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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.

 

David Hellman

The artist half of the team that produced the now much missed A Lesson is Learned, but the Damage is Irreversible, Hellman hasn’t been seen much since A Lesson is Learned last updated in May of 2006. He posted a series of sketches and paintings to his website throughout the following September and the beginning of October, then went largely dormant. He reappeared briefly when he posted video of a lecture he gave in April of 2007 at Johns Hopkins University on his approach to page composition. And since then, there’s been little hint of any new comics forthcoming.

However, he has had a very different sort of project in the works; Hellman’s style is easily recognizable in these screen shots for the forthcoming video game, Braid Hellman has been designing all of the backgrounds and text art for Braid, which is due for release on the Xbox 360 Live Arcade early [in 2008]. The producers of the game aim to create “Artful, Experimental and Expansive Games,” so Hellman’s art should be well suited. The game has already been honored with the award for “Innovation in Game Design” from the 2006 Independent Games Festival.

This news may offer little comfort to those desperate for more of Hellman’s comics, but as a fan of both Hellman’s art and odd little video games, I’ll be looking forward to Braid’s release.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find any information on new projects by Dale Beran, the writing half of A Lesson is Learned.

 

Derek Kirk Kim

One of the early superstars of webcomics, Derek Kirk Kim’s first online series, Same Difference, purportedly had a readership to rival that of even the most popular webcomics of its day. After it’s completion, Kim collected the series with several of his early works as Same Difference and Other Stories, (Top Shelf, 2004), which went on to win both an Eisner and a Harvey award. It would be almost four years before Kim published another major work.

His next two short stories, “The Ten Commandments of Simon,” and “Black Harvest,” were announced to be part of a new book entitled Healing Hands. But in 2006, partway through serializing a third section of the project, however, Kim announced his disdain for the material he was producing and abandoned the project. Only the two completed stories remain. Soon after canceling Healing Hands, Kim illustrated a short story in 1,001 Nights of Snowfall, which presented a series of origin stories for characters in Bill Willingham’s Vertigo series, Fables.

Finally, in August 2007, Kim’s second completed book, Good as Lily was published by DC Comics’ Minx imprint. Scripted by Kim and illustrated by Jesse Hamm, Good as Lily tells the story of Grace Kwon, a teenaged girl who is visited by three incarnations of herself at varying points in her own life -- childhood, middle years, and old age -- each of whom is struggling to reconcile with losses from their shared pasts.

 

Hope Larson

Hope Larson made her first splash in webcomics with her beautiful, but quickly abandoned Girlamatic series, I Was There and Just Returned. She remained away from comics for only a few months, though before returning with her magical tale of burgeoning adulthood, Salamander Dream. But Salmander Dream concluded in 2005, and aside from a few short pieces and illustrations, Larson hasn’t published any significant new webcomics.

She has, however, moved on to a very promising career in the print world, where she has been busily collecting awards and honors, while quickly building her bibliography. AdHouse books released the print edition of Salamander Dream in 2005. Only a year later, Oni Press published Larson’s second book, Gray Horses, which in some ways picks up where Salamander Dream left off. Where Salamander Dream brought its main character, Hailey just to the edge of adulthood, Gray Horses follows another young woman, Noemie, who has just arrived in Paris, where she will be on her own for the first time.

Larson has yet another new book due out later this year; Chiggers, a story of two nerdy teenaged girls at summer camp, will be published by Simon and Schuster’s Ginee Seo Books. She has posted a related short story, Chiggers: Séance, online.

 

Jason Little

After winning the Xeric Grant for his one-shot, Jack’s Luck Runs Out, Little earned an avid following for his “bubblegum noir” thriller, Shutterbug Follies. The story followed Bee, a teenaged photo developer who decides to investigate the source of a series of particularly brutal images dropped off by a Russian photographer. But Shutterbug Follies wrapped up ages ago (in Internet time), and a print edition was published by Doubleday Graphic Novels in 2002. After that, Little’s website went dormant for almost three years.

In 2005, Little began posting pages of a new Bee story, The Motel Art Improvement Series (portions NSFW). Updates have been sporadic, with occasional hiatuses, making the series difficult to follow regularly. But Little has continued plugging away, recently posting the 47th page of the projected 101 page story. This time out, Bee is on a cross-country bike trip, until an accident leaves her with a wrecked bicycle, stranded part way. She soon takes up with a pill-popping hotel orderly who makes a habit of surreptitiously “improving” the artwork on hotel walls.

 

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