Brand New Feature, Same Great Analysis
The Two Guys with PhDs are excited to begin a new monthly feature for The Comics Alternative, a show devoted specifically to webcomics. For this inaugural episode, and as they plan on doing for every episode of this new feature, Derek and Andy W. take a look at two current ongoing titles and one older and completed title. The ones they discuss today are Jason Shiga’s Demon; Christina Blanch, Chris Carr, and Chee’s The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood; and Emily Carroll’s Margot’s Room. First, however, the guys begin by defining “webcomics” and distinguishing them from other types of comics or works produced through other means. In doing so, they not only establish their mission statement for this new feature, but they also delineate the parameters of their discussions. They begin by differentiating between webcomics and digital comics, arguing that while the former is based on and consumed through a digital delivery system, not all digital comics are specific to the Web. Along with this they point out the differences between the Internet and the World Wide Web, a distinction that many may have forgotten, describing the Web as just one component of the larger ‘Net. There are many digital comics that are accessed through the Internet — such as those that are downloaded directly to apps intended specifically for portable devices — that may have nothing or little to do with the Web. Webcomics, the guys bluntly state, are those that can be read through Web browsers, imbedded in and largely composing webpages, and may or may not be accessible through other digital means. Another criteria of a webcomic, at least for Andy and Derek, is that the primary or original intention behind the comic’s creation is Web-based, not print. This would rule out many of the digital-first comics put out by the Big Two and other publishers, and it would exclude the digital versions of comic books that are already or are soon to be in print. (And, of course, it excludes the scanning and exchanging of material via torrent sites.) They also consider the potential complications of animation and economics. How many non-static images should a webcomic have before it’s not considered a “comic,” and what kind of payment system may (or may not) affect the defining of a webcomic? At the same time, the guys are aware that their definitions of a webcomic may be fluid — for example, how would you place the works available through Monkey Brain Comics, a digital-only publisher many of whose titles usually end up in (and perhaps ultimately are intended as) print? — and that their understanding of the form may change over time. But Derek and Andy are comfortable with that potential fluidity and feel that the discussion of what defines a webcomic is half of the fun.
Then the plunge into a full-fledged discussion of three webcomics. Each is a different manifestation of a webcomic and delivers its narrative in specific ways. While some of the comics, such as Demon and The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood, have begun to find their way into print, they are nonetheless first and foremost a comic intended for the Web. There are some, such as Charlie Wormwood and others found on the Thrillbent website, that utilize additive images or visual layovers that appear as individual “pages” as you click through the comic, and others that rely solely on static, unchanging, and individual formatting. And while some webcomics, such as Jason Shiga’s work, are formatted to look like physical comics pages, others, such as the work by Emily Carroll, are great examples of what Scott McCloud has described as the “infinite canvas.” All in all, this is a productive maiden voyage for the guys’ new feature, and they look forward to discussing other examples of webcomics in the months to come.
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