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October 9, 2004

Eric Burns-White: FAQ: About Websnark.com

Well, if we're having trouble getting to the webcomics, we'll do the next best thing. We'll talk about ourselves. It's about time to do the next FAQ section -- the sidebar is looking awfully sparse.

So, without further ado...


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: ABOUT WEBSNARK.COM

What the Hell is all this?
This is Websnark.com, a commentary blog. I comment on... well, stuff. Usually the stuff I find on the web, though not exclusively. Essentially, I write about whatever interests me at the time of writing.
Who exactly are you?
My name is Eric Alfred Burns. I'm a writer and poet who lives in New Hampshire. I've written for some RPG companies you may have heard of, some magazines you probably haven't heard of, and a few websites that's a fifty/fifty shot.
Why all the webcomics stuff?
I like webcomics. A large percentage of the stuff I read online are webcomics. So it's the stuff I'm thinking about, which means in turn it's the stuff I'm writing about. You see? Of course you see.
Wait -- I come here for the webcomics stuff. What's all this about Astronomy or pop culture or fandoms or crap like that? Isn't this a webcomics site?
While webcomics make up the (vast) majority of what I talk about, this isn't a 'webcomics blog' so much as it is a place for me to snark about whatever I want. If that's TV instead, or fandom stuff, or pop culture, or the Astronomy Picture of the Day, that's what it is.
Why 'websnark?' What is a snark?
The word "snark" comes from Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky" "The Hunting of the Snark1." It's a kind of beastie. In computer terms, a snark is some kind of threat or problem on a computer. However, the word has come to also mean sarcastic commentary or the sarcastic expression of opinions. He snarks, she snarks, they snark. That kind of thing. So, since my own sense of humor runs to the sarcastic, Websnark becomes my place to snark about the web. Though I tend to be more positive than negative in my snarks, because I'm a wuss. Also, it's worth noting some webcartoonists have taken to using the word 'websnark' as a verb meaning "a snark about my site appeared on Websnark," in the form "My site was Websnarked yesterday! Wt!" I find the idea that I've become an Internet verb to be a very appealing one.
What schedule do you follow when posting?
When you read it, I've posted. There's no set schedule. Sometimes, if I have a chance to queue things up a little, I'll set them to post through the day at regular intervals, but there's no promise. Since the site went hot, we've never completely missed a day in posting, though a couple of days had no posts of substance. I try to get something out at least once a day, though.
What gives you the right to criticize other people's work?
I pay for the hosting for this website, meaning I own the press this is printed on. So, I guess my right comes from the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. If you're reading this in another country... well, I can publish my writings here in America. Where you actually read them's your own lookout.

If, on the other hand, you mean "where do I get off writing criticism," the answer is "I want to, so I do." It's up to you whether or not you agree with it or want to read it.
I love your site, especially when you really lay into crappy work! Why do you spend so much time saying nice things instead of bad things?
I hear this more often than you might think. It always surprises me, though. I mean, is schadenfreude really that important to you?

