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Todd Allen on his ‘Economics of Digital Comics’ Kickstarter

todd allenWhat a difference seven years makes! When Todd Allen published the previous edition of his book, the title reflected the digital comics scene at the time: The Economics of Web Comics. Even more tellingly, he didn’t produce an eBook version — it was print -only.

The world of digital comics has spun around on its axis several times since then, and Allen, who writes about digital comics for The Beat and has taught e-business courses at Columbia College in Chicago, is now working on a major revision of his book, now titled The Economics of Digital Comics. And this time, he’s funding it through Kickstarter, another major force in the comics industry that didn’t exist seven years ago. We asked Allen how he constructed his Kickstarter, what his plans are for the book, and where he thinks digital comics are going.

Robot 6: First of all, congratulations on exceeding your goal! You started with a very modest goal of $500, and as of this writing your backers have almost tripled it. It doesn’t seem like a lot of money — what will you use it for?

Todd Allen: I definitely took the minimum-costs route on this. I need to set up a couple files with my print-on-demand provider. I may or may not upgrade some software — I’ll worry about that when I’ve got everything written and am ready to go into production. Could I have counted my labor for the book and time spent running a Kickstarter toward the cost and put the goal at something like $12,000? There’s a case to be made for it. I’m doing a Kickstarter Campaign Diary over at Publishers Weekly, and this week’s installment is about setting the pricing and goals.

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Comics A.M. | A nonprofit alternative for some publishers?

SLG Publishing

SLG Publishing

Publishing | Spurred by the GoFundMe campaign launched last week by Dan Vado to get SLG Publishing “back on its feet,” Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture author Rob Salkowitz wonders whether a nonprofit model might make sense for some indie/niche publishers: “Contrary to popular perception, however, being a non-profit doesn’t mean you can’t make money. Lots of successful non-profits generate revenues in the millions and pay their staff, executives and contributors salaries comparable with those in the private sector. They can also pay contractors and contributors like performers or creators full market rates. They just don’t pay shareholders, and they plow any excess revenues back into their operations.” [ICv2.com]

Passings | Michael Cavna rounds up tributes and remembrances from the colleagues of the editorial cartoonist Etta Hulme, who died last week at age 90. [Comic Riffs]

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Isabel Kickstarts ‘Pole Dancing Adventures’ print edition

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[Editor’s note: Every Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss “The best in comics from the last seven days” — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]

While I am no master of the vertical pole, and while I’m sure that attempting something like “The Superman” would result in several slipped disks, a concussion, and a few suspicious bruises, I quite liked Leen Isabel’s webcomic Pole Dancing Adventures. It explored pole dancing from the point of view of someone who sees it as an athletic activity, breaking down popular perception that it’s something anyone should be ashamed about. It also provided some nifty tips and tricks — again, something I and my ungrateful 200-pound frame would never attempt. Still, an enjoyable peek into the finesse involved.

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‘Skadi’: barbarians at the table

2014-01-23-ChimeraLast year pretty good year for Katie Rice, who won Penny Arcade’s Strip Search reality show competition. Her all-ages webcomic Camp Weedonwantcha, which follows a bunch of big-headed scamps as they try to survive the perils of camp living, appears in a prominent location on the Penny Arcade website, next to the highly trafficked main comics. Rice was one of the most experienced members in the contestant pool, having worked in animation doing design and storyboards, and her well-honed artistic skills definitely show.

In addition, she already had some experience in creating a webcomic. I first came across Skadi many years back. Developed with the aid of fellow artist Luke Cormican, it was (and still is) hosted at webcomic collective site Dumm Comics. Along with 1930 Nightmare Theatre and Big Pants Mouse, Skadi had given the site a strong old-school stylistic presence … namely through John Kricfalusi-style visual cues.

