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SDCC | Where to find digital comics and webcomics

comic-con-fridayI’ve never been to a comics convention, but I can imagine it can be overwhelming — Comic-Con International especially, with its enormous exhibition hall, packed programming schedule and multiple venues. There’s a webcomics presence, but it remains something of a niche. A quick scan of events, for example, turns up more presentations on how to become big on deviantART than anything directly connected with webcomics.

There’s a powerfully strong digital comics representation, however. Perhaps this indicates a swing from the independent, comic strip-influenced world of webcomics to the formalized, floppy-inspired format of digital. Shoot, Publishers Weekly even arranged a panel to discuss that very thing on Friday morning with “Behind the Digital Line.” Mark Waid has an entire panel devoted to pitching ideas to Thrillbent. Monkeybrain Comics will have a roundtable about the benefits of publishing digitally. And on Sunday, “Digital Comics: Going Beyond the Page” will feature a discussion with a panel that includes Waid (Thrillbent) and Ron Perraza (formerly of comiXology and DC’s digital division).

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Comics A.M. | Alcaraz’s ‘Hate City’ cartoons spark legal threat

One of Lalo Alcaraz's cartoons about the protests in Murrieta, California

One of Lalo Alcaraz’s cartoons about the protests in Murrieta, California

Editorial cartoons | The public-relations consultant hired by the city of Murrieta, California, after residents protested the arrival of refugee children to be processed there, told cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz that referring to Murietta as “Hate City USA” was “actionable.” “There IS a fine line between your constitutional right to draw cartoons and expressed (sic) your opinions,” Hermosillo wrote in a comment on Alcaraz’s Facebook page, “and falsely, deliberately, and maliciously labeling and attacking an entire community as racist or as ‘Hate City.’ You are working overtime to damage Murrieta and such a false premise is actionable. There’s a fine line between humor and stupidity. You may have crossed that line at your own peril.” Murrieta spokesperson Kim Davidson walked that back, however, saying the city has no plans to sue Alcaraz. [The Press Enterprise]

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‘Quantum and Woody,’ ‘Hawkeye’ and ‘Saga’ lead Harvey ballot

quantum-woody1Quantum and Woody leads the final ballot for the 2014 Harvey Awards with nominations in six categories, including best new series, edging out Hawkeye with five and Saga with four. Quantum and Woody‘s James Asmus also received nods for best writer, most promising new talent and the special award for humor.

Named in honor of the late Harvey Kurtzman, the cartoonist and founding editor of MAD magazine, the awards are selected entirely by creators. Online voting is open now through Aug. 18. The winners will be presented Sept. 6 in a ceremony held in conjunction with Baltimore Comic-Con.

The full list of nominees can be found below:

Best Writer
James Asmus, QUANTUM AND WOODY, Valiant Entertainment
Matt Fraction, HAWKEYE, Marvel Comics
Matt Kindt, MIND MGMT, Dark Horse Comics
Brian K. Vaughan, SAGA, Image Comics
Mark Waid, DAREDEVIL, Marvel Comics

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‘The Oatmeal’: an Eisner surprise

imageI’m not sure why I was so surprised that Matt Inman’s The Oatmeal received an Eisner Award nomination this year, but judging from some other online reactions, I wasn’t the only one.

It’s not like it doesn’t deserve it. The Oatmeal easily has a larger following than the other nominees. How many copies does a print copy have to move these days before it’s considered a success, 100,000?

The Oatmeal has hundreds of times more than that — 5 million unique readers according to a 2010 Seattle Weekly article. It’s even hugely profitable. That same article mentions Inman’s take-home pay in 2010 was a half-million dollars. A huge part of it is Inman’s expertise at SEO, which just means he played the same game that made BuzzFeed the household name it is today.

The Oatmeal covers a variety of subjects. Some of the entries have intentionally inflammatory subjects, such as ‘“How to suck at your religion” and “What it means when you say ‘literally.’” Inman tackles these subjects with the burning righteousness of an angry political pundit, depicting the wrong as googly-eyed fools and leaning heavily on the bold and italicized font settings. I thought for sure those would be the most popular strips on his site.

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Webcomics, the awards and you

eisner sealsThe Eisner Awards, arguably the most prestigious in the comics industry, will be presented July 25 during Comic-Con International. Among the assortment of awards given to artists, writers and colorists, there’s an odd little thing that’s a relative newcomer: the Best Digital Comic Award. Here’s the criteria: “The best digital comic category is open to any new, professionally produced long-form original comics work posted online in 2012.” They have to have a unique domain name, and they have to be “online-exclusive for a significant period” before being available in print.

Rather odd, considering that many of this year’s nominees barely qualify under those parameters. A “long-form comic” suggests an extended, dramatic story. The Oatmeal doesn’t really qualify (unless you consider the bid for a Tesla museum to be a real-life epic). High Crimes technically has a domain name, but it directs you to comiXology for digital download. It’s all part of the challenge in determining what, exactly, a “digital comic” is.  Looking at previous nominees, there are several that don’t fit neatly within the rules.

