Adventure Serials As Web Comics
It’s no secret that the web comic world and the print comic world are vastly different, and there is nothing at all wrong with that. Though the visual language is the same, the optimal format and distribution is not. The same things that bring people to a comic store every week/month are not always going to be what causes someone to search for comics on the internet. With the immediacy of distribution on the web, it makes much more sense to go with strip formatting at a hirer frequency of publishing. Like most strips in the newspaper, the majority of web comics are gag strips, likely because it is easier and more effective to tell a joke in 4 to 8 panel intervals than it is to tell an on-going story. These factors, among others, have many believing that the adventure serial is a hopeless sell to the internet crowd.
It is true that the web is more suited for shorter installment strips, but let’s look at our newspaper strip history, as it seems to serve such an appropriate model. This year we not only celebrate the 70th anniversary of Batman, but also the 75th of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, and the 104th of Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo, two of the greatest newspaper comics ever published. The fact that you recognize either of those strips, and I sincerely hope you do, is a testament to the success that adventure strips can have. Zuda.com’s (DC’s online imprint) top strips have all been adventure strips, most notably the very first comic to go up: High Moon.
The web comic audience maybe different than the print comic audience, but that doesn’t mean that such an audience only desires one kind of web comic. They may not go to the comic store, but statistically speaking, they probably bought tickets for the Dark Knight. The web audience enjoys adventure just as much as anyone, but just like the funny pages, web comics seem to offer little in variety of genre. Of course there are many examples out there of long running adventure and drama serials, but they are nearly buried under the avalanche of humor strips.
The challenge seems to be finding a natural pace and phrasing for the story so it works in bite-sized intervals as well as from beginning to end. The same is true of print comics, however, a person who purchases an issue of Spider-Man is likely to finish all 22 pages of story in that issue. With a free web comic, the reader has nothing invested in the reading experience and is just as likely to never read the next strip as he is to follow it. Also, the internet browsing mentality is more geared for quick, pizzicato perusal than it is for reading page after page in sequence.
In the dawning age of print comics releasing digital contingents, more comic store goers are looking for what web comics have to offer them. Humor me as I post my own adventure strip, Cashmillion Kids, on a biweekly schedule on this blog as an experiment.