Searching for Strip Search – Part One

The year was 2012. America said they could (again), I launched my own webcomic (oh God, the art!) and as if in response JPEG juggernaut Penny Arcade ran their very first Kickstarter campaign. This campaign was nominally for the removal of ads from their site, but the real reason we all backed it was hidden in the stretch goals – the promise they’d create the world’s first webcomic reality game show: Strip Search. Five years on I wondered, what happened to the twelve contestants on that show which was, perhaps, before it’s time? Here’s what I found.

For those of you unfamiliar with the single-season show produced by PATV and Loading Ready Run, here’s a quick run-down. Strip Search aired online between March and June 2013, running a familiar “reality TV” format: twelve artists were picked from a multitude of applicants (yeah, including me), and proceeded to battle their way through thirty-one episodes of coaching, industry experience, and tense elimination challenges. The prize? A year working in the Penny Arcade offices, hosting and advertising through the PA site, and access to all their internal resources.

Depending on what webcomics you read, those twelve names might be a bit unfamiliar these days. I know I found most of these guys – particularly the ones eliminated early in the competition – had fallen off my radar. I wanted to know what they’d been doing over the past five years, if they were still making webcomics, and how their art and writing had developed since the show. Today, I’d like to share a bit about the first three contestants who left the show: Alex Hobbs, Ty Halley, and Lexxy Douglass. Continue reading

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What’s in a Name?

If you’re on this website, chances are you’re familiar with webcomic creator Evan Dahm (Rice Boy, Vattu, Order of Tales). Even if you weren’t before this week’s podcast episode, you’re probably at least now familiar with a tweet he put out on April 6 2017 questioning the relevancy of the term “webcomic” and calling the word “obsolete.” Steve and Jason had a good chat about this in the podcast, and I’m not going to rehash their arguments here but I did want to weigh in on two points myself – that webcomics have an unique identity and are, at the end of the day, still an important (if not as niche) scene.

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Digital Strips Podcast 303 – Review – Monsieur Charlatan

The world just hasn’t been as mysterious since that great day when Al Gore bent at the waist and farted out the Web. The Internet is a great place for solving the unsolveable. From “How hot of a girl did that nerd in my math class marry?” to, “What happened in those last seasons of the X-Files?”, the Internet can answer just about any question.

In keeping with this tradition, this week we solve the mystery of the worst song you could possibly be forced to tap dance to.

This week we also get all kinds of culture up in here as we head over to Grand Paris for some dark, depressing suicide attempts. And then Jason decides to ruin it with his own personal brand of sexism. Way to go, Jason. Way to go.

Where was I? Oh yeah, the comic. This week it’s Monsieur Charlatan, a tale of murder, mystery and intrigue. It’s also got colorful art and word balloons that make us say colorful things.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Just listen, all will be made clear.

We also talk about the gag-an-update comics that we’ve been reading, enjoy a non-safe-for-children midsection and listen to Steve do a horrible French accent.

All this and more on episode 303 of The Digital Strips Podcast.

Show Notes:
Toon Hole – 6:45
Skadi – 7:15
Just the First Frame – 7:30
Quiddlebee – 8:15
Kurtz’s blog post – 9:00

Music in the middle is White Magic is for Sissies by Knight of the Round

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Giving Away Your Product (RSS Feeds Kill Page Views And Thus, Comics)

MaximumbleRecently, Chris Hallbeck (The Book of Biff, Maximumble) stopped including the entire comic in his RSS feed for fear that it was giving away too much too easily. There was a day when this annoyed me and having to click through to view the actual website that housed a comic was enough to drive me to drop it from my list.

However, I’ve now softened on that notion. It could be because I have met Chris in real life on one occasion and now want to help him succeed in his endeavors in any way I can. It may be that the pervading sense of entitlement on the Internet is making me sick and I want desperately not to be a part of it.

