Stories of the Week: Online Graphic Novels



Once upon a time, comics were seen as fodder for illiterate teenage boys. The thought of serious subject matter mixing with coarse illustrations so frightened the literary masses that an entire book, Seduction of the Innocence, was published in 1954. The book stated that “comic books were a bad form of popular literature and a serious cause of juvenile delinquency” (to quote Wikipedia).

Of course, that's the once-upon-a-time view of comics. To rephrase a now infamous smoking commercial, "Baby, you've come a long way."

Today comics which focus on serious and intellectual stories are called graphic novels and find themselves being touted by the once-disdainful literary elite in places such as the New York Times Book Review. The funny thing, though, is that for people like myself, who grew up loving comics, this acclaim is old news. In fact, while the literary elite now fawn over graphic novels the medium is already moving on to the next new thing: Online or web comics.

A new classic of the web comic genre is Nowhere Girl by Justine Shaw. This beautifully drawn tale is about a "college student who feels like an outsider in her own life" (to use the comic’s own HTML page summary). As with most online comics, you click through the panels to read the stories. This web comic is equal to the best print graphic novels I have read in recent years and should be checked out.

Another well-received web comic is Megatokyo, originally created by Fred Gallagher and Rodney Caston (but now authored and illustrated by Gallagher). With artwork strongly influenced by Japanese manga, the story follows a group of anime and video game lovers as they live their lives in a fantasy-version of Tokyo. The comic is updated several times a week and has proved so popular it’s been republished in book format. While the characters in the earliest Megatokyo comics were rather wooden, in recent years they’ve undergone a good deal of, dare we use the literary word, character development. As a result, even readers who are not fans of anime and video games can relate to and enjoy these characters’ trials and tribulations.

A final web comic that I’ve enjoyed recently is Shooting War by writer Anthony Lappé and artist Dan Goldman. This political satire has been praised by a number of places, including Rolling Stone and The Village Voice and is definitely worth a read. While the writing often stumbles into left-wing diatribe, the story remains an interesting look at how new media outlets like blogs are both changing the world and being changed by the world. Special note should be made of Dan Goldman’s artwork and the fact that this satire is updated weekly. This last fact harkens to the 19th century glory days of fiction, when writers such as Charles Dickens published their novels in monthly or weekly installments. I hope the success of Shooting War, and the other web comics mentioned here, create more of a demand for both new online graphic novels and episodic fiction.



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Interesting Jason. Another new one just up and running this month - Things Change by Derik A. Badman. It can be found at: http://madinkbeard.com/comics/?p=4#comments