State of Darths and Droids: It’s Not You, It’s… Well, It’s Both of Us

(From Darths and Droids. Click for full-sized things that go bump in the night.)

I may be leaning towards removing Darths and Droids from my RSS reader.

I’ve said in the past that Darths and Droids is incredibly innovative, taking the basic concept introduced to it by DM of the Rings and building a rich, layered metaplot on top of it, creating a comic I found more captivating than either its predecessor or Irregular Webcomic!

IWC has since moved into a rich, unified plot of its own, but that’s not the only problem I’ve been finding with Darths and Droids. I still believe every word of that description – I was remiss in leaving Darths and Droids out of any consideration for the greatest webcomics of all time last week, at least in those places where it would be on the same list as IWC. Yes, I mean that; it would rank low, but its sort of innovation is worthy of notice, and if it somehow sparked a wave of “RPG screencap comics” there could be no denying its influence.

But as it’s progressed, it’s gotten disjointed.

This problem started as we entered the climax of Phantom Menace, as the strip, following the lead of the movie, split into three separate subplots: the battle between the Gungans and the droids, Anakin and R2D2 taking off on their own little mission, and Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan squaring off against Darth Maul. The resulting cross-cutting can work when the comic is read all at once, but when the comic is read on Darths and Droids’ Tuesday-Thursday-Sunday schedule, each switch to a new plot, the one snippet of the story we get on a particular day, has no connection to what has come immediately before, and one is forced to think back more than a week to remember what we’re picking up on. Each strip becomes an individual moment in time. Imagine going about your day and remembering it’s Tuesday and Darths and Droids must have a new strip up, and seeing this. Oh, and imagine waiting two days later for this.

Once again, with a “long-form” comic you have to maintain that balancing act between making sure your comic makes sense read all at once, and also makes sense read in bite-size chunks. This is a major reason gag-a-day strips have held the edge over longer continuity strips to this point in webcomics.

Things calmed down a little after Qui-Gon was critically injured and we settled into Darth Maul’s flashback. That meant several strips of fairly linear, strip-to-strip storytelling. Even when we went back to cross-cutting afterwards it was mostly to mop up the aftermath. It was fairly slow-paced, but readable.

Then we went through an intermission of several strips.

Then came Attack of the Clones.

The Comic Irregulars are explicitly making each movie a separate campaign played out with several years between them. So we’re introduced to the players as they exist two years after the events of the first campaign/movie, including a Sally significantly older and wiser. It’s a significant change to the dynamic, one that’s been brought into sharp focus with the recent huddle-up involving all the PCs. It’s awkward seeing everyone all huddle up as an established group after ten game years apart.

When we actually get into the plot, it resumes the disconnectedness while maintaining a single plot thread. Now I admit, I’ve seen almost zero of Attack of the Clones, and what I have seen is nearer the end. But we basically launch into the story in media res and almost immediately are subjected to something that’s basically a gag. At this point, it feels like the Comic Irregulars are rushing through the story much faster than the occasionally stalled pace at which they moved through The Phantom Menace. They spent a lot of time in Phantom Menace trying to establish the characters and building hints of their personalities and relationships with each other. We got to know the various characters, we paced through the story and every single thing the characters did, and the characters, in turn, slowly learned about the world and the campaign. In Attack of the Clones, the Comic Irregulars basically barge into the story guns a-blazin’. We already know the characters, they already know about the world and we can take care of the campaign in one strip, so let’s take a pure utilitarian approach and get through the plot as quickly as we can.

In The Phantom Menace, the Comic Irregulars may have created a more captivating story than they ever intended.

Truth be told, that may be partly because they actually created a story. So far, Attack of the Clones has mostly felt like a bunch of disconnected moments loosely strung together. Each individual strip has mostly served the purpose of a gag. It’s almost been a reverse Cerebus Syndrome, where the strip has developed less of a reliance on the plot and become more gag-a-day in nature.

