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A Softer World

Comix Talk for Wednesday, March 3, 2010

 Second Best Isn't So Bad

INTERVIEW:  A great interview with Joey Comeau and Emily Horne of the long-running webcomic A Softer World. They have a new book out collecting the webcomic (it's their second book).

WASHINGTON DC STUFF: There was a couple of appearances by Dean Haspiel and the ACT-I-VATEs last weekend. Area blogger Comics Girl writes up one of the appearances and Mike Rhode interviewed Jim Dougan (who wrote the excellent graphic novel Crazy Papers -- art'd by Danielle Corsetto).

The Awesome Blossom is Blooming!

First off - Websnark has a second post up today - this one on the current Achewood saga. Nice to have Eric back (and writing about webcomics)!

A great interview with Kate Beaton, creator of Hark A Vagrant.  Apparently we have Emily Horne of A Softer World to thank for encouraging Kate to put her comics online.

Shaenon Garrity writes about her experiences self-publishing the first print collection of her webcomic Skin Horse. Also worth noting is Garrity's new comics collective -- the Couscous Collective.

Brigid Alverson has the scoop on Tokyopop's ambitious online undertaking.

Cory Doctorow writes on why free e-books should be part of a writers strategy - the advice seems worth considering for comics creators too.

The Joy of Webcomics lies, cheats, and steals

joyofwebcomicsThere was apparently a big To Do down in SoCal this weekend. Various webcomic types are spending this week coming down from the high of San Diego Comic Con. The event has gotten so large that I swear I saw Stan Lee on CNBC last night doing a post-Con wrap-up. Surreal.

The Old Made New: A Look at the Static Comics of Daniel Merlin Goodbrey

This article was originally published on in 2008.

“I’ve always felt driven to keep trying new things creatively and experimental web comics just started to feel a little too familiar, y’know? Too safe. I wasn’t going to improve as a creator sticking to that ground.”

–Daniel Merlin Goodbrey

Best known for his impressive formalist experiments, usually featuring Flash interfaces (eventually culminating in his Tarquin Engine), Goodbrey was one of the early pioneers of the new artistic realms that web publishing opened to comics creators (For my thoughts on Goodbrey’s early works, see my contribution to The Webcomics Examiner’s article "Aggressive Experiments"). In the past three years, however, Goodbrey has produced only one of his “hypercomics,” the 24-hour comic Never Shoot the Chronopath, which he published this past December. Most of his efforts these days have gone into more traditional seeming fare: two static humor strips and a longform tale of undead cowboys.

It would be a mistake to think that Goodbrey has given up on pushing himself creatively just because he isn’t inventing wild new interfaces, though. “Experimental” is a relative term, and nothing stymies innovation faster than repeating oneself. And even the most traditional methods can help a creator to break new ground if they’ve never tried those methods before. In fact, the least interesting work that Goodbrey has produced in recent years is the most overtly experimental; “Never Shoot the Chronopath” is an enjoyable little comic, but nothing we haven’t seen Goodbrey do before.

On the other hand, Goodbrey’s Brain Fist, All Knowledge is Strange, and The Rule of Death all incorporate forms and ideas that are new to Goodbrey’s body of work, even if they don’t look so different from the kinds of comics most people read every day.

DRAFT List of 100 Greatest Webcomics: Comedy and Drama

Last year I posted a couple times (Previous posts on this "research" project were here and here) about a possible article on "ComixTALK's 100 Greatest Webcomics" which would be something like the American Film Institute's list of the greatest movies of the last 100 years.

A recurring comment to the previous two posts was what is the criteria for this.  I'm always a little hesitant to give too much guidance when part of the point of asking this kind of thing out loud is to listen to the resulting discussion of what everyone else thinks the criteria should be.  For the AFI list judges picked films based on criteria such as Critical Recognition, Major Award Winner, Popularity Over Time, Historical Significance, and Cultural Impact.

That sounds about right to me.  We've got a round decade plus a year or two of webcomics to look at it.  Critical reception (both from peers and critics), and popularity are both relevant to thinking about the impact of a webcomic.  WCCA awards are somewhat indicative of what peers were impressed with in a given year and more recently awards like the Eisners and Ignatzs have recoginized webcomics.  Historical significance and cultural impact are a little harder to pin down but various "firsts" in webcomics are important and comics like Penny Arcade have had a much wider impact on popular culture than most comics do these days (put aside the legacy superheros of comics -- what other "new" comic, let alone webcomic, in the last decade has had a wide cultural impact?)

Another thing AFI did that might be useful here to help sort through the vast numbers of webcomics one could talk about is to also think about categories or genres of work.  Just as a simple matter of numbers if a webcomic isn't one of the best of a larger type of story -- or frankly, so startlingly unique it's hard to categorize -- then it's hard to imagine it's one of the 100 Greatest...

