oh my god i can see forever
February 11, 2013 3:21 PM   Subscribe

What happens to comics if newspapers go away? Garry Trudeau imagines a terrifying void. Webcomic artists think Garry Trudeau is silly. But if you, too, fear the vast abyss of a world without newspaper funnies, and lack the patience to search for all the treasures of the webcomic world, what you want is a comic that never ends. Pandyland and Mezzacotta each offer an infinite supply of three-panel comics, so that you'll never have to go without a brief moment's amusement. Sure, 99% of the comics you see might be crap, but there are gems amidst all the rubbish.
posted by Rory Marinich (101 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Those of you who prefer more "classic" web comics should know that both The Perry Bible Fellowship and A Lesson is Learned have been recently updated. They are neither Vast nor Infinite though.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:25 PM on February 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


Most newspaper comics are pretty horrible, so its a shame webcomic artists are targeting one of the few great ones.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:26 PM on February 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


What are you talking about Pandyland is 100% great .
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:27 PM on February 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I also came here to plug PBF. It's...THE BEST.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:28 PM on February 11, 2013


What happens? Short form comics get better. Much better than the lowest comon denominator dreck that infests newspapers (Trudeau's work excepted). We don't have to wait. It's already happened. Questionable Content, Something Positive, Diesel Sweeties, Girls With Slingshots, Scenes from a Multiverse and a hundred other great little comics that never would have seen the light of day on the pages of a newspaper flourish on the internet, and are IMO far, far superior to newspaper comics.

Most newspaper comics are pretty horrible, so its a shame webcomic artists are targeting one of the few great ones.

Trudeau fired the first shot - he essentially wrote off all of them. So deserves the gentle ribbing that he's getting.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:28 PM on February 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


Does anyone remember stripcreator?
posted by infinitewindow at 3:31 PM on February 11, 2013


This series of panels has some cool dialogue.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:31 PM on February 11, 2013


Shit's about to get real.

And yes, webcomics are incredibly diverse and frequently brilliant.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:32 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The only webcomic I read these days is Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:35 PM on February 11, 2013


Daddy, what's a "newspaper"?
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:37 PM on February 11, 2013


Woah! That escalated quickly.
posted by Splunge at 3:40 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just met you...
posted by bbuda at 3:41 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh the shame!

Something incredible.
posted by sixohsix at 3:43 PM on February 11, 2013


This wouldn't fly in most papers.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:45 PM on February 11, 2013


See, I read that Doonesbury comic, and then went back a few to this one, and my opinion is...

...that Trudeau did it to take the piss out of his contemporaries who are bitching about webcomics. That one starts with a small poke at comics who claim to be changing to newer/younger characters and never do, then a poke at topicality in comics, and then the webcomics/print comics divide.

And thus some people took the bait and got outraged as heck.
posted by mephron at 3:46 PM on February 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


Mental Wimp: "Daddy, what's a "newspaper"?"

That's what we used to clean our pot on when there were no double albums around.

Pot used to have seeds. An album was a vinyl disk that you put on your turntable to listen to music. A turntable was...

Go ask your mother.
posted by Splunge at 3:47 PM on February 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's Mario Time, everybody.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:04 PM on February 11, 2013


Good thinking!
posted by sixohsix at 4:06 PM on February 11, 2013


I don't want to live in a world without Mary Worth's meddling.
posted by drezdn at 4:08 PM on February 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ouch. That's harsh, yo.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:09 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Apparently now isn't the time.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:13 PM on February 11, 2013


My biggest fear about the end of newspaper comics is that it might also mean the end of The Comics Curmudgeon. (Don't miss the comments there either; they're usually well worth reading too.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:14 PM on February 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


At bottom the misanthrope can never be happy
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:15 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pot used to have seeds.

I, too, remember the dark days before I moved to Colorado.
posted by brennen at 4:19 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


UNSPEAKABLE FILTH

Thanks for reminding me that Comics Curmudgeon exists! I was completely addicted to it 3-4 years ago, stopped reading at some point, and it inexplicably dropped off my radar.
posted by Sara C. at 4:25 PM on February 11, 2013


not just a aural assault
posted by dobi at 4:31 PM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Every instance of A Lesson is Learned is like a fever dream. It's amazing.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:39 PM on February 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


Stripcreator has been around for a while. Warnings apply. It can be a hive of scum and villany. As well there is some really funny stuff there. I used to post there as Splunge. And some of my stuff is horribly bad, nasty, misogynistic, scatological, etc. I'd rather you didn't read my comics, but if you do you have been warned. Need I add NSFW and NSFL? Well I guess I just did.