Consider the succeding sequence, where Padme/Jim meets with the Jedi Council and Chancellor Palpatine over the vote to create a Grand Army of the Republic. The first strip involves everyone discussing Padme’s character, and Padme walking in, checking the Jedi’s support for the Army, and trying to boss Palpatine around. The second strip creates the subplot of rebuilding the moon of Naboo, destroyed by the Trade Federation during The Phantom Menace. And strip #3 mostly involves back-and-forth dialogue between Padme and Bail Organa. All three are somewhat disconnected from each other, especially when read one at a time. The last strip in particular comes off as being disconnected even when read in sequence all at once.

I say that a “long-form” webcomic should take care to make each strip a complete, satisfying experience, but it’s a balancing act. If it’s too diffuse, it loses cohesion; it may come off like a complete comic when read all at once, but as a day-by-day comic, it almost no longer becomes a plot-based strip.

Two factors may make that sound absurd. The first is the popularity of gag-a-day webcomics, and the second is the specific fact that The Order of the Stick is very much gag-a-day and yet balances that out with an ongoing plot. But gag-a-day strips don’t have an expectation of a plot unless they’re undergoing Cerebus Syndrome, and OOTS substantially advances the plot with each strip, building a strong connection from one strip to the next, and still lets each stand on its own and end with a funny gag. The two share billing on OOTS while the Comic Irregulars seem to be sublimating the plot to the funny. (So you don’t think I’m showing my OOTS bromance too much here, I’ll also ask you to look at Sluggy Freelance. And the OOTS balance between plot and gags has been especially apparent in recent strips, as I’ll cover in a day or two.)

But perhaps more than any of that, is the problem that gag-a-dayness is not in Darths and Droids‘ DNA. The strip has been funny throughout The Phantom Menace, but it’s been a sort of punchlineless humor, where the humor has existed in equal amounts in every panel, a natural result of the personalities of the characters (especially Jim, Sally, and Pete, in that order), so if each strip ended with a gag, it did so as part of the natural progression of the story. That’s helped to minimize the extent to which the Comic Irregulars have had to contort the story to fit each page and actually built the sense of the strip as a long-form, drama-based, comic-book-style webcomic. While I’ve certainly laughed along with Darths and Droids, that wasn’t the reason I read the comic, and the plot is starting to fall out of focus, especially read one-installment-at-a-time (I didn’t quite grasp much of what was going on until I re-read these strips). I wonder if the Comic Irregulars are/were trying to move Darths and Droids in the direction of gag-a-day in order to avoid the Girl Genius/Gunnerkrigg Court problem, and are running into the limitations of that.

Now, it’s early in Attack of the Clones, and the basic situation is only just getting set up. The last two strips have had a bit more of a connection with each other, which bodes well for the future (at least the near future), and I think I have a better idea of where the plot is going and might better be able to follow the strip from this point forward. Part of the problem may have been the need to follow various strips I’m planning to write reviews of over the next month or two, and those strips distracting me to some extent from Darths and Droids. It might be a shame if Darths and Droids were to chase me away, because it’s become apparent, especially towards the end of The Phantom Menace, that the strip is going to be using a very different plot from the movies (on top of alternate interpretations and the things the players bring to their characters) and that would mean we might be in for more surprises than one might think. (I can’t tell from the strip; was the destruction of the moon of Naboo part of The Phantom Menace or not?) But Darths and Droids has recently hit a bit of a rough patch, falling into some easy mistakes made by continuity strips and weakened my investment in the strip. The bad news is it needs to spend some time to win me back. The good news is anyone else looking to dive in can learn from it.

State of Ctrl+Alt+Del: Our Little Manchild is All Grown Up

(From Ctrl+Alt+Del. Click for full-sized sperm quest.)

If you’ve been following just the main comic of Ctrl+Alt+Del, something happened that you may have missed.

Winter-een-mas came and went.

