February 2, 2006 1:03 PM PST

Digital rebirth for comic strips

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Also, much of the buzz for Web comics comes through grassroots fandom in the blogosphere. Asmussen's political strip, for example, gets a lot of play from blogs such as Wonkette.

"I'm still waiting for the ultimate combination of visual blog: blog, drawing, animation, music. Technology brings out new talents," said Asmussen.

But making a transition to animation isn't easy. Animated cartoons require cartoonists or their design partners to have knowledge of animation programs like Flash. They need music, voice overs and, even with computer technology, can be tedious and time-consuming to produce.

Lisa Klem Wilson, senior vice president general manager of United Media--which syndicates a selection of 50 comic strips to most U.S. newspapers--said she would like to see her company embrace animations, but they're very expensive. An animation running 30 to 60 seconds for the Web can cost between $2,000 to $8,000 to produce.

"Comic strips are a unique art form unto themselves," Wilson said. That said, she noted that the syndicate is "trying to launch stuff on our site that's edgier to attract a younger person. There's a struggle between being edgy and operating in the traditional newspaper space."

For animations, she said, the company is looking for partners to offset costs, and at some point, she believes, the format will be supported online by advertising and subscriptions. "There's a good future for the syndication business online because animation, e-mail, phone, PC, all of it makes it a bigger not smaller market."

Still, comic artists will likely have a more difficult time making money, Asmussen believes. Readers rarely pay for comics online, and creators will be hard pressed to attract enough readers for a hefty paycheck from advertisements or by selling related merchandise.

That's where OffPanel.com wants to help. The company was started by two Yahoo employees who write a comic strip in their spare time called "OK-Cancel." Kevin Cheng, who works in interaction design for Yahoo, first got noticed in the software blog community when he wrote a strip and essay for his masters' thesis on the OK-Cancel site.

Since then, he and partner Tom Chi have licensed their comic to textbooks and magazines and made their bread and butter through advertising. Now Offpanel is signing other niche artists--including a dinosaur specialist and a freelance writer--to deals that give writers 80 percent of the advertising profit.

"This could be the answer for a lot of talent out there that's never going to get a syndication deal, with newspapers in decline," said Bjordahl.

Like many comic writers, Bjordahl keeps a day job to pay the bills, but his first love is the comics. "It's amazing how much funny stuff happens when you're trying to put together software and technology." Bjordahl said. In fact, some people believe his college comic strip, "Where the Buffalo Roam," was among the first comics to be on the Internet.

"I felt like Forrest Gump."

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8 comments

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Cool article
There is a lot of truth to this article. I have 3 comics debuting in my pdf all digital magazine this month. <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.outcrymagazine.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.outcrymagazine.com</a>. All are extremely funny. I think the web is a great outlet for comic strips.
Posted by hadleydb (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Web Strips are Grrreat!
Web Comics are great and have been around for a while, my friend Lori turned me on to Sebastian Conley's "Seth Lives" which he created as an undergrad at Harvard ( <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.campusnut.com/comic.cfm" target="_newWindow">http://www.campusnut.com/comic.cfm</a> ). Having comics online also gives people living in different regions to get a sense of local humor. My local paper, the Seattle PI (home to David Horsey's political cartoons) and Seattle Times has also had web comics available:

* <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/comicsgames/" target="_newWindow">http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/comicsgames/</a>
*

Marvel also gives nice previews online to their graphic novels: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://marvel.com/" target="_newWindow">http://marvel.com/</a> . Their teasers got me back into buying some of the titles.
Posted by marileev (292 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Link to David Horsey
For got the link to Mr. David Horsey's Political Cartoons online: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/horsey/" target="_newWindow">http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/horsey/</a>
Posted by marileev (292 comments )
Link Flag
Two Things offhand
One - this would have been a good article to have appeared,
say, five years ago. Web publishing of comics is an accomplished
thing at this point (still evolving, of course, but an enormous
creative movement for some years now) and talking about the
transition from print to Web is tacit admission that you haven't
been paying attention.

Two - Animation is not the future of comics, comics is the future
of comics. Again, this point has already played out. The tools for
animating comics have been around for years and the ones that
want to animate have become animated, leaving thousands of
regular, old comics doing their thing and being comics. The
tools and publishing media may change, but writing and
drawing comics is its own art form and is not animation and is
not going to disappear in favor of something else. Again, this is
the kind of argument that is only made by someone who hasn't
been paying attention to the actual evolution of this form up to
this point. Adding a blog to a massively syndicated comic like
Dilbert, which has been available in print and online for years,
does not constitute any kind of shift or development in the art
form OR its distribution.

You want to know about webcomics? Read some webcomics.
Posted by CAllenH (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
old news . .
Yeah I agree. This story seems like old news to me. Are you sure this isn't supposed to be Feb 2005? or 2004?
Posted by vecctor (5 comments )
Link Flag
Webcomics are comics
I run Pixelstrips.com a webcomic community that hosts 20 comics
and has comic tutorials and articles. I see online comics as a
natural progression and tend not to refer to them as webcomics.
They are comics.

Comics online are a great way to get your work out there without
incurring printing costs and may lead to a print deal.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.pixelstrips.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.pixelstrips.com</a>
Posted by pixelstrips (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Nice Resource
I actually dated someone in Art School who was looking to start a strip with another grad. It is tricky translating the hand drawing to web to animation.

One of my faves animations is Angry Asian Girl - hits home...

* <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.pbs.org/searching/lela_battle.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.pbs.org/searching/lela_battle.html</a>
* <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.angrylittlegirls.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.angrylittlegirls.com/</a>
Posted by marileev (292 comments )
Link Flag
 

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