Seriously, people who have need of trigger warnings or who are just not into vile stuff might just ignore the link altogether.
posted by Splunge at 4:39 PM on February 11, 2013


The punchline is violence
posted by dismas at 4:40 PM on February 11, 2013


Hey, you know what Doonesbury has over Dresden Codak, as well as over an awful lot of its webcomic contemporaries? It can start and end a storyline in under a year and a half.

It can also respond quickly to current events, rather than putting out one or two strips a month at most. It can keep to a regular seven-day schedule, rather than appearing and disappearing with an author's whims or simply vanishing altogether while leaving people who've paid for merchandise holding the bag. It can reach an audience of millions without even trying, instead of scrabbling for page hits.

If you're going to reply with "Well, [webcomic x] is a completely different animal from a newspaper comic, and there are plenty of good and terrible examples of each"... that's the point. It IS an apples-to-oranges comparison. There's also a reason why there are only a handful of examples of each that get remembered.
posted by delfin at 4:41 PM on February 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


So what this little kerfuffle seems to show is that webcomic artists don't get jokes very well...which may perhaps not be the point they really wanted to foreground.
posted by yoink at 4:42 PM on February 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


a terrifying void
I literally have no idea whether or not any of the comics that I read are carried in any newspapers. Not a one.
posted by Flunkie at 4:46 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


"One thing that’s always made me a bit sad is how Internet presentation seems to devalue content. So much art, writing, and news is suddenly available to us that each piece seems nearly a throwaway, lost in the gullet of our now-insatiable appetite for information. Here in the future, everyone is famous for 15kb. Fifteen reTweets. Fifteen LOLs. Should I work fifteen hours on something that will take fifteen seconds to read?"
- Chris Onstad
posted by weewooweewoo at 4:51 PM on February 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


What, Chris, like a cookbook?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:54 PM on February 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


It can also respond quickly to current events, rather than putting out one or two strips a month at most.

Hey, Internet comic strips respond very quickly to current events. When a game is good, or bad, or indifferent, or EA says something, or Sony makes a blunder you can bet that Penny Arcade, PvP, VG Cats, and Ctrl Alt Delete will all have timely strips about it!

Actual important current events? No idea. Is there even a webcomic equivalent to Doonsbury?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:56 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, Scott Kurtz has usually acted petulantly and childish with regards to newspaper cartoonists, so here's a statement that was posted by David Stanford, part of Doonesbury's web team:

...I thought I’d share the following, which I posted on our site in response to the Blowback comments on the February 2nd strip:

Sometimes things really are what they seem. I checked with the home office, and the strip is nothing more than a simple gag about the state of newspapers. It was intended for the readers of the 1,100 daily and Sunday print editions that publish the strip. While understandably sentimental about his roots in print media, GBT was an enthusiastic, early adapter to digital platforms, creating three different CD-ROMS (1995), a web-based motion-capture video project (Duke2000), a milblog (2006), e-book editions of his anthologies, and of course, this website, launched in 1995, long before most webcomics were created. He first wrote about the social impact of computers, a favorite topic, in 1972.

posted by ShawnStruck at 5:02 PM on February 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


I can't stop laughing at this Pandyland comic.
posted by duffell at 5:06 PM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh god, random Pandyland. I found it a few weeks ago I think and am not sure why I didn't post it myself. I think I got distracted by trying to work out how many source panels there were based on the stated number of possible combinations or something. It has me wanting to give Garkov a proper facelift.
posted by cortex at 5:13 PM on February 11, 2013


Once upon a time, the last panel of a newspaper comic contained a subtle code to tell you how funny the punch line was. If it was amusing, the straight man would be clapping his hand to his forehead. If it was quite amusing, he'd do the same and his derby hat would be flying up into the air. If it was a real thigh-slapper, he'd actually fly backward out of the panel and land with an onomotopoeic "PLOP", and only his feet would still protrude into the frame.

Newspaper comics actually died the day they stopped doing this.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:19 PM on February 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


Actual important current events? No idea. Is there even a webcomic equivalent to Doonsbury?


