So… I’ve cluttered up Facebook and Twitter and RN with this already… let’s not forget Tumblr! :D Today my band released our brand-new single, “Losing You,” which will be on our new album set to release late May/early June. There’s a bunch of others really exciting things happening on that front… but I’ll keep you all posted. Please let me know what you think of this song! :D Much love to all! <3
For generations, comic books have fueled the imaginations and hearts of millions, offering magical escapes, beautiful art, engaging characters, and thought-provoking themes. Though many thought that the digital age would either completely revolutionize the industry or put an end to the comic era entirely, I believe that there can be a balance between the two — which begs the question, what is the future of comics in a digital age?
Contrary to popular belief, comics are one of the oldest art forms still in existence, thought to have existed for thousands of years. As comic expert Scott McCloud explores in Understanding Comics, comics have existed as long or longer than the written word; Egyptian hieroglyphics and paintings, pre-Columbian picture manuscripts, and the Bayeux tapestry are all examples of ancient art that used “juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence” — McCloud’s definition of the true essence of the comics medium. (McCloud, 1994,p.12.) Though McCloud argues that this means that comics have existed for thousands of years, the general public recognizes “comics” as a form of digital storytelling that became popular around the turn of century. Even taking into account that limited popular history, it is only recently that have comics been taken seriously as a storytelling medium and visual art form. I believe that this is thanks, in part, to the digital revolution in comics.
“Webcomics” is the name used to describe digital comics that are posted directly to the web, typically — but not always — by independent artists. Webcomics vary widely in genres, themes, and even format. Some artists prefer to feature their work in page-by-page format, click-through-panels, animated segments, or using HTML interactivity and Flash interfaces. The only thing that stays constant throughout the wide variety of webcomics is their unique publication medium — the internet.
When digital comics were first emerging, some believed that they would force the industry on its end, completely supplanting the need for print media, others believed that comics published to the web were just a passing trend that would have little to no effect on the industry. In the highly controversial book Reinventing Comics, Scott McCloud hailed the internet as a superior comic publishing medium that would completely revolutionize the art form of comics and turn the industry inside-out. McCloud went as far to say, “No art form has lived in a smaller box than comics for the last hundred years. It’s time for comics to finally grow up and find the art beneath the craft.” (McCloud, 2000, p. 235.) McCloud believed that the digital revolution in comics would break comics out of their print prison and enable them to reach their full potential.
One of McCloud’s most criticized predictions was that comics would escape their “tiny boxes” and embrace the potential of the “infinite canvas” that the web offered. (McCloud, 2000, p. 220.) Though McCloud was heavily chastised by his peers for this view, he brought up an important point. When comics are printed in traditional book format, the artist is required to adhere to certain sizing and layout standards. The artist must make their art conform to the page and panel borders, often compromising the artist’s vision, artwork, and story. McCloud proposed that digital comic artists should view computer monitors as windows and let their artwork flow beyond those borders on an infinite canvas. One of McCloud’s webcomic projects, Zot! Online: Hearts and Minds, explores the concept of the infinite canvas by arranging the panels vertically, forcing the viewer to scroll down to reveal the story. The panels are not always arranged sequentially, but lines are used to help guide the readers to the next panel, flowchart style. McCloud calls these guidelines “trails” and uses them in nearly all of his webcomics. (Walters, 2009.)
Though web artists at large did not abandon traditional formats for their work like McCloud predicted, some artists did draw inspiration from the concept of the infinite canvas and have used the digital medium to their advantage. One artist that has fully embraced infinite canvas work is Emily Carroll. Carroll’s comics do not conform to traditional page structure, instead they exist in a vertical format, inviting the viewer to continuously scroll down to read the story. Caroll has published many vertical and click-through comics on her website, including the heart wrenching piece, The Prince and the Sea, which beautifully illustrates how powerfully immersive border-less, page-less comics can be.
Though McCloud was a vocal supporter of pushing boundaries with comic formats and allowing technology to revolutionize the industry, many traditionalists dismissed his idea as short-sighted and hyperbolic. Comic publisher Gary Groth published an article in The Comics Journal entitled, “McCloud Cuckoo-Land,” where he tore apart many of McCloud’s ideas about the future of digital comics. Groth called McCloud’s views “fundamentally unsound” and that his “hyperbolic outbursts” didn’t prove that digital technology was superior to the printed page. (Groth, 2001.) Groth believed that digital comics would have very little, if any, effect on the world of comics. He dismissed all of McCloud’s claims — and the entire community of web comic artists — with the following statement: “This sounds… like nothing less than a desperate attempt to wed a form and a technology that aren’t particularly suited to each other.” (Groth, 2001.)
