Saturday, September 15, 2012

Of Panels and PNGs: Webcomics

On September 4th there was a campaign that started on Andrew Hussie started it for his interactive, partially-flash-animated, partially-static-webcomic known as “Homestuck”, where four 13 year olds end up destroying their world by playing a video game, hoping to get $700,000 dollars to make a video game out of his series. His deadline was 30 days.

To the shock of some Internet dwellers, Hussie included, the campaign made $30,000 dollars in nearly 30 minutes.

I imagine then, that there was more shock when the $700,000 dollars goal wasn’t just reached, but exceeded days later.

As I type, the current total is over $1 million.

It's merely one example showing the popularity – even if it is within niche audience – of webcomics that recently started. But the teeming fan support of “Homestuck” isn’t an isolated incident. “Axis Powers Hetalia” Hidekaz Himaruya’s webcomic that turns the countries of the world into people, and historical battles into personal squabbles, has been turned into an anime (Japanese cartoon) with its fifth season currently in production. Another comic that can be read online, “Plume” – a Western fantasy about a girl named Vesper Gray and her spirit companion Corrick – by K. Lynn Smith, also has Kickstarter campaign to have the first five chapters printed last week. Since then it has garnered $9000 dollars, freely given by readers who have no incentive other than their love of the webcomic.

Vesper and Corrick

Since there’s really no other way to explain it, a webcomic is a comic that originates online. Most of them are made using digital media like Photoshop and GIMP. While I only got into “Homestuck” a while ago thanks to a friend’s recommendation, it’s far from the only webcomic I frequent – my favorites list has 29 at the moment. There are hundreds upon hundreds of these comics now floating in the digital sea that is the Internet. Some are slice-of-life, some are sci-fi, some are sci-fi splashed in the ordinary lives in the protagonists (*cough* “El Goonish Shive” *cough*). The point is, they very just as much as their printed predecessors.

Speaking of which, it’s interesting to note that these comics aren’t replacing traditional comic books. At my school’s bookstore I saw one notorious webcomic, “Megatokyo”, in printed form right below a shelf of Spiderman and Captain America comics. They seem to be coexisting even when they're competing, possibly because the comic book industry has been used to fighting for an audience for decades before the Internet. 

*The second image belongs to K. Lynn Smith, and was used with permission

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