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Eric: Also? The Foglios draw women with large breasts. That doesn't hurt. I'm just saying.

Girl Genius!

(From Girl Genius: Advanced Class! Click on the thumbnail for full sized vos musical family!)

It's been a few months since Phil and Kaja Foglio's grand online experiment began, and that's a worthy enough time to check in on how things are going. For those who weren't paying attention, Phil and Kaja Foglio -- two people who are, not to put too fine a point on it, revered in the online comics community -- decided several months back that the expense of producing a regular comic book was simply not profitable, and that it literally made more sense to put their stuff online and use it to hook readers into buying the compilations. To that end, they launched two webcomics -- Girl Genius 101, which reprints day by day the classic Girl Genius strips of yesteryear, and Girl Genius: Advanced Class, which continues the story of Agatha Clay/Heterodyne as she makes her way through one of the most grandly glorious steampunk visions every committed to paper. A series that is funny and serious, bringing intense story grounded in adventure and romance alike, there literally is nothing else like Girl Genius on the market.

The question is, how has it transitioned to the web? Especially when one considers that it's still driving the concept of print sales (hey, they have kids to feed) so they're not going to be getting into web-publication only tricks.

Well, first off, let's actually look at today's strip. I picked it for a reason. First off, it's a beautiful strip, full of Foglioish tricks that range from horror to whimsy. The musical notes that the Silverodeon plays alone denote the wonderfully alien nature of the steampunk technology that Sparks can produce.

More to the point, however, this strip brings us full circle back to the title. This isn't Agatha Heterodyne and her amazing adventures. This is Girl Genius -- Agatha, even among the almost supernatural Sparks, is a cut above. The things she does with technology are fully amazing. When she rebuilds a steampunk nickelodeon, it's not just something she's taken from junk and turned into working parts -- it's astoundingly and hauntingly beautiful. Agatha is a woman of destiny, and whatever she turns her hand to eventually results in something superior.

So. Having addressed the strip... let's talk about their web presence as a whole. And let's talk about best practices.

See... a webcomic is a hungry beast. If you do a Monday/Wednesday/Friday strip, it actually wants to have comics showing up on those three days of the week, and it has absolutely no interest in your personal life, your travails, your troubles, or the fact that drawing three full comic pages a week isn't particularly easy. You can't slack off for two weeks, then have two weeks worth of orgiastic frantic drawing to make your month's deadlines (well, not without having at least a month in the can already).

And we make allowances for it. We really do. We understand as readers that schedules aren't all that easy to keep. And if someone has a day job on top of their webcomic, we understand that the day job needs to take precedence, since it involves the artist continuing to eat.

But, as long time readers know, when your webcomic becomes your job, all bets are off. This is now officially how you put food on the table. The moment you become a professional, it becomes incumbent on you to act professionally.

With Girl Genius, it's even harder. Oh, the Girl Genius 101 strip is one thing. That involves... well, getting things scanned in if they're not already digital, which they might be. And it's not trivial. Setting up archives isn't hugely fun at the best of times. But it would be there, each and every day it's supposed to be. And if you get right down to it, that should be enough for a hungry fanbase, right? "Hey, look. We provide a webcomic three days a week, that before cost money to get to. And when we finish a batch of pages on the new storyline, we'll put it up." Their fans would accept that. Heck, webcomics fans would take that deal in a heartbeat.

Phil and Kaja Foglio put up three finished new pages each and every week. If they've ever missed a deadline, I can't find evidence of it. They've done that since April. This is their job, and they know it, and they act that way. Factor in the fact that they employ an outside colorist who needs time to work on the pages too, and you have a rigorous schedule that they have always, always met.

And it proves an interesting point -- a point that I think Ursula Vernon's Digger makes admirably as well, I would add. (And it's worth noting that fans of Girl Genius would probably love Digger, but I digress.)

See, there's at least one other webcomic out there that is... well, effectively a page at a time rendering of a print comic. You've likely heard of it. By on-site restraining order, I'm not really allowed to discuss it any more. And two of the issues listed in that essay are inconsistent updates coupled with a pacing that is vastly more oriented to a print collection that the web.

Well, here's the thing. Girl Genius (and Digger) are both clearly paced for print publication. It could be argued that both involve more finishing time than that other strip, as well (though that's disingenuous -- it's hard to render good pencils for publication. But still). But neither one dramatically annoys the reader with their pacing. Both of them are exciting and fun and seem perfectly well paced, even though clearly they're not being produced with a "first panel-setup-last panel-execution" format the way a webcomic only meant for the web would be.