The answer to your question is quite simple, however. I snark about the things I encounter on a daily basis. The things I tend to read are things I like. Now, if I like them, I'm not going to insult them on a regular basis, am I? So, there's going to be a lot more "this is so fucking cool!" from me than me trash talking things. It's the way it is.
How can you say such mean things about [Megatokyo/It's Walky/General Protection Fault/Whatever]? That's my favorite webcomic! You suck and are wrong! And bad! Wrong and bad!
These are, by definition, my opinions. They're not 'wrong,' they're just mine. We're not always going to agree. You are perfectly free to like things I don't. You're perfectly free to keep reading things I've put on the 'You had me and you lost me' list. I respect that. I'm also free to dislike them. And to make fun of them. It's what I do.
How can you say such nice things about [Sluggy Freelance/Something Positive/PvP/Whatever]]? That webcomic sucks! You suck and are wrong! And bad! Wrong and bad!
Once again, you'd be surprised how often I get this one. I like stuff I like. If you read the snarks, you'll figure out what it is I like about them. You might not agree with me, but I hope you'll at least see my point. Still, it all comes down to the same thing as the last point -- I like what I like. Don't sweat it if you don't like it.
You don't seem to read one of my favorite webcomics. Can I suggest it to you?
Absolutely! Some of my favorite recent finds -- like Freefall and Questionable Content -- came from people suggesting comics to me. I can't promise I'll get to them soon or snark them when I do get to them, but I truly enjoy reading webcomics and cartoons of all stripes, and so I'm always glad to have more to check out!
Hey! I know a webcomic that's really terrible! Would you look at it so you can make fun of it?
Um. No. I don't go looking for things to insult just so I can insult them. That's not criticism. That's just being mean. I don't care if you think I'm funny while I'm being mean. I don't choose to be mean to people just because I have a website. When I am sarcastic (or even mean) to sites, it's almost always after I've been following that site for years and really liked it at one time (or even still like it now). So, don't bother e-mailing me links to Gonterman comics unless you actually like Gonterman's comics and you want me to read them because you think I'll like them. There are plenty of all-negative snarksites on the web, if that's what you want. I even read and enjoy some of them. But that's not my thing.
Why do you have thumbnails of other peoples' comics on your site? Isn't that a violation of copyright?
Nope. Even though I'm not sure I'd call this site a review site, it is critical commentary, and it's perfectly legal to use examples of art I'm commenting on or producing critical work about, under Fair Use, in the United States of America. Your local laws may vary, of course. Further, I always either thumbnail art (so that the 'salability' of the original image is not diluted' or excerpt bits of it before putting it up, and I also credit my sources. The combination means I'm perfectly able to use the art on my site, even without asking first. (Or even when someone says I can't -- no one gets to restrict Fair Use.)
Hey -- I clicked on a thumbnail to get the full sized comic, and it took me to the webcomic itself! Why don't you have full sized images on your site?
For several reasons. 1) I don't want to inadvertently overstep the bounds of fair use, so I specifically excerpt or thumbnail only, on my site. 2) I don't think it's fair for Websnark to become a 'first stop' for people who want to read cartoons -- they should read those cartoons in the context the webcartoonist intended, on their site, seeing their site design, advertisements and so forth. 3) Most of the time, I'm extolling the virtues of a webcomic. Naturally, I want to increase traffic to the site in question. 4) I'm not made of bandwidth.
You think you're so smart! Do you think you can do better?
If you have a look at the one webcomic I used to draw, I think it's safe to say I can't do better. However, just like you don't have to be a director of multimillion dollar blockbuster movies to have an opinion about Independence Day, I don't have to be a webcartoonist to have opinions about webcomics. You will notice I almost never insult or even criticize the art in those strips, however. I'll knock the strip as a whole, but I won't trash someone else's drawing skills. Not when I clearly can't draw a straight line to save my life.
I'm an webcartoonist, and I'd like your feedback. Will you give it to me?
Glad to! No promises on how quickly I can get back to you, though!
I'm a webcartoonist, and I don't like the snark you wrote about me. Will you take it down?
I'm sorry, but no. You are fully free to comment on the snark, refuting it. I won't remove your comments unless they're outright inflammatory beyond responding to me (I've never actually deleted a comment on one of my snarks to date. Even when they're insulting to me, but I won't let people be nasty to each other in the comments, for example). If you can convince me I was wrong about something, I'll put up a snark saying so. But I won't take the original snarks down. For better or worse, when they go up, they go up for life.
Seriously, dude. I don't like what you said. If you don't take it down, I'll sue you for slander.
Okay, first off, slander is oral in nature -- I'd have to publicly speak lies about you to slander you. The term you're looking for is libel. Second off, this is a commentary site. Everything on this site is my opinion. And, legally speaking, my opinions are not libel, because they don't make a claims about you -- they make claims about me. They are the truthful assertion of what I think of you. See, if I were to claim you fucked dogs, and you in fact didn't fuck dogs, that'd be libel, and you could sue me. If, on the other hand, I say that you seem like a dog fucker to me, that's an opinion I'm expressing -- in my opinion, you have qualities that put me in mind of dog fuckers. I'm not claiming you actually fuck dogs. It just seems, in my opinion, like you're the kind of person who would. That's not libel -- it honestly is my opinion of you. And you don't get to sue me because I have a different opinion than you do, y'damn dog fucker.
What's that phrase in your masthead that changes every week for?
That's the raison d'etre of the site, as the French say. The reason for its being. And it stays crunchy in milk with the great taste of raisins in every bite. Mostly, it's there to set a tone. I make no claims for its success.
Do you have a list of past raison d'etres?
Sure! As of this writing, in the order they've appeared, they are:
  • We snark, because we love.
  • Because "Comixpedia" was already taken.
  • No, no one gives a crap what I think.
  • Because my cat never comments on my opinions.
  • Because Charlie Brown never got to kick that football.
  • Less expensive than Scotch and less painful than running your head into the wall; it's win-win!
  • Someday we're all gonna get killed by someone who likes Yu-Gi-Oh.
  • Noted for its clever turns of phrase, and... stuff... like... you know, that... stuff....
  • Fishing for compliments since August.
  • 50,000 words in 30 days? Simple. Making them cogent? You've got to be kidding me.
  • Jesus Christ, I'm drinking wheat!? How the Hell do you drink wheat!?
What's that creature in the corner of the screen? He's so cute! Where did you get him?
That's Snarky! He's a Snarkasaurus. He was created by Ursula Vernon, the webcartoonist of Digger, when I asked for someone to do quick doodle art for my Comixpedia column "Feeding Snarky." That I got such a fantastic piece back from that request blew me away, and I later commissioned that more complete piece from Ursula to be the site mascot. He's sleeping because a guy called Mckenzee, who's one of my dedicated readers, coined the term "Snarkoleptics" as a title for my fan base.
I love your site? Can I link to you? Or to individual entries? Or stuff like that?
Sure! Of course! Hell yeah! The only way a site like this grows is if people tell their friends about it, and I like people reading me. Also, it gives me a serious lift when people like (or hate) something so much they post a link to it. There is no greater joy for a writer than impact. Further, I think "link policies" aren't only unenforceable and potentially illegal, they're just downright rude. It's the Web. Links are what create it. Jesus Christ on a stick, be glad when people want to see your stuff.
Do you have a link button I can use?
Not at this time. A couple of people have created them for me and use them on their own sites, and that makes me feel happy down in my belly. Sooner or later, I'll either ask to use one of those officially or I'll make one of my own, but for now, I don't have an official one.
Will you link to me? And use my linking button?
Only in the context of a Snark, right now. The closest thing to a links page I have are my daily trawls. If you produce something I read every day, you might end up in one of the trawls. But right now, I pretty much link stuff in the actual snarks. Someday, I'll put a blogroll up, and then I'll link the blogs I read and stuff like that. As for linking buttons -- I don't currently use them. I'm not against them, and if I ever adopt my own button I'll also use other folks' buttons, but for now... nuh-uh.
Hey, I want to send you e-mail. What's your e-mail address?
The best place to send me e-mail is at WEBSNARK at GMAIL dot COM -- decode it and let fly. It's like a reverse rebus, isn't it?

1As reader NathanielK reminded me. Not that I should have remembered that on my own or anything. It's not like I named my fucking website after it or anything.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 5:59 PM | Comments (6)

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Eric Burns-White: Web congestion embers the baby pony.