Looking back at how the years following the introduction of digital comics has unfolded, it’s easy to see that although McCloud’s dramatic predictions did not come to fruition, Groth’s determined stance that the internet would fail to have any effect on comics has also proven to be false. Both McCloud and Grothhad a small piece of truth to their claims; digital comics have had an immense impact on the comic industry and the comic artists community, but they have also failed to completely change the print industry or make print publication irrelevant. I do not believe that webcomics will completely replace printed comics or create a truly equal playing field where, “path from selling ten comics to selling ten thousand comics to selling ten million comics is as smooth as ice,” as McCloud initially claimed, but I do believe that it is a powerful medium that should be taken seriously. (McCloud, 2000,p. 188.)
The internet and digital technology offers comic artists a wealth of new, exciting opportunities for aesthetic experimentation and offers independent artists a unique chance to share their work with a potential wealth of global readers, an opportunity that would never have been available in print media. This is perhaps the most important advantage to online publishing as even the most popular print comics reaches a very limited audience; less than 0.1% of the North American population reads comics regularly. (McCloud, 2000, p. 97.) Alternatively, webcomics are not limited to any one area — they can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection.
Beyond that, webcomics are typically free to read and share, making them even more accessible to a larger audience. This does bring up an interesting problem, though; if webcomic artists provide their work for free, how do they make a living? The reality is that many webcomic artists create simply for the satisfaction of creative expression and do so in their spare time. Authors have the option of several models, though most choose to charge a subscription fee for digital access or add advertisements to the digital delivery system, whether that be website or other platform. Ads are by far the most popular choice, but some critics have argued that ads can interfere with the way that the reader views and interacts with the comics. (Hochstein, 2009, p. 11.) It then becomes a balancing act for the artist; integrating enough ads into their website to make revenue while making sure that the ads are not obtrusive to the reader. More successful webcomics — such as 8-Bit Theater and Penny Arcade — gain a wide enough audience that they can become a primary or secondary job for the authors. (Fenty, 2004.) Because webcomics can be published and distributed at no cost (until the popularity requires more sophisticated servers and expanded bandwidth), they can quickly and easily gain large fanbases. (Fenty, 2004.)
Another advantage of webcomics is that the artists are given complete creative control of their work. Most formally published work must be approved by a myriad of editors who try to make the work more marketable to the widest audience possible. When artists publish their own work online, they are free to explore more controversial topics, darker themes, and cater to very specific communities. Because the comic publisher and comic artist are the same person, webcomics are considered to be a more “pure” representation of the creator’s intent and vision. Many webcomics are written for very specific subculture or group, a focus that would not be allowed in mainstream print media.
Some webcomics are ideally suited to the web format because they specifically target frequent web users; many webcomics are written for and within the geek and gamer subcultures, such as Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkin’s Penny Arcade and Tim Buckley’s Ctrl+Alt+Del. These masterfully crafted comedic stories were created with a very specific audience in mind and have been hugely successful, expanding to become some of the most influential digital comics of our time. Penny Arcade, in particular, became so immensely popular that it spurred the creation of the Penny Arcade Expos, three massive annual gaming conventions that boast over 75,000 attendees each. By having the freedom to cater to a very specific community or subculture, webcomics can reach audiences that print comics never could, earning them the loyalty of worldwide community of devoted fans.
Webcomics have even been heralded as a useful teaching tool, providing students with new ways to experience reading and learn content. In an article for the American Library Association, Moorefield-Lang posits that the visually engaging literary medium of comics “is expanding our definition of children’s and young adult literature, as well as the ways in which we teach” and may enable educators to reach students who have been traditionally overlooked and provide “differentiated instruction.” (Moorefield-Lang, 2012, p. 32.) In addition to be an excellent and inclusive teaching tool, adding free digital graphic novels and webcomics to school libraries may also help educators continue to expand their libraries during difficult economic times.
For me personally, webcomics have been a life-changing force. As a young girl, I was always interested in comics and loved to draw, but I very rarely had access to print comic books. When I was able, I would sit for hours in my local comic book store and try to read as much as I possibly could — much to the chagrin of the owners — but I couldn’t afford to buy many comics for my own. We moved often when I was growing up, and when we moved to a small town with no comic book store, I was crushed. When I discovered webcomics, I was filled with hope and was inspired to create my own comics and stories. Webcomics like Jeph Jacques’ Questionable Content, Gina Biggs’ Red String, Tim Buckley’s Ctrl+Alt+Del, Hawk and Ananth’s Applegeeks, and Yuko Ota’s Fallen were incredibly influential on my artwork and my life.
