Today, something a little different: instead of an ongoing webcomic strip, an webcomic short story.
Before visiting, please note that this is a mild horror story, and that other content on this artist’s site is Not Safe For Work. In movie rating terms this would be an “R” rating.
Ouija is told in a series of single panels in a clickable (probably Flash-based or something similar) viewer. Each panel in the story replaces the previous one as you read through the story. The artist, Tommie Kelly, refers to this as a “panelplay.” If this is a webcomics term, it’s not one I’m familiar with, but I can appreciate its use visually where appropriate.
For a “boo” style modern horror story, it feels like an effective visual tactic. You can’t skim the whole story or look ahead and see what’s coming further down the page-like in a movie, the imagery moves forward naturally and you see the reveal only when you’ve truly reached that part of the story. It’s not too long, and does not revolutionize the horror genre, but a nice change of pace.
In addition to his web-only comic Pibgorn, Brooke McEldowney also has produced a strip called 9 Chickweed Lane since 1993 which is both online and also carried by over 50 papers nationwide. Compared to Pibgorn’s fantasy setting of magic and mayhem, 9 Chickweed Lane tells the down-to-earth story of three generations of women, grandmother, mother, and daughter and the characters and relationships they encounter. Currently the strip is focused on the daughter, Edda, and the life she is building as a dancer, as well as the relationship she is building with her childhood friend and love interest Amos.
McEldowney occasionally takes syndicates to task over issues such as censorship and content standards. At one time, after being subject to editorial control of Pibgorn’s content, he allowed the contract for the comic to expire in order to move it to a more accommodating website. This past Sunday on his 9 Chickweed Lane strip, McEldowney pointed out a notorious incongruity in standards and practices for published content in the United States, namely that of the degree of acceptable violence versus the degree of acceptable adult language and situations.
While I admire his convictions, I have trouble taking a consistent side in this debate. After writing my post yesterday on The Amazing Spider-Man daily strip and its intended audience of children, strips which are intended for younger audiences are fresh in my mind. However, I also understand that there are works for older audiences that should be free of censorship, for if they were censored then both their quality and the readers’ enjoyment will suffer as a result. Unfortunately, not only are most webcomics accessible without an age check, often strips intended for different age groups are found adjacent to each other on the same website.
These days, Peter Parker needs no introduction. As Spider-Man, he’s been a Marvel Comics mainstay for almost 50 years, and has been in virtually every storytelling medium available, even a daily newspaper comic strip. The Spider-Man comic, at first glance, may seem a bit simple in execution when compared to any of the other stories he’s in, but I personally have no problem with how the strip is handled.
One thing that makes a character enduring to audiences over long periods of time is the ability to grow and change. Comics in book form are not written or drawn in the same manner as they were in the 1960’s or 1970’s because at that time a majority of the readers were teenagers or younger. As the audience has matured so did the writing, as well as the characters and the situations they find themselves in. In the 1980’s and 1990’s more complex situations and characters began appearing in long-running series…but perhaps that’s a topic for another blog.
The Spider-Man strip has been criticized by some fans as “the worst Spider-Man of all.” I’ve had the chance to go back and read some of those early comics and daily strips from my childhood, and realized that even with all of the warm memories I have of the newspaper strip, they’re not a completely satisfying look at the character for me anymore. I want something more interesting, yet that doesn’t make it a bad strip. But it’s me who’s changed, not the strip.
I remember with great fondness the Spider-Man daily strip and the early comic books when I was first learning to read, and to this day I feel that they deserve some of the credit for keeping me interested in what I was in front of me at that young age. I feel that I still enjoy it on those terms, and I would gladly place the daily strip in front of any children of mine.
As I was selecting my posts for this week, little did I know what Order of the Stick creator Rich Burlew was undertaking. Burlew has previously published collected editions of OOTS in printed format, but the books have been out of print since 2010. Funding was unavailable to publish new editions, despite fans’ repeated requests for them, so Burlew turned to the online “crowdfunding” website Kickstarter. It allows for projects in need of financial backing to take donations directly from those interested, with a definite goal, deadline date for funds to be raised, and a policy of not charging anyone if the goal is not raised by the deadline.
Here’s where things got interesting.
Burlew’s OOTS project at Kickstarter finished on February 21, 2012. His goal set for reprinting one of the most requested books was $57,750. The finishing total that his fans contributed to Burlew? $1,254,120. That makes his reprint drive the second most funded Kickstarter project ever.
Girl Genius, updated Monday, Wednesday and Fridays, tells the story of Agatha Heterodyne, in what authors Phil and Kaja Foglio describe as a “gaslamp fantasy.” Gaslamp might be confused with the more common label “steampunk,” but the authors have made Girl Genius their own distinctive creation. Agatha is one of many characters in her Victorian world to possess the “Spark,” a quality which allows incredible leaps of creativity and invention. Robots, biological constructs, fantastic vehicles, and more are all made possible by this touch of genius. Agatha’s life is forever changed when her spark manifests.
The Foglios’ work has either been nominated for or won awards (up to and including Hugo and Eisner awards) every year since it was first published in 2000. The story is currently in Volume 12, and the authors say that “it’s just easier” for new readers to start reading Girl Genius at the beginning rather than try to sum up the story so far.
On a side note, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago when starting this project, I’m working to get better at writing this blog. One thing that I have added today is a small graphic to help illustrate the comic I’m writing about. I can’t help but think that a blog about webcomics works a little better with, well, comics! I tend to be a visual person by nature, and a visual tag for articles here just seems natural to me. This may not always be the case-on the web these days not everyone is in agreement about how to use material that may or may not be copyrighted or trademarked. I’d rather not get into any trouble over this, and so if I’m able to find something that the artist has clearly specified as free to use for linking or display, I’ll use it. If there’s any doubt, I’ll forgo it.
The irregularly updated Head Trip is one of the non-professional comics that I’ve enjoyed for a long time. It follows the adventures of the main character Mallory and her family and friends as they navigate the strange world they/we live in.
Head Trip has both its hits and misses. One great example of a hit is this strip satirizing the movie critic Joel Siegel’s treatment of a movie a few years ago.
It’s written for a niche audience, requiring a geek-level knowledge of pop culture, science fiction, anime, fantasy, horror, and the like. Without that background, many readers won’t know what is happening in the comic, let alone why it’s funny. Bussell intends just that, writing for the audience she wants as readers.
Checking out Head Trip is yet another fun way to burn a few hours if you’ve got them. While not on a regular update schedule, there’s a significant archive of old strips. Be careful in mixed company though, because while some strips are fun because they are downright silly, some content is not all-ages safe.
A syndicated comic since 2006, Lio is the story of a boy and his cephalopod. A mashup of Calvin and Hobbes and the Addams Family, Lio revels in his oddities and how they unnerve the world at large, including his father. Ranging from dark humor to mad scientist, one never knows whether to expect the Grim Reaper, aliens, or a giant city-destroying robot to come by for lunch.
Lio differs from most syndicated comic strips in that the stories are told without dialogue. The time-honored tradition of little balloons filled with spoken words or thoughts are absent from Lio, relying on the artwork to tell the story. With book collections sporting titles like There’s Corpses Everywhere, Lio may not be for everyone.