So, one thing about being someone who comments on webcomics that seems obvious in retrospect... it's difficult to actually do that commentary when there's heavy lag, especially to Keenspace. It's disturbingly like trying to operate a television remote control by poking its buttons with a yardstick while it sits on the coffee table. Yeah, sooner or later the TV gives you the show you want, but it takes a lot of time and promotes a lot of frustration.

On the other hand, it's Saturday -- so at least I have a cat sleeping on my leg while I do it. Of course, that also means I can't get up. I can just sit here, and watch web sites slooooowly develop content. And always -- always -- the webcomic is the last thing to appear. God knows it couldn't appear before Burstnet's ads do....

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 11:07 AM | Comments (4)

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October 8, 2004

Eric Burns-White: Bowling for Snarky!

And here we see the design for the Snarkoleptics Bowling Shirts, in all its Snarkoleptic glory. Ursula was good enough to provide a line art version of Snarky -- we're going with a single color run to keep costs down (in part because doing a black backed shirt means doing a white underlayer anyway -- so we might as well just go with white!) If you click on the thumbnail, you'll see a full sized version of the goodness.

The shirts themselves can be found here. We're going with the black and gold "Loungemaster" design -- black because black is cool, and gold because... well, because in a story called Round Robin I wrote with four other guys back in the early 90's that maybe three people reading this have ever even heard of, I was Gold. Look, I don't have to justify myself to you. Plus, this particular shirt goes up to 4X in a practical sense (they advertise 5X, but not until 2005 -- and they're restocking the 3X and 4X as it is, but we're in no rush). The Snarkoleptics logo will go on the back. If someone wants a white chainstitched name on the front, it's available at a nominal extra cost (I'll be getting it, myself, but it's up to the individuals ordering it).

The cost depends on how many people want shirts. If we get five or under, it'll be $39.95 per shirt (not counting a chainstitched name). 6-10 shirts will be $35.95 per shirt. If we manage to break 11, it'll drop to $31.95, and if Hell freezes over and we get at least 21, it'll drop to $26.95. There's a slight markup (I don't know how much) for 3X and above, and shipping will be whatever the cheapest shipping cost from my place to yours will be (express mail, most likely). I'm going to cover the setup fees and shipping from their place to mine, so don't sweat that.

We're only going to order as many shirts as I get prepaid for, mind. I'm not going to get any extra (though we can always print more later on if other folks want some -- though we'll be starting over on volume, then). I for one am definitely doing this -- and if mine's the only shirt, mine's the only shirt. A number of folks have said "yeah! I wanna do this!" too, but I don't consider that "binding" since no one's heard prices before now.

So. Assume that only 5 people want to do this. That's $40 for a shirt. Plus another $5 for a name on the front if you want it. We've currently got between 6 and 10, so it's currently $35.95 for a shirt, plus $4.95 for a name on the front if you want it! (And as of this writing, four more shirts will reduce that to $31.95.) Plus however much Priority Mail costs from New Hampshire to whereever you live -- probably less than five bucks. If you want to be a part of this here thingy, either comment on this entry here, or on Livejournal (I'll see it on either the Websnark user or the Websnark_Feed user. (Why do we have two feeds on Livejournal? Um... no clue.) or send me another email at websnark AT gmail DOT com -- note that even if you've already said "yeah, count me in!" say it again now, so we can get a hard count.

My thought is to get people to set the final costs on October 13, based on how many folks chime in with a "me! Me! Me!" and start collecting money via Paypal or other forms. Note that I'll need money before ordering, as this is a 0 margin thing for me (I'm not making any money on these shirts). When we've collected all the money, I'll submit the order and the fun will begin.

If you just can't swing this kind of money, don't sweat it. There will be a Cafepress shop up with some much less expensive stuff in it soon enough, and you can grab that. Or you can not grab anything if you'd rather not grab anything, and I'm okay with that too. Just your being here is enough for me.

But still, man. Bowling shirts. If nothing else, we're distinctive.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 12:03 PM | Comments (11)

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Eric Burns-White: Don't you just know the Dad said "well, at least today can't get any worse" just before pulling into his driveway?


(From Calvin and Hobbes. Click on the thumbnail for full sized sin!)

It's "religious" day on Websnark! (MANNA!)

This strip, coming up as part of the continuing complete archives installation onto My Comics Page, absolutely epitomizes one aspect of Calvin and Hobbes. See, Calvin is pure self-centeredness, living for the moment and not considering the consequences until it's very, very too late. At the same time, he is a kid, so he's both capable of absolute terror and also of blowing things way out of proportion.

This strip is only magnified by the fact that we don't know what Calvin actually did. This might be nothing -- he may have broken a lamp or the like. Or, the entire back of the house might be a smoldering wreck. We don't know.

And neither does his Dad. All his Dad knows is, his day is about to get considerably worse.

All in one oversized panel. This is why Bill Watterson remains a holy figure to so many (though it's worth noting I'm not one of them -- but that's another essay). This perfectly understated strip is just nice to see.

In other words... it's MANNA!

(Told you you'd be getting sick of it.)

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 10:53 AM | Comments (0)

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Eric Burns-White: MANNA!

(From Two Lumps. Click on the thumbnail for full sized MANNA!)

Sometimes, it's the littlest things that take a standard strip for a given webcomic and elevate it to 'SNRK' level. It's an appropriate take to the camera. It's a play on words that's unexpected. It's gratuitous yet pleasurable nudity. You understand.

Well, Two Lumps hit that, today. It was an okay strip, with an okay premise, and an okay resolution....

And then Snooch says "MANNA!"

Guys, I just about died.

