Friday, February 5, 2016

Are Webcomics Dead?

So over on Talking Time Forums (which I still don't have an account with because I'm lazy, sorry guys) there was a thread that asked the question:  Are Webcomics Dead?

Seems a silly question since, well, they aren't.  But that wasn't the question, the questions was did webcomics fail to live up to their promise, and the answer to that is oddly simple.

The point is that back around the turn of the century, when the first great wave of comics appeared, there was this promise of greatness.  It was a new media, a new future and a new way to do things.  The phrase "infinite canvas" got tossed around, and everyone was ready to jump on the wagon to a new future.

What happened to it though?  Where did it go?  The pioneers of that age, Penny Arcade, Sluggy Freelance, Megatoyko and so many others didn't quite go anywhere, they didn't turn into the future.  So why?

Two things worked against it and amazingly it's the same thing:  Money.  I say two because money drove the webcomic community in two different directions.

Penny Arcade, Sluggy and others were the forefront of the webcomic revolution, and they became very, VERY popular.  In those days, making money off the internet came down to ads, lots of ads, and being very popular meant that the ads made a lot of money.

This resulted in some odd confluences of events.  Penny Arcade began to sell their comics as ads themselves (something they supposedly stopped doing, but whose to say for sure), and as a result the comic didn't innovate any more because, well, that wasn't an ad.  And when they did try, the result was similar to what happened with Sluggy and Oceans Unmoving:  backlash.

Being very popular meant the readers wanted one particular thing and woe to those who went against it.  I mentioned that the doldrums of Sluggy were because Pete Abrams liked to eat and I am not kidding, he backed off quickly and tried to hold on to his audience after they rebelled.  This meant stagnation for many comics, and the promise that they held back in 2000 looked weaker by the moment.

The other direction was still money, and the fact that the vast majority of comics, well, are NOT popular, at all, and in an ad based economy, they simply couldn't support the artist directly.  They like to eat too, but that meant they had to do actual work to support themselves.  The comic became less and less of a priority.  A great many comics curled up and died as the artists, who were mostly high school or college students, had to go out to earn a living.  They took short cuts to get the comic out quicker, or just stopped updating all together.  Those that bought their own domains with visions of glory in their future ended up vanishing into the ether that is the internet.

That's not to say none of what was promised with webcomics never happened, it did.  Comics like Sunstone (NSFW) and Bloodstain take full advantage of the infinite canvas to stretch their comics out to amazing sizes and directions.  City of Reality and Lizzy (sadly gone) take full advantage of flash as a medium and explored how comics could be more than just a static image on the page, often adding sound and interaction to the subject.  It's just hard to make money on ads, and the only other options, the con circuit (which the Devil's Panties does successfully) and books don't really work well with those amazing formats.  The innovation is there, it just doesn't translate to the world where money is to be made, not without a lot of work.

So from those two directions it appears webcomics failed, and instead just became another branch of the comic medium.  That's not a bad thing, and it has happened before and will likely happen again.  I mentioned about "internet reviewers" back in my Going Critical article, and they've been in a rapid decline for the last few years, especially as Blip.tv closed.  Facebook and mobile gaming have experienced the same decline, if not faster.  The "new media" that the interent was set to introduce failed because, well, there just wasn't money in it.

Then came Pateron.  The problem of money is now becoming less of an issue.  Pateron does still over feds the popular comics (see Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal's Pateron), but it means that even smaller comics can make something more than the pennies on the ad that is available today.  In the meantime, comics are backing away from the models Penny Arcade and Sluggy Freelance set up, becoming a branch of independent comics.

In my opinion, the Golden Age of webcomics is now long past, and while we still see their legacy, the current age is far more interesting.  Even now, the Pateron Age of comics is growing to the point that I'd almost have to list the comics that DON'T have a Pateron verses all the ones that do.  Through this the creativity promised back in the day might actually come to the forefront and great things are destined to follow.

Webcomics aren't dead, nor did they fail, it just took a bit longer to get there and those that sought to lead are just dragging the rest down.

Until next time kiddies, still in a trailer in Texas.  House soon, I hope.  Later.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Well, that was a week

Still in the midst of moving, but the worst of the first half is over.  I may have something up next week, but no promises.  This month kind of sucks.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Touching Base #24

By the time you read this I'll be BACK in New York, only to drive BACK to Texas next week.  I love moving.  In the meantime, let's check what's going in comicdom.

Eerie Cuties and Magick Chicks are NOT ending.  Apparently their kickstarters went through and they'll be back soon.  I think I mentioned it earlier but consider this all offical like. Well, not quite yet, but we'll see when it gets going.

