By Sean Kleefeld

When I first became interested in comics, it was largely because of superheroes. The adventures of Batman and Spider-Man were colorful and exciting, and sparked my imagination. I wanted to see more of their adventures. Beyond what I would read in the comics from month to month. Beyond even the weekly animated shows that aired on Saturday mornings. My imagination would run wild with ideas that ranged from the completely nonsensical to the legally improbable. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

There’s a weird intersection of ideologies in webcomics. On the one side, you’ve got the people creating webcomics who are mostly interested in expressing themselves and telling stories and drawing. On the other side, you’ve got programmers and coding experts who organize databases and write coldly logically software to connect together all the pieces of what we call the world wide web. It’s a rather classic left brain/right brain type of scenario. The programmers want make a predictable and orderly experience, while the artists want something that catches people off guard. Read More...

By Danica Davidson

Investigative journalist Tori Marlan is working on a book about 16-year-old Ethiopian orphan Fanuel, who experienced human trafficking and smuggling while trying to make it to the U.S. In the meantime, she’s hooked up with graphic novelist Josh Neufeld (A.D. New Orleans) to make an enhanced e-comic about part of Fanuel’s story. Published at Atavist, the 43-page e-comic "Stowaway" includes special extras for more understanding of the story, including maps, timelines and videos. It's available both through the Atavist mobile app or online via a web browser. MTV Geek caught up with Marlan and Neufeld to get more details. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

I’ve got around 200 comic titles in my feed reader right now. Not all of them are active, mind you! Some have concluded, some are on indefinite hiatus, some are just very sporadically updated. But there’s probably around 125-150 that I read regularly; not necessarily daily, just on whatever regular update schedule their creators follow. There’s a combination of newspaper strips being syndicated online, old comic books given new life via online serialization and, of course, true webcomics. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

Quick, what’s the website address of xkcd? On the off chance that you don’t know, you could Google “xkcd” and, sure enough, Randall Munroe’s webcomic site pops up as the first entry. That should come as no surprise since the letters xkcd never really appear in that specific combination in any existing word. The only other place it might appear where somebody wasn’t talking about the comic would be if your cat happened to walk across the keyboard while you were on message board or something. According to Munroe, “It's just a word with no phonetic pronunciation -- a treasured and carefully-guarded point in the space of four-character strings.”

Of course, searching for the website is something of a moot point since Munroe has it located at the straightforwardly named domain of xkcd.com. If you can remember the name of the comic, you can remember the address where it’s located. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

I’m pretty agnostic when it comes to comics. Whether they’re webcomics, pamphlet comics, manga, fumetti, whatever... if they’re well done, I don’t really care. And right now, my favorite serial comic of any sort is a manga series called Bakuman. It’s by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, the same guys who did Death Note.

(Bear with me. This will circle back to webcomics.)

The basic story of Bakuman is that there are two teenagers who really want to become mangaka, professional manga creators. They’re both very talented and, together, manage to get their work published while they’re still in high school. The series then follows their progress over the next several years, along with several other aspiring mangaka who come to the profession around the same time. I had originally wanted to read the series because it promised to showcase something of how the manga industry actually worked; while I knew it to be different than American and European systems, I didn’t know much in the way of specifics. What I found, once I began reading, was that, while the series does indeed provide a wealth of background information about how the manga industry operates -- in far greater detail than I had anticipated, too! -- it also has many interesting and engaging characters conjoined in a fascinating story. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

A frequent complaint that’s heard in broader discussions of comics surrounds gender bias. Both behind the art boards and in the art itself. The comics industry is dominated by men, and female characters are often portrayed in a stilted manner. By not having layers of already-empowered men in to circumvent, however, webcomics have been more inviting to both female creators as well as positive female role models.

But here’s the thing. Comics aren’t the only issue. We live in a society in which we are constantly bombarded by images, designed mostly by men, which chip away at women’s confidence and self-esteem. Belittling them bit by bit as they’re told to live up to impossible standards that are largely thanks to various digital manipulations. So that when a girl enters adulthood, she’s already wrapped in a constant struggle with herself about how beautiful, smart, and talented she really is. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

Prior to the web, people spent several of their formative years learning and then basically stopped. This was evidenced in the journeyman system that many trades exhibited. Once a child was old enough to handle physical labor, they went to work for their parent. In the case of boys, they would often work under their father’s tutelage and learn his profession; in the case of girls, they would often work with their mother to be educated about domestic duties. Once a formal public education system was established, the parents would send their children to school where they would learn reading, writing and ‘rithmatic. Many would learn the basics and then drop out to take up a trade; a few might go on to a higher educational institution like college and earn a degree. In either case, once they left school, their learning largely stopped. Although the specific numbers of students changed over time, this system lasted throughout most of the 20th century. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

Webcomics, as the name plainly states, are comics on the web. Although that’s a bit misleading since many printed comics also show up on the web in various forms. But I’ve started seeing a variety of printed works gain a second life as a webcomic, despite not being true webcomics in the strictest sense.

Read More...


