Webcomics Roundup for the End of 2013

It’s been a while, but I want to get one last webcomics post in for the year. True to my headline, this will be an unfocused roundup of topics.

First, I want to note that Joey Manley died unexpected earlier this month. I don’t usually write about people’s passings here, but this upset me enough that I considered devoting a post solely to him. Though he never became well-known, Manley was one of the most important people in webcomics when the community found its footing in the early 2000s. He founded Modern Tales and its sister sites, with an eye towards recognizing and fostering quality work as well as making sure that the creators got paid. Though his business model hasn’t survived (for the most part, the latest comics were free and the archives were available to subscribers), his work mentoring and encouraging individuals certainly has. His sites promoted many standouts from underground comix history (such as Howard Cruse and Tom Hart) side-by-side with the people who were going to become big (Hope Larson credits him with her decision to start making comics in the first place). Many of the best webcomics epics got their start (or at least a life-saving signal boost) through his sites, including Narbonic (whose world lives on in Skin Horse), Templar, Arizona, and Digger. Even the artists who were already established at that time were often helped out by Manley; John Allison began Scary-Go-Round as a project for Modern Tales. He soon took it off the site and retired Bobbins to make it his full-time project. Manley’s encouragement led Allison to make his first risky move, but both that one and his more recent switch to Bad Machinery were huge artistic steps for him.

My condolences to Manley’s family and friends, as well as the many colleagues whose lives he touched. He will be missed.

GoatsI have no new comics to talk about, but there is news from an old one: If you ever tried to read John Rosenberg’s Goats but were put off by the years of convoluted backstory, he is currently putting the comic through a sort of “re-release”. The site’s archives are gone, and he’s putting them back up at a rate of ten or twenty pages a week. It’s now starting at late 2003, which, if I recall correctly, was when the comic first switched to full color. It’s a good jumping-on point if you want a (relatively) gentle introduction to the setting and characters. Presumably, this all leads up to the promised new material that will come after last year’s Kickstarter.

It’s hard for me to judge this objectively, since I still remember enjoying it back then. The best webcomics today (including Rosenberg’s own) are better than they were a decade ago. But I’m enjoying the re-read, and making the first several years of the comic skippable was definitely the right decision. (I hope that they do make it back online at some point, though.)

I also thought it would be a good idea to look back at some of the webcomics that I’ve covered in the past. Once I mention them once, I usually never come back to say whether I was right or wrong to be optimistic about them.

Looking back at the recommendations I posted at the end of last year, the only disappointment is Kinokofry. It’s resurgence was wonderful, but short, and it’s now been almost a year since the last post. The rest of the comics I have covered have remained active, and very good:

JL8 is still a solid comic, though its Tumblr site makes it difficult for a new reader to go through the archives. Hopefully Yale Stewart brings this to a better format (whether online or in print) soon. In the meantime, the recent comics have short, easy to follow stories even if you haven’t been reading since the beginning. I don’t think they’re as powerful as the long storylines, but they’re still worthwhile.

Nimona remains great, and I’ve been pleased to see it receive some well-deserved recognition. I don’t know whether the story is nearing its end or not, but it recently got a lot more intense. I don’t care whether the theme and art style immediately appeal to you or not. You must read this.

Iothera turned out to be, well, a lot more pornographic than I expected when I first talked about it. It’s still a sweet, character-based story despite (or because of) that, so if that appeals to you, it’s still worthwhile.

Broodhollow is excellent. Kris Straub actually managed to pull off a horror story within the webcomic format, despite the single-page updates and drawn-out reading experience. The first story is completed, and the second one just began. This one is friendly to new readers, and does a good job of explaining everything without giving away any of the surprises from the first chapter. So you have two options, depending on the time you want to invest into it.

Going back farther, I had a 2011 post in which I wasn’t sure whether Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether would succeed. It has continued on, and managed a Kickstarter campaign to fund a hard copy of the first volume. The creators are professionals, and I assume that they would not be continuing if they weren’t making an acceptable profit off of it. I was not one of the people who bought the book. It’s decent (most of my initial skepticism is unfounded), but I’m currently a few months behind on it without much motivation to catch up. I’m sure I will, but it’s not the first time I’ve lost track of it for a while. (I still owe this site a review of Friends With Boys, the other comic that I talked about in that post. The site has turned into a short teaser for the physical book, so it’s not really a webcomic any more.)

For the most part, the comics I’ve recommended in the past have turned out to be good. I have to go back to earlier in 2011 to find a source of real disappointment. In this one, I pointed to Una the Blade, which has still published nothing but teasers over two years later. Steve LeCouilliard has since announced that a series of other artists will be working with him on it, and he still seems serious about it, but if there is even a release schedule, I’ve missed it. And Finnegan Strappe pretty much disappeared after funding its IndieGoGo campaign.

Neither of those are total losses – Una the Blade’s Tumblr is a great source of recommendations for other webcomic, and the Finnegan Strappe site actually says that it will be relaunching next week. Still, I think the moral is that webcomics that are underway tend to maintain their quality. Ones that make promises about the future rarely get off the ground. I’ll have to keep that in mind for the future.

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