Friday, November 23, 2007

On the Mend and Thinking Again

Well, my cold seems to be receding at last, after more than a week. Not fun, but it beats the two-month cold I had around this time last year by, well, about seven weeks.

I expect to have my brain re-combobulated enough to start doing actual creative work again some time over the next couple of days.

Webcomics. I'm thinking about webcomics quite a bit, these days. In addition to creative questions (what can I do to make a good webcomic?) and more mercenary issues (what can I do to make money from a webcomic?), I've been wondering about how people - readers - discover webcomics.

That lead me to think a little harder than usual about how I have discovered webcomics. In no particular order, here are my five of my favourite (currently running) webcomics, and how I discovered them:

Order of the Stick
Read about it on Eric Burns's and Wednesday White's webcomics review blog, Websnark. At about the same time, my friend Rob (a.k.a. Tragic Lad) sent me a link to the very same installment that Eric Burns had written about. I followed the link. I liked. I read through the archives. I'm hooked.

This strip was getting a lot of online buzz during a major story arc about a year-and-a-half ago, the legendary 'Great Outdoor Fight.' Again, I read about it on Websnark first. Burns and White were both raving about Achewood. I gave in and clicked on the link the day they discussed the strip where Ray Smuckles rips a guy's freaking face right off. And wow. And I liked. And I read through the archives. And yeah, I'm hooked.

Questionable Content
Essentially a relationship-driven sitcom about twentysomething slackers, which is the kind of story that I can still get really into, if it's smart enough, even though I am no longer a twentysomething slacker. Questionable Content features the relationships of a group of twentysomething slackers who, yeah, are friends and have relationships and hang out in the same coffee shop. But then I found out two things: First, this strip brings real depth of characterization and emotion, creating genuine drama, and second, three simple words - nutty robot hijinks! I read some commentary by, yes, Eric Burns. Followed the link. Yup, read the archive and got hooked.

I've mentioned Galaxion before; it's a sometimes-funny, sometimes-romantic, and always gripping science-fiction epic by my old friend Tara Tallan. It features the crew of a starship who may or may not be stranded in a parallel universe after a hyperspace experiment goes horribly right. I've known Tara for about fifteen years, and I've eagerly followed Galaxion through a couple of previous incarnations, so when it debuted as a webcomic it automatically went to the top of my Must Read List.

Dinosaur Comics
Ryan North's comic is a minimalist-art, dialogue-heavy strip with obscure and surreal jokes, pop-culture references and goofy puns. Featuring a Tyrannosaurus Rex and his friends. Oh, and the art is exactly the same every day - only the text changes. It's brilliant. It's the sort of thing I would have created if I were about a decade younger, and much cooler than I ever was. Not many comics, no matter how clever, can make me laugh out loud, and this one is a delightful exception. Back when comics writer Warren Ellis's online community, The Engine, was still active, Ellis would post Ryan North's daily strips. I liked. I followed the link. But I didn't delve too closely into the archives, because that way lies madness.

Some Sort of Conclusion
Well, the key points are pretty obvious. Word-of-mouth, or in this case click-of-link, is what got me reading four of these five webcomics. In many cases, backed up by commentary/analysis/ speculation, or by multiple recommendations. People I know and trust, and people I don't really know but whose opinions I respect, have a far greater influence on me than advertising. Positive reviews are a pull-me-in factor, especially if they're grounded in some sort of analytical thinking.

So, let me ask, you hypothetical multitudes: What webcomics do you read? How did you discover them? Why did that process of discovery work? Pray elucidate.

And a Brief Post-Script
Oh, and my friend Rachel Hartman's Pau-Henoa comics, on Girlamatic under the name The Return on the Mad Bun, are just as good as any of the aforementioned five. But I specified currently running and (sniff!) it'll be concluding shortly. Which makes it easy for you to get caught up on. Go read. You can thank me later.


Anonymous said...

I'm shocked that Phil Foglio's Girl Genius doesn't make your list! I think that's the one I most look forward to. I also read his re-runs of Buck Godot (now in colour!) and What's New, so I have a Foglio comic every day. :-)

I would probably have to say that word of mouth is the way I hear about other webcomics. I get recommendations from other people's blogs, mostly, sometimes from news sites. Platinum Grit is one I found that way recently, although it updates pretty infrequently. What else do I read? Well, everything off Girlamatic, obviously. There's also Gunnerkrig Court, Family Man, and Narbonic (Director's Cut). And did you know Sean Bieri's running Jape on Serializer?

That should keep you going for awhile. ;-) Oh, no, one more: Jonathon Dalton's comics are awesome, and the sort that you'd probably never find except by word of mouth. He's currently running Lords of Death and Life, but my faves are the Mad Tea Party (scroll down to find it).

Unknown said...

Oh, I love Girl Genius! Everyone, if you haven't, go read Girl Genius, like now!

But I started falling behind on it last April, when I lost access to high-speed internet - those big, lush full-colour pages just weren't working out with my dial-up and my hamster-powered processor.

Now that I have high-speed again, and a better computer - well, there's just been so much plot since then. It's not like a gag-a-day strip (which, say, Questionable Content essentially is, despite the relationship DRAY-muh) where you can blast through the archives. I'm going to need to set aside an afternoon or two to get properly caught up on Girl Genius. And I haven't really had that time.

Maybe I should just start getting caught up in small doses, although I'll be hard pressed not to read, and read and read...