By Sean Kleefeld

Derek Kirk Kim came to prominence with his debut graphic novel, Same Difference and Other Stories. He’s worked on a variety of projects since then, and his latest two revolve around the story of Andy Go. He’s telling Andy’s stories through the webcomic TUNE and the YouTube series Mythomania. We were able to have a chat with Kim between chapters and seasons. Click here for Part One.

MTV Geek: You noted recently, to my surprise, that TUNE has basically been subsidized so far by First Second. It's a somewhat different model than most webcomics, and First second is one of the few publishers that seem to be actively pursuing it, having already done that with Friends with Boys and Zahra's Paradise. I don't recall seeing anything about that with TUNE originally, but was that in place right from the start?

Derek Kirk Kim:  Well, First Second always backed the online serialization. The only difference was that, unlike the other First Second web-first books, TUNE was being serialized at my site lowbright.com at first. But as the pages stacked up, I couldn't handle the bandwidth costs anymore on my barebones site, so First Second swooped in and made a site specifically for TUNE and handled any costs from then on. But First Second was behind the web serialization from the get-go, just not financially at first. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

So, the Penny Arcade Kickstarter project.

Two guys started a webcomic over a decade ago, and have become successful enough financially to have fourteen people on staff, set up a charity organization that’s raised over $12 million since 2003, and host annual gaming conventions in both Seattle and Boston. You wouldn’t think they’d need to Kickstart anything, and could easily afford to do pretty much whatever they wanted. What’s going on here? Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

Comics in general can be a great way to relay information. As comic creators are generally expert in distilling ideas down to their key components, they often make for excellent teachers by taking complex ideas and making them more easily understandable and digestible. You can see a similar attempt in infographics, and much of their popularity is due to graphic artists giving concrete visuals to large sets of data. Comics can do the same thing with broader concepts. Will Eisner did a fantastic job in the 1940s creating comics for the U.S. Army to educate its soldiers on a wide variety of relevant topics, like how to properly clean a rifle or keep a Jeep in good repair.

Not surprisingly, strictly educational comics aren’t a terribly financially viable path to take. Generally speaking, only a small group of people would be interested in an ongoing series educational pieces on a single topic or theme, and those people would likely prefer something more in depth and detailed than a regular comic series might allow. But that’s not to say there isn’t plenty to be learned from webcomics! Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

One of the great things about webcomics, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned at least once or twice before is the fact that they’re digital. You can keep up with some really great stories and strips while you’re travelling, or when you’ve got a few extra moments in the library, or whatever. There’s no concern about whether or not your local shop will carry the issue, or if it might be sold out. Since webcomics are digital, they can be sent anywhere in the world any time you like, as often as you like. They take advantage of some of the key facets of the internet to full effect. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld & Greg Rucka

Greg Rucka is a name you might be familiar with. He’s written several novels (including the Queen & Country series) and quite a few comics (including Action Comics and Batman), and had his and Steve Lieber’s Whiteout adapted for a major motion picture. He’s won a Harvey Award and four Eisners. He’s currently writing The Punisher for Marvel.

The man clearly knows a thing or two about comics, and has a vested and ongoing interest in printed comics. But last year, he also started up a new webcomic with Rick Burchett and Eric Newsom called Lady Sabre & the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether. In a recent break between chapters, Rucka posted a reflection on the previous year and some of the differences he sees between webcomics and what shows up in most comic shops every week. He’s graciously allowed us to reprint his piece here...

It was, roughly, just over a year ago that Eric, Rick, and I debuted our flight of fancy here, and, yes, a whole lot has happened, and a whole lot has been learned, and a whole lot has been observed. We’ve discovered just how difficult it is to work in this medium, and with this schedule; we’ve made many mistakes, and struggled to correct them as they arose; we’ve learned that the Beast must be Fed, and that our fan-base is our greatest strength; we’ve learned that there are more of you out there than we thought. We’ve learned a lot about loyalty, too. Read More...

Comic book convention season is officially underway with the launch of Comic-Con International in San Diego. (You may have seen some news to that effect elsewhere on this site.) Throughout the summer, there will be cons all across the country and they’ll vary in size and focus and demographics and just about every other variable you can think of.

The original reason for having a convention was to get like-minded individuals together. Ron Foss started this somewhat informally as he travelled across the country in the early 1960s by visiting the homes of other fans he had communicated with. Jerry Bails brought almost two dozen people together in his own home in 1964 for what was dubbed “the Alley Tally Party” and it was only a few short months after that when the first formal comic book convention was held in Detroit. It was small by today’s standards, but the basic elements we associate with a convention were in place; there were a dozen dealers, door prizes were handed out, and the H.G. Wells movie Things To Come was shown. In San Diego this year, there are hundreds of dealers, free goodies are handed out by the truckload, and dozens of films are screened, many of which are marking their public debut.

But how do webcomics fit into that? After all, webcomics by their very nature do not exist in a real space the way printed comics do. Webcomics aren’t tangible, and they’re generally given away for free online. Read More...

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