Back in November, I expressed my amazement that some people were organizing Winter-een-mas festivities at my school, complete with visual evidence. As it developed, the promotion for it became even more pervasive than it was when I posted on it, going from a simple table setpiece to include a massive banner hanging over the lobby of the Student Center (both of which are common with various things school clubs do around here), advertising an entire week of festivities (including weekends) on school property. If I still lived in the dorms it might have been a major event around here.

Except in the place where it got started.

Winter-een-mas used to be a big, multi-week deal, where Ethan would go on positively epic escapades; last year he met with the Gods of Gaming and the strip moved up to a once-a-week schedule while we were subjected to a parable. This year? Nada. Recognition of Winter-een-mas at all was relegated to the Sillies, which tend to update in one huge batch once a week despite being presented as daily, and which seem to have been almost abandoned entirely. The main strip continued apace as though nothing was happening, albeit focused on Ethan and the rest of the cast, as they prepared for the store re-opening and saw Zeke coming back to “life”. It seems to back up my contention that the Sillies were intended as a respite for people who didn’t like the strip’s Cerebus Syndrome and wanted the “old” CAD back.

Ctrl+Alt+Del is growing up (as is Ethan), and as it does so, it’s putting away childish things like Winter-een-mas. The strip is six years old, and if Ethan was mentally six when the strip started, he’s twelve now and maturing (whatever that word means) fast.

Ethan and Lilah are officially married now, although they’re planning a show wedding for everyone else, while Ethan prepares for (and dreads) GameHaven’s reopening under his leadership. Running a video game store involves a lot of responsibility, and for Buckley, getting Ethan out of that responsibility isn’t as easy as a miscarriage, and necessarily would involve gaining new insights into certain characters, including Ethan. So unless any “need” to have Ethan constantly avoid responsibility were to be brought into sharp focus within the strip, there’s no getting out of this one. Ethan is going to have to take some real, long-term responsibility and undergo whatever character development that involves.

Now admittedly, Tim Buckley’s track record with handling real change isn’t good, and in fact Ethan’s possession of the store came at the end of a lengthy storyline that, until that very last strip, looked to be mere sound and fury signifying nothing, except Ethan and Lilah’s elopement. Tim has plenty of outs: Ethan could get off to a terrific start with the help of his congregation, and/or leave much of the day-to-day operations to Lilah or Lucas. But call me naive, but I suspect not only is this the real deal, and will avoid going towards First and Ten this time, but word of the elopement is going to leak out and certain people will not be happy.

I’d be perfectly happy to eat crow if we go back to the main cast and find the store running better than ever and Ethan and Lilah’s second wedding coming off without a hitch. But between the mere fact we’re having a second wedding, and the passing by of Winter-een-mas… I can’t help but think Buckley’s critics may be the ones forced to eat crow, and Ethan is about to go through some real adversity.

It’s not going to be Order of the Stick, but it’ll be a big improvement over what Buckley’s critics think the strip is. I hope they’re watching. I know I will.

State of Irregular Webcomic: Dispatches from the Afterlife

(From Irregular Webcomic! Click for full-sized gibbering madness and destruction.)

So the destruction of the universe turned out to be, in a sense, much ado about nothing.

But it’s also serving as the impetus for a major change… in the short-term, at least.

After ten days of white turning to blue turning to red turning to black, which looked for all the world to be an artsy way of depicting the birth of a new universe, the black turned out to be… the Head Death’s eyes, positioned along with everyone else in the universe (including people from various points in time) in the Afterlife. So no, the universe hasn’t been reborn yet, and we’re forced to be tortured for a while more yet, wondering when and how it does.

After another week of the Head Death drawing things out by answering people’s questions, strips that all remained stuck in almost every single theme (with the curious and sudden exception of Me), he handed it over to a re-promoted Death of Insanely Overpowered Fireballs, and upon leaving, everything devolved back to the Death theme alone for no real reason. (Come on, like this strip doesn’t still belong in most of the themes.) Fireballs continues taking questions from the congregation for a couple more strips, before sending it back to the congregation.

