webcomics

How to Find the Webcomic for You

Screen shot of inkOUTBREAK's reader

The internet is a big place. Discovering a webcomic can be next to impossible unless you’ve determined to comb the intertubes for an entire weekend, or you visit just the right sites. Fortunately, there’s a promising new alternative called inkOUTBREAK that doubles not only as a portal to discover new webcomics, but a way to bookmark your current favorites so you never miss an update.

Sure you could subscribe to an RSS feed, but what if you’re at a different computer? Or have no clue about RSS thingies? Or just don’t really like RSS feeds? inkOUTBREAK lets you follow webcomics you like and takes you to the specific website that houses the webcomic, so you get the entire experience. And every time your favorites update, they’re at the top of your screen. Plus, it does what RSS feeds can’t, it recommends new webcomics to discover. Through the use of customized tags, you can specify the kinds of webcomics you’re interested in. Combine that with the “bump” of a thumbs up you can give strips you enjoy, you also get a suggested stream of webcomics, somewhat similar to exploring music on Pandora Radio.

I’ve just never been a fan of RSS and my email inbox gets pretty cluttered, that I’m reluctant to subscribe to webcomics that way. So this is great news to me. Thanks to inkOUTBREAK, I’ve been able to find several webcomics I lost track of because I’d forgotten the title after some late night internet-wandering (notably Amazing Super Powers). And I’ve already discovered some new ones I’m liking (such as I am Arg!, this surreal Cat and Girl, and this visual treat on Ellie on Planet X). And I’m very happy to be able to read some of my favorites without having to remember their update schedule (like Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal and The Abominable Charles Christopher).

Having said that, it’s not perfect. It’s still in beta after all. Some of the navigation to work out your settings, like tags and favorites, isn’t the most intuitive to me. You definitely have to be willing to tinker around with it a little bit. Because of just how many webcomics are out there, even a site like this can’t be expected to have everything, especially right out of the gate. But there are a few surprising omissions, as well as some of my favorites that are missing. No Hark! A Vagrant, no Max Overreacts, no Sheldon, no Destructor, none of Kevin Church’s Agreeable Comics, no Now It Can Be Told (or any of Act-I-Vate, for that matter). You get the idea. And unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be a way to suggest webcomics to be added to the service. (It looks like that option used to exist but now the creator of the webcomic has to do it themselves.) Friends with Boys is there but something in the code seems messed up. I’m sure a lot of this will be fixed in the near future.

But it’s a promising start and a fantastic idea. For more on the site, check out this walk-through.

Comic Book Movies and TV Shows for the Rest of 2011

Well the big summer blockbusters are all done. But that doesn’t mean comic books are done invading pop culture entertainment. I always think the source material is better, but checking out comic book adaptations, whether TV or film, can be a good way of sampling. Here’s what’s coming down the pike for the rest of 2011:

Piled Higher and Deeper: The PhD Movie – Live action comedy about graduate college.

The Walking Dead returns to AMC this October

The Walking Dead Season 2 – Live action horror TV series about a small group of survivors of a zombie apocalypse.

Batman: Year One – Animated feature-length movie about the noir-ish retelling of the early days of Bruce Wayne’s superhero career.

  • Schedule: Released on DVD, Blu-ray and for download on Tuesday, October 18.
  • Based on one of the seminal DC Comics graphic novels, Batman: Year One by writer Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli. The story was originally published in Batman comic books in 1987.

X-Men Anime Series – Animated TV series imported from Japan featuring the mutant superheroes Cyclops, Wolverine and others fighting for a world that fears and hates them.

  • Schedule: 12 episodes starting Friday, October 21 at 11 PM Eastern on G4.
  • Based on various X-Men comic books and graphic novels published by Marvel Comics over the years but specifically narrowing in on New X-Men by writer Grant Morrison and various artists, as well as Astonishing X-Men by writer Joss Whedon and artist John Cassaday.

The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Season 2 – Animated TV series about Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Captain America and their superhero friends fighting evil.

  • Schedule: 26 episodes starting on a Sunday in October at 10 AM Eastern and Pacific on Disney XD
  • Based on a whole slew of Avengers and other comic books by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and others, as well as The Kree-Skrull War by writer Roy Thomas, artist Neal Adams and others, and Secret Invasion by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Leinil Francis Yu, published by Marvel Comics. Plus there’s definitely inspiration taken from the Iron Man movies.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Crab with the Golden Claws

Green Lantern: The Animated Series Season 1 – CGI animated series about a sci-fi superhero with cosmically powered jewelry.

  • Schedule: This was originally set to debut last week but now a preview is going to air this Fall, possibly in November, with the full 26-episode season to start in Spring 2012 on Cartoon Network.
  • Based on countless Green Lantern comics but more specifically this summer’s Green Lantern movie and recent Green Lantern comic books and graphic novels by writer Geoff Johns and others published by DC Comics.

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn – CGI animated 3D feature film using performance capture technology. It’s about a plucky journalist and his dog going on a globe-trotting treasure hunt.

Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments or email and I’ll add them in.

Webcomic A Life In The Clouds uses Twitter to mix story into our modern world

A Life in the Clouds by Mike Vennard and Shawn Decker

A new webcomic debuted last week with a unique twist on incorporating the environment within which webcomics exist: the internet, specifically social media in the form of Twitter.

A Life in the Clouds by writer/letterer Mike Vennard, artist Shawn Decker and colorist Omaik debuted on May 31 and is updating nearly daily. Looking reminiscent of autobiographical comics from the 1970s and ’80s like Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor, the strip chronicles one man’s struggles with unemployment.

But perhaps more significantly, it also utilizes a very modern device, both in and outside of the story. Each page’s narrative caption is not just a snippet of the main character’s inner thoughts, they double as what he is posting to Twitter. And post them, he does. You can follow @DavidMawyer, where each of his captions are tweeted to the world, along with links to each page as they go live. This obviously doubles as a smart marketing tool, but the character and comic are truly products of the social media age, using hashtags, memes and tech geek references as part of the character’s language to add a touch of dry humor to what looks to be an otherwise sad and lonely journey to which all too many people can probably relate.

It doesn’t always work flawlessly (the friend request reference on page 3 doesn’t quite work since it’s not like there’s a sexual partner request for people to use as an alternative) but it’s an interesting way to incorporate elements of the modern world and a compelling experiment. This kind of integration and live participation is a definite strength of webcomics that should be explored more. I assume this isn’t the first. Are there other webcomics out there similar to this? Post them in the comments below so we can check them out.