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Not the Sunday Funnies: Lessons from Webcomics

Not the Sunday Funnies: Lessons from Webcomics presentation by Ruben Puentadora at NMC Regional Conference at Tulane.

It all began in 1993 with a one-panel comic called “Doctor Fun,” published on the University of Chicago Library website. Others soon followed, and today the webcomic is a flourishing medium, with thousands of authors uploading their creations worldwide. Webcomics have evolved rapidly over time, generating new and unique narrative approaches to digital storytelling. We will examine the history of the medium, the new languages it has created, and its uses in learning environments.

Ruben was nfluenced to digital storytelling by session (following a really bad day at a conference) with a Dana Atchley session on digital storytelling – Ruben sees potential for expression in web comics.

History of genre – “it would take 5 days to do it all– and there are grey areas, who did what, etc.”

  • Doctor Fun by David Farley single pane style like Far Side. A web site that would have a new comic almost every day, established web as a platform for publishing comics. No ground broken for style.
  • Argon Zark! (by Charley Parker) First strip regularly published on web, added interactivity of hidden items, more than just publishing.
  • User Friendly bu Illiad written for web (geek) audience. Takes place at an ISP – grew popular in dot com boom.
  • Sluggy Freelance by Pete Abrams – started with plan to make money (and he has done so). Pardoy, mild sci-fi.
  • When I am King by Demian.5 – takes experimental art design approach- example of “infiinte canvas”- web page does not need edges like paper. Almost plays out like frames of animation. Webcomic comes of age as art form.

Keenspot and Modern Tales provide hosting.

Scott Mcloud Understanding Comics
Webcomics Examiner

Museums now recognizing as art form.


New Orleans After the Deluge American influence with touch of European influence- use of layering, layout
Motel Art Improvement Service details of background while characters are cartoonish, like TinTin–Crossing cultural differences
Red String – manga style appropriated by non Japanese artist.

infinite Canvas
Scott Mcloud – infinite canvas concept, strains our traditional concept of panel print comics. Zot! Online 440 panels ues space outside of panels.

This story reunited the cast of my 80’s superhero series Zot! and provided a great storytelling laboratory for investigating the dynamics of comics on the Web as well as the first successful application of “trails.”

24:Three – (done in flash) interactive exploration of trails (zooms in and out), branching.

Farfield – parody of Garfield as a remix.

Permission granted by medium– evolves in form and style. Goats “Daily geek strip about a programmer in search of beer and true love. Includes such fan faves as demonic chickens and the Panties of Potency.” Audience willing to accept this as experimental medium

Bobbins/Scary Go Round – hand drawn evolves to illustrator tyle to more complex hand drawn. Audience has followed

Penny Aracde gamer comic. Theme is the same but art work has evolved, but then varies to completely different style.

The Lexicon practical approaches. How can people tell stories by web comics? It is not a natural skill that tools can just enable. What are minimal elements people need ?

From Scott McCLoud Understanding Comics

  • Pictorial Vocabulary of comics– abstraction triangle from reality (bottom left) to language- abstraction, iconizayion. Top of triangle is “Picture Plane” to pictorial elements (color, shape).
  • Panel-to-Panel Transitions in Comics 6 types “moment to moment”, “action to action”, “subject to subject”, “scene to scene”, “aspect to aspect” zoom camera, “non-sequitor”
  • Combining Words and Pictures

Ruben covers this in an hour in his workshop.

“But I can’t draw…”
xkcd is stick figures! Author makes living from it.
Use photos- Michael’s Exciting Life, takes time to get photos to fit stories
a softer world a single photo but used with zoom and cropping of same image
photograph action figures, toys
use 3d programs to render images The Ice Queen
collage comics Wondermark made from Victorian clip art
office clip art Get Your War On
same art, change the lines Dinosaur Comics

The Toolkit
Ice breaker- how to find meaning in sequential information. Five Card Nancy – web tool… cut up five panels from Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy cartoon. Pick one to create new sequence, shuffle again… need to build a story out of what you are dealt. Can do the same with flickr search.

Comic Life – desktop tool for using photos to create comics

PikiStrips similar features that works via web

The Tarquin Engine for doing infinite canvas w/o knowing flash… flash template but it generates all scripts ($15)

Pachyderm generates flash content from media. Can create new templates with skills in XML.

Brilliant session, Ruben! I am running out to play five card Nancy.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Sorry about that Beth– I was trying to live blog and did not get to validate the link. Will need to see whether the PDF was actually attached.

    Our new proposal system allows presenters to attach files and/or link to URLs for materials- its on them to figure out how to share.

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