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Webcomics, online comics, or Internet comics are comics published on a website. While most are published exclusively on the web, others are also published in magazines, newspapers or, often self-published, books.
Webcomics can be compared to self-published print comics in that almost anyone can create their own webcomic and publish it. As of January 2007, the four largest webcomic hosting services hosted over 18,000 webcomics, ranging from traditional comic strips to graphic novels and covering many genres and subjects. Very few are financially self-sustaining.
There are several differences between webcomics and print comics since the formal restrictions of the traditional newspaper or magazine format can be lifted, allowing cartoonists to take advantage of the web's unique capabilities. Scott McCloud, one of the first advocates of webcomics, has pioneered the idea of the infinite canvas where, rather than being confined to normal print dimensions, artists are free to spread out in any direction indefinitely with their comics. Other comic artists incorporate animations or even interactive elements into their comics.
However, the format and style of many, if not most, webcomics is still similar to that of traditional newspaper comic strips like Peanuts consisting of three or four panels. Simpler formats allow for more frequent updates, potentially allowing an artist to build up an audience more quickly. Similar to comic books, manga and graphic novels, other webcomics come in a page form rather than a strip form and tend to focus more on story than gags.
Clip art or photo comics (fumetti)s are types of webcomics that do not use traditional artwork. A Softer World, for example, is made by overlaying photographs with strips of typewriter-style text. As in the constrained comics tradition, a few webcomics, such as Dinosaur Comics by Ryan North, are created with most strips having art copied exactly from one (or a handful of) template comics and only the text changing. Pixel art, such as that created by Richard Stevens of Diesel Sweeties, is similar to that of sprite comics but instead uses low-resolution images created by the artist himself.
Webcomic creators often publish print collections when their archive consists of a significant number of strips. However, artists who create webcomics in nonstandard formats may experience difficulties to come up with an adequate page layout.
Webcomics that are independently published are not subject to the content restrictions of book publishers or newspaper syndicates, enjoying an artistic freedom similar to underground and alternative comics. Some webcomics stretch the boundaries of taste, taking advantage of the fact that internet censorship is virtually nonexistent in countries like the United States. The content of webcomics can still cause problems, such as Leisure Town artist Tristan Farnon's legal trouble after creating a homoerotic Dilbert parody, or the Catholic League's protest of artist Eric Monster Millikin's "blasphemous treatment of Jesus."
Among the earliest online comics were Witches and Stitches, which was published on CompuServe in 1985, and T.H.E. Fox, which was published on CompuServe and Quantum Link in 1986.  Where the Buffalo Roam was published on FTP and usenet in 1991, Doctor Fun was published on the web in September 1993,  Netboy was published on the web in the summer of 1994, and NetComics Weekly from Finnish Comics Society was started in mid 1994. Among the longest-running webcomics, some of which are still being published, are Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan (a Dutch comic that started in November 1994) The Polymer City Chronicles (March 1995), Art Comics Daily (March 1995), Argon Zark! (June 1995), Kevin and Kell (September 1995), Slow Wave (November 1995), and Eric Monster Millikin (Fall 1995).
The late nineties saw the number of webcomics increase drastically. Sabrina Online first appeared a year later in September 1996. A year later, in 1997, Goats appeared (in April), followed by Sluggy Freelance (in August), Roomies! (in September), Piled Higher and Deeper (in October), Newshounds and User Friendly (both in November). Penny Arcade, PvP, Jerkcity, Freefall, and Pokey the Penguin began a year later.
In March 2000, Chris Crosby, Crosby's mother Teri, and Darren Bleuel founded the webcomics portal Keenspot. Crosby and Bleuel also started a free webcomic hosting service in July 2000, originally called KeenSpace but renamed Comic Genesis in July 2005.
In July 2000, Austin Osueke launched eigoMANGA a web portal that published original online manga "webmanga". Within this year, eigoMANGA brought comic book industry attention to webcomics after being featured in many comic book web magazine articles and later appearing in the March 2001 issue of Wizard Magazine.
