Hans  

Will Web comic strips crush print comic strips?

June 6th, 2005 by Hans Bjordahl :: see related comic

Granted, the headline’s a bit inflammatory, but I was a comic strip geek before I was a technology geek, and when the two subjects get in the same room (as they do on this Web site on a weekly basis), I tend to get all sweaty and start ranting.

It’s really a two part question:

1) Are print comic strips on the decline? Yes. Clearly.

The reasons are myriad. The industry has suffered the loss of much of its strongest talent (raise a glass now to Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, Bloom County, and my all-time favorite, the dearly departed Peanuts) and no one (person, feature or syndicate) has stepped up to fill the void. There are still some bright spots on the comics page, but they’re increasingly outnumbered by strips that are clearly phoning it in, have been flogging the same schtick for decades, or are content to deliver risk-free jokes at a fifth-grade level.

Is it just me, or has the daily comics page become less a part of our lives than it used to be? Have you abandoned your newspaper’s comics page, or do you find strips there that still bring you back day after day?

2) Will Web comic strips ultimately inherit the readership of print comic strips? Not necessarily.

The Web has been a viable publishing medium for some time now, but Web comic strips have yet to step forward as a whole and authoritatively seize the impetus from their print predecessors. A good overview of the progress of online comics since their inception can be found in T Campbell’s piece at Comixpedia, The History of Online Comics.

The bottom line is that readers looking for a source of daily laughs beyond their traditional print comics page are not guaranteed to end up at the Web equivalent. They can (and have) migrated to animated cartoons like “The Simpsons” and “South Park,” comedy/news hybrids like “The Daily Show” and “The Onion,” and a variety of other choices such as blogs, video games, Tivo and compulsive overeating. If Web comics want to pick up the baton from print comics, they can’t expect to inherit it, they’ll need to step up and actively seize it.

What Web comics do you think show potential to become the “Calvin and Hobbes” of the Web and spark a mass migration of readers from print to online? If you’ve found one, by all means, share the link. : )

31 Responses to “Will Web comic strips crush print comic strips?”
levee wrote:

I have to agree with your point about abandoning print comic strips. When I lived with my parents, the comic page was my first port of call. These days, though I skip straight past.

I doubt that online comics will make the same impact, although I’ve subscribed to Dilbert and Bug Bash. There are too many things trying to capture our attention - you mentioned blogs as one example.

If a comic ever does breaks the barrier, it’ll have to be enduring enough to make people want to come back regularly. There aren’t many of those about.

Michael Clark wrote:

I subscribe to comics.com, which gives me a bunch of print comics delivered via email every day. But the quality is definitely slipping, plus the images are in a very low resolution, so they are difficult to read. I’m seriously thinking about not renewing at the end of the year.

UserFriendly.org is a must read online comic.

little mister Locke wrote:

As long as there are print newspapers there will be print comics. Print newspapers will be hard to kill. First and foremost, most people are, and will continue to remain, luddites. They prefer to have a team of people comb through all the news and pick out the important bits for them. It’s simpler that way.

Secondly, newspapers requre less infrastructure. If and when some disaster happens, newspapers in some form will be delivered before the magic of TCP/IP.

Thirdly, UserFriendly.org simply re-hashes the same few jokes over and over again. That’s not clever, that’s boring.

Joshua wrote:

I subscribe to my favorite comics with the Comic Snagger on http://isnoop.net/ - I get a daily email with the comics I selected embedded as images.
This method of viewing “print” comics has made it very natural for me to hold web comics and print comics at the same level. I have a few online comics that I view daily (cad-comic.com) or weekly (ok-cancel.com), as well.

Darth Reed wrote:

There are three that I read daily (sometimes I have to check the slacker of the three several times because he’s always late - somebody wake up Kurtz!). These three by far replace any newsprint “comic”. The Darth Reed clan doesn’t even get a daily dead tree news source anymore; we haven’t for more than six years… When the Washtington Times and the Journal start selling RSS feeds, I’ll buy those.

http://www.dilbert.com/ (obviously)

http://www.userfriendly.org/

http://www.pvponline.com/ (usually late, try again later ;-)

I’ve bought more than my fair share of their paraphernalia (collection books, comic books, t-shirts, etc) for myself and as gifts. I think they’re a totally different niche from Peanuts, obviously, and far less irritating than Doonesbury and the rest of the whiners… [Cathy did have a funny strip once… It was about REALTORS®, which was what made it funny — but tomorrow’s my last day writing software for REALTORS®, so it won’t be funny for much longer, I hope.] As for me and my family, we’d love to see somebody with Rush Limbaugh’s wit and politics take to the web comic scene. Heh!