Licensed Heroes is updating again as well, but only once a week for the time being.  I wonder what caused all the issues. . .

Speaking of temporary pauses, Sunstone (NSFW) and Head Trip still on hiatus due to injuries.  Both are going through physical therapy so it might be a while before either of them come back.

Related to Sunstone, Bloodstain got a fan movie based on the first chapter.  This is similar to what happened to No Rest for the Wicked.  I haven't watched it yet, been on the road with limited net access, but they're thrilled by it, so go watch.

Elsie Hooper still not updating, the comic.  Apparently, though, the MOVIE that this was the storyboard for is finished and is going to be in a film festival in the near future.  Apparently they made it with stop motion puppets, so that explains why it took too long to film.

On the other projects list, Dead Winter has a playable demo of their game, and for a weekend it was open to everyone, but afterwards, Patreon members only.  I did download it during the free weekend, but, again, no time to try it, but it's a side scrolling beat em up, so if you like that style, it'll probably be fun as hell.  I do, sadly no time to play.  Bleh.

Subhuman Sanctum and Twilight Lady getting more updates, though Twilight Lady is just wrapping up the current story.  Subhuman Sanctum is into the second book, so I expect awesome things.

Commander Kitty is also updating again, the big animation project he was working on is done, so the Pateron is open again as well.

Gone with the Blastwave had a random update late last year.  Given how often it updated before, I'm shocked there is at least one update.  Maybe there will be another, eventually. . .

Perry Bible Fellowship is now appearing on Go Comics.  It's updates are random, once a week is a bit much for it, but it does update.  Most of the strips are the small, 3 panel strips, and yes, they are all new ones.

And that's about all I have for now.  I likely won't have anything next week because holy crap will it be busy.  After that, I'll try to say something.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Oh, hey, I'm in Texas

Long drive, not much to write comic wise at the moment.  I've got a much more solid net connection that I expected, but I also have a lot of work to do, so don't expect too much for the time being.

I will try to have something up next week, a Touching Base, there's a lot of little things I'd like to go over.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Can't Live Without 2016 Edition

Well, this is nice, back to this once again, right as the new year begins as well, so that works out.  You know, I never did state what the concept behind this really is, even back with the original one.  Really the idea is that if I could only have 10 comics to read on a desert island, it would be these 10.  Thus why the arbitrary order, there's no particular sequence or order they could ever actually be in, just there for me to read.  So with that let's get the next one going.

1.  Sluggy Freelance - Yes, it's still on this list and will remain there until it ends.  It is and remains my Standard, and will forever and a day.

2.  Schlock Mercenary - This one I call Best Overall and every strip earns it.  It's a must read for science fiction enthusiasts, and lovers of humor as well.

3.  Gunnerkrigg Court - Hmm, the first two have whole long series dedicated to them, but not this one, that seems odd. . .  Maybe I should . . .

4.  Derelict - Remains the only comic I bought a hard copy of, and probably will be for some time.  Worth reading.

5.  Sunstone (NSFW) - Despite the delays that have plagued this year, including a physical injury that crashed nearly all of his comics, I still want to keep reading this comic.  Aside from being really great to look at, the comic is a romance of all things and it keeps me interested.

6.  Between Failures - It's nice to have a comic that isn't really that "out there" on my list.  No fantastical elements, just a comic about everyday people doing everyday things.  Even introducing a group of "furries" is done without being too crazy (well, no crazier than normal for this comic).

7.  Spinnerette - Still my favorite of the various superhero comics I've been finding.  It's funny, serious and creative.  Worth reading and enjoying.

8.  Namesake - It taps so many ideas that attract my attention that I can't help but read it.  Reading, writing, books, alternate realities ect etc.  And it's damn good too, which makes it even better.  Go forth and read it.

9.  Stand Still, Stay Silent - When I first started reading it, I thought it would just devolve into another zombie comic, but it hasn't, at all.  It's something significantly different, gorgeous and well worth reading despite it's disjointed (at least from the rest of the comic so far) introduction.

10.  The Non-Adventures of Wonderella - My dose of laughter comic is still here and likely will remain for some time to come.  Especially now that it's done with all that kickstarter nonsense and can publish regularly again.

Honerable Mentions go to Gaia, It Hurts! (sometimes), Skullkickers and The Meek, all of which are kind of the bubble of being on this list.

As I stated last week, the blog will be dark for the remainder of January as I finish my move and such.  I hope to be able to post something during the month, but I suspect I won't even have a nothing post.  It will be that crazy.  Afterwards, I should be back to a relatively regular schedule.  Hell, I'm already planning my next long series (if you missed the hint, reread this page), so I will be back.  Until then, Happy New Year.  Next time kiddies.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Best Overall: Shifting Responsibilities

Schlock Mercenary is not a static comic.  Despite it's regularity that you can set a clock to and the fact that it's always my Best Overall, the only real constant storywise is that Schlock himself is in it somewhere.  Well, that and the humor which is always there.