I kind of hope that's what the manna from Heaven was, in the desert for all those days, as the Jews made their way to the Promised Land. I mean, a miracle is one thing. It's God. God is supposed to produce miracles like clockwork. Parting large bodies of water. Changing brackish water into Beaujolais extremely Nouveau. Smiting Fabio with a bird on a roller coaster.

But there's something deeply appealing about the idea that God accidentally knocked his Kraft Dinner over and it rained down to the Israelites, sustaining them on their arduous journey. And God looking both ways and saying "no, I meant to do that. Seriously. Uh... behold!"

So, for the rest of the day, I'm going to be suddenly shouting "MANNA!" for no good reason. So, if you're going to get sick of that, you might want to start now and avoid the rush.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 10:05 AM | Comments (2)

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October 7, 2004

Eric Burns-White: You know, I have to wonder if the prey take the place of the school's track team...


(From Kevin and Kell. Click on the thumbnail for full sized manners!)

Checking back in with Kevin and Kell shows us the not-so-good wrestling storyline is over, and we've moved back into the arenas I think Holbrook excels in. As long time readers know, the furry strips I like are the ones where there's a point to the characters being anthropomorphic animals. Kell's becoming an assistant coach both gives some good conflict with Rudy (always a good thing) and sets up any number of gags around the fact that the school's hunting team are... well, hunting. And eating the prey.

I'm liking this. Holbrook's bringing the Funny, in a way that brings the Story. Life is good.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 11:30 PM | Comments (0)

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Eric Burns-White: Man, that ugly American in me is gaining strength by the day.


(From General Protection Fault. Click on the thumbnail for full sized you know the drill.)

I'm trying my best to put GPF out of mind. I'm holding fast to the idea that sometime -- hopefully soon -- we'll shift to a new plotline. But I have to admit something. While Nick and Ki remain utterly uninteresting to me, Ki's father has crossed over into the realm of "interesting."

Oh, don't get me wrong. I hate him. But you can't be hated and boring at the same time.

Racism is just plain ugly. It causes a visceral reaction deep inside. But with a side order of hypocrisy, it's nasty. A Japanese man who married a Chinese woman has no call using terms like 'half-breed.' Maybe this is a test he's putting Nick through. Or maybe this is just what Mr. Oshiro thinks of us white-eyes. But I'm going to be very interested to see what Nick does next -- if his almost simpering traditionalism means he'll avoid marrying Ki now, or if he'll actively confront Oshiro, or if the pair just elopes.

And so, Jeff Darlington has done something remarkable. Despite the fact that I don't care about Nick and Ki, and I actively hate Oshiro... I want to see what happens next.

Conflict is a very good thing in a webcomic. Believe me when I tell you that.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 10:31 PM | Comments (3)

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Eric Burns-White: I call it. I make this declaration. It is my RIGHT!

Okay, so I'm surfing around, following links from Ping Teo's Webcomic Finds, because I can. It's a free Internet, damn it, and I'm enjoying watching Ping shunpiking around the ol' Web. And so I go to a site she panned, called Gigawhut? (the question mark is theirs, not mine). And on the whole I agree with Ping's assessment of the strip. But there's one thing that sparks to mind, based on the first strip in the archives, helpfully recreated below (click on the thumbnail for full size, as always):

Okay. This is it. THIS IS AN OFFICIAL MORATORIUM BEING CALLED! I am calling it on the basis of the fact that I have a lot of ego and a website, and can you contest either of those facts? No you can't. So do this.

From this date forward, no webcomics character can be named Ash, unless said character is a non-talking pet. I saw Evil Dead and its sequels too, gang. I loved them too. But you're too. Damn. Late. Misfile beat you. Super Magical Transformer Patty beat you. Hell, Weebl and Bob beat you! And that's not counting the several million references to different anime, the movies, or chicks named Ashley out there.

It's been done. If the girl's name is Ashley, let her friends call her "Ashley," "Shelly," "Ley," or "Bitch." If it's a guy we're talking about, name him Bruce instead. Or Campbell. But not Ash. We'll let you know when you can use it again.

As a side note, my gigantic and powerful friend Frank had a cat named Ash, who was a good cat. He was so named because he was a white haired cat with a single grey smudge on his forehead, so Frank decided he was celebrating Ash Wednesday. If you have a story like that for your character, we'll let it go with a warning.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 3:50 PM | Comments (8)

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Eric Burns-White: It's like a Chucky for the twenty-first century!


(From Yirmumah! Click on the thumbnail for full sized (in)action figure!)

Yirmumah! is a strip that still feels Freshman/Sophomorish, like it's finding its voice and its way. And yet, there's this bubbling cauldron of talent under the surface. As it goes forward and refines, it's going to go places.

How do I know? Because of strips like today's. While it's still riding the Metahumor train (it's not easy to do a comic strip about doing the very comic strip you're reading -- one reason why Checkerboard Nightmare's not on my trawl these days) something like a merchandising strip can ride that train for a few stops pretty nicely. And there's just something about a talking doll that drives its owners to a morass of despair and homelessness that's just plain fun.

So, Coffman and McDeavett share themselves a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

Yes, they share one between the two of them. Look, I'm not made of biscuits, here.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 1:16 PM | Comments (0)

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Eric Burns-White: Okay, we're flirting with respectability and... yes! Back to square one! Whew, that was close!

Whitney Matheson writes a Pop Culture thingy for USA Today. And she was sent to cover SPX, and decided to file a webcomic for her reactions. It was pretty damn good -- Keith Carter did the art, and it honestly made some efforts. Okay, it had a stupid Flash interface, but eh. If I sobbed every time I had to use Flash to read a comic that needs nothing but HTML, I'd have no tears left for the pathetic shell that is my life.

