Webcomics Roundup: Q2 Miscellany

I have (as always) been inconsistent lately about my monthly webcomics articles. Not a lot of new ones have grabbed my attention lately, though. Comic Chameleon, which I reviewed on Sunday, is about the only new notable event in the webcomics world that I know of. But I do have several items that seem worth mentioning, even if they aren’t strictly new. Here is a quick list of webcomics miscellany.

(And yes, I did time these articles so that this one could refer to the just-reviewed Comic Chameleon, but they would each count as a different month’s webcomic article. Not that anyone cares but me, I’m sure. You don’t write for an amateur blog in 2013 without being a little bit obsessive, though.)

The MeekI’m currently just finishing my trawl through The Meek by Dershing Helmer. (NSFW, due to non-sexual nudity.) It’s a slow-building epic that was obviously planned thoroughly in advance. Webcomics don’t usually feel the same as a physical graphic novel to me, but this one’s natural, fluid figure drawing and smooth action between panels make it come very close. (If I didn’t keep getting distracted by the news posts on each page, it probably would work. Almost every single one is an apology for how late the update is or a note about when the next one will be, but years later the discussion about the comics’ posting schedule is still interrupting the pacing. The good and bad aspects of author updates are a topic for another time, though.) The characters sometimes feel a little simple and exaggerated, but they certainly aren’t standard cookie-cutter webcomics characters either. And the plot plays them off against each other well.

I hope I get to find out where it’s taking them, though. The most recent update was last November, with a note about how hard it’s been to stay committed to the comic. I know that Helmer is still doing comics work, since I found her comic from Steve LeCouilliard’s recommendation back in March. Time will tell whether The Meek is going to be just another half-finished tale on the internet, or whether it will live up to its potential. I have high hopes, though.

Reptilis RexAnother comic I recently started reading is William Tallman’s Reptilis Rex. It’s a four-panel gag strip that tries to address prejudice in America. And while that may sound like an incompatible mix, it does a pretty good job. Sometimes one aspect does suffer for the sake of the other, but it’s still worth reading.

It’s interesting to consider the way it does this, though. Reptilis Rex is the story of underground lizardmen who have to seek shelter on the surface, but are treated like second-class citizens by humans. It’s a good allegory for any number of real-world issues. Except, disconcertingly, the Reptoids often live up to their stereotypes. One of the main characters is selfish and idiotic. The Reptoids were planning to enslave humanity before their civilization crumbled. The bigots who want to keep a Reptoid out of a human cemetery turn out to be right when we learn about Reptoid burial rituals. It’s necessary to the humor, but I sometimes wonder if it undercuts the point of the comic. Imaging a story filled with black characters who act like they were in an early 20th century minstrel show… except the point of the story is that everyone should be treated equally no matter what they’re like. Would that story be considered moral, or racist?

Overall, Reptilis Rex works because it uses unrealistic fantasy characters instead of real ones. They can make a point that’s exaggerated far beyond what realistic situations would allow, and it (usually) allows the humor and the message to co-exist.

Though I said above that I hadn’t seen any new comics of note lately, there is one: Oh Joy, Sex Toy. I’m not sure how to cover it, though, because while I’m not afraid of obscenity on this blog, I have drawn the line at outright porn. This is a rare resource, though: Helpful, sex-positive reviews and advice from the supremely talented Erika Moen. It seems wrong not to mention it at all. So consider this to be my sort-of-discussing-it entry 🙂

I also recently found the Crime Webcomics Directory, a collection of links about a specific genre that’s under-represented in the webcomics world. I like crime comics, but I still expected this to be a list of mostly mediocre works collected more for their theme than their quality. From the ones I’ve checked out so far, though, I’m pretty impressed with them. I haven’t had time to look into them all in detail yet, but I might have to follow up later with some specific recommendations pulled from this site.

Finally, despite my recent disappoint with Comic Chameleon, I’m still really hoping to see new ways for webcomics creators to earn money. I recently ran into Patreon, and I’m excited about its potential. The idea is that Kickstarter and other crowd-funding sites are based around backing specific projects, but sometimes people just need patronage for their ongoing works. Patreon will take pledges from people to automatically give money every time a new work (song, comics page, etc) is created, with the ability for the artist to offer special reward tiers, and protections to keep someone from suddenly “creating” super-fast to cash in on people’s pledges.

Patreon fills a hole that no other service I know of can address. There are some comics that have their own subscription/donation services, usually through PayPal, but they usually aren’t very successful. Each site has its own system, and there is a psychological barrier to signing up. I intend to donate money, but I’m not very consistent. Kickstarter has broken that psychological barrier for crowd-funding campaigns now, so if something like Patreon could add a legitimacy and ease of use to get people supporting webcomics, it would be a huge deal.

Right now, Patreon is new and untested. There are only a few people using it, and mainly only for music, so it definitely hasn’t gained popular acceptance yet. Also, it looks like the minimum donation threshold is $1 per event, which seems too high for a webcomic. There are many that I’d happily give a few dollars per month to, which works out to ten or twenty cents per comic. But if comics with medium-sized audiences managed to get a few hundred people whose pledges totaled $50 or $100 per update, that would be a huge step up for them.

Patreon may or may not end up being the solution, but I hope something fills in this gap soon. We need a Kickstarter for ongoing patronage.

  1. December 7th, 2013

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