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Music, sound and comics

a4171370003_2Soundtracks have become an integral component of movies, television shows and video games. How important is a great soundtrack? There’s a video online that removes John Williams’ from E.T., leaving the triumphant moment at the end feeling lonely and empty. Swells and the rhythm of the full orchestra pull you in emotionally.

Can music be added to a comic? Years ago, that would have been a silly question, conjuring images of opening the book and hearing a tinny tune playing like something out of a greeting card. But now that comics are online, in a digital realm where greater integration between different kinds of media? It not as ridiculous a prospect as it sounds. Besides, it’s already being done.

Music and sounds are more prevalent in Flash-style webomics. Stuart Campbell’s Nawlz uses a futuristic electronic soundtrack to create a palpable sense of unease. It’s almost as if there’s something buzzing at all times to subconsciously frazzle your nerves. As you search the page to figure out what to click on next, you feel on guard. Will this next click bring the music to a halt? Is this comic setting me up to be frightened by a loud noise? It’s weird how much a soundtrack can ratchet up the anxiety. The effect is not unlike watching a horror movie, where more than half of the frights are due to sounds and music.

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‘Cucumber Quest’: Destiny is fickle

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Gigi D.G.’s Cucumber Quest is one phenomenally goofy webcomic. All the characters are bunny people adorably rendered like plushies. Seriously, their heads are so round and fuzzy I wannna squeeze them until they pop. As if they weren’t cute enough, a lot of the characters are also dressed up like foods. Princess Parfait is covered in strawberries, Sir Carrot sprouts orange roots and Sir Bacon has wavy brown hair that looks like savory foodstuffs. Later, they encounter characters who are festooned with seashells or have mouths as wide as cymbals.

The bright, candy-colored look makes it easy to dismiss Cucumber Quest as baby stuff. The comic is all-ages, true, but it’s also brimming with the sort appeal that made Adventure Time and The Powerpuff Girls such a hit with adults. The comedy tickles in its cheerfulness and its lack of cynicism.

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Comics A.M. | Wizard World Philadelphia’s $5.9M economic impact

Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con

Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con

Conventions | While the South Jersey Times and Philadelphia Inquirer focus on the fans who turned out over the weekend for the 14th annual Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con, Philadelphia Business Journal zeroes in on its economic impact: an estimated $5.9 million, which seems like a lot, until you compare it to the expected $16.2 million impact of the 6,000-person American Industrial Hygiene Association conference. [Philadelphia Business Journal]

Conventions | First-timer Michael Smith reports on the Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con. [Liberty Voice]

Creators | John Romita Jr. talks about moving from Marvel to DC Comics to draw Superman and about comics being his family business; and his father, John Romita Sr., chimes in as well. [The New York Times]

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‘Unsounded’: The ties that bind

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Note: This contains spoilers for Unsounded: Chapter 9, “Wherein Family Ties Chafe the Throat.”

In a way, the recurring theme of Ashley Cope’s Unsounded is breaking ties.

The most obvious example of this is the zombie Duane, who was ripped from his old human life when he and his daughter were murdered by an invading force. Now doomed to live his existence as one of the walking dead, he is bound to his young companion Sette because of his compassion for children. He is thrust from his noble position and his loving family, and becomes a shambling servant of a criminal family.

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‘Broodhollow’: Head like a hole

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It’s my experience that there are some comics you shouldn’t be reading past midnight on the flickering glow of your tablet. You’re never more vulnerable than in that moment when the veil between reality and dreams are the most thin. As you drift off, strange images fill your mind, only intensifying to heart-palpitating levels when, say, your desktop computer suddenly powers on and wakes up from sleep mode for no reason. It’s moments like this when you realize perhaps you really should have reviewed Wuffle: The Big Nice Wolf instead.

Funny thing is that despite its horror trappings, Kris Straub’s Broodhollow doesn’t look like the sort of webcomic that could scare a fly. It’s more quirky than anything: An encyclopedia salesman finds himself living in a town where the locals have silly traditions. Characters are rendered in that recognizable Straub style, where noseless people sorta look like hedgehogs. I was a little ambivalent toward the comic after its first chapter; things pick up considerably in Chapter 2, though, with the introduction of a murder mystery.

