By Sean Kleefeld

So, this happened at DragonCon last month...

That is, of course, Jennie Breeden’s strip The Devil’s Panties in which she takes the humorous events in her own life, and draws them into her comic for the world to see. One expects a creator to take artistic liberties with certain events but interestingly, we have video footage of the proposal on YouTube to show that she’s really not exaggerating. Except perhaps the imaginary Devil, Angel and Princess that ride shotgun in her head.

It’s not at all uncommon for creators to imbue their work with their own life experiences. What is art, but an attempt to try to interpret one’s own life or view of the world? Comics are no different in that regard. It’s easy to draw parallels between the life of Charles Schulz and what he drew in Peanuts. Harvey Perkar made a career out of showing the often humdrum experiences of his daily life. Craig Thompson won multiple Eisner, Harvey and Ignatz awards for his autobiographical Blankets. Read More...


The creator of the ACT-I-VATE webcomic Everywhere joins the Ghost Pimp writer/artist to kill the world with kittens--and they're bringing real-life band Big Linda along for the end.
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By Sean Kleefeld

Clearly, I’m a big fan of webcomics. I wouldn’t be writing this column if I weren’t. I think it’s incredible that anyone who wants can start their own strip and have it becoming known worldwide. I think it’s amazing that creators can use the internet to voice the stories they want to tell with no one to impede or even alter their vision. And that folks with an unconventional message can actually make a living doing this is beyond brilliant.

But!

But newspaper comics were here first. By about a century. And it’s hard to deny that seeing a piece of work in print has a little more power and prestige than seeing it rendered on a screen. After all, anyone can post their comic online! The very same democratizing effect that allows everyone to post something also means that actually doing so is a little less special. Getting into print generally means that the creator has jumped through more hurdles and was given a formal endorsement by any number of people, including multiple editors at the syndicate and the newspapers themselves. It can be a form of validation that their work is indeed worthwhile and appreciated.

Earlier this year, Graham Nolan announced that his webcomic, Sunshine State, was picked up for syndication. He had been running the comic online to drum up interest and support for his comic as well as to get used to working on a regular schedule. He ran the strip through the first half of 2010 and garnered some good praise. When Nolan started posting again in early 2011, he teased at the syndication news for a while before finally announcing it.

What strikes me as interesting is that the radically different pace of the newspaper syndication process. Nolan is clearly thrilled to be making it onto the funny pages, but his first strip is running in the San Mateo Daily Journal on October 1, over six months after Nolan announced the syndication deal. Also, for his fans who don’t get papers, he’ll be running the same strips on his website two weeks after their print debut, a not-uncommon practice. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

At last weekend’s Cincinnati Comic Expo, they had planned a panel discussion entitled “Dawn of the Digital Era.” Naturally, I was intrigued. The first convention panel I attended that discussed the intersection of the internet and comics was at the Mid-Ohio Con back in the late 1990s, where a few of us early proponents of the web talked about how the internet was going to be very influential to comics in the coming years. The idea was still fairly new to the industry, so our discussion ranged from retail sales to news reporting to comics presentment. This “Dawn of the Digital Era” panel, while perhaps misleadingly named, was light years beyond that earlier panel.

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By Sean Kleefeld

One of the curious differences between comic books and comic strips is that successful creators tend to have a decidedly more finite association with the comic books they create than with comic strips. A creator can be hired on to work on Amazing Spider-Man or Detective Comics and they might stay with it for a year, or two, or three. But it’s rarely considered a viable life-long career goal to stay with a single title. Comic strips, on the other hand, are more often uniquely married to their originator throughout his/her life. The Bill Watersons of the world who willingly leave their comic are rare, and the Berkley Breatheds who even try to start another comic are rarer still. (And even in that example, Breathed largely kept returning to his same cast of characters.)