I quickly became a part of the webcomic community, participating in online discussions and forums and eventually creating my own webcomic strip. I taught myself to write HTML code in order to build a website to host my comics and I worked after school each week to create comics to post. My first attempt was a gag-strip called First Impressions and revolved around a teenage ninja who was investigating her father’s mysterious disappearance with the help of her clumsy, hyperactive sidekick. Though my first comic strip series was far from eloquent, it helped me gain valuable experience that has pushed me to become a better artist. And that’s the beauty of the webcomics community; not only was I able to publish my first comic efforts at the age of 14, I was able share my work, receive feedback, and I grew as an artist as a result. I’m currently working on my first graphic novel, Revenant Aidenn, which I have been publishing serially online — and none of that could have been possible without the influence and power of webcomics.
While it is not a reaction quite up to McCloudian standards, the comic industry has also been forced to stand up and take notice of webcomics as an important player in the world of comics. With over 10,000 webcomics currently published online boasting millions of readers, it’s hard not to take notice. Though many artists choose to self publish their work with revenue from ads or merch, many comic publishing companies are approaching the more popular webcomics with publication deals. (Cornog, 2009.) Dark Horse, in particular, boasts an especially impressive roster of notable webcomics including Penny Arcade, Megatokyo, Ctrl+Alt+Del, and Applegeeks.
With the rising popularity of webcomics and high consumer demand for digital access to comics, even the big comic players, Marvel and DC, have begun offering digital media to their fans. Marvel,for example, established Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, which boasts an impressive collection of over 5,000 titles available to subscribers online. (Hochstein, 2009.) Marvel has also started offering exclusive web content that ties into the current arcs in the series’ printed counterparts and has recently started experimenting with motion comics which utilize animation to bring the digital comics to life. (Hochstein, 2009.) Rather than try to fight it, comic publishers appear to be embracing webcomics and digital publishing, seeing them as a means of gaining a wider audience for their current titles and an opportunity to recruit and publish content that has already proven itself to be widely successful.
Though I do agree with pieces of what McCloud proposed, I do not think that print media has been made irrelevant by the advent of webcomics; in fact, I think the digital comics have strengthened the comic fan and artist communities which has also strengthened comic print media. I don’t think that we have to choose between digital and physical; I believe that there is still room in the comic community for both webcomics and print media. While the internet offers unbelievable resources, tools, and opportunities, comic publishers have embraced the change in technology and have not lost steam. As I’m sure that many comic lovers would agree, no matter how comics continue to grow, no matter how they continue to be published and viewed, no matter how they continue to be enjoyed, the important thing is that they continue.
(I think that even McCloud and Groth could agree on that!)
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As an addition to this paper and blog post, I also created a short video detailing part of the process of making digital comics. The entire process shown took over 8 hours to complete, but that was only drawing one page and inking one panel — if it had been a full page, it would have been around 12-15 hours. The footage shown is sped up over 2000%.
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Cornog, M. (2009). Webcomics Wonderland. Library Journal, 134(15), 45.
Fenty, S., Houp, T., & Taylor, L. (2004). Webcomics: the influence and continuation of the comix revolution. ImageTexT: Interdisciplinary Comics Studies, 1(2).
Hochstein, J. (2009). After the Boom: Why the Comics Industry May Need to Adapt to its Recent Growth. Master of Science in Publishing, 12.
Moorefield-Lang, H., & Gavigan, K. (2012). These Aren’t Your Father’s Funny Papers: The New World of Digital Graphic Novels. Knowledge Quest, 40(3), 30-35.
Groth, G. “McCloud Cuckoo-Land: Un-Reinventing Comics” The Comics Journal No. 232 (2001).
Walters, M. (2009). What’s up with Webcomics? Visual and Technological Advances in Comics. Interface on the Internet, 9(2).
McCloud, S. (2000). Reinventing comics: How imagination and technology are revolutionizing an art form. William Morrow Paperbacks.
McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding comics. William Morrow Paperbacks.
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(In order of appearance)
Jeph Jacques. Questionable Content.
Scott McCloud. Zot! Online: Hearts and Minds.
Emily Carroll. The Prince and the Sea.
Scott McCloud. Reinventing Comics.
