Crime | The burglars who broke into Flea Market Comics in Mobile, Alabama, left the cash register alone but stole $10,000 worth of comics, according to owner Stephen Barrington. The thieves cut three locks off Barrington’s storage units and replaced them with a combination lock, presumably so they could come back and get more. “It just left me deflated,” he said of the theft. “People would come in just to look at the covers on them because they were such a various period from the ’30s to the present and like I said anything on a display; they took.” [Fox 10 TV]
Passings | Kiichi Toyoda, the first editor-in-chief of the Japanese manga magazine Shonen Sunday, died Jan. 10 at the age of 87. Shonen Sunday is the home of Rumiko Takahashi’s InuYasha and Ranma 1/2 and Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game. [Anime News Network]
Ben Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl won’t be out in print until February, but there’s no need to wait: MTV Geek has posted the first four chapters online, for free, using comiXology’s web reader. Zita the Spacegirl is a cute all-ages comic about a girl who travels to another planet to rescue a friend who has been snatched away. If you want to know more, check out Charles Webb and Eddie Wright’s interview with Hatke, also at MTV Geek.
Reading the actual comic presents a challenge, though. You would think a swell outfit like MTV Geek would be able to pay someone to put in links to related posts, or at least use tags, but you’d be wrong. There is no pointer from chapter 1 to chapter 2, and forget about using their search engine—it just churns up an identical list of useless results. It’s a shame: This is a great way to show off a new comic, and get it in front of a lot of new readers, but it looks like no one gave much thought to the problem of leading people from one chapter to the next. I did eventually find the links using Google, but if someone has to use Google to navigate your site, that’s a major failure.
Of course, there may be some blindingly obvious link that I’m just missing (the page is busy, and filled with animated ads), but I have had most of my coffee and I’m still stumped. Anyway, now that we have done the work for you, go ahead and read the comic! And here’s a bonus link: Zita started out as a webcomic, and you can read a couple of episodes at Hatke’s website.
A few months ago I started hearing buzz about a webcomic called Tales of a Checkered Man, but when I went to read it, I was dismayed to find that the creator had ignored all the standard webcomic tools, such as “next” and “previous” buttons, and instead posted his comic in an unreadably small format and forced readers to go through a series of steps to move from one strip to the next. So I gave up on reading it and posted a rant instead. Although I didn’t call the comic out by name, the creator, Denver Brubaker, figured it out and responded so good-naturedly that I felt a little bad about it. But only a little.
Anyway, since he was such a good sport about it, I feel honor bound to tell you that he has relaunched the comic in a new website that has navigation, readable comics, all the bells and whistles, and you should go take a look at it. It’s a gag strip riffing on Batman and other traditional superheroes, and it starts a bit slow, but Brubaker has a nice, unusual drawing style and some good gags. He’s just starting a new story arc now, so this is an excellent time to jump on board. Enjoy!
Webcomics collectives come and go, and some are more coherent than others, but the new sci-fi webcomics collective Spacedock 7 is pretty close to the ideal.
The interface is nice and clean. The seven comics in the group are all similar not only in subject matter but also in tone and style—not that they all look alike, but all have a fairly cartoony look. All are pretty good—I looked through them briefly and there’s no weakest link. Some are brand new, and others have been around for a while. Each comic updates once a week, so there’s always something to come back for (although Red’s Planet is already on hiatus, but hey—new baby, Reuben Awards, those are good excuses, and the creator has promised a definite return date). And these are the sort of comics that are easily accessible to new readers—you don’t have to know a complicated backstory or be able to decipher convoluted art to follow them. These comics are light reading at its best.
A simple home page leads not only to the seven comics (each of which is hosted on its own, separate site) but also to other features, without overwhelming the reader with clutter. This shouldn’t be remarkable, but understanding how to present information clearly and in some sort of hierarchy is often a challenge for web designers. Spacedock 7 gets it right, with separate, easy-to-find pages presenting short descriptions of each comic, author bios, and a list of everyone’s Twitter, Facebook, and Ustream info. And there’s a forum.
It’s worth a look for fans of light sci-fi, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea for anyone thinking about starting a group site to swing by for a look as well.