But with webcomics, there seems to be a greater willingness to find a middle ground between those two extremes. Though webcomics on the whole don’t yet have a history long enough to consider as a life-time’s work, there seem to be only a handful of webcomics at present that even stand a chance of seeing that play out. Conversely (and in contrast to my interview with Michael Mayne last week) there are few webcomics that continue beyond their original creators’ intentions.

One of the options some webcomic creators explore in this middle ground is stopping a webcomic, and starting a new one that spins off of the original. John Allison’s collective work is a prime example of this. He created the strip Bobbins in 1998 and ran that until 2002. He wrapped that up and began Scary Go Round a couple months later, using some of the same characters. When that concluded in 2009, then Allison started Bad Machinery (still running) which picks up the stories of the children in the town where Bobbins and Scary Go Round took place.

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By Sean Kleefeld

Michael Mayne got his big break in comics last year when Red 5 began publishing his Bonnie Lass as their initial digital-first comic offering. It was successful enough that printed versions will begin hitting comic shops later this month. In August, he took over the art chores on the webcomic Possessed! from Eryck Webb. We recently caught up with Mayne to talk about his new(ish) gig and how creating webcomics compares to creating digital comics.

MTV Geek: Let's start with your current gig and we'll circle around backwards from there. You recently picked up the art duties on Possessed! taking over from one of the strip's originators, Eryck Webb. How about kicking things off with just an overview of the comic in your words?

Michael Mayne: "Possessed" is a modern-day, supernatural thriller, with dashes of dramedy here and there. A group of friends gets swept into this web of supernatural conspiracy when a spirit shows up at their apartment. Right around the same time, some mysterious deaths start peppering the news and other forces are brought into the mix as the friends try to keep themselves together.

Geek: You're still working with the other original creator, writer Bryan Burke. How did you come to start working on the comic?

MM: To my surprise, Bryan emailed me out of nowhere and was very interested in picking me up to continue where the previous artist left off. He was very eager to get me started right away, and after working out an agreement, his enthusiasm propelled me through the first several pages very effortlessly. Bryan's been very professional, amiable, and coherent in our communications over the last month or so, so deciding to work with him was pretty easy to do.

Geek: Well, it would certainly seem that your reputation preceded you! Did he mention what prompted him to contact you?

MM: Haha! So it would seem! I honestly don't know for sure what got me on his radar. Right around that time I had posted on deviantART and a couple other places that I was free to take on some new work, so as far as I know the timing just worked out right.

Geek: It's an ongoing strip with something of a history by the time you joined. While you've certainly got your own style, how much are you working with/back to Webb's style? Obviously, you don't want to change the character designs too radically, but where do you draw the line (if you'll excuse the pun) on what to keep and what to discard? What were the discussions like, if there were any, with Burke to that end?

MM: That was my first concern—trying not to totally leave behind the already established look of the comic yet still bringing something of my own to the table. Bryan was adamant from the get-go that I pursue the project with an open mind and not be afraid to employ creative freedom.

I've been allowed to slightly alter character designs to fit with my style standards, but I've enjoyed these characters so much already that I'm trying to adapt my style more to the characters. Eryck Webb's art for the comic was already similarly cartoony like mine, so I don't feel like there's been much of a strain in getting the styles to match.

In fact, going back through the last few weeks' strips, I've second-guessed myself as to which strip was Webb's last/my first. Even in the few updates since then, I think I've slowly imbued a little bit more of my flare into the overall look to where there's a noticeable difference. But if that gradual transition helps readers segue better to my take on the art, then I'm all for that!

Geek: What's your reception been like as "the new guy"? I did see a "the new artist is amazing" comment, but has everyone been that enthusiastic?

MM: This answer may seem a little boring, but I'm rather in the dark in regards to the reader feedback. I've actually been talking with Bryan in the last few days about ways we can not only broaden the readership, but also open up more inroads for the readers to let us know what they think and share with others. Hopefully we'll be making the "Possessed" experience a little more interactive in the near future!

Geek: Given that some of the "standard" webcomic interactions are already available for the strip (comments, Twitter, etc.) I'm intrigued to see what else you might be doing here. Can you say anything more about this yet?