But it was thoughtful. It mentioned that there weren't a lot of people in funny costumes (because you can't admit going to a comic book oriented production without mentioning people in funny costumes. Because, you know, we're a pack of geeks. Not cool people like Football fans. For the record, even Evan Dworkin's fans don't wear cheese on their heads) so that had her more comfortable, and it talked about all the ways that comics and cartoon art are beginning to emerge from the Superheroes Only club to embrace other forms. I was pretty pleased, all told.

And then, right at the end, there was this week's pop question of the week. "If you could have a superpower? What would it be? E-mail your answer to....

Thanks, Matheson. Thanks a whole heap.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 12:52 PM | Comments (3)

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Eric Burns-White: Also, when you miss meetings they vote to make you bring snacks the next time.

pvcomics1-thumb.jpgFrom PVComics.

I clearly need to start going to expos.

This surprises me, actually, Yeah, I'm kind of insinuating myself into the webcomics community-at-large (which is also surprising, because... well, all I'm doing is talking about stuff), but I didn't think I'd reach the point where I'd be thinking holy crap! I wish I'd been there to see that! I mean... I write a commentary blog. With a dinosaur in the corner. An adorable dinosaur who's sleeping.

And yet, when I read Joe Zabel's impressions of the Small Press Expo from this past weekend, I find myself absolutely floored by something he mentioned almost in passing:

The "publishing" panel was a little more interesting because of some conflicting opinions about revenue models for webcomics. Zero/One publisher Barry Gregory offered a thoughtful critique of the subscription model for webcomics, and Logan DeAngelis revealed that PVComics is discontinuing their subscriptions and becoming a free site.

Holy CRAP!

I'm not sure why this isn't being shouted from the rooftops over on PVComics -- I was putting off snarking on it until I heard more (I have absolutely no details), but when Christopher Mills (fellow Maine native and the mind behind the excellent Supernatural Crime-- a webcomic that has Joe Staton for God's sake!) tickled me about it, I realized I really needed to talk.

PV Comics going free is astounding. Obviously, they've got a new compensation model and just as obviously the PV Comics artists have signed on to it. I don't know what form it will take right now. However, I do know that means the comic strips that have been poking at me to read them (like Amy's Suitcase and the evocative KU-2) are so on the block now. And the other strips on the site are going to get another thorough going over from me. Because I can. Because they're available. Because this is exciting stuff!

There are unanswered questions that are still waiting for a press release. Like, are the people who did subscribe getting refunds now? If not, are they getting some different sort of content? How is this going to work next? Will plush Happy D. Ass dolls become available and if so, will they tapdance?

See what happens when you miss Expos? Jesus, does this mean I have to think about going to San Diego? I have nothing to sell once I get there! I'll die alone on the Southern California streets!

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 11:40 AM | Comments (1)

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October 6, 2004

Eric Burns-White: Change is good

Now that we have a new mascot, it seemed like a good time to take a step (just a step) away from the "cookie cutter Blog" design of Websnark. So, I went with yet another cookie cutter blog design -- but this one doesn't see as much use.

I've saved the old stylesheet, so if this one really isn't liked, we can go back.

Comments?

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 4:48 PM | Comments (8)

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Eric Burns-White: Snarkoleptics are go! Er, sort of.

Well, having confirmed at least five or six people who consider themselves "fans," and having had the name "Snarkoleptics" coined to describe them, I'm pleased to announce we in fact do have both a fandom and a mascot.

Here we have Snarky, first seen as the art for my Comixpedia column "Feeding Snarky," taking a nap alongside the Sunday funnies. This is, and I use these words sparingly if ever, 'teh cute.' Thanks to the power of persuasion (and money, though I kind of had to force it on her), Ursula "Digger" Vernon has created the perfect depiction of our Snarkasaurus... er, napping.

What does this mean?

Well, first off it means we're going to have some light merchandise available. Nothing major -- some tee shirts with catchphrases, a Snarkoleptics coffee mug, thong underwear that says "You had me and you lost me...." that kind of thing.

What? No, seriously, what? Oh. No. Snarky won't be appearing on underwear, damn it. He's a strictly non-underwear kind of mascot.

Secondly, it means Bowling Shirts will happen. Now, those don't count as Merchandise, because I won't make a cent on them. Nor will they be available in any kind of "store." If you're interested in getting a Snarkoleptics bowling shirt, comment on here or send me email at websnark AT gmail DOY com and I'll get numbers together for how much they'll cost apiece.

Thirdly, it means the page has a mascot now. And darn it, it's even cuter than a sniper rifle toting kitten.

God, I love my life.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 2:40 PM | Comments (4)

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Eric Burns-White: Now this is an icon for Nanowrimo. A pity A) I don't own it and B) it has nothing to do with Nanowrimo

From Obsidian Wings.

Moe Lane is deranged. But in a good way. He's a long time fan writer in In Nomine, which is my own RPG drug of choice, but he's also totally bent. I mean, totally, totally bent. He created Ronald, the Demon Prince of Cows, for example.

Well, he's also a conservative. Which admittedly isn't my political leaning at all (I'm apparently getting more liberal with every passing day). However, when he founded his own political blog, he recruited people from all over the political spectrum to write for it. The result is Obsidian Wings. ("This is the Voice of Moderation. I wouldn't go so far as to say we've actually SEIZED the radio station . . . ") The picture adorning this entry is their mascot, and God help me I think it's brilliant.

I'm pretty burnt out on politics, but I still like Obsidian Wings. I read it at first for Moe, who doesn't agree with me politically but is a good guy nonetheless, as well as a smart and funny writer. I kept with it because the people I do agree with politically are also good guys (and girls), smart and funny. Maybe you can't imagine reading anything having to do with politics (especially a site guaranteed to post something you won't automatically agree with) right now, and I respect that. But if you're in the mood for some smart punditry in convenient blog-form, you could do a Hell of a lot worse.