Comic book awards. You can’t live with them, you can’t live without them. On the one hand, there are several challenges to clear. Who’s worthy of nomination? If it’s “Best Digital Comic,” what are you awarding it for — the way it takes advantage of its online environment, or the content? Generally, it’s the content, but if that’s the case, shouldn’t it be competing in the existing comic categories rather than be banished to the sidelines? (Several webcomics, including The Adventures of Superhero Girl, have been in contention in other categories … but only after their digital content has been converted in the traditional currency of ink and pressed wood pulp, as God intended.)

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‘Charles Christopher’ is anything but ‘Abominable’

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There’s been some criticism that the Eisner Award for Digital Comics tends to favor established creators from the print industry over those who made their names online. Or, in the case of Sugarshock … c’mon. Did you really think Joss Whedon wasn’t winning an award? You’d probably be struck down by lightning or something. (Incidentally, I tried to see whehter that comic was still online. I’d forgotten that it was on MySpace. Oh, man … the nostalgia.)

However, I think that, by and large, the winners have all been very good.

Karl Kerschl’s The Abominable Charles Christopher was one of the webcomics that made a splash among readers before it attracted award attention (a Joe Shuster Award in 2010, an Eisner Award nomination in 2010, and a very deserved Eisner win in 2011). What made The Abominable Charles Christopher stand out from the pack?

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True Believers Comic Awards announce 2014 winners

true believers logoHawkeye and its writer Matt Fraction and Saga and its artist Fiona Staples led the inaugural True Believers Comic Awards, winning in a combined 10 categories. Hawkeye colorist Matt Hollingsworth also won in his division.

Presented Saturday in conjunction with London Film and Comic Con, the True Believers Comic Awards are a successor to the long-running Eagle Awards. Established by Eagle co-founder Mike Conroy and his daughter Cassandra, the awards were selected through online nominations and voting.

IDW Publishing was voted Best Publisher, while Gail Simone was named to the Roll of Honor. Comic Book Resources was selected as Favorite Comics-Related Website. The full list of winners can be found below in bold.

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‘The Last Mechanical Monster’: No country for old villains

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 12.59.20 AMVirtually every year, there’s a high-concept Eisner nominee that utterly baffles me. In 2009, it was Speak No Evil, the undocumented-immigrant parable where a guy has a hole for a mouth, and last year, it was the weird Ant Comic. This year, it’s probably going to be Brian Fies’ The Last Mechanical Monster.

It’s based on Fleischer Studios’ 1941 animated Superman short “The Mechanical Monsters,” probably best known as the first time, in any medium, Clark Kent stepped into a phone booth to change clothes. The first few pages of Fies’ comic look like screen shots of the original cartoon. After that intro, the the story picks up 60-plus years later. We’re already in some strange territory: a fan fiction is now in Eisner Award consideration. Only … this isn’t fan fiction about Superman or Lois Lane; it’s about the villain.

We’re also informed that “The Mechanical Monsters” is in the public domain (a factoid that took me back to when I first watched the cartoon, on a VHS purchased for cheap at Woolworths that stopped functioning after two viewings). That gives the comic an added layer of trickiness, but maybe this is as legit an adaptation as, say, CBS’s Elementary.

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‘Creep’: I don’t belong here

creep

Before you ask: Yes, Kayla Miller’s Creep does throw in a Radiohead reference. Our superhero, named Creep, gives his own version of the song when he’s confronted by reporters. In a way, Creep is a pretty good song for a superhero. There are lyrics about wanting a perfect body, having control and pining for someone who doesn’t notice you. Shoot, that’s, like, Marvel in the 1960s. Put that jam in the Spider-Man movies, Mark Webb!

Creep, though is less of a Spider-Man and more of a Hulk. Or a Stephan Urquel, or The Mask. His origins mix a dash of Silver Age craziness with modern indie-comic cartooniness. Riley Russell is a mild-mannered modern teen who’s a bit of shrinking violet. He prefers to never come into contact with his parents, and he’s too chicken to even approach Holly, the girl of his dreams. He is the keyboardist in a band that no one goes to see, however, so there’s probably some opportunity for him to venture out of his shell.

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‘The Intrepid Girlbot’: raccoon hoarding of the future

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Diana Nock’s The Intrepid Girlbot is set in a world without dialogue. There are no word balloons, and thus no interaction with other characters in a traditional sense. There are some sound effects: Robots ping and clang, animals snarl and growl. But there is no talking. It’s the webcomic version of a silent movie, with a vaguely sepia-toned color palette to match.

There’s hardly any emotional cues as well. Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin could, at least, convey the enormity of their shenanigans through a double take or a shocked expression, completed with bugged eyes. The Girlbot, on the other hand, has a permanent look affixed on her face: the blank “o_o” emoticon. She is, after all, a mechanical person. She’s not the only one either. Other robots have faces that smile and are more pleasant. And yet, these robots are creepier than the Girlbot, mainly because their expressions refuse to change as well. They go about their daze with a smile on their face, even when there’s danger. Deep down, their emotions are a mystery behind a painted facade, like the creepy, unblinking doll head that we glimpse from time to time.

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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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