MM: We're entertaining the idea of having portals on Facebook and Twitter dedicated to the comic—little destinations where the fan community can more casually discuss the comic without feeling like it's too detached from the casualness of their other social interactions online. Because it shouldn't be! We want to be able to facilitate fan interaction across a number of social networks, to get the fans talking with each other, not just us!

For instance, with Bonnie Lass I've got a Facebook page set up where fans can see and comment on incidental artwork (including fan art!) and catch snippets of news pertaining to the property as a whole. During production of the mini-series, I was even posting work-in-progress and concept art. And through there and my own Twitter account I've even had little giveaways now and then. That's the kind of stuff (and more!) I'm hoping Bryan and I can offer with Possessed on the various social networks. Most importantly, I'd like for the fans (of both Bonnie Lass and Possessed) to inform and shape their fan experiences on these outlets themselves—the more they want to interact the better! We'll be able to provide more worthwhile, fan-directed content when the fans bring their own expectations to the forefront.

Geek: What's the creation process like for you on Possessed? How does a day's comic get put together?

MM: I actually requested that Bryan send me at least a week's worth of scripts at a time. I like to be able to sketch out a few strips at a time, to get a better sense of continuity between them (if necessary)—if nothing else, being able to sit down and work on the same project for longer stretches of time helps keep me in the zone!

After sketching a batch of strips in Manga Studio, I send them to Bryan for approval, then go ahead and work them to completion (utilizing some of that creative freedom he's allowed me)—digitally inking from the roughs, coloring, and then laying in the dialog balloons. So far Bryan's been very pleased with my visions of the story so we're off to a great start! Bryan usually makes a few tweaks to the dialog after I send him the files, but I use his scripts at least for dummy dialog so I know how to place the balloons. It's a pretty expedient, concise process per strip, which I definitely like!

Geek: How does your development experience on Possessed compare with Bonnie Lass, which was solely your own work?

MM: Well, as I said, working on a couple or three strips at a time and getting them all done usually in just as many sittings makes for a nice, easily-manageable workflow. When I was working on Bonnie Lass, I would often pencil seven to ten pages at a time before committing any of them to inks. In general, pages on Bonnie Lass stayed in limbo much longer than individual strips on Possessed. Transitioning from phases to phase on the full pages usually feels a bit more daunting and tasking.

But Bryan's scripting style is quite similar to mine, but more polished (which I can really appreciate!)—simple, uncrowded panel descriptions, concise dialog. Bryans' scripts come to me ready to go, whereas when I was scripting for myself on Bonnie Lass, I would leave certain pages very scant on detail and just leave the pacing and sequencing for the roughs/sketching phase. I think that dragged production along, and I'll definitely be avoiding that kind of workflow in my own future endeavors!

Geek: Speaking of Bonnie Lass, that was produced first as a digital comic. What are the most note-worthy differences you've experienced so far in developing a digital comic versus a webcomic?

MM: When I was producing the interior art for Bonnie Lass I really wasn't concerned with adhering to specific digital comics presentation standards. It was always on the back of my mind, and never just ignored how it would potentially look panel-by-panel, scaled to a monitor or phone screen. There's actually a little bit of art evolution throughout The Legend arc of Bonnie Lass—as I gave more credence to the notion of it being presented digitally, I opted to keep the panels a little more conventional so they could be effortlessly displayed on rectangular screens. But that was about it as far as specifically tailoring the art for digital presentation.

When making strips for Possessed, I do feel more relaxed and allowed to let the action breath in the space it's given. I'm really liking the almost purely horizontal flow of action across a webcomic strip. In trying to keep the strip layouts uniform across every update, I'm actually feeling like the sequencing benefits from the no-nonsense, linear flow. There's no question which panel comes next, so I can concentrate more on the content of each panel, instead of how the reader might or might not follow them.

Two very different approaches to comicking, each with their own quirks. And in the end I can't really complain about either! I enjoy the variety they both offer.

