30 September 2009

Webcomics: Where the Adventure Begins

I'm stuck on comic strips. Which is weird - for me. In a funny way, I miss 'em, so maybe that's why. Then again, merely thinking about "strippers" at all (see Monday's Special Edition to get the full mind scoop -- 'Dabbler) probably caused some kind of freak brain event. Like Flash Forward last week, without crashing helicopters and kangaroos.
See, I can't recall the last time I read the comics section in the local paper -- hell, in any newspaper. No one I know gets it anymore. Makes me feel sorry for all those out of work paper boys. But hey, toss a netbook on the porch and I'll subscribe to The New York Times. Online edition, of course.
Most people these days can rattle off their domain name hopped up on morphine, but remembering their house number would take a hypnotic miracle. Is that you? It's me, and guess what? We're fine. Comic strips have entered the new millennium, and they're called webcomics.
Webcomics are all the comics you can find - and usually only find -- on the World Wide Web, the good ol' internet, our home away from home. Most webcomics are really web "comic strips" (or webstrips) rather than web "comic books," although you'll find a handful out there resembling the latter. Like the news strips of nostalgia, webcomics tend to be self-contained little vignettes with a regular cast of characters, using all the standard conventions of the traditional comic strip like word-balloons and thought-clouds and such. And the talented folks who create webcomics are every bit as reliable as Bill Watterson or Gary Trudeau was: most artists publish at least one new "issue" on their site every week.
Web comics have a lot of differences from their newspaper counterparts, too. For one thing, internet strips are much more diverse than traditional comic strips. They exist in any category: super hero, horror, comedy, romance, funny animal, science fiction, police drama, noir, slice-of-life. There are webcomics made especially for kids, webcomics that are political or poignant or way over NC-17, and there's webcomics for the LBGT crowd, too.
Better yet, webcomics remove all the frustration of the daily newspaper strips. Remember having to search down the page past Rhymes with Orange, Beetle Bailey, and all the stuff you didn't want to read just to find The Family Circus? The next generation of comics strips says, "No More!" A quick visit to any web comics' homepage with your email address in tow, and nine times out of ten, your favorite strip -- and just your favorite strip -- will arrive in your G-Mail the minute a new installment hits the net. They make for a great mid-day treats at the office, and the next email you spam everybody in your Outlook with will be worry-free.
The best thing about webcomics, though, is also what most readers of those webcomics may overlook: webcomics aren't expensive. Granted, web sites don't always come on the cheap, and for those of us who can't speak foreign languages like C+++++++, designing a website might cost a pretty penny. But on the whole, take it from s a guy with self-publishing aspirations: without the internet, the lion's share of creators who have put their art out into the universe would instead be bagging groceries down at the 'Dixie or blogging about comics from a hosted platform of your choice.
Typing "webcomics" into Google, Yahoo!, or your preferred web browser should get you well on your way to becoming webcomics' newest subscriber. But in the spirit of magic that compels our every effort at abbracadabbling, we wanted to make the transition from newsprint to cyberspace as easy as possible.
As Editor-in-Chief of Webcomics, Brad Guigar has constructed one damn handy and informative source for readers and creators of webcomics alike. The site offers free membership, articles on a variety of comics and webcomics related subjects, member forums, tutorials, videos, links, and even a personals section! Brad, along with some of webcomics top creators (like Scott Kurtz of PVP fame), have also recently begun Webcomics Weekly, a new podcast all about webcomics available on iTunes -- so next time you're shopping for that new Britney Spears single, dabblers, go ahead and download their free podcast, too!
For a webcomics info site that might be a little more friendly to the casual reader, you might want to mouse-click over to The Webcomicker. Gilead maintains his site in a very welcome manner, and his love of webcomics as a fan and also as a creator both shine through. It's a personal touch in an internet that can often be too cool.
PVP: Player Vs Player | 29 September 2009 by Scott Kurtz
The most difficult hurdle to reading webcomics, as you might have already surmised, is just fining them. It's a big world, after all. The following websites are the Dabbler's Top Three picks as the best places to begin any webcrawling adventure.
Comixpedia comes in at #1 and #2 on our short countdown. The site, much like its inspiration Wikipedia, is a great overall resource for many things pertaining to the four-color world of comics, print, web, you name it. For webcomics specifically, Comixpedia offers many avenues to the a greater understanding of the medium. But you'll probably want to try their webcomics directory which classifies current webcomics into 47 different genres . If you know what you like, they'll help you find it in a flash.
Another way Comixpedia can help direct you to your next favorite webcomic is via their directory of webcomics blogs. Just like you get every day here on abbracadabbling, bloggers who blog mainly on the world of webcomics will offer you their expert information, insight, and passion on a regular basis. Definitely a great way to expose yourself to yet another new branch of the comics art form.
Lastly, claiming the Bronze Medal tonight, is one of the internet's best webcomics directories, Hot Web Comics. It's a fun, fast, and colorful place with oodles of information, direct links, and more. You can see everything they've got for you right here.
I usually find at least one new webcomic every time I set out on a webcrawling adventure. My latest discovery are Zach Weiner's Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal webcomics. Zach presents some really funny and often odd stuff, using the single panel format that you're familiar with from the newspaper dailies. Think The Far Side meets a cartoony The Twilight Zone.
I thought I'd post two of my SBMC faves for you tonight. If you like 'em, jump on over to Zach's website to see all his great material.
Dinosaurs (SMBC)
Speeding Bullets (SMBC)
I'd love to hear if SMBC struck your funny bone. Write in to Back Issues and tell me all about it. And if you've read a webcomic you really liked, or if you make one of your own, be sure to let me know, because I've got a big mouth. Back Issues is the spot where two-way talk begins!
Dabbler's Note: Keep your eyes -- and your graphic imagination -- peeled. Next time we get artsy, I'll reveal the secret identity of my favorite webcomic...and I think you'll like it just as much I as I do. Stay tuned!

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