March 29, 2009
CR Sunday Magazine: Everything That's In My Webcomics Folder Right Now
By Tom Spurgeon
I wanted to write a short note about comics available on-line because I think that's a part of the comics-reading experience that will only grow in the years ahead and is likely a significant part of many folks' comics consumption right now. I put it off, worried that my tastes might be way too ordinary as a focus for such a conversation. There are huge, mostly selfish blind spots in my on-line comics consumption. Although I have read all of these things at one time or another, I don't read the Zuda comics (I haven't thought enough of the comics to get past my distaste for their reader), scanlations generally (just not enough material that interests me to the point to make that a recurring thing) or those helpful downloads of all the weekly comic books people scan and put up to be seized and placed on my hard drive. I'm pretty vanilla.
Upon reconsideration, I think the fact there are so many different kinds of readers of comics on-line is a positive thing about this work and this way of reading it right at this moment. There's nothing inherently wrong with the guy who only reads Doonesbury
on-line or inherently right about the person whose RSS reader is stuffed with 50 or more efforts by cartoonists print comics fans have never heard of and into the whole new scene aspect of certain groupings of those comics. Or vice-versa. It's all out there to be read and discovered and to become a part of our comics-reading lives, or for us to pass on doing so. Just like all the other comics.
So what follows is a short list of the comics that I look in on regularly with my computer as opposed to cracking the spine of a book or folding past the staples of a traditional comic book. There are thousands and thousands more out there, to be sure. If anyone wants to suggest ones I might consider reading with the same regularity, I'm likely forgetting a dozen so where the bookmark is in my brain -- "hey, I should go look at ______" -- rather than my computer. I'll publish any and all of your suggestions for everyone to see, and hopefully learn something myself. (Chicago Theater Rules
* Mugwhump The Great, Roger Langridge
All Roger Langridge comics deserve your attention.
* Cul-De-Sac, Richard Thompson
This is the only majorly-distributed daily comic that I read every day, and because it's not in my local newspaper this is how I read it.
* Cul-De-Sac Blog, Richard Thompson
While I also read the daily on the syndicate site, Richard Thompson's presentation is a great way to access his work generally including the best and most notable examples of the strip. I like it because I otherwise wouldn't see Richard's Poor Almanac
from various time periods and for one-off oddities like the above.
* Sin Tutulo, Cameron Stewart
Cameron Stewart's straight-ahead mystery narrative -- straight-ahead in the telling, if not within the narrative itself -- has grown on me quite a bit, and I look forward to new installments.
* Fart Party, Julia Wertz
I think you either find Julia Wertz funny or not -- her approach is so simple and straightforward I can't think of another way to easily access her work, although I guess you could see the site as more of a diary. Anyway, I think she's funny, so I enjoy the site on that level.
* Tom Toles at the Washington Post, Tom Toles
I think they've done a nice job with Toles' on-line presence, but mostly I just like Tom Toles.
* Pat Oliphant at Gocomics.com
I don't look in on Pat Oliphant as frequently as I check out what Tom Toles is up to, but he's still a very considerable presence on the editorial page.
* Kate Beaton's Comics, Kate Beaton
Really funny. If she gets even better, watch out. If she stays just like this, she'll be just fine.
* Laura Park's Various Flickr Sets, Laura Park
I like how not really relatively accessible this work is, which I think adds a layer of effort and kind of digging around that adds to the reading experience. Plus I just think a lot of it is very good.
* Hicksville Comics, Dylan Horrocks
It's like having Pickle
back, although I guess you could also see this as a collection of different strips of varying interest rather than a cohesive whole. I can't stop you.
* Achewood, Chris Onstad
One of the handful of great comics to come out of the on-line comics movement and one of the signature comics of the decade.
* The Fantagraphics On-Line Comics, Various
I also see this as an anthology where some people might see individual strips to be read or ignored.
* Jesse Reklaw's Diary Comics, Jesse Reklaw
I'm kind of addicted to these right now, for all the reasons you get addicted to diary comics -- tracking how certain things recur, enjoying the leisurely pace of the thing, grooving on little life insights.
* Slow Wave, Jesse Reklaw
I got back into these though the diary comics. One of the "grand old men" of on-line comics, and maybe the only one of those comics I'm naturally inclined to like.
* Rick Veitch's Dream Comics Postings, Rick Veitch
I check in on Rick Veitch's site every now and then for postings and re-postings of his dream-focused work.
* Motel Art Improvement Service, Jason Little
Jason Little is one of the cartoonists you'd describe as perfectly suited for the Internet if you sat down and thought about it for several minutes. This particular piece is still going strong.
* Wondermark, David Malki
A fully-realized work that doesn't always hit with me, but one that I enjoy seeing even when it doesn't make me laugh. I hope that doesn't sound obnoxious, it's just that I appreciate it maybe more than it's for me.
* Dinosaur Comics, Ryan North
This one used to drive me nuts, but I never stopped reading it. Now I like it.
* Traffic & Weather, Rob Ullman
Ullman has a very pleasing line, and Traffic & Weather
, his feature for Richmond Magazine
, should allow him to show that off in favor of getting some local Richmond color out there on the Internet.
* Thingpart, Joe Sayers
I have more of a curiosity about this strip than I do a passion for it. I know that sounds horrible.
* Laugh Out Loud Cats, Adam Koford
It's more like I've kept an eye on this one, although the skill present is formidable.
* xkcd, Randall Munroe
I want to understand you, xkcd
, and I won't stop until I do.
