So. On tomorrow's 'Drawn Out' segment, 9.15 - 9.30am, as part of Richard Watts' weekly love letter to the arts in Melbourne, 'Smartarts' (9am - 12pm every Thursday morning on 3RRR, 102.7 on your FM dial), he and I are going to talk about web comics, about which I know nothing.
Should be interesting.
(I would like at this point to credit my web comics fingerposts, Liam Routt, Adrian Regan and John Retallick, for at least pushing me towards a computer and assuring me that yes, there are comics in that thing. No, you don't have to turn the pages. And very importantly, no, you don't buy them. You just type and click and read...)
First up: Top Shelf 2.0 is the online arm of the well-built body that is Top Shelf Comics in the US, paper comic book (real? physical? what to call that good ol' content delivery system?) publishers of works by great favourites of mine, Alan Moore ( 'From Hell', 'Lost Girls' and Eddie Campbell (the upcoming omnibus of his autobiographical stories, 'The Years have Pants', 'From Hell'), among many many others. Whoo! 2.0! It's digital! It's amazing! You get a great long list of comic book makers, among them some great Australian comic bookers (the Bens Constantine and Hutchings, Jessica McLeod, Edward J Grug III), in the company of some well-regarded alternative North American talents such as Dean Haspiel, David Chelsea, Alex Robinson, Dash (rising star) Shaw and clearly a raft of folks who I've never heard of but can cartoon like deamons. Including, incidentally, the great, no, really, the GREAT Glenn Dakin, 'the demon catoonist'. Recommended.
Of course, the other great thing about web comics is the leaping from lilypad to lilypad... you know, the whole intremenet thing. The whole 'Gen XYZ' concentration-span-of-a-gnat thing. So you should check out James Kochalka's American Elf because it's beautiful and it's short, a daily strip of at most 4 panels, little observational autobiographical moments.
Then, following other recommendations, you stop for a little bit at various recommended sites before realising that they're not for you but then you see something out of the corner of the page, something called Papercuts and suddenly you're in the beautifully realised worlds by Michael Cho, who's having a bit of time off while his wife has their baby but in the meantime you can look at his great singlepage 'Smoking' and his ongoing 'Waiting'. If the name David Mazzucelli means anything to you, then I'll say it. David Mazzuchelli. Interested now, aren't you?
Finally, although of course NOT finally because this web comic universe is immense, but you really should go to Trudy Cooper and Danny Murphy's Platinum Grit, a sexy girl/genius nerd story which was brilliant as a paper comic in the 90s and is even brillianter as a web thing in the 00s. And a really elegant solution to the 'comics on the web' presentation problem too...
Finally, this Saturday May 23 you can go to the State Library of Victoria and meet a comic book in person! Shane McCarthy is a comic book writer from Perth who has written for Batman, Daredevil, Star Wars and currently Transformers. Well, he's in Melbourne for the Emerging Writers' Festival and if you go to the website you can organise to meet him (he's going to be a "living book" at the library) and chat about how one writes these sort of comics. Or, about what Optimus Prime has for breakfast.