By Sean Kleefeld

Brad Guigar has been been working on webcomics for over a decade now, starting with Greystone Inn and eventually spinning that off into Evil Inc in 2005. He’s been a very active voice in webcomics, working as the editor-in-chief for Webcomics.com, a co-writer of How to Make Webcomics and one of the hosts for the Webcomics Weekly podcast among other things. He’s also been a graphic artist in the newspaper industry for much of the same time, giving him a unique perspective on both print and digital realms. Recently, however, his paper instituted a round of cost-cutting measures and Guigar accepted a voluntary layoff. He’s taken the opportunity to dive head-first in his webcomics, having already well-positioned himself for just such a transition. We caught up with Guigar to discuss the long road he’s taken to get to where he is today.

MTV Geek: Let's start with some background. I get the impression that you're an old school DC fan from years back. Were your earliest comic influences actually DC books? What were your favorite books as a kid?

Brad Guigar: Actually, when I first got into comics, I was a die-hard Marvel fan, and my younger brother collected DC exclusively. I had read "How To Draw Comics the Marvel Way," and I was convinced that the offerings from the Distinguished Competition were inferior. So my first collection was weighted strongly towards Spider-Man, the Avengers and Fantastic Four. But I would constantly peek at the books in my brother's collection when he wasn't around. After I left comics-reading for a few years, I came back with a different set of eyes, and I found myself gravitating towards Batman, JLA and Green Lantern. Today, I still lean heavily towards DC. I remember reading that DC was written for kids that tied towels around their necks and "flew" around the backyard, while Marvel was written for teens to read in their mom's basement. I don't think that distinction is nearly as distinct today, but I always preferred the kind of story-telling that made be want to tie a terrycloth "cape" around my neck. Still do. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

From time to time, I’ve seen a debate pop up online that we should kill the term “webcomics.” That no one except those folks in the business actually runs Google searches on “webcomics” so we should just call them simply “comics.” Since webcomics are becoming the dominant form of the medium that people regularly encounter, the “web” portion of the term is effectively redundant. So let’s take some time to talk about terminology. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

For much of the 20th century, comics in America were largely by and for Caucasian men. Very few women and minorities could be found working in the field and some of those that did tried to hide their identities to some extent. Krazy Kat creator George Herriman usually tried to dodge questions about his race and took to wearing a hat almost all the time to hide his tightly coiled hair. Dalia Messick used the more androgynous pseudonym of Dale Messick when she began work on Brenda Starr. Even Zelda Jackson, the first female African-American cartoonist whose comics were created specifically for black-owned newspapers, deliberately used her old family nickname to become the more masculine sounding Jackie Ormes, creator of Torchy in Heartbeats.

Formally, that’s not as much a concern any more. The comics pages contain works by the likes of Ray Billingsley, Keith Knight, Cory Thomas, Charlos Gary, Lalo Alcaraz, Lynn Johnston, Rina Piccolo, Hilary Price and Stephanie Piro to name a few. Which is, of course, fantastic but they still all reside in a distinct minority against an industry that predominantly favors (albeit only informally) Caucasian men. The thinking, historically, was that newspapers were primarily purchased and read by affluent white men, so they would prefer seeing something of themselves reflected in the comics pages. Regardless of how accurate that may have been, it was the general mindset of editors for many years. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

About a year ago, a new comic app called DailyComix launched for the Android. It was basically a webcomic browser that allowed users to sort through around 100 different titles. Users could mark favorites as well as discover new titles they might not have heard of before. The app came in two flavors: one version that sold for $1.99 and another that was available for free. They both worked pretty much the same, but the free version was supported by advertisements in the app. It seemed like a pretty nice package for webcomic fans.

Except, of course, that the author was stealing all of the content.

Chris Hanel exposed the story earlier this week, noting that despite some lip service to supporting the original copyright holders, DailyComix publisher Klaymore had not actually gotten permission to use any of the webcomics in the app. The content was being “scraped” from the respective sites and reconfigured for use in DailyComix. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

Though comics’ roots in America were originally and firmly established in New York City, Seattle has grown into a west coast mecca of comic talent. Fantagraphics is, of course, based there and the city is home to the ever-growing Emerald City Comicon. A significant number of comic creators live there as well, including Peter Bagge, Ed Brubaker, Phil & Kaja Foglio, Ellen Forney, Jerry Holkins, Leonard Rifas and Jim Woodring to name a very few. So it should come as little surprise that the University of Washington’s Henry Art Gallery just opened a new exhibit focusing expressly on webcomics.