There are two others that I read whenever the author is sober enough and can find the Wacom tablet with both hands:

http://www.bugbash.net/ (off to a good start weekly)

http://www.dorktower.com/ (highly irregular posting schedule and somewhat niche — even I don’t play paper-n-pencil RPGs anymore)

Checking up on my favorite web comics is just part of the daily stress-relief routine. Just like everything else, they miss more often than they hit, but I am REALLY, REALLY glad that y’all take the time out of your lives to share your humor with us!!

Long live the Empire.

dwlt wrote:

I don’t think print comics are going to disappear, but I think the current syndication model is going to disappear. I think it will be superceded by the model that Scott Kurtz is using, where he gives the strips for free to newspapers and makes money on the back-end via merchandise, books and treasuries.

Minh wrote:

You’re right about the print comics quality. First, I thought that it was me, getting older, growing out of it. Then re-reading the old comics, I found out it’s not me. You’re a comic geek, what is the newspaper’s system for cultivating & promoting comic drawing talents? Is it hurt by media consolidation? Is the pay less these days? Can a system be setup for online comics? One of the big online media guys need to step up? You can prod MSN a little bit, can’t you? I do remember Yahoo doing something similar, but I don’t remember the exact details.

Dan Moore wrote:

I like Sinfest. It’s got a nice mix of racey (Slick/Monique), religious (God/Dragon/Devil) and playful (Pooch/Percy) humor. That’s my candidate for the Calvin and Hobbes of the Web.

jammybastard wrote:

numbers show local newspapers are slowly circling the drain. that leaves alt.weeklies, comic specific pubs, and the web as obvious outlets.
I agree that like other artists, comic writers will give away their work in hope of back end $$$, a’la
Kurtz.

Clewis wrote:

This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow is consistently one of the most droll political comix around - not always laugh-out-loud stuff, but a must-read for me:
Weekly comic: http://www.workingforchange.com/comic.cfm?itemid=19125
His own site: http://www.thismodernworld.com/

Phebody wrote:

for politics and people being people Funny Times is good

The Tom wrote:

Like Hans, I spent years trying to get my comic syndicated and, in my experience, syndicates are similar to Hollywood: Those with marginal to no talent make creative decisions and steer a comic away from the art/writing and more toward marketing. Does the strip have a wide enough appeal to the most people? It sounds elementary and shrewd, but the catch is the wider the appeal the more watered-down the material becomes. Don’t believe it? Consider the last time you read, say, a literature reference (i.e. Orwell) in the comic pages. Now consider how many times Garfield told us his disdain for Mondays, or the daily “second-to-last-panel-sweats-of-overreaction” Cathy Guisewite inflicts on us those who dare to read her strip. These are but a couple examples of hacks buttressing laziness in print. At this rate I believe eventually there will be a “hack critical-mass” that will ultimately doom the newspaper comic section.

I’m not saying every comic has to invoke images from classic literature or have a metaphor for the desperate plight of those in Sudan, but raising the bar to higher than a fifth-grade level would be a start. And, ironically, have a wider appeal to more people.

I’m excited by the thought of an online comics utopia. No rules. No marketing. Maybe Bug Bash will be the lightning rod to spark the revolution.

Kevin Cheng wrote:

Interesting you should bring this up right now, Hans. Kurtz of PvP Comics has recently pput up a rant about a documentary being made on web comics.

http://www.pvponline.com/#newsitem1117840577,86803,

(Sadly this link will deprecate when it moves into June 2005 archives but he has no permalink for it. Shame on him).

Tom Chi wrote:

This recent Penny Arcade seems relevant given the conversation…

http://penny-arcade.com/view.php3?date=2005-06-01&res=l

It’s not just that readers are luddites, but comic artists themselves have had some trouble moving to the new medium.

Scott wrote:

They future IS webcomics.

Especially, http://yirmumah.net - Those guys LEFT newspapers to go wild on the web.

chi and honey wrote:

We love cat and girl ;)
http://www.catandgirl.com/

Cat and Girl

A girl and her anthropomorphic cat diss Proust and meander through a surreal world of books, coffee, and philosophic angst. Jun-3-03 5:34A

RonHack wrote:

Personally, I don’t think Calvin and Hobbes will ever be replaced. It’s the anti-Peanuts for our time, and far much more entertaining to boot.

As for Bloom County and Outland, Bloom does publish Opus, a re-casting of the old Bloom County gang ten years later, mostly attentive to Opus.

If I had a fave, it would be….. well, to be quite honest, I have many faves. That’s why Web comics will become the future of the funnies: whatever your tastes lie, there’s a comic strip just for you. None of this “one-size-fits-all” pablum that newspapers (and television and movies, in fact) have deteriorated into.