Sort of. Several of the cartoonists for Daily Kos have a more webcomic-like style, a few are more traditional editorial cartoons.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 5:24 PM on February 11, 2013


The thing is, since there are so many webcomics, you're much more likely to find one that strikes you as being perfect. Part of it is that there's so much more diversity, you're likely to find one that matches your own quirks more precisely.

But another part of it is that newspaper comics are just so milquetoast. It seems like they strive to appeal to the broadest audience possible and it's just so bland. And maybe in addition they rarely ever try for anything clever, the jokes are usually so obvious.

Like the joke in the Doonesbury comic - even if was meant 'ironically', it's just not that funny. And this one someone linked too isn't very funny either. Like, I get the joke, but the joke is just so obvious.
posted by delmoi at 5:46 PM on February 11, 2013


Has Garry Trudeau looked at the comic section of a newspaper lately?
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:49 PM on February 11, 2013


Is Doonesbury supposed to be funny?

I mean, I remember whenever I tried to read it as a kid, I'd always end up just staring at it blankly and assuming my lack of amusement was due to the fact that I didn't get the grownup references.

But now, understanding all the references full well, I still end up staring at it blankly.

So, uh, is it?

Actual important current events? No idea. Is there even a webcomic equivalent to Doonsbury?

Does it count if it's funny? 'Cause there was Get Your War On during the Bush II era.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:49 PM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


The first comic in that Daily Kos link, This Modern World, used to run in my local alt-weekly as a kid.

But another part of it is that newspaper comics are just so milquetoast. It seems like they strive to appeal to the broadest audience possible and it's just so bland. And maybe in addition they rarely ever try for anything clever, the jokes are usually so obvious.

Like the joke in the Doonesbury comic - even if was meant 'ironically', it's just not that funny. And this one someone linked too isn't very funny either. Like, I get the joke, but the joke is just so obvious.


I read the Comics Curmudgeon, and I get what you're saying. But there's a reason Doonesbury never shows up on that site. You can't tar such a detailed, sharply satirical strip with the same brush you tar Mary Worth or The Lockhorns. As the banned abortion cartoon proves, Trudeau is still beating younger guys like Tom Tomorrow at their own game.

'Course, some people probably think of it as 'that webcomic on Slate'.

I learned about Watergate from an old Doonesbury collection.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:55 PM on February 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Let's do something crazy
posted by ardgedee at 5:59 PM on February 11, 2013


I also came here to plug PBF. It's...THE BEST.

I dunno, it could use more Schlorbians.
posted by A dead Quaker at 6:00 PM on February 11, 2013


I've been working on a new website all about comics, cartoons and other "fun" arts, and when I saw the original Doonesbury comic in question, I got the fact that this was two of the strips oldest characters speaking to newspaper readers ... unfortunately, I read it online, so it came across very differently. Anyway, I stopped working on designing the new site, brought up my less-than-photoshop graphic software, and set to work filling in the empty space with SOME of my favorite webcomics... I had to quit at 26 comics in a 1000 X 1200 pixel space, but here it is...

THE DOONESBURY CHALLENGE

It must be noted that several webcomic creators and fans beat me to the punch and made it a meme (using only enough to fill the original space) long before I finished my effort (which won't really be 'published' until the site is ready).
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:12 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


And it MUST be noted that most newspaper comics (that are not editorial cartoons) have a 6-to-8-week lead time to submit their strips to the syndicate before they are published. (Doonesbury is a rare case that pressured its syndicate to cut it down to two weeks) And many webcomickers finish their daily strip after midnght of the day it's due and immediately upload it. So webcomics have the clear advantage for topical timeliness, but it's not often used, and more often for 'pop-culture' news (the webcomics' reaction when Star Wars was sold to Disney was massive and immefiate).

But sometimes it gets newsworthy...
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:32 PM on February 11, 2013


The Game
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:38 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


ACK!!
posted by unliteral at 6:40 PM on February 11, 2013


The webcomic response would be more cutting if so many webcomics weren't so bad.

The majority of print comics are pretty lousy (save for a handful) but the openness of the webcomic platform and the sheer magnitude of people writing and drawing them means that there are going to be proportionally fewer truly good ones compared to the vast, overwhelming torrent of nonsense.

