Trapped in the Web(comic)

As promised, here is the final part of the answer to Jase’s question “what do you think of e-comics” ? A few days back I discussed digital comics. Today we look at the wide world of webcomics. 

While I am ambivalent when it comes to digital comics, I have an unabashed love of webcomics. In fact, I currently get much more joy from the innovation in story, art and animation effects displayed in web comics than anything being produced by “the Big Two”, who seem to be publishing comics only as a way to maintain copyright on intellectual properties their parent companies want to exploit in other media. Besides, that’s a rant for another day (and another forum, the intent of this blog is to share my love of comics, not to sook about them !).  

Anyway, back to webcomics. That is where I reckon the real creativity currently resides when it comes to comics. It is in a webcomic format that popular and acclaimed creators are doing their latest (and many cases greatest) work. My favourite webcomic at the moment is written by my favourite writer, Greg Rucka  and one of my favourite artists, Rick Burchett. 

The strip, Lady Sabre and the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether, showcases both creator’s skills in building an interesting world while telling a ripper of story featuring strong characters – heroes you love and villains you love to hate. 

Other webcomics showcasing the work of popular creators include: 

The Abominable Charles Christopher  by Karl Kerschel. 

Tom Scioli’s American Barbarian (whose villain Two-Tank Khamoun is one of the best character visuals ever)

Mike Norton’s award-winning Battle Pug  

Warren Ellis’  FreakAngels

 It is not just the great stories that have me obsessed with webcomics, but also the way in which they are delivered. You generally have a few pages of a story arc made available every few days, which provide a bite-sized story  which can be easily digested while waiting for the ads in a TV programme to be over, or while the boy is in the shower or cleaning his teeth for bed etc. These stories are a satisfying read in these nuggets, but also reward a re-reading when a full chapter or storyline is completed. It is when doing this you get to see the early clues leading to an important plot point, or a background character who later becomes a main protagonist. This is never more apparent than when a webcomic is collected in a printed edition, when the pleasure of reading collides with the glorious sensation of holding a physical copy of a comic I love ! 

 Speaking of delivery, I would be remiss not to mention Mark Waid’s incredible Thrillbent site. Mr Waid has gathered some of the best comics on the web, scheduled new parts to come out each day of the week and – best of all – made then free for all to view !! My favourite on the site is Mark’s own Insufferable, which follows a douchebag hero who was once the sidekick to his father in their own dynamic duo. It is updated every Wednesday and is drawn by Waid’s partner-in-crime on the award-winning Irredeemable comic. Also a favourite is the “proof of concept” comic Cthulhu Calls. It is not only the stories that are great, the way each story progresses panel-to-panel is interesting and fun. A click of the mouse generally moves you from one panel to the next, however there are times when the panel remains static, and a word balloon or caption appears, or the focus zooms in on a character’s face, or a character appears. I enjoy this progression as it allows a surprise to be just that. The problem with a print comic sometimes is the surprise occurs halfway down the page, and your eyes may be drawn to it. This can ruin the surprise to come and thus deflate some of the tension being created. The way Thrillbent moves your eye through the story prevents this, and some strips (including Cthulhu Calls) make great use of this in presenting a “framing sequence” in a panel, only to have a surprise event occur in the same panel after a click of the mouse. Hmmm, I accept I haven’t explained the concept very well, I recommend you read Cthulhu Calls as it showcases this idea brilliantly (and also has a “commentary track” running underneath each panel explaining the choices being made.  

 Basically, I enjoy webcomics as it is here that creators are free to tell the stories they want without any interference from editors, publishers or even physical limitations which affect print comics. Furthermore, they enjoy all of the advantages of digital comics without succumbing to the pitfalls of charging a reader for something they do not actually own.   

Viva les web comique !! 

(Please note, this should not in any way be considered a proper French phrase, it is a dodgy Ausfrench rendering !!)

 

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