Brian Clevinger. 8-Bit Theater.
Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik. Penny Arcade.
Rachel Haycraft. Revenant Aidenn.
Easy! Just email/call/message/wave/sign/dance in my general direction and let me know you want one! I can send you the paypal link for online orders or I can just meet up with you to bring you an EP, poster, stickers, and little merch package. Just let me know! =]
Oh, wow, that’s a great question! There are a ton. Firstly, I’d have to say Evanescence. Amy Lee is my hero and I’d be so honored to share the same stage as her and the rest of the band. Then I’d have to say Coheed and Cambria, Nightwish, HIM, Meg & Dia, Within Temptation, and a ton of others. Really, I’m always humbled and ecstatic to play with talented musicians and I’m grateful for every opportunity to do so.
So I’m student teaching/participating in an undergraduate education class, CI2300 - Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age. One of the projects this semester was to take one day out of our week and go a full 24 hours without any form of digital communication — no computers, no cell phones, no TV, no internet, no video games. Sound hard? I think so.
My only concern starting out is that my job requires me to check my email every hour or so at the least… mostly because I have to respond to student emails, maintenance requests, paperwork, meeting requests, and everything else under the sun. I spoke to my supervisor last week and told him that I would be doing this project and he said he understood — but that if he needed me to do something online, I’d have to. I said okay.
(The following posts were written in on various scraps of paper and typed up following the digital sabbath.)
I decided to start my digital sabbath today (Sunday) at 8pm. Normally I’d watch Once Upon a Time at 8pm, but I put aside my hopes of seeing my favorite Faerie Tale town this evening in order to honor the digital sabbath. It wasn’t easy, though.
My boyfriend, Brandon, and I decided to cook something nice for dinner. Usually I would find a recipe on Pinterest for us to make, but instead we actually had to use the recipe on the back of the box. We made Thai noodle stir-fry with peanut curry sauce, chicken, and vegetables and it was absolutely delicious.
Normally, we watch TV while we eat, but instead we just talked… mostly about band stuff. Just the day before, our band, Raimee, had been aired on the radio and we were still reeling from the excitement!
Normally I’d be all over Facebook, chatting with people, checking my email, etc., but I caught myself a few times getting ready to go open a social network site. I actually sat down, opened up Facebook, and was checking notifications before I realized, “Oh, s%&#, I’m not supposed to be here” and signed off. It’s amazing that it’s such an impulse. I don’t even think about it! It’s second nature.
Why was I logging on to Facebook? Did I even have a reason? What do I really get out of checking statuses and updating my own? Am I addicted to the high of social networking?
That thought is kind of terrifying.
Because I had to get up super early, and I’ve been feeling under the weather, I decided to go to sleep early. Then I realized… I don’t have an alarm clock. I use my phone as an alarm. After some debating, I decided that (hopefully) it wasn’t cheating to use my phone as an alarm clock as long as I didn’t use it to communicate…
Wow, I never really thought about how much I rely on that thing. I’d be completely lost without it.
11:00pm - 7:00am
Got up. Showered. Got ready. Made coffee. Ate breakfast.
Don’t usually use technology for any of that, so this didn’t seem any different.
Except I couldn’t check the weather. That was kind of annoying. Boone is so fickle, I usually check the weather several times throughout the day. One look outside, though, told me it was probably a good idea to bundle up and wear boots…
When I proposed this project to my supervisor, he asked me to still check my email in the morning to make sure there weren’t any student issues that needed to be immediately dealt with. So, I did check, and unfortunately there was a conduct case that I needed to immediately follow-up on. After I typed up the report, though, I got off the conduct system and off my computer. Even though I didn’t have a choice, I felt really guilty.
Our University conduct system, Maxient, exists entirely online. All papers are scanned into the system and all cases exist digitally. I only have Level 3 access, so I can only view and change certain records (like students under my care) but I started thinking… what if those servers went down? What if someone hacked into the system? The amount of personal information in Maxient is staggering. What if those closed conduct records were leaked? It could really damage some peoples’ lives, careers, and reputations.
Maxient isn’t only used for universities, it’s also used for public schools for tracking conduct, concerns, counseling meetings, and overall student records. What would happen if say, in a high school those records were lost… or worse, leaked? Just some food for thought…
I had to go to a meeting and run a few errands — and it was really hard to drive without music. I had no idea it would be that difficult. I was so bored. I need my music. Driving in an empty, silent car is creepy. I don’t like being able to hear my brakes squeal. I felt physically uncomfortable.