Also, as was pointed out above me, the nature of the Internet means that webcomic creators aren't beholden to deadlines, which means you get week or month-long hiatuses or filler art days that would be unacceptable in a more regimented form. I remember kind of enjoying Megatokyo until the artist completely went off the deep end with this (also it became total Mary Sue wish-fulfillment idiocy and I graduated high school so I was sort of destined not to enjoy it anymore). Sure, you get some really clever, dedicated folks who make great use of the form (insert your favorite here) but so much of what's out there is mediocre at best and pandering dreck at worst.

Still, just like with print, the great ones are really great, and worth holding onto. But that doesn't make the medium inherently better or for most people (particularly the newspaper readers Trudeau was semi-sarcastically speaking to) worth seeking out.
posted by HostBryan at 6:40 PM on February 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


So the problem with webcomics are that they are terrible and in such small portions?

I liked commenting better when it was just letters to the editor too.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:44 PM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I remember kind of enjoying Megatokyo until the artist completely went off the deep end with this

Urgh. Megatokyo. What an incredible waste of the audience's and the artist's time.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:47 PM on February 11, 2013


Urgh. Megatokyo. What an incredible waste of the audience's and the artist's time.

Did it ever get as bad as Sluggy Freelance?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:48 PM on February 11, 2013


oh god why did you remind me
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:48 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel like nobody ever mentions Sinfest in these webcomic threads, so I figured I'd do it.
posted by davejay at 6:49 PM on February 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sinfest is pretty great. I remember liking it a lot when I first saw it way back when, and every time I've checked in since it's been enjoyable and well-drawn.
posted by HostBryan at 6:51 PM on February 11, 2013


I loved the varying bylines in that strip.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:56 PM on February 11, 2013


If you like Perry Bibble Fellowship then you'll like Truck Bearing Kibble, btw.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:57 PM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


What happens to comics if newspapers go away?

if? What is this if?

Complaining that a lot of webcomics are bad is misunderstanding the internet.
posted by Bovine Love at 7:04 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Someone should mention that webcomics are more environmentally responsible. Down with the dead tree version and all that.
posted by Michele in California at 7:47 PM on February 11, 2013


The webcomic response would be more cutting if so many webcomics weren't so bad.

The majority of print comics are pretty lousy (save for a handful) but the openness of the webcomic platform and the sheer magnitude of people writing and drawing them means that there are going to be proportionally fewer truly good ones compared to the vast, overwhelming torrent of nonsense.


The vast majority of everything is shit.
posted by empath at 7:47 PM on February 11, 2013


empath - I knew there was a name for that, I couldn't remember what it was.
posted by HostBryan at 7:48 PM on February 11, 2013


Get Your War On and This Modern World helped me cement my progressive politics at a time where I knew Bush was gonna win and suck from the moment I heard he was "building a war chest" but had no idea how far the suck could go. One TMW strip addressed the privatization of social security and ended with the simple punchline "just don't retire during a recession" and got the last vestiges of fiscal libertarianism out of my system. Wasn't enough to get me to start voting in what used to be a swing state (CO) until 2004 when the shit was really piling high.
posted by lordaych at 7:55 PM on February 11, 2013


But it did help me decide that I liked Nader, and to hell with Browne. I was 20, and never read Doonesbury enough to "get it." Calvin and Hobbes turned me onto atheism and The Far Side shaped my sense of humor forevermore.
posted by lordaych at 7:58 PM on February 11, 2013


Buttersafe is my favorite still-updating-regularly webcomic. At its worst it is still silly and playful, and at its best it is sub-fucking-lime. It's short enough that you can read through the archives in an hour or two; I highly recommend doing that.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:59 PM on February 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


So that's where "I am not a clever man" comes from.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:14 PM on February 11, 2013


and this is just adorable
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:22 PM on February 11, 2013


Still, just like with print, the great ones are really great, and worth holding onto. But that doesn't make the medium inherently better or for most people (particularly the newspaper readers Trudeau was semi-sarcastically speaking to) worth seeking out.

I would contend that that the best web comics are better than the best newspaper print comics, unbeholden as they are to restrictions on space, time and content. In that context, the internet is a far, far better medium than print.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:25 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks, Rory. This is the funniest comic I have seen in some time.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:28 PM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would contend that that the best web comics are better than the best newspaper print comics, unbeholden as they are to restrictions on space, time and content. In that context, the internet is a far, far better medium than print.