And damn it, I want a blog mascot just as warped as that one.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 1:35 PM | Comments (1)

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Eric Burns-White: Gearing up for a month of writing! Which... in my life is like every other month.

I'm registered for National Novel Writing Month, which is a concerted effort to write a 50,000 word novel (yes, that's a novel. A novel is a form of multifaceted dimension, whereas a short story typically sets a usual, introduces an unusual element, and then explores the ramifications of the unusual element. This is why Heart of Darkness is a novel but Catcher in the Rye is a book length short story. According to my father, who has a degree in these things and is called Doctor. And you don't go dissing my father. Not on my blog you don't) between November 1 and November 30. I've thought about it in years past, and this year it's a go.

That's about 1,667 words a day, which honestly isn't tough. I mean, since mid-August, I've written well over 120,000 words here on Websnark. Sure, it's not the same thing, but my point is I can nail out a few pages a day without too much trouble.

If folks want, I'll post excerpts here on the 'Snark, so that my Nanowrimo experience intertwines with my Websnark experience. (The individual chapters are going to go on a password protected writing page I've maintained for a while -- password protected so search engines can't stalk it and so that folks later on can't claim I've already published stuff I want to be paid filthy lucre for. I'm always willing to let people read it if they ask. For, you know, the record.)

Anyway. That's my working plan.

Now, I need a nanowrimo icon... one that doesn't feature a happy bunny typing. Frankly, if said happy bunny isn't chainsmoking in front of a beat up underwood, it's not a novel writing icon I can get behind -- and I don't even smoke. Time for photoshop. Well, between now and Halloween....

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 10:42 AM | Comments (8)

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Eric Burns-White: She's getting more and more like her sister every day....


(From Nukees. Click on the thumbnail for full sized agreement!)

I have a confession to make. When I visualize a webcomic I want to create in my head (and, let's be honest, that's as close to me creating another webcomic as I'm going to get), the art style that I've magically become capable of for that webcomic is somewhere between Shaenon Garrity's in Narbonic and Darren Bleuel's in Nukees. And it's likely canted towards Bleuel's. I love pen and ink. I love cross hatching. Yes, I know all the good and fine reasons to use a computer for shading (or coloring), but it's not what brought me to the comic strip dance. Good old straight penwork, using tricks of line to create depth and contrast and texture, is just one of those artistic styles that can have me just floating on air.

Today's strip is a great example. There's some computer assisted tricks here and there (Gav's black vest is a fill, I assume, and I'm not convinced the foliage hatching is all real hatching -- though I might be wrong), but for the most part it's sweat and detail work. The lines of Miss Gee's skirt. The depth of the Flake's entryway. The bar.

It's not the kind of art that wins awards or has thousands of screaming fans begging Bleuel to draw Cecilia wearing nothing but soap suds and an evil gleam in her eye (well, at least I don't think it is), but to me it epitomizes what the four panel comic strip is all about, and that makes me a happy panda.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 10:04 AM | Comments (3)

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October 5, 2004

Eric Burns-White: Daily Comics Trawl: The Afternoon List

So, I've been slowly building up more and more "daily comics" to my daily comics trawl. Not a huge number, mind -- it took me a few years to build up the three trawls you've already seen into the unstoppable juggernaut of comics reading I now enjoy. But given that I'm being exposed to a lot more comics now than before (I have a robust correspondence life, now), strips are being added at a good clip.

So, we have a whole new trawl. And, since we're desperately late in snarking today, we might as well show what's currently in that trawl, to give some good meaty... um... goodness. With one strip you've seen, I would add -- I've moved American Elf from the Day trawl to this new Afternoon Trawl. Once again, these are (in no particular order) the Safari Tabs that pop up when I click the bookmark bar item. Enjoy!

