online for the first time ever, dialing up to Prodigy and CompuServe and finding lots of like-minded people to talk with.
The day Superman died, I visited our local comic book shop, something I rarely did. (I liked comic books but I was always more of a comic strip guy... the only comic book I followed regularly was ALF, and I got that by subscription every month in the mail.) Superman #75 had already sold out, but what I did pick up was my first copy of PREVIEWS. It was magical. A phonebook-sized catalog listing every comic book scheduled to be released during an upcoming month, not just from the major publishers like DC or Marvel (or Star, as I best knew Marvel thanks to ALF) but from dozens of publishers I'd never heard of. I wanted to be one of those unknown publishers!
After finding out how to do so, I made my dream a reality by starting Super Crew Comics, which throughout the early and mid '90s published books through Diamond Comics Distributors starring characters like Snap The Punk Turtle, who had previously been featured in my photocopied video store-sold comics. While these comics received some media attention (like a couple small features in Wizard magazine), they did not sell well, and from 1997-99 I moved on to more marketable comics like the superheroine series Scorn and a bunch of one-shot parody comic books published under the Blatant label, most of which sold surprisingly well.
While I'd dabbled in putting comics online as early as 1995, it wasn't until 1998 that I made them regularly, when I produced a weekly full-page Snap webcomic for a then-popular, now-defunct pop culture site called Mania Magazine. The immediate publication and the reader response I received made me fall in love with webcomics, and after discovering comics like Sluggy Freelance and User Friendly (the big two webcomics of the day), I was inspired to do a daily webcomic.
Superosity debuted on March 1, 1999, a daily webcomic starring the characters I've been doodling since I was a kid. I shamelessly promoted the heck out of it in every way I could think of, and it built up a small but loving audience. It's doubtful it will ever be even 10% as popular as Sluggy or UF, as my style of artwork and writing is an acquired taste (to say the least). But nearly eight years (holy crap) and 2,745 strips later, I still have fun drawing it, I'm proud of my big fat archive, and I can't imagine stopping anytime soon.
In late 1999, Superosity was invited to join Big Panda, one of webcomics' earliest publishing groups. At first I was happy at Big Panda, but a multi-day downtime and the publisher suddenly being unreachable horrified me. When Big Panda's publisher returned, he explained that he was depressed because Sluggy had just left his service, and he offered control of Big Panda to me (as well as Jon Rosenberg). When another downtime hit, I posted a call for help on the Big Panda mailing list, and received a response from Darren "Gav" Bleuel, who had his comic Nukees on Big Panda. Out of desperation, we hatched a plan to start our own webcomics publishing company, and Keenspot was born weeks later. Virtually all of Big Panda's lineup eventually followed us there.
Keenspot has had a lot of ups and downs, and it's been a wild ride. We've handled everything far from perfectly, but we've tried our level best, and we're always striving to do better, slowly but surely. If you read Comixpedia you probably know all the wacky stuff Keenspot has done, so I won't bore you with that.
I'm known as a publisher thanks to Keenspot, but I'm a cartoonist and writer at heart. Though I love Superosity, I've always been depressed that it wasn't more popular. So like I did with comic books back in the '90s, in 2004 I teamed with an artist far more talented than I am (Owen Gieni) and tried a more marketable concept, Sore Thumbs. It's no Ctrl Alt Del, but the 15,000+ readers it gets every update day (Mon-Wed-Fri) is pretty decent, and I love writing it.
Well, that's my own boring story. I'll try to write something more interesting later on. If you're still reading this, you win a no-prize!