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When Warren Ellis closes a door, he opens a window.
June 17, 2011 7:59 AM   Subscribe

The three-year run of FreakAngels, Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield's steampunk webcomic, will come to an end in late July. FreakAngels was (to my knowledge) the first ongoing webcomic by an established comic-book creator, and if his experiment with free online publishing is almost over, it seems to have been a successful one - Duffield's announcement of FreakAngels' impending conclusion mentions that "Warren and Avatar Press have more webcomics lined up for you." Earlier this week, Chris Sims asked why comics publishers aren't using the webcomic format to draw in new readers. Could Avatar's online expansion be the beginning of that movement? Previously.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish (30 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I tried following FreakAngels, but it just seemed really lazily put together art-wise. The whole thing with the black character turning into a super-powered white character was also weird to me, but it's been ages since I can remember what events specifically turned me off on that past the general whitewashing.

Also it's not steampunk in the slightest, geez. Post-apocalyptic.
posted by flatluigi at 8:05 AM on June 17, 2011


Yeah, I've been so used to mentally slotting it as "steampunk" because of how it began (steamcopter! steam-gatling-gun!) that I didn't think to revise that part until after I hit post.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:08 AM on June 17, 2011


I honestly think FreakAngels is some of the best writing that Warren Ellis has done in ages. The characters had far more nuances than your average Ellis "polemic with legs", and look there-someone did a typical Ellis-style witty insult, amd the target burst into tears! Woah! Actual consequences! Our little Warren is growing up!
posted by happyroach at 8:16 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've read FreakAngels from day one, hoping upon hope that something...anything...of any consequence would happen. Knowing that it will end in a few weeks (which will almost certainly include at least two more "skip weeks"...something that has become almost a trademark for the strip) leaves me thinking "And it's about time."

I really, really, really, wanted to like the strip. And, as I said, I kept reading it...hoping...because, on the surface, it has so damn much potential. But, it's just gone nowhere, save for a lot of navel-gazing dialogue. You could very easily condense the events of the three-year run into a solid couple of months that would be pretty satisfying for such a short run. But, when stretched over a three-year period? It's a lot like watching grass grow.

In the end, I get the feeling the whole run was created to sell FA-logo'ed messenger bags and tshirts.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:16 AM on June 17, 2011


flatluigi: "The whole thing with the black character turning into a super-powered white character was also weird to me, but it's been ages since I can remember what events specifically turned me off on that past the general whitewashing."

This happened in FreakAngels? I admit it might have slipped by me, but I can't remember this at all. Also, the characters were born with their superpowers, so that makes it seem even weirder.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:28 AM on June 17, 2011


The whole thing with the black character turning into a super-powered white character was also weird to me...

What are you talking about?

Freak Angels has turned out quite nice and I've fallen in love with Duffield's art. He's got a beautiful and sure line and the addition of textures to it is one of the most successful I've seen. The writing has been Ellis in good form.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:34 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


From the Chris Sims article:
According to ICV2's sales charts, the top-selling comic for May (Fear Itself #1) sold just under 130,000 copies, which, for today's monthly singles market, is an unqualified success. Meanwhile, Penny Arcade is getting two million hits per day.

Obviously, those are two hugely different comics. They're in different formats and they appeal to different audiences, with Penny Arcade aimed at the video game market rather than the super-hero market (such as it is). But the most crucial difference is that Penny Arcade is free. You can click that link above and go peruse the entire thing from beginning to end and it won't cost you a cent. But while it costs you nothing to read that comic, it's turned out to be a pretty profitable enterprise for its creators, to the point where it's allowed them to not only make it their full-time job, but create a sprawling media empire involving the creation of charities and huge conventions.
That pretty much points out the problem right there. To get a monthly comic book out is expensive, especially for one or two man shop, like 1K. However a web comic is unbelievably cheap, especially just to get started, like $10 a month. In a lot of ways the are two different markets.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:43 AM on June 17, 2011


Previously on Metafilter, including a bonus argument about whether 'amnesiac slut' is the best description for the character of KK. Fun times!