Because they're always there, on time, when we expect them. When you get three pages of Girl Genius a week, each and every week, you never get a sense that the pacing isn't right for the web -- because the pacing seems right. It keeps moving all the time!

If you update on schedule, regularly? You get to do longform and not annoy webcomics readers. Or critics. Because there is a constant sense of movement.

(It is worth noting that strip I can't mention might be perfectly fine in that regard these days -- I don't actually read it any more. So don't take this as a further criticism because I'm not currently qualified to criticize. Instead, take this as an elaboration on the point detailed in that original essay.)

The Foglios have gone on record saying their transition from print comic to web comic with print collections has been successful. According to Phil Foglio's Livejournal, they've got a hundred and forty thousand readers now, and they're selling print collections briskly. Now, you might be thinking that they brought those readers with them. I submit that if they were selling a hundred and forty thousand plus copies of their print comic a month, we probably wouldn't be discussing this now. (Foglio says elsewhere that they've more than doubled their readership, and I believe him.) They clearly feel the move to online has been a good one. And they clearly see themselves... well, as webcartoonists. As part of the club. When they jumped into the pond, they did it with both feet, putting their futures on the line along with the rest of us.

For reference's sake? I launched my own webcomic exactly fifteen days before the Foglios launched Girl Genius 101 and Girl Genius Advanced on the web. At this point, we have about four thousand readers, and we are considered vastly -- vastly -- ahead of the game. The Foglios started with a five figure readership, but that doesn't change the fact that it's become a six figure readership in that time. And it's been long enough that it's not the cachet of the Foglio name. (Not that said cachet isn't considerable in webcomics fandom.) No, they have those readers because they're putting out a really good strip, and they're doing it like... er... clockwork.

This might well be the biggest "webcomics-as-business" story of 2005. And it's a darn good story at that. And it's a darn good strip as well, and that's a combination I can get behind.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at September 19, 2005 9:30 AM


Comment from: hitch posted at September 19, 2005 10:17 AM

well, if you consider that after about 3 weeks of reading girl genius 101 I got my local comic store to order me all the compilations currently in print, and I'm considering buying other foglio works now, I'd say that this enterprise was uncategorically a success. I mean, they've already got *my* money...

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen posted at September 19, 2005 10:43 AM

So far, despite my concerns on the matter, there's always been SOMETHING on every page of Girl Genius, too. Maybe not a punchline every time (although they come pretty frequently), but there's always something that makes it worth reading on its own, not just as a stepping stone to the Payoff some days down the line.

Which is to say, Phil hasn't lost his touch from the old What's New? strip days, or the short-short stories of Xxxenophile.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 19, 2005 10:45 AM

Dave -- the astounding thing, though, is that's also true of the Girl Genius 101 days. Foglio understands page management as well as anyone I've seen. There's little to no filler in there, even long before the days when he would have a driver to see the pages as single units.

Comment from: Nate posted at September 19, 2005 11:53 AM

Okay, I obviously don't know how many readers the Foglios got in the first burst of advertising when they went online. Probably a lot, because of word of mouth (and blog). But they almost certainly didn't start with five figures of readers transferring over from the dead tree versions. Diamond, the only comic distributor that matters (sadly) puts out monthly sales rankings of the top 300 comics and top 100 TPBs. The numbers are honestly depressing, usually. Some o the lists are archived here. The most recent ones are better, I remember a couple years ago, when I was more into comics and checked regularly, barely even the top couple comics would break 100,000 issues. heck, even in July (the latest numbers up), only the top 6 broke 100,000. Comics can make it onto the top 300 by selling barely more than a thousand copies. The paper comic market is NOT healthy and hasn't been for years. In December 2003, when issue 9 of Girl Genius came out, here's the stats:
186 GIRL GENIUS #9 $3.95 6,422

Issue 13, the last paper issue, only sold 5,523 copies: 218 GIRL GENIUS #13 $3.95 5,523.

And those are REALLY good numbers for an indie comic. The #1 comic that month was #1 of the New Avengers, which sold 240,000 some copies. Which was almost twice as many as the second place book.

By going online, they've gotten more than 25 times the readers, and they've managed to get a more consistent update schedule. The paper issues only came out once every three months because of printing costs, plus a couple of gaps which were related to problems with Diamond and/or their printers. If even 1% of the readers go out and buy all the TPBs, with 140,000 readers, that's more than the TPBs sold before. And they've escaped the monthly runaround of printing costs. Now, I don't know specifically how many they're selling, or how well it's working for them, that's none of my business, but it certainly looks like the switch to the web has worked for the Foglios. I kind of expect to see more indie comics creators following the webcomic route, thanks to the printing costs and the increased difficulty of getting distributed by Diamond. Go online, get the audience, then sell them stuff.

