The Rise of Webcomics: PBS’ Off Book Series Explores the Emergence of New Popular Art Form

I’m a paper loyalist by age and inclination. I don’t begrudge those who do the bulk of their reading digitally, I just prefer the familiarity and object-ness of the printed page. As a lover of comics and graphic novels, my brick and mortar needs are more than met by the comparative wealth of indie shops and festivals here in New York City, as well as its beleaguered public library system.

I couldn’t help noticing, though, that many of the newer titles I favor got their start online. The proponents of the form who discuss the Rise of Webcomics for PBS’ Off Book series make a compelling case for exploring that realm a bit more fulsomely.

Many artists who put their stuff up on the web benefit from the immediacy of the act and the—theoretically—larger audience. But publishing in this format also opens it up for Sam Brown and Andrew Hussie to create a large body of work based on reader suggestions. Hussie takes full advantage of the multi platform possibilities. Lucy Knisley, no stranger to editorial refinement in a more traditional publication model, gives her monsters of the id free rein online. And Nick Gurewitch’s Perry Bible Fellowship (though he yanked a couple of them offline to “make the book more special”) is the vessel into which his torrent of hilarious, dissociative ideas flows.

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Ayun Halliday‘s favorite webcomic (until now the only one she read) remains Hyperbole and a Half.

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  • Harmon says:

    I think that new art/art forms and evolving expression should and inevitably will intertwine and assimilate with technology. I hope that the world embraces the emergence of truly modern art in the sense that modern technology can not only be a platform for artistic expression, but a medium in itself.

  • Corey Silver says:

    1. I find it interesting that certain newspaper comics were ever successful…(e.g. “The Far Side”) Compared to the webcomic format, which allows an artist to find her readerbase immediately (if she finds it at all), any newspaper comic has to go through hundreds of hurdles, battling for a spot on every medium to major city’s comix page.
    2. Where is Randall Munroe, creator of “XKCD”? Where?
    3. The theme at the end of this short was also used for the ASDF Movies.

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