In August 2000, Scott McCloud's Reinventing Comics, half of which consisted of a treatise on webcomics, was published. Though sometimes controversial, McCloud was one of the first advocates of digital comics and remains an influential figure in the webcomics field. His theories have sometimes led to debates about where webcomics should go and what, precisely, they are. McCloud's early advocacy of micropayments has also been a source of debate.
In 2001, the subscription webcomics site Cool Beans World was launched after a high profile publicity campaign including extensive print advertising. It won Internet Magazine's "Site of the Month" award in October 2001. Contributors included, amongst others, UK-based comic book creators Pat Mills, Simon Bisley, John Bolton and Kevin O'Neill, and the author Clive Barker. Serialised content included Scarlet Traces and Marshal Law.
In March 2001, Shannon Denton and Patrick Coyle launched Komikwerks.com serving free strips from comics and animation professionals. The site launched with 9 titles including Astounding Space Thrills by Steve Conley, Buzzboy by John Gallagher, and Johnny Smackpants by Coyle.
On March 2, 2002, Joey Manley founded Modern Tales, offering subscription-based webcomics. The Modern Tales spin-off serializer followed in October 2002, then came girlamatic and Graphic Smash in March and September 2003 respectively.
In June 2006, Universal Press Syndicate editorial cartoonist Ted Rall focused on webcomics for the third volume of the Attitude: The New Subversive Cartoonists series, and included comics such as The Perry Bible Fellowship, Cat and Girl, and A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible.
While comic strip syndicates had been present online since the mid 1990s, traditional comic book publishers, such as Marvel Comics and Slave Labour Graphics, didn't begin making serious digital efforts until 2006 and 2007. DC Comics launched its web comic imprint, Zuda Comics in October 2007.  The site features user submitted comics in a competition for a professional contract to produce web comics.
Very few artists are able to work on their webcomics full-time without needing a day job to support it, among them Tim Buckley of Ctrl+Alt+Del and Randall Munroe of xkcd. Generally, webcomic creators can make money by placing banner ads on their websites, selling original art, merchandising and print collections, offering commissions and by asking for donations.
Several cartoonists like Phil and Kaja Foglio of Girl Genius have stopped publishing traditional comic books and instead serialise their content as a webcomic to reach a larger audience. Often, the webcomic is later published in the form of trade paperback collections.
Some webcomics, such as Helen, Sweetheart of the Internet, Macanudo, Van Von Hunter and Diesel Sweeties have been syndicated and published on daily newspapers' comics pages. Others such as The Perry Bible Fellowship and PartiallyClips have been published in smaller alternative newspapers, or printed in magazines, such as The Order of the Stick in Dragon Magazine and Get Your War On in Rolling Stone.
Many webcomics artists have received honors for their work. In 2006, Gene Luen Yang's graphic novel American Born Chinese, originally published as a webcomic on Modern Tales, was the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award. Don Hertzfeldt's animated film based on his webcomics, Everything Will Be OK, won the 2007 Sundance Film Festival Jury Award in Short Filmmaking, a prize rarely bestowed on an animated film.
Many traditionally print-comics focused organizations have added award categories for comics published on the web. The Eagle Awards established a Favorite Web-based Comic category in 2000, and the Ignatz Awards followed the next year by introducing an Outstanding Online Comic category in 2001. After having nominated webcomics in several of their traditional print-comics categories, the Eisner Awards began awarding comics in the Best Digital Comic category in 2005. In 2006 the Harvey Awards established a Best Online Comics Work category, and in 2007 the Shuster Awards began an Outstanding Canadian Web Comic Creator Award.
Other awards focus exclusively on webcomics. The Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards consist of a number of awards that have been handed out annually from 2001 to 2008. The Clickburg Webcomic Awards (also known as "the Clickies") has been handed out annually since 2005 at the Stripdagen Haarlem comic festival. The awards require the recipient to be active in the Benelux countries, with the exception of one international award.