I don't disagree, really, and maybe "medium" was a poor word choice in my initial comment. The newspaper has been a terrible medium for comics for years (just ask Bill Watterson). The limitless space of the Internet to be as creative and free as one wants is a boon to comics creators and it's kind of a shame more of them don't take full advantage of it.

My point (and I think I did a terrible job of explaining it) is that there's this sort of better-than-thou attitude on the part of the webcomics community that simply by virtue of being on the Internet they are better and that is not the case (see Kurtz, Scott). Now, if you want to make the case, as you do, that the best web comics are better than the best newspaper comics because they are better-drawn, funnier, more complex, etc. then that is a better argument and one I am more inclined to agree with.

So yeah. Long story short, you're pretty much right.
posted by HostBryan at 9:05 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


oh god they've found me out
posted by ook at 9:07 PM on February 11, 2013


This one made me sad.

But this one made it better.
posted by davejay at 9:15 PM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here's a way to think about this optimistically:

I think there just might be a market for well-made print comics in the 21st century. Maybe even daily, or else just anthologies and retrospectives and such. In any case, I think there's not a snowball's chance in hell that the daily print newspaper is the medium that will deliver that product to that market.
posted by gompa at 10:12 PM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Do newspapers have a destiny? Nope.
posted by Tom-B at 10:25 PM on February 11, 2013


Tom-B: what the fuck is that thing
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:28 PM on February 11, 2013


I read some crappy Star Trek novel where one of the captains (Kirk or Picard) kept around paper books as a very expensive affectation. That's whats going to happen (its kinda already happening) and the same thing will happen to newspapers. The same people who buy vinyl and cassettes are going to read beautifully printed newspapers run out of some ancient printing press in Williamsburg. Hell it could be a successful Metafilter business.

I mean people still sell zines, and blogs exist.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:30 PM on February 11, 2013


One more comic nostalgia moment: I still remember asking what it means to "loathe life" after reading this Garfield strip as an 8 year-old...

And as for the aforementioned atheism, this and this were very influential, I had to look up what "atheist" meant at the time and the rest as they say, is my boring ass life.
posted by lordaych at 10:41 PM on February 11, 2013


I've done this before
posted by quazichimp at 11:05 PM on February 11, 2013


somehow the generator was useless to me after seeing this one, but in general, visiting pandyland was worth it for this alone -- shut the fuck up ted


spoilerish i guess- either the strip's not meant to be in sequence, or maybe ted made it!
posted by hap_hazard at 11:12 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe we can compromise. Newspapers can go online, and allocate one tiny web page for comics.
posted by happyroach at 11:18 PM on February 11, 2013


One more comic nostalgia moment: I still remember asking what it means to "loathe life" after reading this Garfield strip as an 8 year-old...

You're not alone. Many people learn the meaning of loathing from Garfield.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:18 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Art, by definition, is finite.
posted by Apropos of Something at 11:51 PM on February 11, 2013


(see Kurtz, Scott).

I'd rather not. Kurtz is somebody who got his success by pandering to the lowest common nerd denominator, where the web actually enabled him to find an audience whereas had he done the same shit in the eighties or seventies he would've been doomed to the backpages of an sci-fi zine or a crappy b&w Aircel comic. Nothing he does couldn't fit in a newspaper's comics session, if these were actually aimed at boring fortysomething nerds who like jokes that reference tv shows last aired in the mid eighties, rather than out of touch octegenarians who are uncomfortable with anything postdating the mid-fifties.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:56 PM on February 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


As a child I recall getting the Sunday comics and lying on my grandmother's couch, reading them, as my mother and grandmother brought in the many and various foods for Sunday dinner. Back then they included Dondi and Little Orphan Annie (version 1.0).

Even then I would not read the many pages front to back. Oh no, I'd save my favorites, Dagwood and Blondie, Smokey Stover for dessert, as it were. Certain comics, like Prince Valiant, went first. Dry appetizers. Then the meat, then the dessert.

I read the various comic pages that are left the same way today.

So imagine my surprise when I started reading the local Orlando comic section. Lots of new ones to me. Some old friends. And I read them the same way. But then I was surprised to find Doonesbury missing from the comic page. I flipped around and there he was, under the heading From The Left. On the editorial page. And so I read Doonesbury, as I usually did, as a fine dessert.

