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.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Gold­en Age Comics

The Con­fes­sions of Robert Crumb: A Por­trait Script­ed by the Under­ground Comics Leg­end Him­self (1987)

The Art of Illus­tra­tion: Four Illus­tra­tors Intro­duce You to the Awe-Inspir­ing State of Their Art

Join Car­toon­ist Lyn­da Bar­ry for a Uni­ver­si­ty-Lev­el Course on Doo­dling and Neu­ro­science

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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