  • Ascent, by Sylvan Migdal. I got into Migdal's work with Mnemesis, a fantastic Graphic Smash strip about lifestyle after death, more or less. I migrated from there to Ascent, which is something of a fantasy and something of... um... not. Ascent is funky and fresh and a lot of fun, and has something to say about magic and attitude. It's also funny without slamming your face with funniness. Also, I seriously love the artwork. Seriously.
  • American Elf, by James Kochalka. Good God. Why on Earth aren't you reading this? A daily weblog in comic strip form, as done by one of the most experimental and artistic sequential artists working today. It takes several strips to get into its rhythm, but after you manage it, its simple beauty and statements about life will sink into your skull. Also, it has a talking dog.
  • Basil Flint, P.I., by John Troutman. There's an unusual number of detective and noiresque webcomics out there. Enough that it seems like the major comic book companies are missing out on a nice sized chunk of change by not providing a detective outlet. Troutman does the form very nicely indeed with Basil Flint. his characters are flawed, which good Noiresque characters should be. They're also often hysterical. It's a good combination. Though to be honest, I miss the hat.
  • Daily Dinosaur Comics, by Ryan North. Once upon a time, there was a cult director named David Lynch who a lot of people liked a great deal. And, because he wanted to write a comic strip, he decided to do so. He named the strip "The Angriest Dog in the World," and in that strip he literally one-upped talking heads comics -- he used exactly the same artwork every day, with just different dialogue. It was a clever idea, but quickly grew tired because the dialogue wasn't nearly as clever. Well, enter Ryan North. Daily Dinosaur Comics exists under the same principle -- North clearly used clip art of dinosaurs to put together six panels of cartoon art, and then redialogued it every day. The difference, however, is that North has a tremendously mighty sense of humor, and the strips deal with philosophy and ethos and good clean fun, with occasional continuity thrown in as a kind of kosher salt. North acknowledges "Angriest Dog in the World," up to actually incorporating the entirety of "Angriest Dog" into "Daily Dinosaur Comics's" backstory. Which must be some kind of first.
  • Digger, by Ursula Vernon. One of several reasons Graphic Smash deserves your money, Digger is an absolute gem. It blows me away with its artwork, its pacing, its execution, its humor, and its lead character, a semianthropamorphic wombat (she looks more like a wombat perched up on its hind legs than a woman with furr) named Digger, who has found herself wandering a foreign land despite her best wishes. Digger is one of my absolute favorites these days. You should all read it, and then send Vernon coupons for free day spas and fresh baked whole grain bread.
  • Felicity Flint, Agent of H.A.R.M., by John Troutman. My second Troutman on this list (I also read Vigilante, Ho!, which he writes, but it's not on a daily trawl just yet), and the newest addition to this list. I just started reading Felicity, which had been on Graphic Smash but now is on Keenspot alongside Basil. It's been restarted from the beginning, so there's just a few strips to get caught up on. So this is an excellent time to start reading, don't you think? You do! Excellent. It hits me the same way Basil does, and that's nice.
  • Freefall, by Mark Stanley. A good old fashioned gag-a-day strip, with clean artwork that puts me in mind of Crockett Johnson and a geniality that often is lacking in webcomics. All that disguises the fact that this science fiction strip (the lead characters are an alien squid man in an encounter suit, an anthropomorphic uplifted "Bowman's Wolf," and a robot) is actual hard science fiction. Honestly. It works. It all works. It's astounding. So, it's a strip that kids will love because it's funny and cartoony, adult non-SF fans will love because it's funny and intelligent, and SF fans will love because it's funny and accurate. And all of the above will find themselves learning without ever realizing it -- in part because it's not trying to teach. It's just being accurate. Glee!
  • Home Run, by Andrew Lin. A somewhat minimalist comic strip (the art puts me in mind of Jim's Journal, though with a Jules Fiefferesque feel to the characters), Home Run just feels nice. Part of it is the minimalism -- you need very little to embrace the characters and situations. This is one of those comics that, no matter how much or how little you know about what has come before, you can jump right in and start snickering. Also, there's Alton Brown jokes. Alton Brown fans have to stick together.
  • Nahast: Lands of Strife, by Alejandro Melchor. One of the best paced pure adventure strips on the web, Nahast balances story with pacing almost perfectly. Action and a sense of dynamic tension pervades every strip, whether there's violence going on or not. Melchor would have been at home drawing a weekly page for a newspaper Sunday Comics section in the thirties, and that's a very, very good thing.
  • Narbonic, by Shaenon Garrity. If you people haven't figured out I've fallen hard for Narbonic, you're just not paying attention. The absolute best strip I've started reading this year, and one of the best strips I've ever read, Narbonic is hysterically funny, bringing Mad Science and humor together into a perfect blend, with a soup-son of Story to tie it all together and drive the plot forward. Garrity is a true student of the art form, and she lets that show. This is damn good, and you should read it. Or you'll be doomed! DOOMED!
  • No Stereotypes, by Amber "Glych" Greenlee. The strip that got me to give money to Modern Tales. Amber Greenlee has an artistic sense just about perfect for the web. She's the only artist I've seen who could bring the concept of decompression into her strip on a regular basis and do it well. The panel by panel movement and dance between the characters in the strips enchants us, where most people would have us going insane wanting something to happen. Something is happening here, and I want to see it through.
  • Penny and Aggie, by T. Campbell and Gisele Lagace. Marking a return to cartooning by Lagace, who was the celebrated creator of Cool Cat Studio, Penny and Aggie was a strip I took on faith -- slow starting, but I was sure this team would make it worth my while. And we've reached a point where my faith is being rewarded. Between realistic characters (they feel like teenaged girls) and honest situations, this is a coming of age story crossed with a romance comic crossed with a twenty-first century's dose of cynical humor. I'm grooving on it.
  • Questionable Content, by J. Jacques. Let's get one thing straight right out of the gate. This strip owes a lot to Bobbins and Scary Go Round, by John Allison. We know it. Jacques has acknowledged it. The humor, the dialogue, and on one level the character design (though QC's art is distinct from Allison's Modisms) have been informed by the good people of East Tackleford. Fine. That doesn't change the fact that this situation comedy is hysterical, with good relationships interweaving between the characters, interesting tensions (including a dual romantic and sexual tension between Marten and Faye that's richer than either tension would be on their own), and a willingness to go highbrow or lowbrow as Jacques feels. As long as Jacques keeps drawing them, I'll keep reading them.
  • Rip and Teri, by T. Campbell and John Waltrip. One part James Bond adventure, one part X-Files, one part romance, shaken together with a Sixties Adventure Strip feel to the art and a real sense of danger -- this is the rare adventure strip where I feel like all bets are off, Teri might lose an arm in the next episode, and Rip's probably not going to make it no matter how hard he tries -- combines to make an honest thrill ride in a webcomic. How Campbell can do this, Fans, Penny and Aggie and Christ knows how many other strips, keeping their distinctive styles and voices in his head, is beyond me. That he can go on to edit Graphic Smash means he doesn't sleep and is some kind of robot. Well, shine on you crazy machine.
  • Todd and Penguin, by David Wright. This is a simple, sweet comic strip that I really enjoy. Todd might be worn out by his life, but he's not truly cynical. Penguin is an honest innocent. Hijinks, as they say, ensue. Wright admits to being strongly influenced by Calvin and Hobbes, and that's clearly true... but to be honest, I think I like this better. Calvin was a little self centered bastard, pretty much all of the time. Penguin, on the other hand, has Calvin's imagination but also seems to really love other people. It's a nice balm from the rougher kinds of humor I dive into on a daily basis, and I'm always glad to see the next strip.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 6:48 PM | Comments (14)

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Eric Burns-White: I have not forgotten you!