The growth of webcomics has also resulted in the growth of online communities around webcomics. There are fanbases that artists foster through the use of forums, fan sections and blogs, and many artists maintain close relationships with their fans. The artists themselves also create communities through the exchanges of emails, links, forum posts as well as art in the form of guest filler strips and cross-overs, and band together in collectives. Sites providing hosting and other services, e.g. Comic Genesis or DrunkDuck, also tend to aggregate communities.
As with the Internet, the webcomic community has already seen much controversy. Since the nature of a webcomic is closely tied to quality as well as popularity, flame wars can ensue especially if a controversy involves a particularly popular webcomic and/or its artist. Many of these controversies are caused when webcomic artists post an opinionated piece, whether it is that day's update or news post. Rivalries—imagined or not—between different artists are also a common spark to the flame. The controversy can also be fanned by a particular webcomic's fanbase.
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- Comic book creator
- Digital illustration
- List of webcomics
- List of webcomics in print
- Mobile comic
- ↑ Manley, Joey (2007-01-03). "The Number of Webcomics in the World". ComicSpace Blog. http://blog.comicspace.com/?p=766. Retrieved 2009-11-28.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Lacy, Steven (2007-11-21). "Webcomics are profane, explicit, humorous — and influencing trends". Charleston City Paper. Noel Mermer. http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A36337. Retrieved 2009-11-28.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 [[Ted Rall |Rall, Ted]] (2006). Attitude 3: The New Subversive Online Cartoonists. New York: Nantier Beall Minoustchine Publishing. p. 9. ISBN 1-56163-465-4.
- ↑ McCloud, Scott (2000). Reinventing Comics. New York: Paradox Press. pp. 200—233. ISBN 0-06-095350-0.
- ↑ McCloud, Scott (July 2001). "McCloud in Stable Condition Following Review, Groth Still at Large". The Comics Journal (235): 70—79.
- ↑ Arrant, Chris (2006-04-25). "It's A Softer World After All". Publisher's Weekly. Reed Elsevier. http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6327720.html. Retrieved 2009-11-28.
- ↑ [[Ted Rall |Rall, Ted]] (2006). Attitude 3: The New Subversive Online Cartoonists. New York: Nantier Beall Minoustchine Publishing. pp. 115–121. ISBN 1-56163-465-4.
- ↑ Hodges, Michael H. (2007-01-08). "Diesel Sweeties tackles nuts, bolts of love". The Detroit News (Detroit: Jonathan Wolman): p. 1E.
- ↑ Crane, Jordan (April 2001). "A Silly Little Coat Hanger for Fart Jokes: Talkin' Comics with Leisuretown.com's Tristan A Farnon". The Comics Journal (232): 80—89.
- ↑ "Michigan State President Acts Presidential". Catalyst Journal of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. November 2000. http://www.catholicleague.org/catalyst.php?year=2000&month=November&read=1108. Retrieved 2009-11-28.
- ↑ Beck, Robert. "Webcomic Spotlight: Eric Monster Millikin". LotsofInterviews.com
- ↑ "T.H.E.-FOX.TXT". The Commodore 64/128 RoundTable on GEnie. http://cbmfiles.com/wgenie/geniefiles/Information/T.H.E.-FOX.TXT. Retrieved 2007-07-01.
- ↑ Bordahl, Hans. "Where the Buffalo Roam -- First Comic on the Internet". ShadowCulture. http://www.shadowculture.com/wtbr/site.html. Retrieved 2007-07-01.
- ↑ (December 17, 2000). "Readers know how to find "Fun"". Chapel Hill Herald Pg. 9
- ↑ Silverman, Dwight . (August 24, 1994). "Cybertoons: Comic artists find an instant audience on the Internet". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Pg. 5C
- ↑ "What's New With NCSA Mosaic and the WWW (June, 1994)" (HTML). http://www.kitchencloset.com/realstuff/ncsa/whats_new-archive/1994/whats-new-9406.html. Retrieved 2006-11-03.
- ↑ "Dr. Otto's Do-It-Yourself Bomb Disposal". Game Zero magazine. http://www.gamezero.com/team-0/comics/031395a.html. Retrieved 2007-01-18.