For example, Tim Demeter, who does Reckless Life over on Graphic Smash has collected a couple stories into "pamphlet" comics,rather than TPBs, and has them distributed to comic stores (but not through Diamond). On the down side, T Cambpell's Penny and Aggie got cut from Diamond because of their new rules for minimum sales. So I really don't know how well webcomic hits translate over to book sales. But at the low end of the comic market, it's probably more profitable to do a webcomic, because even if you make less, it costs a LOT less, and you get stuck with less boxes of comics sitting in your closet waiting to sell.

Wow, that came out way too long.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 19, 2005 12:06 PM

[goes to check out that link]

Huh, this is pretty interesting stuff. It really shows ho--

Holy crap. Green Lantern #2 sold less than three thousand copies?

Oh, okay. It came out the month before. And did banner sales that month.


Green Lantern #3 didn't actually ship in July?

Dude. Way to screw with your launch title.

Comment from: occultatio posted at September 19, 2005 12:41 PM

Odd timing, this article. Just three days ago I saw Girl Genius #1 in a used-book store, and I picked it up even though I hadn't read the webcomic because, hey, it was 5 bucks and supposed to be good.

Needless to say, I now have to physically restrain myself from buying the next two volumes before I have money to buy them with. I guess I need to check out GG 101, now.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at September 19, 2005 12:55 PM

Well, I'll just say that Phil and Kaja's reputation is such that I've wanted to get the GG compilations, sight unseen, since I've heard of them. I really ought to get motivated enough to spend my shrinking dollar on that.

As for Megatokyo (since I'm not one to beat around the bush), it's not yet good in terms of updates and pacing, but it has improved. Gallagher has gotten much better at getting up comics generally around a M-W-F schedule, although his inability to work ahead is still causing occasional problems (like today, when he's notified everyone that the computer with his story notes has died).

As for pacing... he's still got some ways to go, but believe it or not, things have acually been happening at a fairly decent clip of late. I think Gallagher got the hint after the complaining about the riot storyline - if he even tries to make anything that difficult to follow with that little development, humor, and/or resolution ever again, Websnark isn't the only place he's going to see a "You Had Me..." essay.

Sorry, back to Girl Genius.

I think the Foglios were going to be just fine right off, because of their experience with "What's New?" They're quite aware of how to pace a single page, on the theory that this one page might be the only one someone has ever read. They've worked with pretty tight deadlines, so they know how to get things ready. And they know how to judge what they can afford to spend time on and what has to be glossed and saved for later.

Between their disparate works in the past, looking back, it almost seems like they should have been the first web cartoonists.

Comment from: Tangent posted at September 19, 2005 1:32 PM

So, Eric, is this a "You Had Me And You've Kept Me" essay? :D

Teasing ya. It should be obvious that I enjoy this
comic by now. *grin* In fact, the only reason I've not written a Meta-review of Girl Genius is that I'm reluctant to do so while the 101 series is incomplete; there are massive areas in the character development section that would draw upon the print comics for GG if I did a review.

I truly hope that Girl Genius on-line is a big success. It's my all-time favorite comicbook, having beaten Bone and Aria for that distinction. Not to mention, the Foglios *deserve* to make it big. They're decent, funny, and have a special gift. And in a world of McFarlanes and the like... we need more family-oriented cartoonists to be successful.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Webcomic Reviews

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 19, 2005 1:41 PM

Tangent -- I have commented on this before. But somehow, the fact that the creators, writers, editors and often artists on XXXenophile of all things can be seen as "family-oriented cartoonists" says something about the power of A) the cheer and skill and downright good attitude the Foglios bring to the table in all situations and B) the power of unremittingly sex positive porn.

Note that I'm not arguing. I'm just continually amazed. And their power extends to all their works. That Phil Foglio can do a guest week on Sluggy, put Zo‘ in a thong, and pretty much have all the Sluggies (including the women) go "yaaaaaaay!" just stuns me.

And that's a good thing, because I'm fully supportive of Zo‘ wearing thongs. And of sex positive porn, now that I think about it.

Comment from: William_G posted at September 19, 2005 1:47 PM

This reminds me of that 1% thing: Only one percent of your audience is willing to pay for your comic when it's previously been free. I guess it also works in reverse, if Girl Genius is any indication.

So this gets me to thinking:

If Marvel, or DC, or Image... companies with money to spend on advertising... decided to follow suit, by publishing online an original content webcomic (I mean using all of the techniques that make webcomics work) version of a top seller like Spiderman, with a name talent at the helm, what sort of traffic would it do?