I usually use my iPod for music (it plugs into the tape deck) because my radio is broken. This is both good and bad… it guarantees that the music I listen to is music that I like, but it closes me off from experiencing anything new.
Hm, something else to ponder.
I did some paperwork in my office and then read an article for class that I had previously had enough forethought to print out. Go me!
Without my Google calendar, I nearly forgot that I was supposed to be at the college of Ed at 12pm to shoot an interview for my Advanced Video class! Without taking time to eat or gather my things, I booked it up the hill to our classroom. Whew. Made it just in time to set up the camera.
That was so stressful. I rely so much on my Google calendar — I keep all my student appointments, class assignments, meetings, and everything else in it. I feel so lost without it!
I really, really hope I don’t miss anything. Why didn’t I write everything down last night?!
Finally finished shooting for my video class. It was actually really awesome — we’re doing a video on the background check process for education majors and the guy we were supposed to interview bailed on us. Crestfallen, we thought we’d have to pack it in and call it a day, but Joe (Dr. Joe Murphy, one of the greatest people on the planet) started wandering into random classrooms asking people if they’d like to talk to us about their background check experience.
At first, I didn’t think anyone would. But three different individuals came forward to tell their stories for our documentary — even one student from my CI2300 class! We got some really great footage and I really enjoyed working all of the equipment. …shooting video doesn’t count as digital communication, does it? Hopefully that wasn’t cheating. Joe would have kicked me if I didn’t help him shoot.
I packed up all the lights and supplies and headed home. First, though, I headed to the post office and discovered I had two amazing things waiting for me. One, was a wireless microphone system I had ordered a few weeks before and the other was a batch of magnets for my band, Raimee!
Both things were super exciting. I had to refrain from calling or texting my bandmates to tell them the awesome news… it was difficult. And frustrating.
I had my one-on-one meeting with my supervisor, which was really frustrating because he kept referring to documents and memos he had forwarded me through email, but I couldn’t check it. He just kept telling me to check it later and send him any questions I had.
Then I found out horrible news: the spreadsheets and student files for RA selection had just been released! All hall supervisors were expected to go online and begin selecting RAs they wanted on their staff. I obviously couldn’t until my digital sabbath was over. While my supervisor understood, I felt really ostracized. All of the other RDs were reviewing files and making a list of potential RAs while I was staring at my feet.
*sigh* oh well. I’ll just wait until tomorrow…
Since I couldn’t get ahead in any paperwork, I decided to work on assembling my band press kits that I had printed out previously. Here’s what the inside contents ended up looking like:
Just two hours to go. Brandon came over and we made dinner. On an unrelated note, I found this pretty flower in the parking lot outside my apartment.
One hour to go. Brandon and I visited one of my staff members’ hall programs (“Healthy Relationships” presented by the campus Wellness Center — she actually had a great turnout!) and then headed out to Crossroads coffee house to hopefully meet our newest band member, Bennie.
Then we ran into a problem. Crossroads was packed for Jazz night and it was impossible to hear anything over the music. Trying to meet up with 5 people in a crowded room without use of phones was a pain. One of my bandmates hadn’t gotten the memo and someone else had to text him and try to get him to meet us.
By the time 8:00 rolled around, I was deep in discussions with my bandmates and wasn’t too concerned with checking any sort of digital communication device. I didn’t get home until 10:00pm, when I finally checked my email and my Facebook.
Overall, I found this experience to, at the very least, be very thought-provoking. I really thought about why I was doing what I was doing and what I missed the most… and why. Mostly, being without technology was very frustrating. I needed to connect with people, communicate times and meetings, reply to messages, and do my work… none of which was available offline. It really goes to show just how connected we all are… especially myself.
I don’t know that I’d do a digital fast again — mostly because it made my job so much harder than it needed to be and really put me behind — but it really did make me think about my digital consumption and how much time I spend online and staring at screens. That realization is rather staggering, and really got me thinking.
I think tonight I’ll skip the interwebs and read a book.
As some of you already know, I’ve got HUGE news on the band front. One of our songs will play ON AIR this Saturday night, between 8pm and 9pm on 90.5 WASU and streaming online at www.wasurocks.com! I can’t even describe just how stoked we are. Just, wow.
And to make things even better, a few days ago a college station in Georgia (WUOG, broadcast from the campus of UGA, Athens) contacted us to let us know that a fan had submitted our music and they had played it on air! It was a huge hit, and they want to play more in the future — even asking us if we’d be willing to play shows down in GA.
I think I might explode from excitement!