- ↑ Yim, Roger. (April 2, 2001). "DOT-COMICS: Online cartoons skip traditional syndication and draw loyal fans on the Internet". San Francisco Chronicle. Pg. D1
- ↑ Newman, Heather. (February 2, 2001). "See You In The Funny Pixels Michigan Cartoonists Draw On Web Sites To Find Readers". Detroit Free Press. Pg. 1H
- ↑ McCloud, Scott. "Misunderstanding Micropayments". http://www.scottmccloud.com/home/essays/2003-09-micros/micros.html. Retrieved 2007-05-02.
- ↑ Hammersley, Ben. "Making the web pay". The Guardian. http://technology.guardian.co.uk/online/story/0,3605,1013313,00.html. Retrieved 2007-05-02.
- ↑ Rogers, Jean. "Comics and New Media". http://www.shadowgallery.co.uk/home4.html. Retrieved 2007-03-15.
- ↑ Martin, Jessica. "Cool Beans or Dead Beans: can the comic barons cross onto the web?". http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/library/zones/2001/nz5841.php. Retrieved 2007-03-15.
- ↑ Ho, Patricia Jiayi (July 8, 2003). "Online comic artists don't have to play panel games". Alameda Times-Star (Alameda, CA)
- ↑ Walker, Leslie (June 16, 2005). "Comics Looking to Spread A Little Laughter on the Web". The Washington Post, p. D1.
- ↑ Rall, Ted (2006). Attitude 3: The New Subversive Online Cartoonists, New York: Nantier, Beall, Minoustchine. ISBN 1-56163-465-4.
- ↑ Soponis, Trevor. "Publishers Look to Digital Comics". Publishers' Weekly. http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6393781.html. Retrieved 2007-05-02.
- ↑ "PERAZZA ON THE LAUNCH OF ZUDACOMICS.COM". http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=134710&highlight=zuda.
- ↑ Ctrl+Alt+Del
- ↑ xkcd - A webcomic
- ↑ MacDonald, Heidi. "Webcomics: Page Clickers to Page Turners". Publisher's Weekly. http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6291934.html?text=web+comic. Retrieved 2007-02-02.
- ↑ Memmott, Carol (December 29, 2005). "Comics pages make room for manga; Newspapers target the young". USA Today, Pg. 1D.
- ↑ Astor, Dave (January 2, 2007). "'Lio' and 'Pearls' Among Comics Replacing Daily 'FoxTrot'". editorandpublisher.com
- ↑ Paizo Publishing Creates Strategic Alliance with The Order of the Stick creator Rich Burlew, Paizo.com, September 30, 2005. Retrieved on November 10, 2007
- ↑ Balog, Kathy, et al. (September 9, 2004). "Our critics' top picks". USA TODAY, Pg. 6D
- ↑ Bosman, Julie. (October 12, 2006). "National Book Award Finalists Chosen". The New York Times, Pg. E2
- ↑ De Benedetti, Chris. "Bay Area films keep it real at Sundance festival". Oakland Tribune. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4176/is_20070116/ai_n17130219/pg_2/. Retrieved 2007-01-16.
- ↑ Boxer, Sarah (August 17, 2005). "Comics Escape a Paper Box, and Electronic Questions Pop Out". New York Times.
- ↑ "Attack of the Show". G4TechTV. Aired 12 August 2005.
- ↑ Mirk, Jeroen. "comicbase.nl's blog". Comixpedia. http://www.comixpedia.com/blog/comicbase_nl. Retrieved 2007-01-31.
- ↑ Cooper, Kelly J.. "Webcomic Communities (Part Two), Interactivity: Fuel for your fave Creator?". Comixpedia. http://comixpedia.com/node/174. Retrieved 2007-02-13.
- ↑ Zabel, Joe. "The Future of Webcomics". The Webcomics Examiner. http://webcomicsreview.com/examiner/issue041213/future2.html. Retrieved 2007-02-13.
- ↑ 43.0 43.1 Zabel, Joe. "A Shrinkage of the Center?". The Webcomics Examiner. http://webcomicsreview.com/?p=143. Retrieved 2007-02-13.