I'm thinking it may do gangbusters.

I know they tried years ago, but like every new thing they attempt, they totally half-assed it and gave up when it wasnt taking the world by storm.

Hmm... I smell a nw blog post.

Comment from: nothings posted at September 19, 2005 1:51 PM

This isn't about the business side of things, but various comments above prompt me to speak out:

Although everyone remembers What's New and thinks of Phil Foglio's strength as being humor (and large breasts), I'd argue something else. I really like the Buck Godot stories (more please!), and on comparing this with Girl Genius, what strikes me the most is his setting / world-building.

For example, Buck Godot has the law machines, and the exception of New Hong Kong. Girl Genius has the Spark, and the Heterodynes, and all that. I mean, the Spark not only provides creative genius, but makes gives its possessor a charisma that forces people to want to follow his/her leadership. This simple but non-obvious choice has significant effects on the power structure of the world that totally drives the story that gets told. (Instead of being mad scientists working off in labs funded by rulers, they are the rulers!)

We talk about writers and say they're "good writers" as if writing was a single thing, even though it involves putting-words-together-so-they-sound-nice, inventing setting, creating plots, making compelling characters, coming up with believable dialog. Not all writers excel at all these things (indeed I'd guess few excel at all of them).

Comics authors who both write and draw have it even harder, since they have to do all that writing above (except stringing-words-together-nicely, if that's separate from dialog), but they also have to draw.

It seems to me GG builds on Foglio's existing strengths (his distinctive comic drawing style, a comic tone, great world-building, and good plots) while expanding one area: characterization. Many of Foglio's previous stories play on fairly simple character types--e.g. Buck Godot has a well-drawn main character, but the rest are disposable. Here we have more subtlety--e.g. Wulfenbach isn't unambiguously villainous--and more characters that are sticking around long term so they can be developed.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at September 19, 2005 1:51 PM

Oh, I remember the Foglio guest strips on Sluggy - possibly my favorite guest week of all time for any comic. I swear, I had a nightmare of Bun Bun smiling after that. Brilliant.

Comment from: nothings posted at September 19, 2005 1:52 PM

(Sorry about the double-spaced paragraphs. Please, please make preview actually preview.)

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 19, 2005 1:52 PM

I am a total Buck Godot fan, so I'm with you on that.

Comment from: abb3w posted at September 19, 2005 1:54 PM

Keeping the Girl Genius Online 101 section up to date is rather less remarkable: the art is already finished. True, this still leaves scanning in the original art, but if you're scanning one or two pages, you may as well scan them in 10 at a time... or until the kids start screaming. With little enough effort, you can have all the strips through, oh the end of November up on the site ready to go by, hmmm... mid-September-ish.

Of course, the web being the web, there's bound to be one or two impatient geeks who will try to peek ahead. Such a hypothetical geek might note that the Advanced class has had the image up at the latest by 11PM EST, and sometimes they have the Friday's image up and ready by Noon Sunday. This rather more formidably shows an abiding respect for deadlines... or perhaps someone who's used to having to deal with shipping delays before the product reaches the publisher. While it's less of a concern for the 101 class, no doubt the Foglio's will catch on to this soon enough and do something about it. Probably the faster if Katja reads Websnark.

Which brings me to an aspect of Shaenon K. Garrity's genius that I don't recall having been Snarked yet. Many web comics deal with the above problem by appending pseudo-random word to the image's date based name. Digger, as an example, uses some word or phrase either in or describing the comic's scene. Something Positive's artist R. K. Milholland has given up on including the date entirely; some random words are based on the image content, and some are just utterly random. Garrity initially tried the openings of The Neverending Story and part of Lizard Music, and discovered that the nosy geeks were fairly literate.

So she now is using a story of her own... about Beta's first encounter with the current family lawyer: Octavius Winter, Evil Attorney at Law. Go look at the source code of the Modern Tales Narbonic page, and find the image name. A date, and a couple words. She's putting out another entire Narbonic story. It is, of course, of the same formidable quality level that suffuses all of Garrity's work. And it can hardly be that much additional burden to the author: it's a rare week that requires writing an entire complete sentence. I will also add: It's also brilliantly and tauntingly cruel. Those most likely to discover it are those impatient enough to be trying to peek ahead... who are then rewarded with the finding of a story

coming out

at one

to three words

per day. A truly appropriate punishment for the crime of inpatience. Doctor Narbon (Sr.) is doubtless going "Heh, Heh, Heh."

