You can't really have a Top 10 "webcomic" books of 2006. That would be impossible. And really a top 10 list of webcomics-in-print is all a matter of opinion: my opinion, your opinion, we all have opinions, that's what makes us opinionated. So instead of doing a list based on what I think, I'm going to present the 10 webcomics-to-books from 2006 that stood out in my eyes either with what they did inside the book or outside of their covers.
10. First Wave: Blue and Blond, Vol. 1 by Chris Malone
I can't recall how I stumbled across Blue and Blond to be honest, but I did. It wasn't publicized hugely and Chris Malone has produced only 100 copies of his book, all signed and all sold through the site. So you're probably thinking why name to my list a book based on a webcomic you probably have never heard of? Well it's what's inside the book that's unique.
Commentaries are now a given with most webcomic books. I'm not sure who started it off, but I recall seeing it first in Little Gamers and it growing from there. Now it's commonplace, but what isn't commonplace is the approach in First Wave – instead of just doing a standard commentary of "I did this strip because I thought it would be funny", Chris Malone does it like you'd get on a DVD and lets his characters comment on the strip. Not only is it sometimes amusing to hear "their" thoughts, but it's quite interesting to see it from the characters like they're actually real.
9. Beaver & Steve – A Shoeful Of Trouble by James Turner
In 2005, James Turner launched Beaver & Steve and topped off the year by winning Outstanding Newcomer at the Web Cartoonists Choice Awards. In 2006, he brought us the dead tree version of everyone's favorite webcomic featuring a beaver and… (what is Steve again?), The Unfeasible Adventures of Beaver & Steve: Vol. 1, A Shoeful of Trouble.
But what makes this book unique, is not only having some exclusive stuff, but the effort of recreating the original strips. Sure it's been done before, but to totally rejig the original black and white strips into color for the book – that's definitely something worth buying it for.
8. boot_error: Vol.1 Sofas and Swivel Chairs by Ivan Pope
With archived collections you sometimes get just that. You might get a commentary, you may get some artwork, you may get an exclusive strip or two, but never do you actually get it all together in one, with a possible kitchen sink thrown in for good measure. But Ivan Pope does just that! You get almost everything but the kitchen sink!
In 82 pages, not only do you get all the archived strips fully colored and fully commented, but boot_error: Vol.1 Sofas and Swivel Chairs also gives you a 12-strip exclusive storyline, you get some uses of duck tape, a history – basically its jam-packed. Books need to do this because it gives more back to the reader!
7. Theater Hopper: Year Two by Tom Brazelton
This thick book is almost as thick as that Harry Potter book everyone commented on way back when. Upon opening the pages of Theater Hopper: Year Two, you get the entire second year of strips previously published online. So you may be thinking to yourself now, what the hell? Why include this book at all on a "Books of 2006" list apart from its being released this year.
Well, for starters it has 150 odd strips, each strip on its own page with about three paragraphs detailling it. Brazelton also includes guest strips (it seems like most webcomic books disown the guest strips when they go to print). So it's jam-packed, but it's really the marketing of the book that garnered the mention on this list.
When Year Two (and Theater Hopper: Year One too for that matter) were in their pre-order stage, Brazelton hit upon his "street team" sales approach. Theater Hopper was probably the first ever webcomic to publically have the idea of "tell 5 friends to buy the book and if they do, you get something for it". So readers spread the word, leading to more sales for the book, and the fans not only get an immediate reward from convincing others to buy it, but as fans they get an intangible reward from actively helping creator Brazelton succeed with Theater Hopper.
6. Bunny: The Book of Random #1 by Huw "Lem" Davies
How could I not comment about this? The book that was on pre-order, on pre-order, on pre-order and heck, just for the hell of it, on pre-order. I commented on this book back on April 17, 2006 in my first ever book news-type post at my blog Webcomics in Print and I'm sure pre-orders started earlier than that. And so every month it was on pre-order and every month Davies reported that it was so close.