And then I looked to the right. And there under the apt title, From The Right, was Mallard Filmore.

I didn't have to read it. I wouldn't. It's a horrible bit of what Republicans consider a comic. I'd read it before. In the NY Post.

To continue my food analogy, it was like having a decent meal. And then warm apple pie and vanilla ice cream. And then having a bowl of live roaches shoved in front of me.

How fucking traumatic can it get?
posted by Splunge at 12:07 AM on February 12, 2013


I just stumbled across Saint for Rent today. Good fun.

(I'm assuming everyone's already reading Sfeer Theory, Space Pulp,
and Missing Monday?)
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:54 AM on February 12, 2013


I've just wasted most of my day. Fuck you all very much. And by 'fuck' I mean 'thank'.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:27 AM on February 12, 2013


Mallard Fillmore is the Monty Python Argument Clinic sketch in drawing form.
posted by delfin at 6:27 AM on February 12, 2013


I would contend that that the best web comics are better than the best newspaper print comics, unbeholden as they are to restrictions on space, time and content. In that context, the internet is a far, far better medium than print.

So, what is better than Calvin and Hobbes?
posted by ersatz at 6:56 AM on February 12, 2013


This is the best of Random Comic Generator!!
posted by Pendragon at 7:29 AM on February 12, 2013


I could have done without this, pandyland.
posted by boo_radley at 8:14 AM on February 12, 2013


So, what is better than Calvin and Hobbes?

The tricky thing about this is that Calvin & Hobbes ran for ten years, which is almost as long as webcomics have existed online, period. It had a long time to evolve, to experiment, and of course it was the rare comic that actually took advantage of that time it had to grow; many comics ran for longer and did less with the time. So this isn't entirely fair, unless you think it's okay to compare a comic that was written after decades and decades of newspaper funnies with a comic culture that's barely been around as long as C&H's entire run.

The other tricky thing is that C&H is a freakish combination of great writing and great art. Most comics that are worth a damn are good at either one or the other; C&H was best-in-class at both at once. And again, that has less to do with the fact that it was a newspaper funny than with Bill Watterson being an insanely talented man. Even its better contemporaries – I'm thinking Bloom County – fell short of that metric. So even among newspaper funnies it wouldn't be a fair contest. Calvin & Hobbes stands alone.

Now, all that said there are a few webcomics that I've felt come close to it on one axiom or the other, sometimes on both at once. Minus, for instance, is a beautiful watercolor comic that plays in the same realm of children and imagination, though it's not quite as cleverly written. On the other hand there's Achewood, which has some of the sharpest writing I've ever seen in a comic, but whose style is fairly minimalist for the most part. Achewood does some really interesting things with visual storytelling, mind you, but that's not the same as Calvin & Hobbes's flights of visual fancy, obviously.

Then there's Homestuck, which both in writing and artwork has gone to some phenomenal places. If you're willing to count Homestuck as a comic, which you don't necessarily have to, then I'd say that it's Calvin & Hobbes's equal – not better, because better is a stupid comparison, but brilliant enough that it stands out as a comic for wildly different reasons. And that's the advantage the Internet has over newspapers: it's so formally open that people can come up with comics that are nothing like what you'd see in a paper, and therefore the brilliant comics truly occupy a space of their own. To pick out one final example, Dinosaur Comics has a single, static bit of artwork, and incredibly smart, funny, playful writing; it just celebrated its tenth anniversary, and has remained remarkably good throughout its run.

I think you could argue that we've seen more great webcomics in the last 10 years than we've seen great newspaper funnies. I'd bet that even in the decade of Calvin & Hobbes's run, there were fewer great comics introduced than there have been online in this last decade. None of those comics are really comparable to C&H, but that's partly because C&H dominates its particular subject, and partly because we haven't had webcomics long enough for a Bill Watterson to grow up, immersed in their culture, and dedicated to exemplifying only the best elements of the medium throughout history. I mean, Watterson cited Peanuts, Pogo, and Krazy Kat as his inspirations, so he was looking across half a century of brilliant comics when he began writing. And I'd say that while every one of his three inspirations was great, only Krazy Kat truly operated in the same league as Calvin & Hobbes, and that came a good seventy years before, so.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:32 AM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


only Krazy Kat truly operated in the same league as Calvin & Hobbes,

I begs to differ.

