I've been putting this off and given my lack of ANY posts, I think it's time I finish this.
The Newspaper reviews have been few and far between because, well, they're hard to do. Few of them can be followed start to finish and many are decades old, with daily strips the norm. Knowing these comics, their history and their influence gives a great amount of insight into the comics, both newspaper and web, and their history. So it's only fitting, I think, that after discussing the question are webcomics dead, that I get back to the true root of the modern webcomic, probably one of the best ever published. I'm talking about Calvin and Hobbes.
I will say now I have a bias when it comes to Calvin and Hobbes, I think it's the best damn thing ever. This has really what's been holding this up because how can I give it any kind of objective examination when I actively enjoy the comic beyond all reason? The answer is, well, I can't. I can only say that you should read it, reruns are posted over on Go Comics, so go read them, it's worth the time.
It is with this admitted bias that I point out that I think Calvin and Hobbes may actually be the reason webcomics exist in their current form at all. Around 2000, when the first great wave started going with things like Sluggy Freelance and Penny Arcade, webcomics were often the purview of college students stretching their artistic muscle and doing comics in response.
Those college students were children when Calvin and Hobbes was in newspapers. And oh what a different comic it was. It was a comic that appealed to the kid in everyone, exploring the length and breadth of imagination like no other. A kid and his best friend who might or might not have been imaginary, and with whom all manner of chaos was inflicted. The art was top notch, especially the Sunday strips.
Those strips, by the way, were a result of a fight between Watterson and the newspapers. He wanted to take more advantage of the space available, and the newspapers wanted to be able to arrange his comic any way they saw fit. Watterson won, the popularity of his comic far stronger than anything they had come across. It's not much of a stretch that the idea of the “infinite canvas” came about as a result of this victory.
It also did something almost unheard of in newspaper circles: It ended. Watterson wanted to move on to other art, water colors in fact, and had grown tired of the pressure to merchandise his creation. He moved on, but left a mark that runs true and deep today.
From Sinfest to Girls with Slingshots, Calvin and Hobbes has had it's influence felt on the web. Whether it's Pants are Overrated short “squeal,” Hobbes and Bacon, or an animation for a school project, this comic has more fans now than it did when it was running daily in papers, I say as if I did research (hint: I didn't).
Calvin and Hobbes is, to me, the first webcomic, before there was a web to post them on. It has many of the same qualities that webcomics strive for, despite the fact that Watterson, in the exchange that led to him adding some art to Pearls Before Swine, doesn't understand computers at all. Not that he needed too, today or any day.
Webcomic artists owe a great deal to Calvin and Hobbes, and it should be required reading for anyone looking to do a webcomic of their own.
So with that bit of gushing out of the way, next time, MORE GUSHING! Seriously, you'll see. Until then kiddies. And hell, I might actually sleep in my own bed tonight.