Whatever the reason, I no longer care about that extra click and have even started going out of my way (and what a long way it is) to visit each website in my RSS feed to make sure their pages are getting the proper hit from my readership. This is likely a drop in the bucket for most of the comics I read on a regular basis, but it is certainly a behavior that I hope all readers consider. Eventually (hopefully), a comic can reach a level of superstardom so rare and so sky-high that page views are no longer a concern, and in this case, reading via feeds doesn’t register on my radar. But when I know the creator is struggling just to get each update online, when it’s apparent that this is a labor of love and nothing more, it’s my duty as a consumer of their content to at least give them the Web equivalent of paying a fraction of a cent for viewing their work.

So how do you feel about reading comic via a feed? Do you do what you can to make sure the creator gets the respect they deserve for each comic produced? Or do you read through your feed without visiting any actual websites, denying those content providers their proper due?

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Digital Strips 235 – Book Club: Templar Az, Chapter 5

Holy friggin’ butt monkeys. Steve is updating on time. Take that past performance!

This week we jump back on the smelly Greyhound and head South to Templar Arizona for the final episode of Digital Strips Book Club dedicated to this comic. We discuss what’s happened in the story, what that means to the characters and most importantly, what that means to us as readers.

But before we get all AP English on people, we start out talking about the comics that has stood out to us this last week.

Twilight Monk2:45 We reviewed this comic and couple months ago, but thanks to our “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, Trent Kaniuga just barely found out. He posted a nice note with his link on his site and it made us visibly blush and verbally gush for a couple minutes.

Realm of Friggin’ Atland4:45 It’s back baby. The long months of waiting for the return of one of my top 50 comics (which is quite the honor given how much time I waste spend reading web comics) is back and of to rip roaring start.

SuperFogeys 5:45 Jason worked the system to see a future episode and he brags about it.

Listen Now9:00 A listener sent in these comic and I found myself reading it so I tell people about it.

During the break I sneak in a plug for our new side project. It’s still a baby but we love it.

We then jump into the real show. We talk about the comic, it’s huge list of character that seems to be slowing in growth and the sudden jumps, which are not getting any less sudden. I discuss my theory that this story is actually more of a play story structure than that of a comic. Then we jump into the characters, which ones have grown and improved and which ones bore the butts right off of us. Then we give our final thoughts over all.

Next weeks show will be about Remind so check that comic out and let us know what you think. We’d love to read some comments from the listens in the show.

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Wowio Now Owns ~MILLIONS~ Of Horribly Designed Webcomic Sites (DrunkDuck)

Forget the hype, forget the press releases; the move by Wowio, the premiere site for eBooks online, to purchase DrunkDuck, one of the largest warehouses of webcomics on the Internet, gives them a load of digitally-distributed comics to choose from. Are they all great? No. Are some of them great? Not really. Are a select few worth taking a look at? Yes, and so Wowio now owns that handful of webcomics. With the recent buyout of WeVolt to leverage their social networking skills, Wowio is setting itself up to be a power player in the webcomics space. Of course, by power player, I mean, “company to own a lot of comics”.

Now if they would just buy out a web designer to alter the God-awful designs that haunt the spaces behind the DrunkDuck comics themselves, we might be in business.

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Badaboom Is The ~NEW~ Comic Sans

This is more of a rant, so the bulk of the conversation will be reserved for an upcoming Digital Strips podcast (new show every Monday or your money back!) but stop… right… now. If you create a comic or are part of the lettering team on a comic, take a moment to review your fonts and typefaces. If Badaboom is among your repertoire, then congratulations, you’ve chosen a versatile font that can be used in a variety of ways and is the perfect comic-book-y font.
If only it could used for good

If, however, Badaboom is your only font, head on over to Blambot where you can pick up a multitude of free fonts for use with dialogue, sound effects, and more and stop ruining the webcomic community.

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Webcomics ~ARE~ Taking Over… Webcomics? (Zuda, That Is)

The new contestants for Zuda went up this morning, and Webcomics are representin’ in this battle of the webcomic heavyweights!