So for almost all of January, Irregular Webcomic! didn’t fit my “sixteen-comics-in-one” theory. More than before the destruction of the universe, it was a single, unified comic with a single, unified plot I could follow from day to day. Starting with #2187, though, it returned to having several plots going on at once, with the caveat that since everyone’s dead, they all get the Death theme as well…and since everyone’s hanging out on the Infinite Featureless Plane of Death at one time, it’s really one plot peeking in at various parts of the plane, and everyone’s varied plots, and any two themes can cross over at any moment.

It evokes the dimensions the Irregular Crisis took in the lead-up to the destruction, where various themes started running parallel tracks. But now IWC is equally readable as a single comic or as a collection of smaller ones… and the experience isn’t really complete without the former.

On a similar track to that lead-up to the destruction of the universe, the various themes are starting to fall into parallel tracks, for obvious reasons. Everyone wants to either just plain escape the afterlife (and the Cliffhangers appear to have already done so), or restart the universe. Mythbusters, Shakespeare/Harry Potter, Martians, and now Steve and Terry all have parallel plans developing to restart the universe, most started within the last week or two, with the potential for more to come, while the Head Death’s meeting with the Paradox Department proceeds apace. All evidence is that the universe is going to be recreated, and we’re going to have a front-row seat for the new Genesis.

But it’s very possible Irregular Webcomic! will never be the same again.

But I can’t wait to see how we get there – and what IWC comes out the other end as… if anything.

Two graphics examinations

I was planning on doing several state-ofs on webcomics I’m reading today. You can blame my inability to find anyplace quiet enough on campus for me, perhaps partially attributable to my growing inability to handle any disturbance to the quiet – or noise, as the case may be – for the fact that I mostly goofed off today instead. (It doesn’t help that it seems most people seem to have forgotten what used to be inextricably linked to libraries – a “quiet” rule – even at the school library where it used to hold relatively well; less than a year ago I was called out for breaking it.) I’m keenly aware of the risk of it happening again though, so I’m going to try to at least get a start on one tonight, so I have a reason to already be in the mood tomorrow.

Because I don’t want that to be my only reason to post today, two graphics packages I want to look at now. I don’t know what it is with the holder of the NFL primetime package and the need to change up the graphics for the Super Bowl. CBS didn’t make a single change to its package for Super Bowl XLI, and the closest thing to a change Fox made compared to the playoffs was to swap out the “NFL on FOX” logo for an “XLII FOX” logo whenever the banner didn’t show. I could understand it for ABC at Super Bowl XL (even they didn’t used to do this) because they were rolling out their new adaptation of the banner for all sports. (It was the only time they could do so for the NFL, and in less than a year it was made obsolete when ABC Sports was folded into the ESPN brand, but whatever.) NBC… what is the point of spiffying up your graphics?

It’s definitely not a long-term change, because it was back to normal at the Pro Bowl. I’m not necessarily criticizing the banner itself, because it’s basically the old one with slicker graphics and animations, but it’s kind of pointless.

ESPN, meanwhile, rolled out a new banner for its tennis broadcasts. You may recall that ESPN’s first attempt at adapting the banner for tennis, back at Wimbledon, didn’t go well. I suggested that ESPN take a cue from the presentation of tennis scores in other countries and simply list the number of sets won and the number of games won in the current set, rather than the awkward-looking take they went with. ESPN didn’t do that, but there’s little to complain about in the new strip. The score of the current game takes up the bulk of the strip, with the set-by-set score relegated to a side space. It’s almost the reverse of what most tennis boxes have looked like in this country, where the game score has been subordinated to the match score. In fact, the match score gives way to present updates of games on other courts, as well as break, set, and match points, deuce numbers, and for the duration of any tiebreak. Stats are presented by causing the game score to give way to the stat numbers, and the match score to give way to an indication of the stat displayed, but when indications like upcoming schedules and the time in both Melbourne and someplace in the States appear above the banner, I wonder why the same couldn’t be done for stats.