After 7 entire months – that's from April till October – Bunny: The Book Of Random #1 finally arrived on our shores (from Japan of all places). It was pink, it was pretty and it was bloody good.
5. Bodinski's Blog by Gabe Strine
Known for The Zoo and Brinkerhoff, Gabe Strine's book Bodinski's Blog is a much more personal work featuring a collection of blog cartoons he did during a very hectic time in his life. Lulu.com describes it as:
Anger. Frustration. Disappointment. Divorce. When life began to spin out of control, the only way cartoonist Gabe Strine could deal with it was through his art.
When Strine released the final book he got a lot of publicity. He was covered in newspapers, (sure just local, but newspaper coverage nonetheless) and he caught the attention of people outside of webcomics in a way he probably never had before with his previous webcomics. Since then he's put out a new book collecting his webcomic The Zoo.
4. Yirmumah! (Issues #1-5) by DJ Coffman
Before winning the Comic Book Challenge and beginning his Hero by Night project, DJ was already a comics machine. A MACHINE! Every month, usually on time, he would not only mash out daily comic strips for Yirmumah!, but he would also collect those strips into a comic book that he sold solely through his site. The comic book not only included all of the strips but usually some exclusive bonus stuff that he must have cranked out when everyone else was sleeping.
I suspect that ripping off DJ's face would reveal he is half-machine under there, because until May he was in the zone, designing covers, doing exclusive sketches on each of the comics and just humming along like a comics factory. If Hero by Night hadn't come along, I suspect he would still be turning the monthly Yirmumah! books out now.
3. Starslip Crisis: Sparkling Diplomacy, Starslip Crisis: Technical Manual and Checkerboard Nightmare: A Brief History of Webcomics by Kristofer Straub
Why do I name all of these books? Are they all super? Well, after only reading Starslip Crisis: A Terrifying Breach of Protocol, I can be positive anything by this man will be super.
Sure we all think that Terry Pratchett and Stephen King getting one book out a year is immense, and we all know how much time and effort and energy goes into it, but Straub has turned out three solid books all in one year. Think about drawing it all, detailing it all and the rest and think, these are three books (four, if you count his non-comic book, Lemon Blossom Girl and Other Stories) full to the brim with Kristofer's brain matter. Although that is disgusting to think of, it's still quite an achievement.
2. Totally Boned: Joe & Monkey by Zach Miller
Totally Boned is itself remarkably funny. Sure it's archived stuff that's available online, but there are also some selections from Zach Miller's previous webcomic No Pants Tuesday which is no longer available online.
This was the first webcomic book to win the Blooker Prize, sponsored by the digital printer, Lulu. It may not have put Zach Miller on the map – he was already building a big neon sign on it for Joe & Monkey – the webcomic, but it was a great choice for what will hopefully become a long-running award.
Lulu has already done a lot to aid and abet the boom in webcomic books this year simply by making it easier and less cost-prohibitive for webcomic creators to put their work into print. By also including comics as a category in its award program, it also helped to signal that webcomics in print was something to take seriously both artistically and commercially.
1. A History of Webcomics by T Campbell
T Campbell's book was talked about from the moment T Campbell announced he was writing a book based on the series of articles on the history of webcomics he had written for Comixpedia. It was a constant source of online discussion throughout 2006.
How could webcomics have a history when they've only been going for somewhat 10 years?
Heck, that's young! Well, look at the real world, 20 year olds are writing autobiographies about their lives and in retrospect webcomics have done more in 10 years than a 20 year old in, well, 20 years.
And even though I haven't read it, I want to. Everyone wants to, if for no other reason than to know what's written inside, whether someone got mentioned or what was said about this thing or the other. To find things you agree or disagree with! Sure you can't cram everything into a single book – if so you'd be still reading in ten years time the details – but this first take on the medium of webcomics was surely one of the most list-worthy books of 2006!
And if picking this one as #1 for my list doesn't cause any controversy, I'm not sure what will!