Both Brock Heasley (The Superfogeys) and Ryan Estrada (every other webcomic on the ‘Net, including a previous Zuda entry) are competitors in this month’s Zuda contest, so I’ll be keeping an extra critical eye on the way things play out. Best of luck to both these talented fellows and stay tuned for our ZudaWatch podcast on these and all the contestants in the 02.10 competition, coming soon!

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The Webcomic Overlook Evaluates The Biz ~OF~ Reviewing Webcomics

Via a tweet from The Superfogeys creator, Brock Heasley, I’ve stumbled across this introspective write-up from luchador blogger, El Santo, on the business of reviewing webcomics. The post is interesting in terms of what he will be writing about on his own blog in the future, but it’s the comments about giving time to new, unknown webcomics vs. covering the big guns that piqued my interest the most. On the goal of focusing on the unknowns, he writes:

This is actually a very noble aim. I mean, does the world need another person gushing about how much he loves Penny Arcade? Do we need yet another person saying why xkcd is the greatest webcomic of the century? Isn’t ragging on Ctrl+Alt+Delete just getting a wee bit tired? Wouldn’t you rather hear something new?

I applaud all bloggers who live by this code. I’ve encountered quite a few, in fact, have expressed the same sentiment […]

See? Someone applauds us. So we’re doing something right.

In terms of what we here at Digital Strips cover, the unknown approach seems to work the best for us. Sure, we can throw the success stories a bone here and there, but my personal goal for DS is to help those comics that are incredibly talented but not necessarily connected to the greater webcomic community find their way to that road that will lead to the community that eventually builds towards a greater following and thus, greater success.

While I can’t disagree with El Santo’s reasons for reviewing bigger, more recognized webcomics, we decided a while back to make this our mission statement and luckily, we’ve been able to keep the podcast alive, which is our best shot at connecting with readers/listeners about a new property they need to notice on their radar.

Thanks to El Santo for getting this discussion started, and please chime in with your thoughts on the topic.

The Webcomic Overlook: Why Captain Nihilist reviews the “big” webcomics (El Santo, 2009)

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Preaching to the Pews

Years have gone by, 5 for those who are counting, since I started reading webcomics and it still surprises me. It is amazing how a medium that feels so niche can also have so many followers, but isn’t that the point? My previous post talked about Diamond not distributing the last week of the year and how it is a great opportunity for webcomics to get on the shelves. But why has it been so hard up until this point? Since my memory works like a plate of spaghetti, another memory came falling out about a mini storyline completed a month ago on Least I Could Do.

It has been some time since I concluded that success of webcomics is due to the combination of Internet and niches. That’s why it so hard to make it on to the comic shelf, because your entire audience is spread around the world and they are not even going to think about running to your home town to buy of the 5 shelves you convinced owners to give you. Instead webcomics sell online, along side their free product. This creates an environment of immediately hostility for those creators who stray even one inch outside their reader’s comfort zones.

So why did the guys at LICD jump on their soap box and tell an audience, generally known for chasing free products, that illegally downloading products is wrong? I don’t know about you but that sounds like shooting a gun off in a small metal box. There are going to be readers that disagree, violently. Yet a short walk was taken and although the why seems obvious, the “what’s for lunch” question seems just as interesting. Has Ryan been drinking an endless supply of red bulls paid for by Bono? or perhaps he personally believes deep down that he isn’t entitled to the hard work of others and that the best solution to make valuable products cheaper is to stop buying or stealing them at high prices? In the end only the artist loses because the middle men all have insurance from theft.

Besides having a pair of bowling balls for walking around with a match at a gas station Ryan showed me something else. They may be running a business with the strip and Blind Ferret but him and Lar are still artists. The product is never sacrificed for the green and the message always comes from the same place. That makes a good start to creating a webcomic. Don’t worry about your readers or any outfall. In the end what you should really care about is if your comic still makes you proud today as the day you started.

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