In my wildest hopes and dreams, I imagine the Foglios might do something similar, and perhaps divert the overly nosy with the story of Lucrezia Mongfish's wedding to Bill Heterodyne... even if three words a day will probably leave the story to be finished by the next Foglio generation.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 19, 2005 1:57 PM

Shaenon Garrity's brilliance is unparalleled in the universe.

Comment from: B.G.Aesop posted at September 19, 2005 2:52 PM

(probably been beaten to this, but as I'm reading this on my lunch break I don't have time to check) Dude, you talk about online comics which are like one page of a comic book a day, and you don't mention Order of the Stick? How could you!

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 19, 2005 3:04 PM

Because that's not Order of the Stick's format.

OotS works very well in longform, but each and every page opens with a setup and executes a conclusion. The page is the basic unit of OotS, not the chapter or story. Megatokyo, Digger and Girl Genius might have pages that work very well as self contained pieces, but the basic unit of each is the storyline they're in. That's much harder to make interesting day by day, and setting up a sense of momentum becomes vastly more important in those cases, because sometimes you're going to need to advance the story more than have a single page execution work.

Burlew's strength as a storyteller is he can weave the needs of story through his strip, but still make every page stand on its own.

Comment from: quiller posted at September 19, 2005 3:45 PM

I am a huge fan of Phil's work and I enjoy what I've seen of Kaja's work.

But I picked up Girl Genius Volume 3 recently, and I think Cheyenne Wright's work has to be included in there as well. I've never seen colors so vivid, vibrant and alive in a graphic novel before. When you add to that the quality that Studio Foglio is using for paper, the way the artwork fits just right on the page, and the greater ease of picking up Foglio's signature detail work on the printed page this is going to be one webcomic that is well worth picking up in hardcopy form. Looking at the catalog it hadn't been immediately apparent to me why the volume 3 was pricier than the previous volumes, but looking at the quality I have to say ... worth every penny.

Now to speak up in Fred's defense, Phil has been making a living as an artist and cartoonist for decades now, while Fred has been an architect up until recently. And the Girl Genius comics themselves were not know for coming out on a regular schedule at all when they were being published, though perhaps this was more due to the vagaries of publishing rather than artist output. Fred really has been getting better about keeping a schedule, and if his story is no longer Eric's cup of tea with its greater doses of drama and smaller doses of comic madness, I still think his last chapter was his best yet with deep character exploration and some truly amazing moments. And as noted, Megatokyo is another one that I definitely recommend looking at the print editions, as they are handy references, the pacing does work better in them and are a handy size to read in bed.

Comment from: Tangent posted at September 19, 2005 4:02 PM

Actually, Eric, when I said "family-oriented" I was referring to the fact that the Foglios *are* a family. As such, they help support each other, work together, and have a level of teamwork and the like that I don't envision when I hear of Todd "I'm a Superstar so worship me" McFarlane.

If you go out to Suncoast or to a comic book store, you'll see sections of his "toys" which are hideous creations. I look at those things and shudder, and wonder why they're in reach of kids. If the Foglios came out with their own line of action figures... could you imagine an Agatha Heterodyne action figure? Or a Krosp? Or a Wulfenbach? Or even the Jagers? If you put them side-by-side next to McFarlane's nightmares, you'd see dreams next to nightmares. And I bet the Girl Genius action figures would probably be a bigger hit, because of the sense of fun you'd get from them.

As for family-oriented comics... I suppose it's also true that Phil Foglio has managed to move away from light porn and to a point that people think of him in terms of family-safe comics. I don't view it as "sex-positive" or anything like that, however. Instead, it's just that Phil, Kaja, and his extended family of coworkers have a sense of joy and fun with their work.

Girl Genius is a work of love. And it shows.

Rob H.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at September 19, 2005 4:20 PM

Actually, I think the best defense of Fred is that he has given some payoffs. To shock Eric and some other people here, Megatokyo has turned things around quite a bit. Piro actually is aware that a woman likes him - and it's Kimiko, the adult (to jog memories, the one who's becoming a voice actress). They're currently stumbling towards a relationship. Largo and Erika became more attracted, Erika tried to push Largo away, and he reacted with much more depth than anyone saw coming. Oh, and Piro actually told someone off (Miho, aka The Goth Girl). I had to check the URL to see if I had the right comic.

Of course, I'm not denying that Megatokyo still has its problems. In fact, I don't imagine that Eric would want to read it again right now, given some of the problems (the cast page *still* isn't up, the pacing drags at points, the scene cuts are at bad places here and there, and it seems like Gallagher still isn't sure how he wants to use Largo).