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By Sean Kleefeld

Long-time comic fan and author of the book "Mutant Cinema:The X-Men Trilogy from Comics to Screen," Thomas McLean recently posted on his blog that he’d given up comics. Twenty-six years after after following his favorite characters and creators, he decided he had had enough. His weekly trips to his local comic shop no longer happened at all. He doesn’t specify if this was specifically a New Year’s resolution, but he stopped buying comics at the beginning of January and hasn’t looked back yet.

“After more than a quarter century, I found reading the last big stack of Marvel and DC books I brought home at tremendous expense to be the last thing I wanted to do. Trying to read the last few of them was incredibly difficult...”

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By Sean Kleefeld

A few months ago, I reviewed T Campbell’s book, A History of Webcomics. Though it was published in 2006, it holds up fairly well considering everything that’s transpired in the industry since then. Interestingly, Sébastien Dumesnil’s documentary about webcomics, Adventures into Digital Comics, was being worked on about the same time, premiering in October of that same year.

The solicitation copy on the DVD box says the movie, “tells the story of the collapse of the print comic book inddustry ands the subsequent rebirth of the comic book as an art form in the digital realm.” This is done almost exclusively through creator interviews, with a few intertitles to elaborate on some key points or provide specific numbers that creators allude to. The list of creators is pretty impressive, ranging from veterans like Marv Wolfman to relative newcomers like Tricia Hale. Not surprisingly, Scott McCloud is included as one of the most vocal advocates of webcomics as well.

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By Sean Kleefeld

The generally accepted model for webcomics these days is to put the comic online for free, and then try to make money selling ancillary material and/or advertising. Whether that’s the only viable model and how long it might last are up for debate, certainly, but the idea of actually paying for webcomics hasn’t really panned out.

In Reinventing Comics, Scott McCloud talked about the notion of micropayments. Basically, the idea that a creator could, theoretically, charge a very small amount (upwards of perhaps a quarter) for a nugget of information. In this case, a single installment of a webcomic. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

One of the difficulties in producing a webcomic is that it’s generally a one-person operation. You might say that makes sense, as many of the webcomics you’ve likely read have the same person writing and drawing it. But when you start putting in perspective relative to the whole process, it’s quite an impressive list of skills that’s actually needed.

Once the comic is written and drawn, it needs to be formatted for the final production. Making sure it’s the right size and format, of course, but also things like compression and color optimization need to be considered as well. These are typical procedures for any graphics designed for the web, but it’s still a somewhat different skillset than drawing. As is the page layout and user interface for the site.

Then there’s some technical things to set up like establishing a good format for an RSS feed, the functionality of an ongoing archive, upload procedures... Fortunately, here, there are a number of existing packages that help to take care of that.

But then there’s the marketing. Getting the comic’s name and link out there. While it’s easy enough to set up a Twitter account and a Facebook page and all that, there’s the difficulty in getting others to follow that account. And once they do, then there’s the difficulty in getting them to click on the links back to the comic on an ongoing basis. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

One of the more interesting comic book challenges every year is the 24-Hour Comic. It started off as a dare between Scott McCloud and Steve Bissette: could they each create a complete 24 page comic in a single day? The idea sparked interest among comic creators, both professional and amateur as they took the idea to challenge themselves to the same bet. They can be about anything, but the caveat is that there is no prepartion allowed. These days, it’s quite an event and many comic book shops even host creators in their stores for it.

There’s a more recent variation on the idea called the Hourly Comic, started in 2006. Rather than trying to tackle a full 24 hours, it’s a bit more restrained in that it only requires the creator to work while she or he happens to be awake. It’s also supposed to be more journalistic in nature, simply describing some or several events that happened to the creator as they go about their day. A short comic for each hour. Which is then posted online. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

In one of my earlier columns, I talked about how webcomic creators can be a bit more accessible to fans than comic book or newspaper strip artists. About how you ask them questions more readily and have more of a dialogue with them. It’s even possible that you can start calling one of them your mentor.

Webcomics are still a comparatively new outlet and, while they draw heavily on the work of print media, they still have their own quirks that make their production unique. There’s currently very little formally written about developing webcomics, so many creators are left to figure it out on their own. But Krishna Sadasivam is looking to change that. At least for a few people.