The point is things move as the comic goes along.  Members of the Toughs leave or are killed pretty regularly, even with the ability to bring the dead back to life, there is a limit to who gets brought back or not.  More often the biggest change involves the ships the Toughs use.  There have been 5 singular ships until the end of the storyline Broken Wind.

At their core, though, Tagon's Toughs remained a mercenary group, they do what they do for money, and often try to get paid multiple times for the same job.  It's not that they can't be altruistic, they have on many occasions, but they usually get paid for their time and firepower.

Broken Wind changed that.  They have now become the defacto military of a resurrecting galactic power, one with a LOT of money on their hands, enough to buy a Battleplate just so they could scrap it and build a city with the remains.  That means the very core of what it means to be part of Tagon's Toughs and exposes a lot of the rather obvious limitations on them.

To be fair, they are superstars really, they STARTED multiple wars, fought in them, pulled off some amazing feats while fighting them (mostly surviving, AND getting paid), amongst a long string of other accomplishments.  But they are just mercenaries, so certain things get past them.

Like law enforcement, which they are wholly unequipped to perform.  Not the least of the problems is the fact that they are often on the ones which the enforcement is being placed on.  So they had to trade out their still active "kill the attorney drones" contract to an actually law enforcement mercenary group to handle the issue in the new city they built.

And still the issues keep coming.  Schlock just takes things without thinking of the concept of "theft," and their lawyer accidentally made himself Chief Justice of the new Supreme Court for the new city.  On top of all that they still have multiple ships, multiple captains, and a big honking space gun that can get them into way more trouble than they'd like.

They're also not really a military.  So then there's the crash course office work that all the senior officers had to take in a not-montage (Howard elected to skip it).  All this sums up to the very nature of the Toughs changing radically from what it had been before and things haven't finished changing yet.

It's one of the things that keeps Schlock fresh even after all these years.  With Sluggy it's more waiting for the loose ends to be tied up, Schlock prefers to use those loose ends to recreate the comic, the characters and the universe for as long as possible.

EDIT:  Just after I wrote this, Howard posted an interview where he states that the current incarnation of the comic will end 2018/2019 or so, then do a big time skip and pick up with a new cast (and Schlock will still be there).  So yeah, there's that.

Next time, Can't Live Without and a new year.  Exciting!  Also, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Standard: Vampires

Sluggy Freelance continues to call back to it's past with call back to the original Vampires story.

It's not the first time the well has been returned to, but I don't remember the other times very well.  Considering they were all Sam centered stories (as he is a vampire), that's not all that unsurprising.  The main one happened right before That Which Redeems, so that might be why I don't remember it well (over a decade ago, I might add).

But it actually reaches all the way back to that original story by tying up a loose end I don't think anyone remembered was a loose end.  That said, as soon as I saw it, I remembered the scene, so there's that.

The original Vampires storyline though is significant for Sluggy, as it was the first serious story of the comic, coming right at the beginning of the comic's second year.  I covered the first year in detail, so no point going over that, but I did reread the Vampires story.  It's a culmination event, surprisingly, as the various elements of the last year finally came together to drive the story forward, from Alyee's fear of Riff, to Val's sudden attraction to Torg.

That's not to say it is high quality, compared to early Sluggy it was something new and exciting.  There was a real sense of danger there at the time.  Torg and Zoe were in actual, factual danger throughout the story, and given the idea that the comic was supposed to have a revolving cast, maybe this was where Abrams was going to start the cull.  He didn't, in the end, perhaps this changed his mind.

It's not bad, I should say.  I enjoyed the silliness of it, but it isn't anything special.  Later stories would far exceed it, but it set a pattern of abilities and responses.  Alyee and Bun Bun would always be the muscle, Kiki would be distracted and poop, Riff would be reliable, but build something unreliable, etc, etc.  Sam continues to be kind of dumb, both on purpose and because, well, he is.  I think he got dumber after this, for comedic effect I assume.

Being the first also means it tried to wrap things up quickly.  Only took a couple of months really, after quite a bit of set up.  Still, it changed what "story" meant in Sluggy, and nothing was the same after that.  The path of modern Sluggy began with the end of the Vamipres story.

The fact that he's calling back to it now, 17 years later, shows how important it really is to the comic as a whole.  The end of the comic is still some time in the future, but now it's closer than ever.

Next time, I talk a bit about Schlock Mercenary.  Until then kiddies.