However, I have a couple of quibbles. First, the order of the players for display of the game score switches places for each game, depending on who’s serving, in order to maintain the “Server-Returner” order (a knock on the Wimbledon strip). This might be useful to differentiate each game as a separate game, but that might be kinda pointless. But more to the point, it doesn’t look much like any other strip ESPN has. In a sense, it evokes the new Monday Night Football banner, which also has more of an emphasis on squareness than ESPN’s other, parallelogram-based strips, but it doesn’t look a heck of a lot like that either, and it doesn’t have the MNF banner’s distinctive feature of containing all extraneous graphics within itself. It’s about as good as ESPN could have hoped for, though there’s still room for improvement, and certainly an improvement over the Wimbledon banner that was so awful I can’t really find a video of it anywhere.

I was going to comment on one other (national) strip at one point, but damned if I can remember what it was now. Instead, please enjoy how not to design a score graphic, from the Portland Trail Blazers.

I personally think the centralized approach, which ESPN tried for MNF the first two years, has potential, but this isn’t it. The main sin is this: each team’s score naturally invites comparison to the other team’s score. The easier you make it to tell which team has the lead, the better. That’s the thinking behind the weird “bar” TNT has introduced on its new NBA box. You do not put each team’s score on opposite ends of your box or strip!!! Especially when they are separated from the time by the team logos, which makes them look lonely as the only changing element compared with its immediate neighbors. (And it only gets worse when individual stats are displayed.) I know what the Blazers were going for – emphasizing the “opposition” – but something compact like ESPN’s “orb” would have worked for that purpose just as well. Or Versus’ graphics. Or The Score’s efforts. This strip would be greatly improved just by switching the place of the score and team abbreviation with that of the logo, but the time and especially the shot clock still take up way more space than they need. I’m not a fan of spelling out “QUARTER” either. The Blazers should have just let the professionals at Comcast SportsNet design their graphics.

(In general, when teams have their graphics designed by people not good enough to get jobs working for national outfits or nationwide regional sports networks, they tend to get painfully experimental, when they don’t blatantly and clumsily rip off other networks’ graphics as is the norm in the NFL preseason. The Yankees’ YES Network has one of the better team-designed graphics, and it’s very conventional – and the Yankees and YES are big enough to afford national-quality designers. (Also worthy of praise: the Orioles and Nationals’ network, MASN; the Red Sox and Bruins on NESN; and if the Padres designed Channel 4’s graphics they did a good job, but still couldn’t help but experiment a little.) When the Cleveland Indians got their own network in SportsTime Ohio, their first season was spent with a fairly conventional strip – then they decided to get experimental, and stuck a box in the lower-right that disappeared when the ball was in play (setting baseball graphics back to 1995) and displayed the logo of the team at bat when no one was on base.)

Blog of Webcomics’ Identity Crisis: The Dark Cloud in “Good News”

Ursula Vernon’s Digger is moving to its own site, and Vernon treats it as a cavalcade of good news. Even the secondary announcement that Digger is becoming free is arguably burying the lead:

It will also be going off subscription, and over to advertising–Graphic Smash is pretty much abandoning the subscription model. I’m pleased that we’ll get more traffic as a result, and that people will finally get to read the whole archives for free, but I also find myself wanting to do something nice for all my faithful subscribers, who quite literally paid my rent a couple of times–without them, Digger would have been abandoned long ago, and I owe them big time for having sustained me and my comic so wonderfully and well. (emphasis added)

As it stands, there are already only three active webcomics that are still running on the subscription model at Graphic Smash, and Digger is one of them. If the remaining two become free as well, as may be implied here, it’s a bad sign for anyone else looking to put their webcomic behind a subscription wall.

Random Internet Discovery of the Week

My eye is pretty much back to normal. Sometimes I think about stopping or restricting the RID because what comes up rarely interests me, and then come days I’m thankful it’s one fewer day of posting I need to worry about.

