Thursday, April 26, 2012

If A Stick Man and A T-Rex Conceived a Marshmallow Baby: A Treatise on Webcomics

Many of the original geeks so call themselves because of their childhood obsessions with comic books. I, however, was a book-book kid. I was far more drawn to Anne of Green Gables than superheroes as an 8 year old. (and Anne of Avonlea, and of Windy Poplars, and of Ingleside... oh, Gilbert Blythe! *Sigh*  Er.... I digress)
MS Paint is hard.
It wasn't until the internets appeared in my breakfast nook when I was 9 or so that comics in their most appealing form could even be conceived.  And when I say conceived, I obviously mean that T-Rex and stick guy from XKCD made sexytimes and created The Oatmeal. I'm not stealing I love you webgeeks please don't sue me I'm not making any monneeyyy
Only in my wildest wet dreams.

I'm referring, of course, to the now-ubiquitous webcomic.

Some of these webcomic artist fellows (some ladies, mostly fellows) have gotten so internet famous that they can actually spend all their time devoted to their comic. The three referenced above (Randall Munroe of XKCD, Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics, Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal) are able to do this. So, draw, post, and watch the money roll in, right?

Wrong. It's super rare to make it as a professional webcomic arist - i.e. someone who can completely sustain him or herself from the money brought in by the comic and its related enterprises. Most webcomic artists devote their free time to their craft and their funnies and still work day jobs or night jobs or the Tuesday morning shift at Cheetahs.
L-R, the creators of XKCD, Dino Comics, Cyanide & Happiness, The Oatmeal,
 and Penny Arcade before they made it big
And the ones who are able to sustain themselves on their webcomic awesomeness have a full-time job doing it. They're entrepreneurs. They are published authors, they create and market merchandise, and they travel to promote their funnies. I had the joy and honor of meeting Ryan North at Comic Con 2011 where he was handing out high fives, and he let me stand there and fangirl all over him for a good 20 minutes. Then I came back the next day and he let me do it all over again. And he signed some stuff for me.

Fangirling can get messy. Sometimes T-Rex just sits on your head in the midst of it all.
P.S. The best thing about Dinosaur Comics is that Monsieur North has proven you don't really have to know how to draw to be a good comic artist. You just have to be really funny and really, really verbose.

Also in the webcomics section (they have their own section at Comic-con!) were Jerry and Mike of Penny Arcade, the boyfriend's favorite:

They look mean, but that's part of the job
These guys have a whole team employed under their Penny Arcade brand. They have a director of business relations. They even had a video game produced based on their webcomic. They're mini-moguls. They're amazing.

And for my final excuse to show me meeting internet-famous people, here's the Cyanide & Happiness team drawing a big comic just for me. Which I accidentally left in the hotel when I checked out. And then I cried. I hope they're back this year and take pity on me.

the comic involved poop, a noose, and me being stabbed with a trident.
These guys have plenty of merch and a for-pay iPhone/iPad app. They also have a big enough following that it actually helped one of the artists, an Irish lad, get a work visa to come to the US and do Cy&H full time in 2010.

So all this to say, these guys have worked their asses off on their respective labors of love. But there are a lot of aspiring webcomic artists who are not yet able to focus all their time and energy on their craft, but who deserve your attention. Also, who are girls. Here are two of my favorites.

NPC Comic
-Mary Varn-

This comic is my life. I don't mean I just sit there reloading the page all weekend, hoping Mary will change her update schedule from M-W-F to EVERY FIVE SECONDS... although I have hoped that silently from time to time. What I mean is that Mary's comic about a gamer girl, her equally geeky boyfriend, and their two mischievous WoW-playing, gold-farming blue cats parallels my own life in a creepy way.

My very own Chloe and Bink, reading a comic about Chloe and Bink. So meta.
My friend Emma recommended this comic to me last year and I'm forever grateful. (You can read Emma's funny and intelligent thoughts on all kinds of current events at her blog, What's YOUR Deal?). One of the greatest things about Mary is how involved she is with her readership. If you post a comment to her either on Facebook or directly to the comic, she responds quickly and thoughtfully. And I'm such a big fan I always feel like I'm interacting with a celebrity. Her comic is actual art, the stories are cohesive and funny, and you should go read it right now. Here, I'll link it again for you. And I recommend you go back and read the older ones too, before Bink got fat.

Hyperbole and a Half

-Allie Brosh-

Girl's all, what if I write about my life, memories, struggles, and victories, just like every other lame blogger in the world? And then what if I make those stories super funny even when they're sad? And then what if I do MS PAINT ART? And then what if I become CHAMPION OF THE INTERNET?!??? So she did.

And she got a book deal. And she's still all like, fuck registered domains, I like blogspot.  And she became a Reddit darling.

You may remember this gem that went viral about two years ago.
The Alot is better than you at everything.

But she's been gone from the internets since October because she's super sad. You should go read her comics anyway, all the way from the beginning until last October, because she's hilarious and heartwrenching and she should still be champion of the internet.

(Allie did recently reemerge on Redditt thanking friends and fans for their support while she deals with depression. I hope she comes back to the internets soon, there's an Allie-shaped hole in it.)


So thus, my treatise on webcomics. Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal) says he'll be at Comic-Con this year, so hopefully I can go fangirl his brains out. I'd love to see Mary and Allie there in the future, too. Please feel free to send me new and upcoming webcomics of all genres. What are you keeping up with? Who makes you hit F5 repeatedly on Monday mornings?

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