The Wild World of World Wide Web ComicsA column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: John Voulieris
So you want to get published but editors aren’t returning your calls? Well, a recent alternative that has a lot of people talking is the web comic. The web is a venue for budding creators of all types to show off their comics to anyone in the world who wants surf the web on company time.
Helping me in my dissection of why web comics are a great medium for creative voices are two web comic creators who took time out of their schedules to join into the discussion.
First up is Drew Edwards, the writer/creator of Halloween Man comics
We also have Daniel Lundie, a British freelance writer/artist who created and runs www.futurius.net.
So Gentlemen how and why did you get into web comics?
Drew: The main reason I got into web comics is the same reason I'd imagine a lot of people did at the time. It's simply the cheapest, quickest, best way to get your stuff out and reach a vast audience.
A lot of "indie" and "underground" comics come out every year and they don't even make it to the third issue. I've been doing my comic for around six years now. No way I would have been able to do that if I had started out in print.
I tend to view this web comic thing is almost this industry's answer to the early punk bands. When I started out, I was just this snotty little kid barely out of high school, but I was able to do these raw, FUN, comics and have a voice.
You no longer need a ton of money to get a comic out there. Almost anyone can do it if they just put fourth the effort. It's all very progressive.
Daniel: I first got into web comics around 2002. I was hanging out on a comic art site that doesn't seem to be around anymore, and I clicked on a flashing link that said something like "build your own website in seconds!" That took me to www.0catch.com, who do small free websites. I didn't have a clue about websites back then, but I figured "what the hell," so I started a website and really enjoyed it. I had a bunch of web comics on that site, but they were pretty goofy. "Psychic Teenagers" strips, and "Mr. Meen," which was based on my friend Dan. I always planned on getting into comics but had a specific plan for it (get published, build a fan base, then start my own company), but since the website was "out there" so to speak, I decided to make a business of it straight away. Probably not wise at the time, but I was having fun with it.
I started doing the web comics just to practice and to get my ideas out quickly to an audience. Then I started thinking of web comics as their own medium, with different rules and possibilities to printed comics. You're not so confined to what the panel structure should be with web comics. You can play with it.
So basically web comics as a medium offer creators cheap start up costs, no editorial interference, and the ability to put material out there in front of the audience without having to seek approval from any higher power at a quick pace.
Plus Daniel brings up a good point in terms of structure. Newspaper strips impose a structure, monthly comics impose a structure, but web comics can be played around with. Pages can be updated on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. You can issue an 8 page or 80 page story, basically choosing the format your story requires to be told. No more dreaded deadline doom! You can update the story as often as you want.
Enough with the creative talk already, what about the almighty dollar? How do you market web comics and is it possible to turn a profit?
Drew: The big selling point of web comics are the twin virtues of cheap cost and creative freedom. I think that's the main reason a lot of people do it. Certainly no one is getting rich off these sites though.
A couple of years ago I would have said the only thing that can make
big money on the web are porn sites, but both "PvP" and "Homestarrunner" have proven me wrong. An error I'm glad to report.
That said, it's really hard to make a lot of money via web comics. I make about enough money off my site to justify keeping it up and nothing more. I mostly do it out of love for the form.
Daniel: They're a brilliant, brilliant medium to tell stories in, and they're free, so not only are they viable to make no matter how you look at them, but they're available to a wide market. You can build up a fan base fairly quickly and reach a lot of people whereas with print, if you publish one hundred copies of your comic and they don't sell, that's it. You're lumbered with a hundred copies of a comic while 7 billion human beings don't know you exist.
With web comics, the beautiful thing is they're still in their infancy. There is a few genuinely great ones out there that truly take hold of the format and run with it, but most of them are formatted exactly like print work. There's so much potential that hasn't been fulfilled yet. I think a lot of people aren't sure what to make of them, so they're seen as a bit of a bastard form, so anyone working in the format has a much greater chance of going down in the web comic history books as being a pioneer of the format. It's really wide open.