Geek: How much of that formatting comes from Burke's scripts? He's obviously conscious of the more horizontal format and pacing for a strip, but that that could theoretically still be open to artistic interpretation. In fact, the strip that ran on September 1 does break away (slightly) from the strict horizontal format. How much of that is you versus Burke?

MM: Bryan pretty much leaves the layout/composition of the panels up to me, which is a huge plus! His scripts aren't picky at all about panel description, but that said I do feel like Bryan writes for "the potential" of the scene. He knows how much space the sequence can/will take up, and the varying brevity of his panel descriptions tell me that he has an intuitive sense of visual storytelling and pacing, even if he's not the one putting the final images down. That's what I think makes his scripts so easy to work from! I can pretty much tell when Bryan has in mind to present something in a small, quick and simple panel, or when he wants something truly dynamic and eye-catching.

And as far as the September 1 strip goes, expect more of that. Lots more. In fact, that "double-height" format is pretty much going to be the norm from here on out, unless we feel a need to downplay the weight of a particular sequence every now and then. The visual flow should stay pretty linear and non-confusing, as at the most we'll only be presenting things in two rows. I'll just be utilizing more space to draw so I don't feel too cramped by the monotony of fairly uniform, square panels.

Geek: So what work do you have lined up at the moment? More Possessed, obviously, and I believe Bonnie Lass is getting the print treatment?

MM: Possessed is definitely on the plate for the next foreseeable while. I'm also working on a project called Mac & Trouble with Rusty Gilligan. I finished up my end of the work (pencils, inks) on another independent title called Massively Effective a few months ago—the creators/writers on that one have a Facebook page for their collective projects under the banner of Atomic Rex Entertainment. That one should start making a splash in the near future!

Bonnie Lass: The Legend is hitting comic shops on September 21! All four issues should be out by mid-December (which I think is a nice way of coming full circle, seeing as how it began its premiere digital run in December of last year). Red 5 has been awesome with the handling of the series, and I can't wait to see it in print myself! Seeing as how I got unexpectedly (but pleasantly) busy with Possessed recently, I've had to put the future of Bonnie Lass on hiatus again. But the instant I start making some workable progress on a volume two, you can bet I'll be posting about it on the Facebook page and Blog!

Geek: Thanks very much! I appreciate your time.

Related Posts:
Kleefeld on Webcomics #28: The Feedback Loop
Kleefeld on Webcomics #27: Where To Begin
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By Sean Kleefeld

I’ve talked here before about how easy it is for readers of webcomics to talk to creators. How you can ask questions in all sorts of venues and (usually) get timely responses. Which is great for readers who might want to know more about the comic they’re already enjoying. But what’s equally brilliant is the flip side of the coin -- creators can turn around and ask questions to their readers!

For years, cartoonists toiled away in their studios, drawing out comic after comic. Responses and feedback of any sort was generally limited to the editor and maybe the publisher. The only way a creator knew if they were doing well or missing the mark was almost entirely dependent on what their editor told or passed along to them. Once comic conventions started cropping up, a lot of creators readily tried to take advantage of the opportunity to meet with fans in person. It gave them a first-hand view of what actual readers actually thought.

Things like letters pages in comic books helped, of course. Simply seeing them encouraged feedback from others, and readers could at least nominally help chart the direction of the book. Stan Lee made great use of them in the early 1960s -- everything from having a “give the Thing’s girlfriend a name” contest to general feedback about how the Invisible Girl should have more powers than just turning invisible. Not every request or suggestion was acted upon, naturally, but the letters provided a gauge of what was or wasn’t working. Albeit several months after the fact.

But webcomic creators, too, can solicit feedback from their readers, and receive it in real time. The internet, as I’m sure you’re aware, allows for creators to ask for help on any/all stages of their comic’s development.