However, I do hold out hope, given some of the other improvements, that Gallagher will correct those issues and maybe, just maybe, Eric would have to consider a "Redemption of Megatokyo" essay.

Again, back to Girl Genius...

I'll admit, Foglio's ability to make a rich world is quite impressive, but that speaks to the quality of writing, not the quotidian aspects of making a comic. I admittedly don't have much experience with their work (I've read bits and pieces of pretty much all of it, like I'm at dim sum). But I was expecting, due to the time and space budgeting they've had to do in the past, that Phil and Kaja would manage just fine. And, fortunately, I was right.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 19, 2005 4:25 PM

Man, I should know better... and yet... I have to comment.

Now to speak up in Fred's defense, Phil has been making a living as an artist and cartoonist for decades now, while Fred has been an architect up until recently.

Gallagher separated from his Architecture job in October of 2002. Which means next month Megatokyo will have been his full time job for three years.

Now, like I said -- I don't read it any more (that's actually the whole point of "You Had Me, and You Lost Me," so it's entirely possible every point I had in that essay's been addressed now. I am not making any claim whatsoever about the current merits of MegaTokyo, I swear.

However, I have to point out that at this point, he's not actually new at this either. And he had been doing it for just shy of two years when I wrote the original essay. So if things continue to be problematic in these regards, well, I don't really give him a bye for being new at it.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 19, 2005 4:30 PM

However, I do hold out hope, given some of the other improvements, that Gallagher will correct those issues and maybe, just maybe, Eric would have to consider a "Redemption of Megatokyo" essay.

I'll always keep that on the table. Nothing says YHMAYLM is etched in stone. ;)

(Hey, I'm reading "Joyce and Walky," aren't I? ;) )

Comment from: quiller posted at September 19, 2005 4:56 PM

We all have different standards. I'm a chronic procrastinator so I tend to be very generous in that regards, whereas as a very polite person I get quite upset over other people's discourtesy. (Not that I think anyone is being discourteous here, just in general). How good he's doing currently depends on your opinion of his Omake stuff. He's doing better than RK Milholland has been recently. A few DPDs, a fair number of comics posted late though mostly within a few hours of his attempted posting time.

And no, I didn't think you were making claims about the current state of MT, but I felt the current state was worth commenting on for any readers who were in a state of "You had me, but now I'm going to take a little vacation from reading you". It is certainly in a better state than when you wrote that essay, but my guess is that you still would find that Largo has changed too much for your taste.

Anyway, probably the wrong place for a discussion of MT, but since you don't read it anymore, I suppose us readers had to jump on the topic to make a few comments. Let it in no way detract from the goodness that is Girl Genius.

Comment from: Shaenon posted at September 19, 2005 4:58 PM

I've been a fan of Girl Genius pretty much from the beginning, and I actually think it works even better as a webcomic than it did as a monthly comic. Like other people have said, there's something on every page, and it's a lot of fun to follow in the three-times-a-week format. Good classic serial stuff.

Phil Foglio has kindly consented to draw a backup story for the next volume of the Narbonic print collections, and I very much look forward to the breasts. I chose a desert-island setting just for him.

Comment from: J.(Channing)Wells posted at September 19, 2005 5:15 PM

It is my private opinion that a Garrity/Foglio jam may well require us to wear lead aprons and welding masks to protect our sensitive tissues from all the stray awesome.

Well, it's not a private opinion anymore, I guess.

Comment from: bartles69 posted at September 19, 2005 8:40 PM

If you go out to Suncoast or to a comic book store, you'll see sections of [Todd McFarlane's] "toys" which are hideous creations. I look at those things and shudder, and wonder why they're in reach of kids. If the Foglios came out with their own line of action figures... could you imagine an Agatha Heterodyne action figure? Or a Krosp? Or a Wulfenbach? Or even the Jagers? If you put them side-by-side next to McFarlane's nightmares, you'd see dreams next to nightmares. And I bet the Girl Genius action figures would probably be a bigger hit, because of the sense of fun you'd get from them.

Am I the only one with this sudden image of Foglio action figures based on the Godzilla/Tokyo costumes from XXXenophile?

Definitely not for kids, but they'd still have that "sense of fun" the Foglios maintain in all their work.

Comment from: Rhandir posted at September 19, 2005 8:58 PM

I did some data analysis on Megatokyo's timeliness.

Fred started doing Mt fulltime in October of 2002, and indicated that he'd have the MWF update cycle. How'd he do? Counting from the beginning, which day did the strips land on?

