Digital Comics Part 1: People Make Comics on the Internet? You Don't Say!

Yes, our favorite art medium has made the jump, like its older siblings prose and visual art, from the two-dimensional paper/canvas to the two-dimensional screen and stands straddling the chasm between them.

Actually, it did it a long time ago. According to Wikipedia a few single-panel drawn-and-scanned cartoons first appeared on the early internet provider CopuServe in the mid-Eighties. They were followed by a few newspaper comics going online when their print existences were canceled.

[At right, the first "Argon Zark" web-strip by Charley Parker. The first true webcomic. June 1995. Believe it or not, it was still being updated as late as 2oo8!]

Real sequential art/designed-for-the-web comics first appeared in the mid-Nineties. Where were you? Pretty remarkable that the evolution from single-panel to multiple-panel mimics the birth of newspaper comic-strips and the parallel evolution from reprints or continuations to new material mimics the development of the comic-book. History repeats itself... as they say.

I was in the fourth grade in 1995, but there's really no excuse for taking as long as I did to start reading them. In 2oo6, in my sophomore year of college, something made me finally want to find a good webcomic. I cannot recall for the life of me what it was specifically but I do remember thinking: "Gee, a lot of my friends read webcomics. Print comics readers and non-readers alike. What am I missing?"


I loved it. I stayed up and in one night read almost half of the then six-year-old archive. The characters are exaggerated without being caricatures and the situations are hilarious without necessarily being ridiculous. Indeed, the relationship between Clango and Maura could be seen as very forward thinking... You know, symbolically. Or like, for the future of advanced robotics.

The best one-stop-shop for webcomics is unquestionably Act-I-Vate.com. Home of the stories of Act-I-Vate's unofficial ringmaster Dean Haspiel and the ongoing adventures of his existential explorer/lover/brute Billy Dogma. Not to mention the work of one I've sung the praises of on this site before: Mike Cavallaro. Plus the brilliant Xeric Award winnng Jason Little and way more amazing comicsmths than I have space to list here!

Somewhere along the way, some brilliant and wonderful person or persons steered my ship into the harbor that is xkcd.com

"xkcd" is, in my humble opinion, the best webcomic on the net for one reason: It consistently does so much with so little!


Brilliance. Brilliance. Brilliance.

Sciency, romantic, hilarious brilliance.

Another comic I soon discovered and loved was "life with leslie" by Les McClaine. If all these robots and absurdist humor has you thinking the web has no comics of logical integrity or realism, well... that's because a lot of them don't. But it doesn't mean there aren't ones out there that do. "life with leslie" (available on EvilSpaceRobot.com, although sadly no longer updated because its creator has moved on to other work) is largely made-up of little celebrations of the simple moments of everyday life. Often done excellently!

There are probably literally millions of comics online. Most of them for free. All of them available from any computer, phone, or magical futuristic device with internet capabilities. (More on this in part two!)

Today, I actually make a webcomic myself, updated monthly at my site The ComicSmithy!

But I just recently took a different plunge. I connected several webcomics' RSS feeds ("Diesel Sweeties" and "XKCD" among them) to my Google reader account. So help me, I'm following these webcomics as they are updated in the same way I watch the solicits and visit my comic shop regularly. I have made the leap and stand with one foot in each world. Two worlds that are now far closer than they once were when the first sequential art was uploaded to the web more than twenty years ago.
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If the gods of time management smile upon us, part two should arrive in your longboxes tomorrow.

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