I don’t know what to make of this. You may notice I say that a lot about the RID…

Because if I had any readers, this would be much-clamored for by now. I know I’ve been wanting it.

The speed with which this happened both impresses and … what’s the word… humbles me. (I mean, I’m being listed on this site scarcely a week after Evil Inc.!)

Thanks to Komix!, you now have an RSS feed, of sorts, for Sandsday, which you can access here. It’s a bit of a stopgap until I can figure out how to get a real RSS feed. (For one thing, if you use this RSS feed you have to put up with the Komix interface.)

The strip has an entire landing page at Komix, and you can utilize the Komix features with Sandsday if you feel the need to. (There’s even a discussion board if you want it.)

As it’s become obvious that Buzzcomix is likely NOT coming back, I’m clearing both links to it from the strip page (I don’t need the Buzzcomix Reader link anymore anyway) and replacing it with a link to Komix. Tomorrow? Link graphics.

2008 Year in Review: Sports Ratings Roundup

David Morgan-Mar called me a “webcomics reviewer” this weekend. While webcomics reviews are what I do with my “webcomics” tag, I don’t prefer to brand myself with that brush, and I don’t want to go down the path of an Eric Burns(-White) of becoming primarily known for webcomics while wanting to branch into more fields. So with that in mind, allow me to prove just how wrong Morgan-Mar really is!

Last year – well, really late two years ago – Sports Media Watch had what was, to me, one of the most useful posts of the year, including lists of the top-rated games on cable, the top-rated non-NFL games on cable, and every verifiable sports rating over 5.0.

Sadly, SMW did no such thing this year – especially sad considering the addition of the Olympics to the rating comparison – so I’m going to do so myself. And I’m going to do one better and include every rating over 3.0, and some over 2.0, to ever be recorded by SMW (and some other sources) over the course of the year, AND color-code it for ease of readability. (In so doing I may be risking Nielsen getting all up in my ass about it and needing to downsize this post in the future, based on their behavior with certain others.) I think it’ll be interesting to see the trends. Get ready for a lot of scrolling! Let’s see if I can force a jump and save you people reading Da Blog proper (who could probably care less) some trouble…

Read more

Blog of Webcomics’ Identity Crisis: For the Love of Webcomics

(From Irregular Webcomic! Click for full-sized abrasion of large hadrons.)

It’s become apparent that my “Webcomics’ Identity Crisis” series is very much a representation of a moment in time, of the state of webcomics in February 2009. (Really January, considering the impeti for me to write it.) So here, I hope to keep a record of the more interesting thoughts on the matter floating on the Internet. There are plenty of other places to get a comprehensive record; this is a log of my ongoing thoughts as I hope to write a book on the changing face of the Internet in general. (It’s not getting its own label for the time being though, and I still have a full-fledged “State of IWC” post coming.)

Hey, David Morgan-Mar linked to me off his LiveJournal again! DMM is responsible for what has been one of only one or two major traffic bumps in Da Blog’s history when he linked to my full-fledged review of Darths and Droids. For someone who launched into webcomics in 2002, rather late compared to some of the giants of the field, he has always been something of an outsider (his first strip is basically him discovering the idea of webcomics) who’s been overwhelmed by the support he’s received from the webcomics community. As he stipulates in his post, he’s actually been surprised, almost oblivious, to Irregular Webcomic!‘s notoriety in the webcomic community.

This part gets to the heart of the post and is worth quoting in full:

And then I find myself thinking: Hang on. If there are a few dozen webcomic authors making enough money to live on, and I’m pushing for a spot in the top 50, why am I making no money whatsoever out of my comics? (In fact, why do I pay a webhost $40 a month for the privilege of putting my comics on the Net?)

To avoid any suspense, the simple answer is that I have never treated webcomics as a way of making money. I’ve never had any expectation that maybe one day I’ll be able to run ads and sell merchandise and make some money. That “business model” has never been something I’m aiming towards.

