More on why Demon is a Webcomic
by Jason Shiga | March 4, 2014, 3:43 pm
I remember having endless debates in the 90′s with my friend Derek Kirk Kim about webcomics. For those who don’t know, Derek Kirk Kim was somewhat of a webcomics pioneer. His comic “Same Difference” debuted online and over the course of 2 years garnered a huge fanbase culminating in a million page views the week it reached its finale. Scott McCloud listed it as one of the 5 reasons people will pay for online comics content in the coming decades. The popularity of the story eventually went on to win all three industry awards and launch Derek’s career in alternative comics. All to which I said, “Phooey!”
My argument at the time was that webcomics will never have a future because 1) they cannot be read on the toilet and 2) buying a $2 comic is cheaper than buying a $1500 computer so people will always buy the comic. I think Derek’s rebuttal was that someone could sign up for computer time at the library and read the webcomic for free. So there.
I guess a lot has changed in the past 15 years. You can read webcomics on the toilet with a $500 tablet. Physical comics now cost $20. And someone (Penny Arcade maybe?) eventually cracked the code to making money from online webcomics. There were a lot of really noble experiments with micropayments and subscription based sites but at the end, it really just came down to slight variants on selling adspace and merchandise. In a way, it’s a shame; it’s hard to imagine a young Bill Waterson having the stomach to print Calvin and Hobbes as a webcomic today. But at the same time, I’m really hopeful about the future.
One wake up call for me was seeing a lot of my friends run successful kickstarter campaigns. I remember getting a $5,000 Xeric grant when I was first starting out in comics. It was literally a life changing amount of money for me and reshaped my entire career and life trajectory. To think we live in an age where a cartoonist starting out can essentially use kickstarter as a modern Xeric grant, applying for $5,000 every year in perpetuity. Printing has also gotten a lot cheaper. Risographs and print on demand publishers are now covering the gap of print runs ranges over 100 and under 2,000 in a really elegant way.
All this convergence couldn’t have happened at a better time for me. Demon is in a word, insanity. Right now you’re thinking, “What? No big deal, Jimmy shot himself in the face. What evs’s.” But trust me. You will not believe some of the bananas shit Jimmy gets up to in future pages. Your heart will beat and you will scream a primal scream of rage and confusion and maybe pee in your pants! Something the Xeric grant instilled in me and that I hold to this day is the self-publishing DIY ethos. I knew getting a larger publisher to even look at Demon was a long shot. And I was right! Demon has been designed as a self-published project from the get go. And I’m really grateful some of these trends in webcomics and publishing have crested right as I launched.
I’m even more optimistic about the future of webcomic. But as I learned from the 90′s making predictions about the future is really hard and you end up looking ridiculous. So let us just enjoy this present for now.link
Webcomics Review – Haunter by Sam Alden
by Jason Shiga | February 25, 2014, 10:26 am
Haunter (http://studygroupcomics.com/main/haunter-part-1-by-sam-alden/) was one of my 3 Ignatz picks for best webcomic of 2013. The man being haunted in this case is an unnamed boar hunter who steals a bunch of sacred BBQ skewers from an ancient temple (I woulda taken the gun but that’s me). This pisses off some guardian of the temple at which point all hell breaks loose. It’s a very short story. You can read it in the time it takes to watch the opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Arc which I feel it might have been based on. By the way I heard Steven Spielberg took the giant boulder sequence from a Scrooge McDuck comic so I guess it’s only fair.
Getting back to Haunter, I haven’t read a comic that packs this much punch into such a short sequence since Sammy Harkham’s Poor Sailor. The story really draws you in right from the first panel and doesn’t let you go until the last. The colors are vibrant without being garish and literally glow in my hands when I read it on my tablet (a really excellent use of the web format). To sum up, it’s a masterpiece.
Not to get too zen but the best part of the story is the story that’s not in the story. After I read Haunter I spent quite a lot of time trying to imagine the series of events that would lead to the existence of this temple. In a few wordless panels, we get a huge freakin’ backstory about the fall of civilizations, the building of new ones followed by their eventual demise as well, who knows how many times over. Art Spielgelman famously said that comics is what happens between the panels. Haunter shows sometimes the best comics can take place before the first panel too.link
Is the Golden Age of Webcomics Behind Us?
by Jason Shiga | February 19, 2014, 9:20 am
If you ever read those essays in Cerebus, you learn a lot about Dave Sim. One thing I learned is that we actually have something in common. Like him, I don’t really enjoy listening to music. My brain is missing that thing, whatever it is that can transform an abstract series of bleeps and bloops into a melody. I remember at age 25 asking my friend Jesse Fuchs to just burn me a CD of all his 5 star rated mp3s. My goal was to sit and force myself to listen until something in my brain clicked. But it never did. Perhaps part of the problem was I ordered them chronologically in itunes and I had to give up some time around the late 1940′s (I later learned that in general most people acquire their musical tastes in the exact opposite order).
When presented with any huge body of knowledge be it literature, music, film, etc., the most beneficial order to acquire said body of knowledge remains an interesting question for me. The Dewey decimal system was famously conceived on the premise that you could take the most primitive society on earth and present all of humanity’s knowledge in Dewey order and by the end, they’d be modern Victorians. I remember taking a film class in college where all the films we watched over the course of a semester were presented chronologically. That order actually made sense because film is so closely tied to technology. It was completely mindblowing to hear dialogue, see color for the first time, or appreciate Citizen Kane as a special effects movie.
All these thoughts have been coming up again as I’ve been working my way through the wikipedia list of notable webcomics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_webcomics). I figure it’s a good a starting place as any. I decided to go in reverse chronological order this time. Before jumping in, just looking at the list caused one thing to pop out at me. It starts off slow in the early 90′s with a notable webcomic debuting ever couple years or so. By 2003-2005 around 30 or so notable webcomics debut every year. Then they drop off to where by the time 2013 rolls around, wikipedia only lists one notable webcomic debut. Huh? Did I miss some golden age of webcomics? What’s going on? Maybe people’s plates are full by this point. Maybe instead of 30 T-Rexes, the field has been dispersed amongst hundred of little rodents. Maybe everyone who wanted to start a webcomic did it already. I don’t know!
At this point, I imagine I must sound like Andy Rooney but less coherent. I promise, this will be the last post where I meander from thought to thought about the confusing and overwhelming nature of modern webcomics. I’ll be back soon with some actual reviews of webcomics I’ve enjoyed and opinions about what webcomics can be. See you then!link
Welcome to Demon
by Jason Shiga | February 13, 2014, 9:39 am
Being the first Asian guy selected to judge the Ignatz Awards since Frank Cho 14 years ago, I felt a particular pressure not to screw it up. I didn’t want to just nominate all my friends and call it a day. My goal was to honestly evaluate (more…)link
Demon is here!
by Jason Shiga | February 10, 2014, 9:49 am
Welp, it’s official. Demon has launched! I’m sure you’ve got a million questions about this project. What’s it about? How can I buy it? My child loved Meanwhile; should they read Demon next? To answer briefly: a demon, an online store will be coming soon and NOOOOOOO!!!!!!
Demon is Coming…
by Jason Shiga | January 31, 2014, 4:12 pm
Hi everyone! I’ve got some big news coming soon…
Can’t talk too much about it yet but if you’re wondering why I haven’t put out a new book out in a while, it’s because I’ve been hard at work on a top secret project for the past 3 years.
I’ll start posting pages every weekday starting Monday. Check back here for more info about the project itself. And in the meantime, enjoy the poster.link
Start at the Beginning