Been following Freakangels since the start and I'm looking forward to the conclusion, if only to see what the whole thing has been leading up to. It's been fantastic visual world-building, but, as noted above, largely in the service of lots and lots and lots of character introspection. Let's hope the payoff is worth it.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:42 AM on June 17, 2011


... including a bonus argument about whether 'amnesiac slut' is the best description for the character of KK. Fun times!

Oh klang. Where we really that young, foolish and sober?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:46 AM on June 17, 2011


(to my knowledge) the first ongoing webcomic by an established comic-book creator

Girl Genius moved from print to webcomic in 2005.
posted by fings at 10:06 AM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


The whole thing with the black character turning into a super-powered white character was also weird to me...

What are you talking about?


All the kids were born looking fairly similar, with light skin and dark hair and purple eyes - even the black chick and the asian chick. Which means that they simultaneously have a 'multi-ethnic' crew, and an all-white team of superfriends. It was a little odd, and as of yet completely unexplained.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:23 AM on June 17, 2011


Honestly, that didn't bother so much as there was only one black character and that was just minor quibble, a pet peeve of mine.

I've read a lot of Ellis over the years. One of the last things I'd call his stuff is racist.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:52 AM on June 17, 2011


It's a riff on The Midwich Cuckoos (better known in the US as Village of the Damned). Lots of kids born at once with weird eyes, dark hair and really pale skin (and psychic superpowers), no matter what their parents looked like.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:54 AM on June 17, 2011


I love transmet to death, and would like to read it again, and again, and again, and again. I suppose I should have just done that.

Freak Angees meandered, and I found it kind of uninteresting. Too much dialogue, wasted panels, and a story that was unsurprising and didn't go much of anywhere. it just felt hollow. I keep trying to blame the web format, but that may or may not be fair, I don't know enough about comic production to compare this method to the classic style.

All in all, quite disappointing.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:57 AM on June 17, 2011


I get the impression that the white-ish appearance of the non-white characters is due to the FreakAngels "package." I'm not terribly shocked that there is one black character in a small-ishly populated area of England, though.

I continue to find the comic interesting, for what that's worth.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:32 AM on June 17, 2011


It's a riff on The Midwich Cuckoos (better known in the US as Village of the Damned). Lots of kids born at once with weird eyes, dark hair and really pale skin (and psychic superpowers), no matter what their parents looked like.

Oh yeah, I got that, I'm just saying that there's no explanation in the FA storyline as to why exactly that happened - it just did.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:35 AM on June 17, 2011


It's funny, I do a traditionally formatted Super-Spy/Hero webcomic called Spy6teen-- Since I am NOT Warren Ellis, it's a tough road for me-- The Print comic audience looks down its nose at me, and the webcomic world aren't fans because I don't run a "gag-a-day"--
(I know this b/c everytime I post on Reddit's Webcomics section, I get downvoted to hell)

If Marvel or DC were to jump into the fray, it might help a guy like me develop my audience-- who is basically an indie comic creator lacking the funds to go print.
posted by Ct314 at 12:15 PM on June 17, 2011


I have to say, meh.

They spent a lot of time spinning wheels in order to accomplish nothing. Most of the characters are more or less interchangeable imho and it suffers from a bit of what I dub Warren Ellis laziness.

I grew frustrated with Transmet because Spider Jerusalem was such an obvious Mary Sue whose job it was to go around ranting about things Warren Ellis disliked in a futuristic world that somehow ignored all of the cyberpunk stuff that came before.

Imho, FreakAngles can't hold a candle to the story telling happening right now with Vattu or Gunnerkrigg Court or Sam and Fuzzy or the exasperatingly epic forementioned Girl Genius.
posted by pmv at 12:38 PM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have to say, meh.

But that's the cool part, you didn't have to pay to discover that it was "meh".
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:17 PM on June 17, 2011


I completely forgot about this comic years ago. I'm reading through it now, and all I have to say is: "Holy shit, you guys are really pushing these messenger bags, huh?".
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 1:52 PM on June 17, 2011


I've read Freakangels since the beginning, and whlie the awesome bits have been thoroughly awesome, of late it has been a dialog-fest of epic proportions. A CONVERSATION that has taken weeks and weeks, interspersed with "skip weeks."