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Comics A.M. | Stan Lee greeted in Sydney with ‘Captain Australia’ shield

Stan Lee (via The Daily Telegraph)

Stan Lee (via The Daily Telegraph)

Creators | Stan Lee arrived at Sydney Airport for the Supanova Pop Culture Expo and was immediately presented with a “Captain Australia” shield, colored gold and green rather than red and blue. The Supanova Pop Culture Expo kicked off today, and continues through Sunday. [The Daily Telegraph]

Comics | Hussain Al-Shiblawi says he doesn’t usually mind the pamphlets he regularly receives from the local Bible Baptist Church in Roanoke, Virginia; even though he’s Muslim, he finds them inspirational. But he takes strong exception to the latest one, a Jack Chick tract titled Unforgiven, which claims that all Muslims are going to hell. The pastor, who declined to go on camera, says his church doesn’t create the pamphlets, it just distributes them, but he’s willing to meet with Al-Shiblawi to discuss the comic. [WDBJ News]

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‘Castle Vidcons’: Lords of video games

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E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, runs this week, and video game news sites and fans have been poring over every announcement with the delicacy of a sledgehammer. One thing that has become clear: The so-called “console wars” is still on. Devotees line up behind their game system of choice to cheer or lambast the latest news. That was most apparent last year during the unveiling of Sony and Microsoft’s next-generation consoles, when the wild rhetoric between console partisans was indistinguishable from political rallies.

Webcomics have a long history with video games, with one webcomic (Penny Arcade) launching a popular convention circuit centered on gamers. Anthropomorphizing game consoles is hardly new. Few, though, have taken the concept as far and as creatively as Tyler Rhodes’ Castle Vidcons.

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‘Infinity’ artist Dustin Weaver branches out with ‘Amnia Cycle’

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Dustin Weaver is best known for his work on such Marvel titles as Infinity, Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D., but he’s also been busy creating his own space epic that most likely didn’t know existed: Amnia Cycle is a longform story that follows a space pilot named Tara and a bizarre alien life form named Amina. Weaver has drawn, and published online, three full issues of Amnia Cycle with plans to begin serializing the fourth “chapter” later this month.

Although Weaver has been seen primarily as a cover artist since the end of Infinity, that will change later this year with Marvel’s newly announced Edge of Spider-Verse series, which he’ll both write and draw. Senior Editor Nick Lowe told Comic Book Resources last week that Weaver’s work on Amnia Cycle helped secure him the writing gig.

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‘Clique Refresh’: Second lives

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Escapism gets a bad rap in comics. Are they adolescent escapist fantasies? Well, yeah. Of course many of them are. There are exceptions, sure, but who doesn’t want to imagine themselves as the super-strong dude who flies around and saves the day, or the guy who dresses up as a bat with the slick car and the grappling hook? What I don’t get is why people who raise this criticism often see this as a bad thing.

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Jeff Smith debuts Season 2 of ‘Tüki: Save the Humans’

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Jeff Smith’s Reuben Award-winning webcomic Tüki: Save the Humans kicked off its second season today, ahead of the July release of the first print edition from Cartoon Books.

Set two million years ago, as a great ice ages grips Earth, the adventure is the story of the first human to leave Africa.

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‘Tagged!’: Unisex grapplers of the squared circle

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You’d imagine that professional wrestling would be a natural fit for comics. The characters and storylines are larger than life. Undead cowboys! Evil clowns! Heroes carrying two-by-fours against a red, white and blue backdrop! Masked, underdog heroes who can fly around the ring like they have the proportional agility of a spider! Both even went through similar phases in the ’90s, with superstars taking on grim-and-gritty personae while indies made a mark with strange, unconventional ideas. So how come wrestling comics aren’t quite so prominent?

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