Sean Wang recently completed his second story arc for Runners. Not surprisingly, he’d like to collect the arc into a printed graphic novel and is working to prep all the pages accordingly. While he’s doing that, he’s debating various options for actually getting it printed, so he posted to his site: “Along those lines, I’ve been toying with the idea of trying to fund part of the new book’s printing costs through Kickstarter. If any readers have thoughts on that, I’d love to hear them!” As he also hints at in the same post, he’s doing all of the work himself and obviously can’t be expert in writing, drawing, printing, marketing, selling, etc. So he’s taking advantage of his existing outlet to solicit help where he needs it.

Derek Kirk Kim and Les McClaine, by contrast, are in the middle of their story over at Tune. At the end of Chapter 11, Kim just asked for comments in general without any additional direction. Responses ranged from story specifics to pacing to general well wishes. While Kim responded directly to several of the questions, he followed up later with a more general thank you, adding “Your feedback really fuels motivation, let me tell you.”

But a creator doesn’t even need to have started a webcomic to solicit feedback. Steve LeCouilliard hasn’t even started his next comic, Una the Blade, yet. But he’s posted some initial sketches and background information on his Tumblr, including these character designs he was toying with...

He cited some of his initial thoughts, and was quickly receiving feedback from fans on what they thought as well. Now, one could argue that LeCouilliard’s initial comments skewed the responses to parrot what he wanted to hear, but that could well have been all he needed. Just a check to make sure readers weren’t wildly critical of something he thought was a good direction. When he did a follow-up sketch of the final design, he noted that he inadvertently drew her in such a way as to come across as chauvinistic. While he caught himself in that instance, using readers as a sounding board can further ensure that he doesn’t make an “obvious” faux pas.

A good comic often stems from a creative vision that someone has. It’s a story they have to tell. But getting some additional inputs can help refine that vision tremendously and prevent a single creator working alone from getting too myopic a view of their own work. Maybe that can be done with a single collaborator, but getting feedback from the people who are absorbing and enjoying the comic as readers can really be insightful and invaluable.

Related Posts:
Kleefeld on Webcomics #27: Where To Begin
Kleefeld on Webcomics #26: Let's Eat!

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By Sean Kleefeld

Let’s say you’ve been reading this column and it’s encouraged you to look at some webcomics. Let’s say that you’ve found some that were really inspiring, and spoke to you in a way that no other comic ever has. Let’s say that you were so inspired that you decided to make your own webcomic. But now what?

Over the decades, there have been a wealth of books detailing how to go about getting into comics or making comics or designing characters. What we generally think of as a comic today has been around for a century, so there have been plenty of people who’ve played with the format, been successful at it and written books about it. Will Eisner’s Comics & Sequential Art and the Stan Lee/John Buscema How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way are classics. But webcomics are compartively new and a search on Amazon yields barely a handful of titles.

Probably the most well-known is the joint effort from Evil Inc.’s Brad Guigar, Sheldon’s Dave Kellett, PvP’s Scott Kurtz and Starslip Crisis’ Kris Straub straight-forwardly entitled How To Make Webcomics. But there’s also Steve Horton’s and Sam Romero’s Webcomics 2.0: An Insider's Guide to Writing, Drawing and Promoting Your Own Webcomics. And Steven Withrow’s and John Barber’s Webcomics: Tools and Techniques for Digital Cartooning. I won’t get into full-on reviews of all those books here but, suffice it to say that while they all focus particularly on webcomics, much of the information in those older books remains valuable. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

One of the great things about webcomics is that there’s a lot of flexibility in subject matter. Of course, comics of any sort -- printed, digital, etc. -- can be about any subject as well, but one of the inherent benefits of working online is that a creator can more directly cater to smaller niche audiences more effectively. The commercial hurdles are decidedly lower, so a creator doesn’t have to attract as many readers to make a comic viable.

In the world of pamphlet comics, it’s frequently debated whether or not genres besides superheroes can be made sustainable; whether there’s simply not an audience for other material or if it’s too costly to try to attract an audience who’s interested in something besides superheroes. Online, however, that’s a moot point as the production costs of a webcomic are so much drastically lower. Which brings us to today’s topic: recipes presented as webcomics.

