The size of comics being published over the years has always followed a standard format. Whether it’s full pages of comic issues on an 8 1/2″ by 11″ page, or the newspaper comic strip . . .
. . . Comics have always had a standard size and format to follow. At least, until they moved to the web.
Scott McCloud, author of “Understanding Comics”, is generally considered a pioneer in the realm of comic scholarship. He created one of the first official studies of how comics operate, why they appeal to us, and what they could mean in the future. And he did it all in comic form, employing the format in a way it had rarely been used before. After the success of his initial book, he wrote two sequels – Making Comics, and Reinventing Comics. In both books he delves further into the comic creation and the comic industry, including the possibilities of webcomics. He even has his own webcomic, which recreates his famous comic Zot! in a wholly unique format. As someone who wants to push the edge of comic storytelling, he has created his own take on using the web to expand the storyworld both visually and conceptually. In this page you see Zot and Jenny falling, and you have to scroll and scroll as it recreates the feeling of characters falling. A similar approach is used in the blog post popularized on Tumblr, “Do you love the color of the sky?“. One of the most impressive examples using the scrolling comic is To Be Continued, which shows new panels and events only as you scroll to them. McCloud takes advantage of this not only by having one continuous panel, but by having interlocking storylines with panels offset from each other and lines connecting each panel to the next. It’s similar to a mapping interface, and creates a form of cohesion and clear process of panels/events while immersing the reader into the comic.
Scrolling comics aren’t the only ones who challenge our traditional understanding of comic space. Xkcd is known for having a deceptively simple style of stick figures that the author uses to delve into complicated topics, or to highlight unexpectedly detailed drawings. A prime example of this is xkcd’s comic about how big the world is; which upon first glance looks like a normal comic. The only clue that you can explore the digital space is the title of the comic, Click and Drag. When you do this to the final panel you see all the space that exists “beyond” the square containing the comic. The artist has created a huge “world” that you can explore until you get tired of clicking and dragging – because it’s still only possible to see the drawing through the small square provided. This is an excellent tool for creating the illusion of more space, and for controlling where the reader looks without them realizing it. Another example of this is Hobo Lobo of Hamelin, which is also a scrolling comic but also reveals more of the world as you slide your computer screen to the left. It provides a clear direction for the reader and rewards them by creating the illusion of movement and revealing more of the story and characters.
There is an infinite amount of potential space on the web. As creators we’re all doing our best to fill it in the most unique ways possible.
When Facebook was first created, it provided an outlet for people to share their personal lives with their friends. When webcomics began to pick up speed, they provided an outlet for people to share their personal lives with the world. Since the beginning of time people have been recording their lives; through diaries, autobiographies, paintings and film. In the past these recordings would either be for personal use or have to go through a long and arduous process of becoming acceptable to the public, and profitable for whoever produced it. Nowadays, it’s as though we have a way to peek into someone’s personal diary – in a much more aesthetically pleasing format.
The autobiographical comic is founded on the idea of sharing your personal experience to connect with others. Even though we may not always have a personal understanding of the situations people go through, we can all relate to certain sentiments and feelings. We all feel the same sort of frustration, or joy, or sadness.
Autobiographical comics show other people making sense of the world and going through the same things we are. And though it’s something that can be created by anyone, it’s most commonly done by people in the “20-somethings”. This is becoming more and more iconic as a time of confusion in our generation, and feeling caught between having an adult responsibilities and feeling like a child. There is an expectation for people of this age to be college graduates who have a career in their chosen field. But, as most of these comics show, adulthood has very little to do with acting like an adult.
Another aspect unique to autobiographical webcomics is the creation of the hourly comic. Which requires comic artists to draw a comic of what they’re doing for every hour of the day. Though this is a hallmark of the autobiographical comic, it’s open to any webcomic artist, and most will do it as a challenge to their own artistic skills and dedication. And also as a way of sharing their life with the world, even when their comic itself is about something entirely different. Everyone wants to share some part of their personal lives with others, especially when they have control over what’s seen.
Comics are no longer only about superheroes or only for seasoned professionals, there’s an ocean’s worth of genres and artists, all exploring the depths of possibilities comics provide. There is no one right or wrong way to share your story with the world.
You’re scrolling through Facebook and you come across an image like this
Or maybe you’re on Tumblr and find something like this:
No matter what you think about comics, whether you grew up reading the Sunday funnies or can’t stand the un-ending stream of Superhero movies, most of us see them every day.
But instead of heading down to the 5 and Dime corner store and buying a comic book issue with our saved up allowance money as we did in the “good old days”, most of us are now reading webcomics.
What are webcomics? Well a quick Google search will tell us that “webcomics are comics published on a website” (Source: Wikipedia). That seems simple enough, end of conversation, right?
While the content may be the same as if something was displayed in a print format, the internet provides an entirely different medium and form of communication for comic creators. For one, anyone can make a webcomic. There’s no publishers, or licensors, or skills you have to have to sit down and start creating.This expands the possibilities and numbers of webcomics to an almost infinite amount. And there’s no set way of navigating all the webcomics currently in existence to find the perfect one for you. That’s not to say that attempts haven’t been made. But with the sheer volume of comics on the web in existence, there’s always going to be something missed.
Not that being missed is always a bad thing; anyone being able to make a webcomic also means that it’s available to everyone. Webcomics introduce immediate feedback to comic creation, for better or worse. “Everyone has an opinion” (Jennie Breeden) and is ready to jump on you with criticism or a red pen if you haven’t researched your topic thoroughly. It’s “that fear that keeps [you] from being too lazy”. “You will get trolls, it has nothing to do with you. They just need somewhere to rant and you happen to have the biggest soapbox” (Breeden). Most authors learn to not take it personally, and just look on those people with pity. However, there are others who choose to not even have a comments section, to avoid the risk of being worn down by their readers.
But not all feedback is bad, and with the instantaneous access of the web authors can receive the in-the-moment emotional reactions of their readers. In a webcomics panel at Dragoncon, Comfort Love (co-author of Rainbows in the Dark and Uniques) shared a story of a 4-in-the-morning email she received from one of her readers – “[She bought Rainbows in the Dark and had just come out the day before, and the story was so important and meaningful to her in that very moment.]” There’s a way to instantaneously connect with people and experience those first emotions they experience.
Webcomics represent an entirely new form of creating art and interacting with the world. They are the visual form of blogs, an instantly accessible idea and expression of thought. And the better we understand it the more creative we can be.
Webcomic Panel at DragonCon 2016 [link pending]