(Maybe he/they should have taken the Alan Moore approach and alternated comics with word-only bits? It says something about my feelings for the story's first couple of years that I've kept at it. I *do* want to see what happens next, and how it ends.)

However, I am also curious to see how all that TALKING would have played in the print versions and have contemplated obtaining those to see what reading it in a few sittings instead of stretched over three years would be like. Maybe the FA pow-wow wouldn't have been so tedious in one chunk rather than stretched over weeks?
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:14 PM on June 17, 2011


Oh. My. God.

posted by Celsius1414 at 14:14

I swear I didn't plan that.

Williams Ellis is standing right behind me now with a machete, isn't he?
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:16 PM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Williams Ellis

I'm fucked.
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:16 PM on June 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm a big Warren Ellis fan, but I don't think I read more than the first couple months of FreakAngels, and in retrospect I think a big part of that was the fact that it's called "FreakAngels." There's nothing about that title I don't hate with such distracting intensity that it overwhelms everything else about the comic for me.

Props to Ellis and Duffield for their success, though. I'll just be over here, waiting for the next issue of FELL.
posted by Zozo at 3:25 PM on June 17, 2011


I've followed FA since the start and found it really entertaining, but not something I would get crazy about and read in one sitting. It's more like a soap opera. I have found the whole 'what do we do with power that we have' discussion interesting, even if it has been a loooong time going.
posted by pupdog at 4:12 PM on June 17, 2011


I never consistently read it online, but I did buy it because I saw it free online and read a couple.

I prefer books. I think I am the market they wanted to sell their books to.
posted by joelf at 4:48 PM on June 17, 2011


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish, I've found that the process is the reverse of what Chris Sim is talking about; usually it's a case of the webcomic eventually garnering enough of an audience to put out paper editions. I've seen this process recently with Accursed Dragon, Digger, Anathema, Fey Winds, Juathur, Dead Winter, The Phoenix Requiem, and The Meek. To name a few.

I think the problem with Marvel and DC is the same problem that's been dogging them for decades- they're large media companies that are stuck in a rut. I really don't think that current Marvel and DC could adapt the writer-controlled, small creative group model that webcomics use, especially for their established characters, where it takes a round table of editors to decide on anything. I don't think DC and Marvel could handle the intimate contact with fan feedback either- hell, when was the last time a comic had a letters page?


Ct314, I've been following Spy6teen, and my advice is to ignore Reddit, they're a bunch of haters. Ignore Metafilter too, for the same reason. A better place to go would be the top webcomic list, Something Awful (though they liked Anders Loves Maria for some godawful reason), and thewebcomiclist.

Spy6teen is definitely not going to attract the gag-a-day fans, but that's OK, there's a lot of room for a wide range of diversity and quirkyness. The key is simply getting your name out to a large enough audience. And that takes time. Time and effort. Time and effort and regular comics, and a fanatical devotion to the Pope..*ahem* well anyway, keep at it.
posted by happyroach at 5:20 PM on June 17, 2011


Williams Ellis

On the plus side I don't think Warren Ellis has been confused with an eccentric architect before.
posted by Grangousier at 7:05 PM on June 17, 2011


Williams Ellis is standing right behind me now with a machete, isn't he?

That's not a machete, it's a bowel disruptor. You poor bastard.
posted by homunculus at 8:47 PM on June 17, 2011


happyroach Thanks so much for following us! And when I say thanks, believe me, I (and the rest of the team) really mean it.

Yeah, the rate of return on Reddit (and MeFi, for that matter) is fairly low-- but since I'm a fan of both sites, I just can't help but plug-- mainly because if even 1/100th of the readership swings by, at least I know they're "my" people.

I've done some work w/ Top Webcomic List-- actually, our best month was when I ran a paid ad on that site. Traffic spiked through the roof. I've been meaning to revisit that ad placement.
I'll have to check out Something Awful at some point-- I've always been a little wary of those guys- probably need to spend some time lurking there.

...the pope, you say? hmmmm...All this time I've been negotiating with the other guy-- might have to look into this Pope character...

Again, thanks very much for swinging by!
posted by Ct314 at 12:17 PM on June 18, 2011


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