Recipe comics aren’t entirely new. Having visuals to instruct you how to follow a written recipe makes at least as much sense as having visual instructions for putting together that bookshelf you bought at Target. A cook can see precisely how to combine ingredients and in what order, so the comic format is a natural fit. What’s more, the artist’s style can make the recipe itself entertaining and engaging. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

When I first made the transition from somewhat passively reading comics to actively engaging with them as a hobby, I tried to learn a few things about comics beyond what I was seeing on the printed page. Not to date myself too much, but I’ll admit that this was well before webcomics existed. In fact, it happened to be right around the time when Jack Kirby was in a heated legal battle with Marvel Comics over ownership of the original art he created for the comics. Consequently, some of the more upscale fanzines would periodically print examples of his original art, and readers could compare them against what was eventually printed.

Also around that time, a local community college ran a small exhibit in their art gallery of original comic art. Probably inspired by that same legal battle. The pages were were framed and under glass, but I was able to see a dozen or two pages of art that went into the production of popular comic books. (I seem to recall Thor being prominently figured throughout the exhibit.)

But that was a decidedly active choice on my part to see how the comics were made. Even then, I only saw a handful of pages, most of which were from comics I didn’t own. So I had to infer other artists’ styles and techniques.

With the advent of the internet and improved printing techniques, it’s now much easier to see what original art looks like. Indeed, it’s not uncommon at all for artists’ sketches to be used in promotional materials in advance of a comic becoming available.

But where webcomics are a little different is that it’s much easier to run sketches right along with the finished pieces. What strikes me as particularly interesting, too, is how quickly webcomic creators adopt new ideas and try out new technologies. Kevin Vassey, for example, does his initial sketches for The Gnome Syndicate on an iPad...

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By Sean Kleefeld

Odds are that if you’re reading this article, you’re reasonably well versed in the English language. It also stands to reason that if you’re reading this in English, many if not all of the webcomics you read are also in English. But of course, that’s not the only language out there and folks are creating comics in.

In the print world, foreign language comics have been ported over to the United States for decades. Asterix first saw official English translations begin in 1969 and Tintin was about a decade before that. These days, the comics and graphic novels sections of bookstores are frequently heavy with manga, mahnwa and manhua translated from Japanese, Korean and Chinese respectively. Similarly, many American comics get sent around the globe and are translated into various languages. However, some more restrictive governments clamped down on Western ideas and prevented such imports until much later. Hungary, for example, didn’t see any superhero comics at all until 1989, shortly before it became a democracy. (For trivia buffs, Marvel’s Revenge of the Living Monolith holds the distinction of being the first superhero comic published in that country.) Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

Back in 2009, Ethan Young dove headfirst into the world of webcomics with his semi-autobiographical story, Tails. He’s been working on the story diligently and consistently since then, and has attracted some attention that’s warranting a handsome collected edition via the acclaimed Hermes Press. I was able to catch up with the artist, and am able to provide this exclusive interview.

MTV Geek: Let's dive right into the meat of things, Ethan. What's the big news in your own words?

Ethan Young: Thanks, Sean. In short, Tails is finding print life over at Hermes Press, home to many classic reprint collections (The Phantom, Dark Shadows) as well as original titles such as Lions, Tigers, and Bears. Hermes is committed to the first 2 volumes of Tails, which is really exciting for me.

Geek: Now, this actually strikes me as a pretty interesting and somewhat unusual announcement. It's not just a webcomic that's being picked up by a publisher for print, but it's actually a three-issue print comic that was collected as a graphic novel, re-worked as a webcomic and re-worked again as a series of graphic novels. Can you explain a bit about the road this story has taken?