Hey all. Busy day today. Very very busy day today. There will be snarking, but it will come later, after the busyness.

Wait, does anyone actually care?

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 2:11 PM | Comments (9)

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October 4, 2004

Eric Burns-White: Do you have any idea...

...how many quality webcomics there are out there?

To every decent, hardworking webcartoonist who creates a strip that I simply haven't gotten to... I'm sorry. You deserve recognition. And whether or not you get recognition, at least on Websnark, is entirely based on my time, whim and dumb luck.

What? At least I'm honest about it.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 12:29 PM | Comments (0)

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Eric Burns-White: See? Layered storytelling. This is why he got to marry Jane Pauley and I didn't. Also, I was twelve.


(From Doonesbury. Click on the thumbnail for full sized life moving on!)

There's an awful lot layered in today's Doonesbury. On the one hand, we have a political/topical joke. On the other, we have the resolution of one level of B.D.'s plotline, as he moves out of Walter Reed and over to somewhere else. On the third, we have the tacit subcontext -- the War isn't over, and soldiers are still dying, and our recovery infrastructure is still being taxed. And there's the curious lack of interest in that war on a day to day basis, both on B.D.'s part and through him the American people's.

Also, take a moment and look at the art. Four panels, four perspectives, including one in silhouette -- which gives the whole thing a "dawning light" feel that subtextually sets up the joke in the fourth panel.

This is why Trudeau is the king. This is how to do politics and topicality in a strip and not make the strip an editorial cartoon, right here.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 11:59 AM | Comments (0)

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Eric Burns-White: SpaceShip One did it.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

High Flight, Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 11:25 AM | Comments (0)

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Eric Burns-White: On the other hand, it'd make the Speak and Say toy more interesting....


(From Overboard. Click on the thumbnail for full sized nice doggy!)

I haven't loved the introduction of Raymond and Cecilia to Overboard. At times it seems like a retread of the Charley/Marlene relationship, which ended just before this one began. And at other times it just seems too cumbersome. I mean, at first, Cecilia was intentionally leading the Captain along because she wanted access to his treasure. Now, she seems legitimately interested but Raymond doesn't like him.

And yet, today's strip really made me smile. Go figure.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 11:14 AM | Comments (0)

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Eric Burns-White: Wait. Wait. What the Fuck?!


(From Annie. Click on the thumbnail for full sized... wait, what the Fuck?!)

Okay, I know. I just snarked Annie. But... but....

He's a cop. And he's being bitchslapped on the phone for losing an underaged star witness with a head injury, who ran off for no reason, and all he can think is "clever girl?"

"CLEVER GIRL?"

Here's a concept for you! "Holy Shit! We have an injured eleven year old runaway who's the key to finding a vigilante murderer out running around! We need State and Federal backup and we need it right now! God, I hope she's not dying of starvation, exposure or blood loss out there!"

Dear God I love this comic strip.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 10:29 AM | Comments (1)

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Eric Burns-White: Column number two!

My second "Feeding Snarky" column is up at Comixpedia. This one's on the pitfalls of politics in webcomics. Or topical content of any kind, really. It's less specific than the last, and there's more smartass in it. With luck, people will like it.

In other news, it seems I do have some fans, and there is at least tentative discussions of bowling shirts.

That's right. Bowling shirts.

Admit it. It sounds cool.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 8:59 AM | Comments (0)

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October 3, 2004

Eric Burns-White: Brigadier General John Stark

Brigadier General John Stark, who stood against the odds and did not yield
Remember that trip I took and how I stopped off and went to a Revolutionary War site? Well, here's a picture I took there. (Click on the "read more" link down below to see a full sized picture of it all.)

Stark was pretty damn cool. This was the Battle of Bennington, which was a necessary precursor to the battle of Saratoga where the Americans actually turned the tide of the war and made it possible to... well, win the whole Revolution. Stark's famous battle cry was "There they are, boys! We beat them today, or Molly Stark sleeps a widow tonight!"

Well, it was pretty damn cool at the time. This was before "It's Clobberin' Time" had been coined, you know.

Anyway, this was a test of Photon, which is an addon for iPhoto to let me export pictures into this here site without having to wrestle quite so much. I like things that make things easier.

Brigadier General John Stark, who stood against the odds and did not yield

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 10:47 PM | Comments (2)

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Eric Burns-White: Sigh... times are tough.

(From RPG World. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Resolution!)

It's going to be a good time for the end of hiatuses. Next week, the oft-brilliant and terminally pleasant Todd and Penguin's supposed to return from guest month, Questionable Content is due back from guest week, and we've just seen the return after a long while of RPG World.

I've missed RPG World. I like the conceit and premise alike. I like Jim, the guy who plays RPG World. I like the interweaving of what we would now have to call "classic" turn based RPGs with the characterizations. I like Hero. I like Cherry. I like Diane. And I like Ian Jones-Quartey in general.

The return of RPG World hasn't been phenomenal -- he's got a little bit of what the wrestling world calls ring rust -- but it's been solid. And his artwork continues to evolve. There's a little bit of Rowland's (and even Carol Lay's) influence in his facial expressions now, which is kind of cool. And there is actual resolution in this strip. That's a major thing. Though it also implies that either someone's going to horribly die (hey, I played Final Fantasy VII) or that we're beginning the endgame of RPGWorld. (Though of course, Blacksoft will hopefully put out a sequel....)

Either way, it's fun to watch Hero's strategic ineptitude and Cherry's slightly embarrassed smile once more.

(And next week? Todd and Penguin!)

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 11:27 AM | Comments (0)