So to move things along I'm listing another "draft" of titles submitted by the crowds but this time I've tried to break them up into drama and comedy so as to help avoid complete apples to oranges comparisons.  In doing that I've realized (1) it's hard in many cases to decide; and (2) there are probably more comedic than drama on the list so far.  I think it would make sense to whittle down the two lists to 75 each so as the final list is no more than 3/4 of one type or the other.  Of course we could further do genre type lists but for now this was enough work on my part.

So -- your assignment (if you choose to play):

  1. Name the comic you're talking about (you're also welcome to nominate ones not on the list -- I KNOW there are many I haven't even thought about yet -- it takes time to review all of the corners of the web)
  2. Tell me where on one the two lists (comedy and drama) it should be (you could give a range of slots if you're not sure). (If you think I've got a drama on the comedy list or vice-versa let me know!  I'm not "done" - this is fairly dashed off still at this point)
  3. Tell me why!  Referencing awards, critics, historical achievements, strengths and weaknesses of the works are all really helpful!

New Comic: Lifestrips

I checked out a new strip called Lifestrips - I like it.  Kind of a combination of American Elf and A Softer World.  Very short rchive so far but if you're into journal type comics I'd recommend trying it out and seeing where it goes.

Welcome to Neo Monster Island

Sean McGuinness is the creator of the website Neo Monster Island and the webcomic Twisted Kaiju Theater it hosts.  Kaiju is apparently a Japanese term for monster.  McGuinness makes TKT with his own collection of Godzilla toys so you know it's a labor of love... of love and smashing Tokyo to bits.  I got a chance to interview McGuinness about his long-running webcomic (since August 2000!) via email last month.

November 14th DRAFT version of 100 Greatest Webcomics List

This is an update to a previous post here, thanks for the cumulative suggestions on that thread.  JUST so we're clear - this is open-sourced to everyone research for a possible article to appear next month at ComixTalk.  I don't endorse the list or the order at all; at this point I've tried to include all of the suggestions I've gotten and I also went through all of the comics ComixTalk has ever reviewed and pulled quite a few titles.

We're at the point where it'll be most helpful if you tell me comics you think should go on the list, where (what number approximately) and which comic should get bumped.  If you just want to change the order you can do that to but there'll be another post before the month's through asking for help with that.  

Of Hipster Kings and Rabbit Detectives: An Interview with Ben Gamboa of Tweep

Ben Gamboa is the creator of Tweep, a comic he's been creating and posting to the web for over five years now.  It's about a group of friends who the comic looks in on as they go about their day to day lives.  I really like the description offered by Gilead Pellaeon in his review of the comic:

Tweep is a really sweet strip about friends who care about each other, relationships that make sense, and, of course, The Rabbit Detective. And I've gotta say, I'm loving it. It's not as edgy as Questionable Content, it's not as funny as PvP. It's definitely not as dramatic and emotionally charged as Megatokyo. While all of those strips qualify as relationship strips, in them the relationships are the vehicle by which the purpose of the strip is delivered, be it humor or drama. In Tweep, the relationships ARE the strip, and any drama or comedy that arises is simply the result of natural interaction between the characters.

And I don't think that description is intended to damn with faint praise.  Tweep is often disarmingly aimless as its characters go about their day, and while the characters do stuff, it's much more about this small clique of characters and their interaction with each other than what they do.

I was really happy to get Ben to do the cover for ComixTALK this month and talk to him about Tweep.

Crazy Little Thing Called Webcomic

UPDATE: Rick Marshall interviews David Willis of Shortpacked!

Joey Comeau from A Softer World interviewed Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics -- sort of like webcomics own version of Interview magazine.

Rick Marshall has an interview with Jeph Jacques of Questionable Content.

JOURNALISTA points to an article by Ben Towles on artist supplies worth perusing.

Daniel Whiston has an interview with Alan Moore on writing that is awesomesauce.  (also h/t to Journalista!)

FLEEN points to a strange website called mezzacotta that apparently Irregular Webcomic creator David Morgan-Mar has something to do with. Funny, cryptic or what: the website states that the asking price for the URL and the "idea" is €1 million prior to launch and €5 million afterwards.

A few folks pointing to Capes and Babes a comic about comic book culture.  A topic ripe for tackling (I like SubCulture which also hits this subject) and if anyone else has some sugested comics in this area fire away.  (Thanks)

The Fragile Gravity crew did a week of strips at Sluggy Freelance recently.  Go check it out!

Anyone been reading My Life In A Cube?  Funny autobiographical (?) stuff from about first job (thereabouts) working in a cube farm.

ALSO - Melonpool creator STEVE TROOP has a new comic called CryptoZooey He plugged it here last week but I don't think a lot of folks saw it over the weekend.  Full press release for the new strip -- click "read more"