Comical: A Webcomic Aggregator
May 22, 2010 1:17 AM   Subscribe

Comical is a program that lets you know when a webcomic you read has been updated and allows you to download the newest strip. It's great for people who (like me) follow a ton of different webcomics. It currently supports Over five-hundred different web comics. It even supports Newspaper Comics, Alt-Text, and Hidden Panels. If Comical is missing a comic you like, the program comes with the ability to add new comics manually or feel free to post a request for someone else to do it for you on the forums!

Currently only works for Windows and Linux. Please post new comic entries to the forums in order to share them with the community. Requests for new comics or new features tend to be implemented very quickly.
posted by AZNsupermarket (12 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Isn't this what RSS is for, but with the added excitement of ruining someone's ad revenue, layout and referrer stats...?
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 1:39 AM on May 22, 2010 [8 favorites]

There are a few notable webcomickers who are also MeFites who could answer slth's question. And it was less than 2 weeks ago that a Web Comic Reader with less capabilities landed in the Apple App Store and raised a significant shitstorm, so the question is VERY relevant. Somebody should go and wake up r.stevens/clango!
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:09 AM on May 22, 2010

The advertising thing is an unintentional consequence; I doubt comic fans willfully want to hurt the artists. A good middle-ground might be an open-source image generator which integrates a small advertisement into the actual comic image. As long as it wasn't too obnoxious, it would probably help both parties. Fans would get to consume the comic in whatever format they wanted, and comic creators would be able to make ad revenue.
posted by spiderskull at 2:34 AM on May 22, 2010

I remember using an app like this eons ago. It'd even download the webcomic archives from the site until I realized how it was effecting the owners of the comics who often rely on donations/advert to get by. So I settled for just opening every site in my webcomic bookmark folder every few days.
posted by MrCynical at 2:51 AM on May 22, 2010

I'd imagine many people simply give up on comics that don't place the images in the rss feed, like this, plus you'll need the content formatted appropriately for phones.

Btw, an open source cbr/cbz reader has the same name since 2003.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:59 AM on May 22, 2010

As slth and MrCynical said. There's a certain sense to it, but it's completely shitty for the webcomics creators, many of whom really count on ad revenue, merchandise sales (driven by self-placed ads on their site), donations (again, via their site) and other reader-bonus incentives (you'll never guess where those are found) to get by.

It's not a question of "placing a small ad in the comic," which -- as somebody who has worked in Webcomics and seems to be MetaFilter's Official Marketing Apologist -- is offensive to me as a creator. I work(ed) hard to do something interesting and funny in four panels, and the thought of having a floater for DELICIOUS SLURM drift across my comic is... ugh. It's not-good. Again, I can see the thought process behind the idea, but shared revenue from "an ad" probably isn't a solution.

To make a living, or even a substantial second income, from your work requires a whole web of things, ranging from standard ads to Project Wonderful to deep-pocketed sponsors to content-added "subscriber" programs to t-shirt sales.

This leads to Web pages that are carefully planned to try to encourage people to get more involved with the strip; it's the other parts of the site and what they outlink to that generally actually generate the (meagre) income.

I tried to make a go at webcomics for about seven years and after a while threw in the towel -- part of the "second wave" that started up just before Keenspot and kinda-sorta affiliated with smaller groups like Alt Brand. Whatever it takes to catch on with readers, we just didn't have it. But I definitely got to appreciate how complicated and difficult it is to try to make a reasonable income from this sort of craft. Outliers like Penny Arcade and Sluggy Freelance aside, 90% of these people are folks for whom another t-shirt sale or a couple of donations are a percentage of their monthly income. Actual page visits are important.
posted by Shepherd at 4:13 AM on May 22, 2010

This is kind of neat, but I strongly empathise with the concerns raised above.

As someone who is not a content producer is any kind of the same realm as webcomic creators, but loves wayyyy too many webcomics: I'd really love a "middle of the road" alternative in the form of a firefox/chrome extension, to automagically archive comics as i open them. Perhaps if it wanted to be heavy-duty enough it could even take the form of a "smart bookmarks folder" which would only open in tabs those webcomics which have been updated.

