Le Funny Pages

Memo to self: for a glimpse at the likely future Web publishing, learn more about is and has been happening with Web comics. I’ve been collecting odds and ends on this topic, including this lovely entry from Paid Content that bounced off a BoingBoing post about the French Web site and community, Gnomz, that now has an English-language offshoot where people can sign in, turn on their creativity, and –toon out. There is sooooo much comic activity in the cyber realm that a dilettante like moi needs roadmaps like Yahoo’s directory page to point the way. Even my tourist-like stumblings disclosed a nascent trade organization, the International Comic Arts Association. But is it the only or the first such group, or did it rise out of the composted detritus of a struggle amongst competing factions of comic-dom that annihilated each other in pointless and bitter internecine conflict? I don’t know. What I do know, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say I suspect, is that Web comics are electronic heirs to those trailblazers of niche culture, the print Zines that flourished (still flourished?) in the recent past when the copier and fax machine were state-of-the-art in distribution. I know even more certainly, because my eyes do not deceive me, that comic sites are visually powerful and organized in ways that can teach us things about Web design and layout. Take, for instance, Broken Frontier, a comic portal which I visited to learn a little more about Mike Bullock, who wrote about the comic trade organization referenced above. I think Web comics may exemplify what Internet publishing seems to be about: short, sharp, powerful bursts of whatever form of communication is chosen to convey the point, arouse the emotion, or elicit the desired reaction. Web comics may be a lowest common denominator art media form without necessarily being lowbrow. When I was a Navy sailor in the Philippines nearly 30 years ago, I saw comic novels published in Tagalog. More recently I see them being read in Spanish on the sidewalks of metropolitan San Francisco. To find evidence of comic popularity I need look no further than my living room couch, where my sons love to read book-form collections of strips like Boondocks. Hell, I’ve been known to pick up the Cartoon Guide to Genetics or Physics or for a quick brain dump on genes or quarks. I came across a review of a short tract called The Rise of the Graphic Novel. The review suggested the book was only a primer on the topic rather than the last word. And there’s a convenient closing note because the same is true for this post.

Tom Abate
Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media