EY: Well, the main purpose of the original mini-series was to get my feet wet. At the time, I was a headstrong 22 year old eagerly throwing my hat into the comic ring. Although I'm really proud of the original work, the art and execution felt somewhat crude and amateurish, hence its reincarnation as a more polished webcomic. Syndicating Tails online also enabled me to reach a wider audience while simultaneously rewarding fans of the original series. And now we'll be getting printed editions of the webcomic, helping the story reach an even wider audience still. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

For comics that have been running for years or even decades, the notion of retroactive continuity has been one that’s frequently been embraced as a means to keep characters relevant with the times. For example, Iron Man’s original debut in 1963 was decisively tied to the Vietnam War but almost four decades later, much of his audience is too young to have any real knowledge, let alone appreciation, of that conflict, so the character’s origin was updated to take place during the Gulf War of the early 1990s and then again to Afghanistan. Those are more contemporary references and, at least in theory, more relateable to 21st century audiences.

Generally, this type of update is handled with a “retcon.” It’s usually a simple retelling of the original sequence with some of the details changed. In some cases, it might just be a simple re-wording, in others, there might be inherent design alterations. But whatever the changes, they have to be put out in a new document. Which means that there have been a number of different comics published that tell different origins of Iron Man. Depending on which one a person happens to read, they might come away with a very different perception of how Tony Stark first created his armor.

Webcomics have an advantage in this regard. The art pages are stored on the creator’s own website, and are not (usually) saved by the individual reader. Which means that if someone -- anyone -- wants to go back to read the initial installments, they’re all going to refer to the exact same piece of art stored online. But that piece of art is controlled by the creator, and can be changed.

Sean T. Collins and Matt Wiegle started Destructor towards the tail end of last year. The story was progressing along smoothly when, with their last update in June, Collins noted that the previous two pages had been altered to better coincide with the latest page. Going back through the comic, of course, simply yielded the modified pages; had Collins not said anything, it’s unlikely many people would have noticed. Intrigued, and armed with some wicked Google-Fu skilz, I was able to uncover what had been altered.

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By Sean Kleefeld

Webcomics are like any medium in that they can tackle just about any subject or genre. Including, of course, history. Although the subject is one that many students dread, that is often the result of a less-than-ideal presentment. When given lots of dates along with the names of people and places that no longer even exist, it’s little wonder when students learn to eschew learning about what happened in the past. But when history is presented in the form of stories with clever plots and engaging characters, people can be mesmerized by the drama. Getting so caught up in the story, they miss the fact that what’s being presented is, in fact, history and they wind up remembering those very same facts and figures that rote memorization failed to embed.

One the more successful webcomics based on history -- indeed, one of the more successful webcomics, period -- is Lora Innes’ The Dreamer. Though the story starts in contemporary high school cafeteria, Beatrice Whaley finds herself dreaming every night about the Revolutionary War. More than that, she seems to be living a second life in the past with each night’s dream picking up not long after where the previous one left off. She’s running around with the likes of Nathan Hale and Thomas Knowlton, and is captured by the British General William Howe.

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By Sean Kleefeld

This past Veterans’ Day, there was a joke in Garfield that suggested that day should be called “National Stupid Day.” It was a complete coincidence, of course, and creator Jim Davis issued an apology very quickly. What struck me as interesting was that Davis pointed out that particular strip was written an entire year earlier. Working that far in advance is by far not the norm, but it highlights an element of comics that are run in newspapers: namely, that they’re generally written far enough in advance of the day’s news that it’s almost impossible to keep current.

Lalo Alcaraz’s La Cucaracha strip sometimes tries to pick up on current events, but they wind up sometimes being decidedly behind the news curve. For example, this week’s strips are themed around Sarah Palin’s misinterpretation of Paul Revere’s ride -- a news item that was running in headlines at the beginning of the month. Today’s headlines about her, though, are focused on her changing travel plans. The Revere jokes are old news.

Webcomic creators, though, are able to move faster than that. They can publish their comics as soon as they’re done working on them, giving them a much more contemporary flavor. Here’s Ryan Dow’s Introspective Comics from earlier this week with a brief review of the Green Lantern movie that was just released.

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