This would not be significantly different serverside from what I do now - bulk-open 18 webcomics every morning after I crawl out of bed - and would save me hassle. After all, when I see it's the same comic as yesterday I close the tab before my eyes even have time to glaze over, let alone clickc ads. Given the presumed archiving functionality, it would appeal to my general "if I saw it once, I should be able to see it again" sensibilities. Given a loose "favourite this" feature, it would be able to generate an open XML-based tree of my favourite strips, rapidly sortable by date or webcomic or perhaps even strip-text, maybe if it could somehow partner with ohnorobot.

Oh also: this is actually worse even from a pure consumer perspective, discounting all ethics concerns. Mass-opening tabs loads them all for rapid sequencing. This only fetches each comic as I click down to it, introducing a multi-second delay every time. This adds up more than you might think.
posted by pahalial at 4:27 AM on May 22, 2010

Keep in mind the apple app cost money and I assume that the artists weren't going to get a penny out of it.
posted by Mekai at 4:32 AM on May 22, 2010

I'm pretty sure that like ten hundred billion webcomic lovers have had this very idea, then abandoned it when they realized it was sort of dicky and harmful to the very comics they were so obsessed with.

Also what is this I'm supposed to download on certain operating systems in order to ... see things from the internet?
posted by shownomercy at 11:06 AM on May 22, 2010

As SLTH said, I already have a "program" that does this. It's called Google Reader. And it links directly to the comic's page, so it's guaranteed to have alt-text, ads, and anything else the comic creator intended.
posted by Vorteks at 11:44 AM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

There are already several such tools that do this, in varying degrees of success. Many are packaged and ship by Debian. Dosage and dailystrips do this in non RSS form. I've seen websites that serve as an archive of RSS feeds for comics, mainly official feeds. Hell, I have a few Yahoo! pipes scripts that rewrite official feeds to inline the comic. I then have my feed reader show all unread comics in a single scrollable page. It's great, consequences be damned. The main problem with these sorts of tools is that, like all webscrapers, they fall out of date. Many of the dailystrips comics are broken, and my penny-arcade feed munger broke when they moved to offsite image hosting. It's fixable, but currently worth my time.

Basically what I'm trying to say is, this sort of thing is a entrance ritual of geekdom. You can pontificate about the ethics of it, but as a webcomic artist you'd be best served by writing a feed that works for you and your users. In fact, it's probably going to be way more effective to tastefully place your ads in the feed items than on your webpage, because my feed reader doesn't have adblock but firefox does.
posted by pwnguin at 1:02 PM on May 22, 2010

XQUZYPHYR: "It's funny how you say this and just yesterday the latest Penny Arcade videocast"

"The money goes to charity" aspect was and remains an option. It's a bit nefarious to equate piracy with stealing from charity in this situation. Wolfire handles the situation much better, I think. I don't want to make excuses for these people (I'm not among that 25 percent who pirated, or the other 75 who paid), but if you consider transaction costs, giving people who would pay .01 a way to pay 0 instead may save Wolfire a... bundle. So if you're going to damn the pirates, you better damn the cheapskates too, who cost charities more than the pirates do.

Amusingly, I stopped watching PATV because they don't have a podcast RSS for it. Plus it fails in the presence of adblock+, perhaps deliberately. So I guess good for them. They've stopped me from pirating their video. The one advertising PAX.

As the video reveals, piracy is not unfamiliar to Jerry. Almost as if actually paying for thing were a rite of passage (apologies for getting the phrase wrong earlier)... The piracy debate has no bright lines and I can demonstrate this quite easily: I just checked out FF13 from the local library. I put it on reserve and waited in line and picked it up a few days ago. I will return it, and the publisher, producer and developer will not see a dime for my having played it. And it'll cost the taxpayer just a bit to boot. Similarly, my DVR has a fast forward button which I use liberally during commercials. And I use the aforementioned adblock+.

""would be best served" doing exactly what that particular reader wants lest it justify him abusing the system.

You helpfully left out the part where I mentioned the artist's needs were a factor. Is it impossible to place advertising and comics in the same RSS? I suppose javascript is less reliable, but clickthroughs should still be possible?
posted by pwnguin at 3:55 PM on May 22, 2010

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