All I’ve ever wanted out of webcomics is to do something creative, share it with people, hopefully entertain a few people, and have it as a fun hobby. Over time I’ve added a couple of other desires: To educate people with the annotations I occasionally write to accompany comics, and to raise some money for charity.

But there’s this whole community of people out there, webcomic authors, critics, bloggers, and so on, who seem obsessed with the idea that webcomics can be (or already are) a way to make a living, and lamenting the difficulty of breaking into the field and building up the recognition to that magical point where you can quit your day job and live off merchandising. They analyse the developments in webcomics, pore over statistics, speculate about the future of the “industry” and what webcomics will be like in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, and wonder how many people will be making a living off them and how easy/hard it will be for new talent to get recognised.

Well… sometimes it just bemuses me. I sort of know this community is out there all the time, but I don’t dwell on it, and I don’t really participate much in it. I just make my comics and put them on the net, and hope someone has a nice word to say about them. Sure, it would be really nice if someone offered me a full-time salary to quit my job and make webcomics, and I’d probably think seriously about doing so. But it’s not an end I’m seeking. I’m not taking the steps to try to get there.

So although apparently I’m part of the webcomics scene, I still feel like the meek outsider who doesn’t belong. I don’t seem to share the same aspirations as many of the vocal webcomics personalities. And I have to say that for the most part, I’m glad I don’t. I don’t want to obsess over the “state of webcomics” or whether webcomics are considered an artform or not, or whether webcomic authors can make money or not. I just want to spend a few hours a week enjoying my hobby.

Fleen also links to Morgan-Mar’s post (so I may be getting another, bigger bump) and I’m mostly going to cover the same ground as Gary Tyrell, but I also have a far more profound thing to say about Morgan-Mar’s topic:

David? A lot of the people in this community would really love to know your secret. (Also, don’t get too excited about being #55 in Comixtalk’s comedy list. First of all, I still hope that list isn’t ordered; second of all, if it is the only reason you’re likely to make the final list, let alone anywhere near that high, is the paucity of drama nominees.)

Irregular Webcomic! is nowhere near as easy to create as Sandsday. It’s not as simple as taking a bunch of random circles and squares and copying-and-pasting them onto panel after panel, and making funny jokes using them. You have to have the impressive LEGO collection, you have to set them up in the way you want to, you have to have the mad Photoshop skillz… Eric Burns(-White) goes into more detail just how much effort must go into each IWC here. And that’s just IWC; Morgan-Mar may get help on the other projects, but between all the plot points that need to be shaken out on Darths and Droids and organizing all the screen caps, and all the coding work that’s gone into IWC and mezzacotta, and basically everything David Morgan-Mar has his hands in the cookie jar of, and he notes in his post that he’s paying $40 on hosting costs alone…

If David Morgan-Mar wanted to open up even one revenue stream – a single Project Wonderful or even Google ad, selling just one or two tchotchkes, even allowing donations to himself rather than directing them all to the Jane Goodall Institute – he could probably make more money than most webcomic artists could ever dream of. But Morgan-Mar doesn’t make a single penny off his comics. (Okay, so there’s a tiny little ad at the top of mezzacotta, but still.)

It’d be nice if every webcomicker could simply make comics as a hobby effort and not only not worry about making any money, but consciously avoid even rather simple steps they could take to make money. (I don’t understand why people like Morgan-Mar and Rich Burlew are so insistent about not putting up ads; there are plenty of ways to make them non-intrusive, guys!) But webcomics (and blogs) take time to make, and they don’t pay the bills. You still have to go to a job, and that means time taken out of your schedule to make comics – and do other things. And Irregular Webcomic! isn’t done cheap.

So how is it that David Morgan-Mar can put together one comic by his lonesome, and contribute to several others, and pay for the hosting of all of them? And keep track of e-mails, forum posts, etc.? And not make a single dime off any of it, which means he’s doing it all while maintaining a day job?

Whatever it is, hats off to David Morgan-Mar: a webcomics success story in his very lack of success.