* Diesel Sweeties, R Stevens
I started reading this after interviewing him and occasionally stop back by to catch up. I like how idiosyncratic it is in terms of its look and the generally detached humor, and I also suspect that it's a model strip in terms of the merchandising revenue stream available to many of these efforts.
* Daryl Cagle's Editorial Cartoon Round-Ups Arranged By Subject Matter, Various
This is a wonderful service and I learn something every time when I look at editorial cartoons this way.
* Guy Delisle On Wordpress, Guy Delisle
Wouldn't it be awesome if one of the best cartoonists to ever describe life in far-away locations had a sketchblog based on his recent surroundings? Yes, it would be awesome.
* Funny Pages, Various
I know that there's been a lot of grousing about the work that's appeared in the New York Times
, but I think the section's been consistently strong, three or four really quality works have come out of it and I don't mind the way they present it on-line. Jason did an on-line western! How was that not a great little five minutes in every comics fan's work week?
* Top Shelf 2.0, Various
There aren't a whole lot of individual comics here over which I'd flip out, but I like the general approach and how relentless it is so I keep an eye on it. It's a model I wouldn't mind seeing from all the major alt-comics publishers.
* Moving Pictures, Kathryn Immonen and Stuart Immonen
I nearly forgot Moving Pictures
because I access it through my creators folder rather than my webcomics folder, but Andy Kuhn reminded me that it's one of the good ones.
* Freakangels, Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield
This science fiction story of super-powered teenagers holding a community together after an apocalypse isn't really for me. However, Warren Ellis shows up in my inbox every Friday and yells at me to go look at it, which since he scares the shit out of me guarantees my ass in the audience every single week. Also, I like how straight-forward it is. Like the Barkis
selection described below I think it's a model more people could use.
* Barnacle Press, Various
There are a lot
of great historical comics destinations out there, but for something comprehensive and well-selected and that works as a site to which one can return just as well as it does a blog that you can keep in your reader I suggest Barnacle Press. There's a staggering amount of little-known material here, and I quite like the interface.
* Comics On Dan Zettwoch's Site, Dan Zettwoch
Dan doesn't put everything that he does on-line, but I have a hard time tracking him and so I keep this link around to look at every six months or so to see if I missed anything new he might have put up. Between that and the blog
I feel pretty good.
* American Elf, James Kochalka
One of the foundational comics of the on-line comics movement, and one that's likely to be among the most influential comics of this decade.
* Leon and Beyond, Dan Zettwoch, Ted May and Kevin Huizenga
I enjoy this work without reservations: it's like a strange television show that comes on your local NBC affiliate at 2 PM Sunday afternoon.
* Comics On Kevin Huizenga's Site, Kevin Huizenga
There's a surprising amount of work up on Kevin Huizenga's site, considering he's never had any significant problems finding a partner to bring his work to readers via print. I quite like this one
* Comics On Lucy Knisley's Site, Lucy Knisley
I enjoy these comics the way they are right now to the point where I don't even consider what they might become, although what they might become could be awfully, awfully impressive.
* Danny Dutch, David King
I look at these comics frequently, and while I enjoy them and respect the level of craft involved I have this strange feeling that I'm going to like some future work by King so much that it will force me to go back and re-examine these and I'll like them that much more.
* Ernie Pook's Comeek, Lynda Barry
Michael Grabowski reminded me I forgot to put a link up to Ernie Pook's Comeek
, but it was definitely in my folder the whole time. I don't always enjoy the way the front page is arranged, but it's a still-great comic.
* Comics On Eleanor Davis' Site, Eleanor Davis
I'm not sure she keeps a lot of work on here, but I check back every six months just in case.
* Les Petits Riens, Lewis Trondheim
I really like the English-language versions NBM is doing in print, but I still look at the original French-language comics site. I like the way the comic looks so much that it's almost an entirely different experience to access them that way.
* The Abominable Charles Christopher, Karl Kerschl
I haven't figured this comic out yet, but I keep watching.
* comics by Vanessa Davis in Nextbook, Vanessa Davis
I have no idea how to provide a link to these funny cartoons as a group, so I'm just going to link to a specific one and ask you to dig around with the search mechanism. In other words, I give up. But you shouldn't.
* Copper, Kazu Kibuishi
I like how self-contained these comics are, the way the best newspaper strips have always been. I don't know anything about these characters but I don't have to, not really.
* A Mess Of Everything, Miss Lasko-Gross
I don't know if this means they're putting up the whole book or not, but I look forward to comparing the two experiences.
Subscription Sites I've Received As Gifts
I'm a past subscriber to both King Features' DailyInk.com
and to Marvel's Digital Comics Unlimited
, two prominent pay-for-access sites. I had problems with both of them as comics-reading experiences, but I did enjoy the classic features on DailyInk.com when they were actually available, and it was fun to familarize myself with tons of Marvel Comics that I wouldn't have touched otherwise. That's weird, though, isn't it? Liking something because you found it a perfect place to consume comics you don't really like... what does that say about comics right now? Actually, don't tell me.
Comics That Are Either Obviously Done Or Just Seem Done To Me That I Return To A Lot Anyway, Various
There are a lot of comics that are either done or seem done that I keep in my webcomics folder because I haven't finished with them yet. So in the spirit of "every comic you haven't read yet is a new comic" I thought I'd slot them in down here. This includes early webcomic Leisuretown
, Dash Shaw's mighty BodyWorld
, post-alternative mainstay Hutch Owen
, classic cartoon book Barkis
, the RSS feed
for Peter Bagge's underrated run of comics for Reason
, Ben Katchor's Picture Stories
and Greg Stump's hysterical Dwarf Attack
. I'm sure there are a billion more.
posted 4:00 pm PST
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