(I hate linking to Wikipedia but the nearest thing to an official site is down and otherwise there's an inexcusible shortage of quality resources for this subject on the web right now.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:58 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rory, thanks for your answer. I don't disagree with most of what you say, but since the contention was that the best web comics are better than the best newspaper print comics (emphasis mine), I pointed out in an oblique way that even though the medium might be more flexible, we should not conflate potential with existing material. It was an unfair way to put it because Calvin and Hobbes is phenomenal, but I was hoping I'd have to eat my hat if someone had found a webcomic rivaling Watterson's. For what it's worth, I'm a big fan of SUBNORMALITY though it kills my eyes after reading the archives for too long. minus looks interesting, thanks.
posted by ersatz at 9:20 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


"So, what is better than Calvin and Hobbes?"

I don't know that there's ever been a comic better than Calvin and Hobbes, either in print or on the web.

For that rare pantheon that could equal Calvin and Hobbes in both art and writing, I would nominate Ursula Vernon's Digger.
posted by tdismukes at 10:06 AM on February 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I really don't want to play Your Favorite Comic Strip Stinks. All I know is that for me, those little panels have represented a sweet little treat, a bit of fun and pithy thought tucked into the back of my daily paper just for me. Little bite-sized goodies, some which made me think and others which made me laugh.

Our local paper has now gone to thrice-weekly delivery. So far, they're including every days' comics in those issues, even if that does mean reading a couple of installments at once. I'm hoping this practice continues.
posted by kinnakeet at 10:12 AM on February 12, 2013


The tricky thing about this is that Calvin & Hobbes ran for ten years, which is almost as long as webcomics have existed online

Yeaaaah, that's not quite true. Frex, a mate of mine's webcomic has been running since 1994[1] (and was published in paper form before that), only slightly later than the first wave of web based comics (as oopposed to those distributed through FTP, like Dr Fun, or Usenet, like Where the Buffalo Roam). Dilbert has been available online for about the same time and the first wave of truly popular webcomics crested in the late nineties; even Scott McCloud had had his first great fling with online comics publication back then.

So a good solid twenty years or so of webcomics. Plenty of time for some very good shit to have been created, but I'm not sure it could match the first twenty years of post-Yellow Kid newspaper comics, which after all included Windsor McCay's Little Nemo...

[1] Slightly longer actually than I've been online myself and it's a strange sort of milestone I'll reach sometime in September or early October next year, when I'll have been online exactly half my life at an age when my dad only had fathered four children....
posted by MartinWisse at 10:29 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Krazy Kat truly operated in the same league as Calvin & Hobbes

Yeah, no, no matter how high I rate Calvin & Hobbes, there are tons of pre-WWII (or WWI) comics that are more than a match for it: Flash Gordon, Tery and the Pirates, Polly and Her Pals, the Little King, Popeye, Prince Valiant, Dick Tracy, the Katzenjammer Kids (which, if it didn't originate such essential comics furniture as the speech balloon, certainly did a hell of a lot to popularise it), Dream of the Rarebit Fiend, Alley Oop, Gasoline Alley, L'il Abner, etc.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:41 AM on February 12, 2013


Huh, I always considered the possibility of a random hiatus of indefinite length a feature rather than a bug. As much as I miss Achewood and hope it really returns for real, I would rather it never be updated than turn into just another endless turd like Dilbert.
posted by disconnect at 11:11 AM on February 12, 2013


He first wrote about the social impact of computers, a favorite topic, in 1972.

Pshaw! Doonesbury first featured the social impact of computers in 1970, in its very first strip (which I'm pretty sure was recycled from Trudeau's college newspaper strip, so it might really date to 1968.)
posted by Zed at 11:58 AM on February 12, 2013


As far as being comprehensively good in terms of the quality of the art and wide-ranging sophistication of the writing, another that can hold its head up in the company of Pogo and Calvin and Hobbes is L'il Abner. Particularly in the defining Frank Frazetta era.

Endless love to Little Nemo as well, but in my book it's of a different order than what we're talking about, and a different era. It's more late Belle Epoque fine art that happened to run in the newspaper than a comic in the same sense we're talking about here.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:52 PM on February 12, 2013


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