My 2 cents on the cost issue: if you think long term and want to develop a property, you can think of web comics as the starting point, where the initial sunk costs are very low. This will lead to exposure which can in turn lead to print work (with characters that have already been market tested), as well as ancillary revenues (I wonder how long it will be before Hollywood options a web comic property for a feature film).
Okay guys plug time, what are your web comics about?
Drew: Halloween Man is often called a "retro" comic but I prefer to think of it as a "retro-modernist" comic. To make a music comparison it's "psychobilly" instead of outright retro styles like the rockabilly or swing revivals.
It involves a good hearted ghoul named Solomon, who has been imbued with the "power of the horror movie sequel." He uses this to battle evil and go on crazy adventures.
A lot of the comic is based around his relationship with a gorgeous super-scientist type named Lucy. She's a brainy beauty to his misunderstood beast.
The world they live in is "time confused" with elements of past, present, and future. It's both familiar and yet very different from our own world.
I don't promise that it always makes perfect sense or that it's the comic that will change your life, but I do promise a good time with likable characters. So I hope people will take a chance and scope it out. We can always use a few more fans.
Halloween Man is a life long project, but I have three different stages planned. We are in the first stage right now which is a sort of silver age "Marvel" style superhero book. The second stage is a post-apocalyptic horror/adventure similar to Vampire Hunter D which was one of my inspirations for the character. The final stage is a "heroic family" story a la Jonny Quest or Fantastic Four.
Daniel: Robin Node is a futuristic, cyber-punk translation of the Robin Hood legend, complete with energy bows and corrupt politicians. It translates shockingly well to modern/future-modern world society, with our corrupt world leaders and war-torn political problems today. The series is about Robin, who was a pampered rich kid until his parents were killed by the evil newly-elected Sheriff of Nottingham City, which in the future is England's capital city after a mysterious cataclysm tears London to shreds.
Robin witnesses the murder and goes on the run, vowing to take revenge on the Sheriff. He ends up being caught by a group of homeless thieves who live in the forest just outside of the city, who are all the kids and family members of a group of scientists who were wiped out in an explosion in an underground secret laboratory in the forest. So Robin eventually gains the thieves' respect and leads them in this big public assault on the Sheriff and all he stands for, becoming a celebrity cult/underground hero in the process. It's about rebellion and corruption, and it gets a bit murky later on between whose right or wrong.
Psychic Teenagers is about a small town where everyone is a super-psychic. The story focuses on a group of misfit teenagers who spend their time abusing their powers in order to have fun. It's like Jackass TV meets the X-Men by way of American Pie. There are psychic shadows and astral misadventures. Seymour gets blown out a live cannon a few times while Rush uses his powers to bungee-jump into infinity.
Futurius Adventures is the ongoing misadventures of Futurius Multi-Media's cartoon mascot, Fut. He lives in a giant dome which houses wild parties every single night and can pass through space and time, and he has two malfunctioning robot sidekicks called the Timebots. Fut comes from the ends of time, where he's the younger child of the very last mortal family in our universe just before it all ends and our existence blinks out of...well, existence. They're a family of time travelers chronicling the history of everything, but Fut's a total slacker, so his parents send him to our time as punishment. Cue the wackiness.
Ozzy Unbourne is a spoof of Rock-God Ozzy Osbourne and is set in a woman's womb. Ozzy is a grumpy foetus attached to the umbilical cord, and he swears a lot. There are plans for Jack and Kelly to show up as sperm.
Now that’s what I call diverse subject matter. In an age of editorially mandated storylines, pulped comics, and retailers getting sued for selling lurid material, the web is a medium where any subject can be tackled without anyone cracking down on you for one reason or another. I mean how shocking can content be when it is sandwiched between 10,000 porn sites?
Obviously differentiating your web comics from the dozens of other web comics (much less blogs, news sites, etc.) will be hard, but it can be harder than marketing independent print comics, so what have you got to lose?
Food for thought budding storytellers… In fact, all this talk has me thinking of producing a web comics or two myself. Especially now that my office web came project went under…who knew no one was interested in watching me do paperwork from 9 to 5?
John Voulieris is a part time writer for SBC, contributing articles and guest hosting ATR from time to time. He constantly deletes his browser history for reasons better left unsaid.