At the beginning of this year, the PC Weenies creator put out a call for two apprentices. He noted that he felt his own attempts at artistically leveling up were dreadfully slow, in part, because he had no mentor of his own. There was no one to guide him and provide advice on how to improve. So, he decided to take on two apprentices and try to help them become better cartoonists. Sadasivam is not making any money off this experiment; he just wants to give back to the artistic community. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

It’s customary for folks to come up with “Best of” lists towards the end of each calendar year. I’m not one to do that myself, but I can mostly understand why people like them. Derik Badman, in trying to come up with his “Best Webcomics of 2011” noted that he found it difficult because there were so many different types of webcomics, and he ultimately winds up following creator blogs, Tumblrs, etc. to see what they’re up to. He doesn’t expressly say so in his post, but there seems to be almost a sense of lamentation about this. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but it comes across to me as frustration in having to sort through various venues rather than the ease of having everything pop up in a feed reader.

Badman’s right, of course, with regards to the fragmentation that’s occurred in webcomics. The earliest strips generally fell neatly into either the long-running serial or gag-a-day strip categories. As he notes, there are now “single pages, short projects, excerpts, one-off issues, journal comics, etc.” Indeed, I recently discovered Ulf Andersson’s Portraits, which isn’t really a comic as many would define them, but a series of, well, portraits with some accompanying dialogue from the individual. Despite a somewhat cartoony style, it would take some people a lot of convincing to agree that they’re comics. Regardless, though, it’s hardly the type of thing one would have found on the web when Sluggy Freelance started. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

Ryan Estrada calls himself “an artist/adventurer who travels the world making comics.” He’s lived in Australia, Canada, South Korea, North Korea, Japan, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Lao, India, Kenya, Tanzania, Costa Rica and Panama. He’s created a number of webcomics available on RyanEstrada.com as well as contributing to the Flight anthology; he also founded the Cartoon Commune. Personally, I’d say his self-description was perfectly appropriate.

Earlier this week, on Google+, Estrada posted a detailed look at his income from comics since 2007 and analyzed what he did right and wrong. It was a refreshingly open and honest piece, and I’ve asked Estrada if we could republish it in its entirety here. He quickly responded with a hearty, “Have at it! I put it together so that it can help people,so share it as you wish!” With that, I’m going to let Estrada take over for the rest of the column this week...

Money is always something that people don’t like to talk about. Especially freelance artists. But I think that in this new world where all the rules of how people earn a living have been thrown out the window, a little data can be very helpful. So because it may help a fellow independent artist, or someone who wants to make a living on the internet, I’ve done a little math homework, and am presenting my income from the last 5 years as a full-time artist, and typed up a breakdown of what I did right or wrong each year, and what I learned from it. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

So you’ve created a new comic that you think is brilliant. You’ve worked out the major kinks and you’re ready to share it with the world. You’ve got your domain set up, pages designed, content in place and... what? Wait for people to just stumble across your site? Of course not! You start telling people about your new comic.

You send emails to folks who you think might be interested, you upsell it on all the social media outlets you belong to, you put a link to it in the tag line of all your online comments... you do all the stuff you’re supposed to do.

You realize, too, that it’s going to take a little time to get a really big audience, so you try to spread your personal hype machine out over the course of a few weeks. After a few weeks, you start to think, “Well, perhaps I was a bit overly ambitious. Realistically, it’ll probably take a few months to really get going.” So you keep doing what you’re doing: posting comics regularly and telling everybody every time you do. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

It’s early in the morning. You sit down at your computer, check your messages (email, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and start reading the day’s comics. Maybe you’ve got them bookmarked, maybe you’re pulling in RSS feeds, maybe you just read a few and have their URLs memorized. As you’re reading through them, it suddenly occurs to you that you’ve been reading this one strip for several years now, and it was already pretty established when you started. Then you take it a step further and realize that there were probably some webcomics around before this one. And you wonder what those were and what they were like. So you head off to Wikipedia to look up “webcomics.” And sure enough, there’s a 1500-word article about webcomics.

“Well, that was kind of helpful,” you think, “but a little sparse. There must be more to it than that. I mean, they cover ten years of history with only 200 words.” (As a point of reference, you’ve read 165 words in this article so far.) If you Google “history of webcomics” you get some more expansive results. But one thing that most of those links have in common is T Campbell’s A History of Webcomics.

Campbell wrote A History of Webcomics, and had it published through Antarctic Press in 2006. Though a lot has been done in webcomics since then, the book remains the primary resource for detailing how webcomics got started. Most of those articles you found through Google openly acknowledge Campbell’s research as instrumental in writing those articles. The book is out of print currently, and copies are difficult to obtain. Campbell himself doesn’t even have any left! But I want to take some time to review it here, so that if you do happen across a copy in Half Price Books or on eBay or wherever, you know what it is. Read More...

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