Mon 31.54% or 240 strips out of 761

Tues 0.00% or zero

Wed 32.59% or 248

Thurs 1.97% or 15

Fri 30.62% or 233

Sat 0.66% or 5

Sun 0.79% or 6

Right. So he didn't put something new up on a day he said he was going to 26 out of 761 times.

That doesn't address how late he is on average. Counting from August 2002*, shortly before he started doing this full time, let's look at a stat that does that:

Assuming an ideal update cycle of 3 comics every 7 days, that gives us 2.33 days (56 hours) between comics.

Here's how he did:

August 2002-August 2003: 57.85 hours

August 2003-August 2004: 59.76 hours

August 2004-August 2005: 57.47 hours

In other words, on average, he's never been more than 3 hours, 45 minutes late in the past three years. On average.

But wait! We remember some dry periods where there weren't updates! In absolute terms, how big were the gaps, and where were they?

3 or fewer days between updates: 423 "normal size" gaps.

4 days between: 9 gaps

5 days between: 14 gaps

7 days between: 3 gaps (none in the last year)

9 days between: 1 gap (over New Year's 2004. He got married. Also not in the last year.)

So, 27 instances of "late" out of 450 strips is about 94% on time.

The Problem of Quality

How many of these were Shirt Guy Dom strips? Hard to say. I think I have undercounted them, but non-directly-related-to-the-story strips amount to 83, of which only 16 were Dom. (And 16 were short story strips that tie in.)

Why did I do this?

Well, frankly, I'm a fanboy. And it really roasts my yakitori that people say Fred is lazy. No, I don't ascribe that to you, Eric. Frankly, I wish you'd give it another chance, because I think you'd like it.

For more excruciating detail, see:


p.s. I've liked Foglio's stuff since his run in Dragon magazine.

*I picked August for my calculations based on the anniversary of the strip's start. If we took the entire run, he'd do slightly better in year one, and slightly worse in year two, probably about the time you stopped reading Megatokyo regularly.

Comment from: Rhandir posted at September 19, 2005 8:59 PM

Doggone it! Preview doesn't show linebreaks correctly. Sorry for leaking crappy html all over your nice clean blog.

Comment from: HydrogenGuy posted at September 19, 2005 9:11 PM

It is my private opinion that a Garrity/Foglio jam may well require us to wear lead aprons and welding masks to protect our sensitive tissues from all the stray awesome.

Lead apron, nuthin'. I am immolating myself on that particular pyre. And should I survive, I will effect a Banneresque transformation whenever I become giddy with joy. Like now.

Comment from: Grumblin posted at September 19, 2005 9:15 PM

funnily enough, while Gossamer Commons interets me, Girl Genius simply doesn't.

At all.

Updating regularly might help. Quality might help. Having a starter fanbase might help.

But there simply isn't a surefire recipy for success as an online webcomic.

Maybe as an european I'm spoiled or culturally warped where comics are concerned. We've had our own evolution in print here that's quite different from the american model, and style, to the point of non-comparison.

But frankly.. given the theme and style, I prefer Atland.

Comment from: Robert Hutchinson posted at September 19, 2005 9:15 PM

1) I still read Megatokyo, despite not knowing what's going on half the time. And I would certainly not call Fred lazy. But it has always seemed to me, at least when he bothers to mention it on the page somewhere, that he begins work on each strip, almost without deviation, less than 24 hours before it is "due". One is often left to wonder whether he couldn't do at least a little webcomicking on Mondays and Wednesdays.

(I also wish he'd either just stop saying "I'm going to try to work ahead" one week before cons/vacations/etc., or start saying it two or three weeks beforehand. But anyway.)

2) I think it fair to mention that, on the one hand, the Foglios were about 10 weeks ahead of schedule simply by dint of having an entire unreleased comic in their hands. I think it fair to mention that, on the other hand, the Foglios soon said that they were churning out more pages as fast as they could, lest that 10 weeks turn into 10 hours.

3) I'm sure no one in the comments has intended any slight, but just for the record, and especially if you're talking about the story and world-building, it's Phil *and* Kaja's effort.

4) All right, all right, I'll buy the Narbonic collections as soon as I can! You don't have to bribe me.

Comment from: gwalla posted at September 19, 2005 10:03 PM

Eric: Not surprised at how late GL#3 was. Really, deadlines are an archaic concept in print comics these days. Nobody ever meets them. And the more famous the artist, the further they get from meeting them.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at September 19, 2005 10:07 PM

Nothing says YHMAYLM is etched in stone. ;)


Comment from: Tangent posted at September 19, 2005 11:29 PM

Yes, Wednesday, who is this man and what did he do with the Eric Burns we all know and love? :D

Rob Howard, currently deciding if he should switch to a MWFSu schedule for Tangents

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at September 19, 2005 11:30 PM

I knew Buck Godot. Buck Godot was a friend of mine. That is, the guy Phil based Buck on. He was in my cartoons too, then. He's the man of which I coined the phrase "a big Irish cop with a big Irish mustache". The last time I saw him he was neither any longer a cop nor mustached. Time marches on.

