I have long wanted to start a web-comics hub where creators could talk about the issues of the wild and wacky world of comics using the language of comics. I’ve always thought that was the most obvious and natural method to tackle the oddities and challenges of the industry, whether it be behind-the-scenes politics, reactions to comics of the day, op/ed pieces on the business, interviews, whatever. All of it in the compelling and powerful language of sequential arts, the very language at which these creators excel. Why have boring text articles when talking about comics? Heck, I’ve even got the domain name ready to go. I just need… oh you know, money, time, resources, creators/contributors. Silly little things like that.
In the meantime, there are other comics online that are doing similar work on their own. I love that they exist, so in case you don’t know about them or forgot the link, here are the ones I know about. You should check them out! If I’ve missed any, I’d love to hear about it. Add it in the comments section or email me and I’ll add it in.
The Rack by Kevin Church and Benjamin Birdie
While other web-comics had commented on comics, like PvP by Scott Kurtz, Penny Arcade by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, and Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weiner (and plenty of one-off online comics too), to my knowledge, The Rack was the first web-comic series strictly about comics.
The comic launched February 2, 2007, as part of Kevin’s Agreeable Comics network of web-comics. (He’s got to be one of the most prolific web-comics creators.) The strip tells the story of the eclectic staff of a comic book store. The focus is more on the characters in the store with occasional reactions to what’s going on in comics, but it definitely has a retailer perspective.
Comic Critics! by Sean Whitmore and Brandon Hanvey
Debuting June 18, 2008, the strip follows fanboy Josh Sands and indie snob Marissa Goldman and their circle of friends as they obsess about, deride, and generally laugh at and with the shenanigans of the world of comic book publishing. A lot of the focus is on superhero comics of Marvel and DC but it also looks at other aspects of the industry. Unlike most web-comics, the strip is formatted for vertical scrolling and doesn’t limit itself to the newspaper tradition of 3-4 panels, which allows them to pack their strips with multiple comedic beats and really build to punchlines. Some of the strips might be a bit too steeped in the inside headlines and scuttlebutt, and they don’t provide links or any commentary on what they’re riffing on, but there’s still plenty of good material to chew on for those with a more general pop culture awareness.
Comic Critics is probably my favorite, partly because I found out about it before The Rack (thanks to Brian Cronin’s Comics Should Be Good blog, which also runs the strip) but also because it does what it does really well.
Let’s Be Friends Again by Curt Franklin and Chris Haley
Following only a few months later, LBFA is about two friends (essentially, themselves) who really like comics. Some of the strips aren’t directly talking about comics but they are definitely immersed in the geek culture associated with most comics. The strip will also step into realities parodying current events, like Captain America falling for email forwards and Hawkman getting incensed on Bill O’Reilly over Superman renouncing his US citizenship. The strip mostly follows the more traditional 3-panel format with what is now the standard website layout for web-comics with an easy navigator to previous strips and a brief comment from the creators and a comments section.
Franklin and Haley also contribute Comics, Everybody!, an intermittent web-series of “funny because they’re true” recaps of the ridiculously convoluted histories of most superheroes for Comics Alliance, as well as other extra material. Talented guys, clearly.
Gin and Comics by Ryan Fisher
Starting in early 2010, Fisher’s Gin and Comics follows three roommates (two guys, and a girl added recently) attempting to be adults while surrounded by comic books and pop culture. The comic itself is a bit rough around the edges, but the experience is enhanced by the site’s coverage of the material it is satirizing, essentially doubling as a comics news site and web-comic. Moreso than the other two, this strip focuses more on the relationships of the characters and their reactions to comics news.
Like LBFA, the strip uses a familiar navigator and 4-panel layout. Fisher accompanies each strip with commentary to give some context on any references made.
Our Valued Customers by MRTIM
Not exactly a web-comic, but definitely funny and definitely a great source of humor and spot-on observations. Begun March 1, 2010, this is a series of single-panel sketches of actual customers that frequent a comic book store that for obvious reasons has been left unrevealed. Heck, maybe it’s your store! Even if it isn’t, you’ve probably met some of these people.
Our Valued Customers is a parade of unique characters that a comics retailer probably sees on a daily basis. The people represented here are definitely not shining examples of the world of comics. Instead, the cartoons serve as a reminder that there’s still a lot of room for improvement in how a vocal section of fans conduct themselves and represent comics.
The Gutters by Ryan Sohmer, Lar deSouza, et al.
The newest addition, debuting June 12, 2010, is a unique strip with a different approach to making web-comics. To my knowledge, this is the only strip that uses a different artist for each day’s page or strip. They have a rotating stable from which they pull and they also bring in other artists to contribute one-off entries, all coordinated by art director deSouza. They’re always on the look-out for new artists, whether it be in person at comic book conventions or through their submissions page on their website. Because there isn’t a consistent writer/artist team building a chemistry in their work, the strip can be hit-and-miss, but the unconventional format keeps the strip fresh and vibrant.
Each page is self-contained and parodies an aspect of the industry, usually focusing on Marvel, DC and other high profile publishers and events of the faithful weekly readers. Each page also includes commentary from Sohmer and links for more information on the topic(s) of the day (although the layout of the site makes it easy to completely miss the links). There’s also a pretty active comments section.