Diss(ect)ing Online Comics


Smell can influence reproductive behaviour in 3 ways – as an initiator ( pheromones signalling availability ), or as a primer or terminator of another’s reproductive processes. As our noses adapt from wafting the flicked pages of second-hand books to browsing digital deliveries, here’s a few online comic makers still trying to kick up a stink.

Cloudy Definitions
Anyone curious about visual arts / visual storytelling, has probably come across Scott McCloud’s classic ‘Understanding Comics’ – an amazing investigation into visual meaning and play, with it’s explorations of sequenced visual art being especially relevant to multimedia. The spawned sequel ‘Reinventing Comics’ isn’t as revelatory, but is well worth a library borrow for it’s examination of the creative potential of online publishing, as well as it’s distribution, economic prospects. Scott also maintains a great comic site, with continued musings, daily improvisations, and many links. A micropayment advocate, you can also buy his latest graphic novella for 25 cents ( using the bitpass.com payment system) at www.scottmccloud.com. What’s to like about Scott though, is he really bugs the question –

Whatz a comic?
Words, pictures, storytelling, art-in-sequence, each comic maker has their own mantra. Now that many artists and audiences are gradually shifting online, the whole visual storytelling ballpark has changed dramatically. Some artists still pretend they are designing for a static and finite sized print page, even though the web medium ain’t like that. Quite a few are wrestling with the new dynamics though, and trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Aussie Comic Wrestlers
There’s a veritable army of boundary stretching Aussie comic makers such as Lachlan Conn, Mandy Ord, Tim Danko, Michael Fikaris, Kieran Mangan & many many more, exhibiting their inkiness soon in Melbourne at Early Space, 201 Smith St, Collingwood ( 6pm Feb 20th). For those who can’t make the show, www.silentyarmy.com has links to the works of many of the artists involved.

More Meta

Other worthy online comic overview linkpages include www.belfry.com/comics – which lists 1350 regularly updated comics in a nice quick-loading easy access frontpage, , www.onlinecomics.net and www.lambiek.net/home.htm – the exhaustive webpage for the famous Amsterdam comic-shop Lambiek. Global Comic Jam exploits the multi-threaded and co-authoring possibilities of online comic making, allowing you to not only read other comics, but actively participate in shaping them – www.globalcomicjam.com. Jenny Everywhere goes a step further – being an open source character that anybody is free to use – www.queergranny.com/jennyeverywhere, kinda like the anonymous authoring ‘Luther Blissett’ pen name commonly used online.

Networked Comics
Other comic-makers harnessing the network include : www.slowwave.com – a collective dream diary authored by different people from around the world, and drawn as a comic strip by Jesse Reklaw, and Most Emailed – a daily comic strip improvised around Yahoo’s top three most emailed photos of the day.

Of course, web pages can easily contain sound, and while many comic artists prefer to call this animation, some are starting to include ‘listening tracks’ to set an atmosphere while you navigate their comic. Egg Sample? Kean Soo at www.keaner.net, with a melanocholic personal story mirrored by the sounds of the late Elliot Smith. Reminds me of an old comic I saw once where each comic artist was asked to interpret their favourite indie-rock song as a one page comic – which produced some inventive and evocative results.

More Browser Benders
Try the gorgeous www.allow-to-infuse.com & www.eiland.cc, or maybe www.nowheregirl.com, http://fortthunder.org, www.paperrad.org, www.kuildoosh.com – abstract visual storytelling.. www.fark.com – funny photoshop contests that use the web cleverly, www.e-sheep.com – so many fine web-bendables here, www.nowheregirl.com & http://gruntle.org/blog – a phonecam blog, txt_thru the right words at the same time alongside foto-snapz & u gotza another comic medium.

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