Comment from: William_G posted at September 20, 2005 5:46 AM

"I knew Buck Godot. Buck Godot was a friend of mine..."

... And you, sir, are NO Buck Godot!

Sorry, it just reminded me of it.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at September 20, 2005 6:35 AM

No sweat. It's exactly what I had been thinking.

Comment from: Phil Foglio posted at September 20, 2005 3:14 PM


Hello, Phil Foglio, techno-tard here. Had to step in and correct a mistake which is entirely my fault. Eric, thank you for a very nice reveiw. Things have been a bit hectic here at Studio Foglio, and your burst of unexpected ego-boo was a welcome surprise.

However, I'm afraid that I made a mistake when I said in my Live-Journal that we now had 140,000 readers. That's what happens when someone who has trouble running a good calculator tries to access his online stats and doesn't know the difference between "Hits" and "Views." I am very sorry for the false information, I'd forgotten it was even posted and will have to go back and add a note about this.

When I wrote that LJ, I had no idea how to get an accurate readership count, and no idea what numbers were good, bad or reasonable. Later, Scott Kurtz told me the method he used, and then admitted that you'd only get a rough count at best, though certainly a good ballpark estimate. (For those who care; Find out how many views you get in a month. Divide that number by the number of times you posted a new strip = Theoretical readership)

As of August, by this calculation, we were far short of 140,000, I'm afraid, but still a vast increase over our print readership, and the numbers for September are already higher than August.

It really is hard to believe just how few copies comic books sell. Every month Diamond posts the top 300 sellers and there are books that make that list that sell fewer than a thousand copies.

The numbers on the Girl Genius periodicals dipped once we started bringing out collections. Readers prefer them, as do stores, so once they know that you do collections, a LOT of them are willing to wait. The big test, the one that I'm holding my breath over, is the initial sales figures for the 4th Girl Genius collection. That's due out at the end of this year. THAT is when we'll be able to see if this is a really viable business model.

I certainly hope so. Producing the Girl Genius story in webcomic format is actualy a lot less of a hassle, and if it wasn't for the whole having to eat dirt to make ends meet thing, life would be perfect. We love the webcomics community, and are astonished that people actually pay attention to our work (unlike the regular comics industry {no, I'm not bitter, thanks for asking} who never did know what to do with me.)

So I just wanted to get that out, as I hate to fly under false colors.

Oh, by the way, the ever-so-modest Ms. Garrity has neglected to mention that SHE is writing a Heterodyne Boys back-up story that I will be illustrating for the aforementioned 4th collection.

How's that going, Shaenon? No pressure.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 20, 2005 3:54 PM

Shaenon Garrity is writing in the Girl Genius universe.

Someone knows how to ensure I'm going to buy this collection, that's all I'm saying.

Comment from: Nate posted at September 21, 2005 12:02 AM

That makes at least three confirmed sales for the next collection

Y'know, even assuming I didn't have all the other ones, a bunch of the individual issues, and ZE GOGGLES.

Who, me fanboy?

Comment from: Arachnid posted at September 21, 2005 4:18 PM

(For those who care; Find out how many views you get in a month. Divide that number by the number of times you posted a new strip = Theoretical readership)
Wouldn't it make sense to just count the number of Unique IPs you get (with, say, more than a certain threshold of hits), and multiply by some small >1 factor to account for all the people behind NAT (the places with more than one reader to an IP address)?

Oh, and I'm hoping that the fourth collection, the promised colorized version of the first collection and GG GURPS come out around the same time so I can order them together. Though if one comes out early, I guess I'll live. ;)

Comment from: quiller posted at September 21, 2005 4:31 PM

Well here is another confirmed sale for book 4. After seeing book 3, this was pretty certain. I'll probably grab books 1 and 2 eventually, but since I'd read them/have many of them in original comics those are lower priority at the moment.

And if it helps Phil, the impetus for my picking up book 3 and the first What's New collection was the sale you did on the Buck Godot comics package. 7 comics for $5 was too good a deal to pass up (and it is still available in the Studio Foglio store, folks).

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at September 26, 2005 4:08 PM

Announcement from SPX about another cartoonist going to the web.

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