Want something fresher than the Sunday Funnies? Try out these places:

www.keenspot.com
www.sinfest.com
www.rpgworldcomics.com
www.sorethumbsonline.com
www.funnyfarmcomics.com
www.skirtingdanger.com
www.go-girly.com
www.antiheroforhire.com
www.schlockmercenary.com
www.gamingguardians.com
www.melonpool.com
www.choppingblock.com
www.elflife.com
www.keenspace.com
legostargalactica.keenspace.com
starsomething.keenspace.com
www.pvponline.com
www.krazylarry.com
www.checkerboardnightmare.com
www.greystoneinn.net
www.petprofessional.net
www.misfile.com

The main heading is the site where the sub-headed comics are grouped. Ones without sub-headings underneath are independant (or published under Blank Label)

By all means, read the archives as well. That way you can see how the story (and artwork) began.

RonHack wrote:

Sorry. Misprint.

www.choppingblock.org , not .com

Sorry again.

John Walker wrote:

There are two strips that I check daily. Count your sheep http://www.countyoursheep.com/ and Anywhere But Here http://anywherebuthere.keenspace.com both of these strips are great, and I check them far more frequently then anything my paper publishes.

honey tea wrote:

Lunch break & tea time
comics I’ll share here:

Some may simply be virtual & free to print out & pin to the wall! Enjoy :)

http://rts.lunistice.com/index.html
http://www.freese-design.com/comics.htm
http://www.catandgirl.com/
http://www.asofterworld.com/
http://mentaltentacle.com/Pages/Comics_Mental_Tentacle.htm

all found on
http://www.friends-lulu.org/

Anonymous wrote:

I love everything about this site!!

Anonymous wrote:

Thank you, I just wanted to give a greeting and tell you I like your website very much.

Kikishua wrote:

I stop off daily (or at the appropriate moment when they are updated) at:

http://www.comics.com/comics/chickweed/index.html
http://www.comics.com/creators/agnes/index.html
http://www.comics.com/comics/getfuzzy/index.html
http://www.overduemedia.com/
http://www.penny-arcade.com/view.php3
http://www.themows.com/
http://www.comics.com/creators/liberty/
http://www.comics.com/comics/pibgorn/index.html
http://www.pcweenies.org/
http://www.scooterandferret.com/

Anonymous wrote:

Hello, I’m a regular visitor to your site so i finally decided its time to sign your guestbook, so here i sign !

Anonymous wrote:

Spent some great time in your site, really enjoyed it

Anonymous wrote:

Lovely. Made my day (which is saying something)

Anonymous wrote:

Haven’t seen folks mention these two online comics:

www.sluggy.com

(which I like to think has taken web comics to places others have never even thought of!)

and

www.savagechickens.com

A chicken a day keeps the blues away!

-F

Webby wrote:

Oh cool, another person who reads overduemedia! I thought just librarians read that! (kikishua above) My daily fixes are:

Miracle of Science, http://www.project-apollo.net/mos/
OverdueMedia (Unshelved) http://www.overduemedia.com/
Megatokyo http://www.megatokyo.com

But on the print side, I have ALL the Calvin and Hobbes compendiums, and most of the Garfields! There’s nothing quite like the classics!

bestec-burjuiam wrote:

HAVANA (AP) Photographs of Fidel Castro standing and talking on the phone were published Sunday in Cuba’s state-run media, a day after the ailing leader appeared in a video to dispel rumors he was on his deathbed.

The Communist Youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde dedicated its front page to the Cuban president, printing a blown-up picture of a pensive Castro with the title “Always fighting for something, and fighting with optimism!”

Aria Spalding wrote:

This one makes sence “One’s first step in wisdom is to kuesstion everything - and one’s last is to come to terms with everything.”

Q.Frost wrote:

Stop off and see what we’re doing:

www.thecolonelandcompany.com

Like you, I felt the yawning void that was created when Bloom County, Calvin and Hobbes and Peanuts left syndication. I wanted to do more than wait for someone else to step up. See what you think, and spread the word!

- Q.Frost


Leave a Reply


Bug Bash is a comic strip written and illustrated by Hans Bjordahl. Bug Bash is a comic strip about technology: managing technology, the business of technology. It's about project management and managing projects through the dull world of Rational Rose, use cases, and requirements. Functional requirements, user requirement, functional specifications, design specifications, call it what you want but it's still the bane of project managers. And when you're done with that, you can think about all the fun that comes with timelines, scheduling, estimates (PERT estimation anyone?) and resourcing until Gantt charts are coming out of your ears. Let's not forget the risk management in the software engineering life cycle. Maintaining the project is just as much fun, managing what was initially set out in requirements and trying to keep feature creep / scope creep in check with change management. If any of these words send nightmares to you, the project manager, then this site probably rings true with you. (Who Links Here?)