The Podium

Web Comics

Moira Ashliegh, the love of my life, and my best friend in this earthwalk, is a freelance web designer. Though some of her clients have been large corporations whose personnel have a fairly sophisticated understanding of the internet, intranets, ecommerce and (fill in your favorite hi-tech buzzword), she also frequently works with clients who are, shall we say, less than a courant with what this new electronic medium is all about.

With both type of client, actually, she often finds herself having to remind them that "a web page is not just an electronic brochure."

To live up to their potential at all, web sites need to offer their audience more than a print brochure could. Whether it's some form of unique content, ecommerce, interactivity, or what have you, you're wasting time, money, and bandwidth if you don't use the web for it's unique qualities.

The same holds true for comics on the web.

Web comics, online comics, electronicomics, there are probably another half dozen terms for it that I've missed. Whatever you want to call it, graphic narrative on the web is still in it's infancy - even the best artists working in this medium have only begun to scratch the surface of it's possibilities.

There are those in the comics world who hold that comics produced for the web, with uniquely web-enabled features, don't really qualify as "comics" per se, that they're a different medium and a different beast altogether.

I won't argue that point, 'cause I don't really care. "Electronic Graphic Narrative" being too unwieldy a term, I'll continue to call it "web comics" until someone comes up with a catchy term that seems more appropriate.

I don't think comics on the web are really going to hit their stride until high bandwidth access becomes common enough that download time is no longer a problem for the average reader/viewer, and the various browser programmers get their shit together and decide to accept some across the board standards (don't even get me started on that one).

When I started doing ArcMage, it was pretty much the same thing as most other web comics - print comics scanned and posted online. As I've learned more about the Web, HTML, Javascript, and such, I've tried to use the web medium for it's strengths, rather than fighting it's shortcomings. That's not so easy for a print guy more used to crowquills and paintbrushes than trackballs and graphic tablets.

Granted, we're still remaining fairly primitive here at ArcMage. Flash, CSS, Javascript, VBscript, and the other components of DHTML provide an amazing array of possible storytelling tools. So far, we've stayed away from using much of this "bleeding edge" stuff, keeping in mind that statistics show most web surfers are still on 3.0 browsers or below.

However, the recent stats from McBride Magic show most of you folks seem to be on 4.X+ browsers. Which is very cool.

With this most recent episode, we introduced more interactivity, some javascript frills, and a few Easter eggs. Look for more dynamic content in the next chapter.

I can understand why many comics creators on the web are still posting scanned print stuff, gigantic downloads of static gifs in a print page format.

But while I understand it, I can't condone it. Get a clue, guys. I'll say it again: a web site is not just an electronic brochure. If you're using the web that way, you're missing the point.

Til next time,



Previous Podiums:
Un-Masking  Spring 99
Strange Arcs  Summer 99

DISCLAIMER:The opinions expressed on this page are purely and entirely those of the author, do not necessarily reflect the opinions or attitudes of Jeff McBride, McBride Magic, Inc., Tobias Beckwith & Associates, or Magic by Design. Viewer discretion advised, read at your own risk. No warranty is expressed or implied. Apply only to affected area, if condition persists, consult your metaphysician. WARNING: Excessive use of intelligent thought may result in doubt, questioning authority, or crises of faith.
©2000 Duncan Eagleson all rights reserved.

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