Recently in Frequently (sort of) Asked Questions Category

FAQ: About Websnark (Revised 20 April 2006)

What the Hell is all this?
This is Websnark, a commentary weblog. We comment on... well, stuff. Frequently the stuff that we find on the web, though not exclusively. Essentially, we write about whatever interests us at the time of writing.
Who exactly are you people?
Eric Alfred Burns and Wednesday White. Eric started the site in August 2004; Wednesday came on board in February 2005. See the Cast List.
Why all the webcomics stuff?
We like webcomics. A large percentage of the stuff we read online consists of webcomics. So it's often the stuff we're thinking about, which means in turn it's the stuff that we're writing about. You see? Of course you see.
Wait -- I come here for the webcomics stuff. What's all this about superheroes or games or Jack Chick or your personal lives or crap like that? Isn't this a webcomics site?
No. While webcomics make up the (vast) majority of what we talk about, this isn't a 'webcomics blog' so much as it is a place for us to write about whatever it is we want to write about. If that's TV instead, or fandom stuff, or trashy religious entertainment, or pop culture, or the Astronomy Picture of the Day, or even whatever happened to one or the other of us on any given day, that's what it is.

Also, these days? Chick tracts are also webcomics, by some definitions.
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 our humour typically runs to the sarcastic, Websnark becomes our place to snark about the web. Eric picked the name out. (Eric tends to be more positive than negative in his snarks, because he's a wuss. Wednesday tends to be a little less shiny, because she's a fussbudget. Balance kicks ass.)
Elsewhere, 'snark' has come to refer to weblog posts about webcomics; it used to just mean posts from here ("My comic's been Snarked!"), but the term's drifted. It's both appealing and humbling to see how the term's shifted meaning and focus.
So, that means you're a webcomics site, right?
No.
What schedule do you follow when posting?
When you read it, it's been posted. There's no set schedule. Sometimes, if either of us gets a chance to queue things up a little, we'll set them to post through the day at regular intervals, but there's no promise. We'll occasionally disappear for a few days as other commitments or health considerations take precedence. We try to get something out at least once a day, though.
What gives you the right to criticize other people's work?
Well, we pay for our hosting, you see. Which means that we're paying for the press this is printed on. And said press is in the United States of America, where the site's owner lives, which means the right comes from the United States Constitution. (Yes, even for the Canadian in the crowd, what since she's using that American press.) If you're reading this in another country... well, we get to publish it, but whether or not you get to read it is your own lookout.
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?
Eric: 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.

Wednesday: Wait. I'm confused. I don't like anything.
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, opinions. They're not 'wrong,' they just belong to one or the other of us. We're not always going to agree. (Eric and Wednesday can't even always agree.) You are perfectly free to like things that we don't. You're perfectly free to keep reading things we've put on the 'You had me and you lost me' list. We respect that. We're also free to dislike them. And to make fun of them. It's what we 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!
Eric: 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. We don't go looking for things to insult just so I can insult them. That's not criticism. That's just being mean. We don't care if you think we're funny while I'm being mean. We don't choose to be mean to people just because we have a website. When we are sarcastic (or even mean) to sites, it's usually after we'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 us links to Gonterman comics unless you actually like Gonterman's comics and you want us to read them because you think that one of us will like them. There are plenty of all-negative snarksites on the web, if that's what you want. We even read and enjoy some of them. But that's not our thing.

Wednesday adds: This is distinct yet again from trainwreck fascination, which I see as a valuable learning tool. I don't enjoy being mean, but I do enjoy figuring out why something's broken.
Why do you have thumbnails of other peoples' comics on your site? Isn't that a violation of copyright?
Nope. Even though we wouldn't call this a review site, much of it is critical commentary. It's perfectly legal to use examples of art we're commenting on or producing critical work about, under fair use, in the United States of America. Your local laws may vary, of course. Further, we 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 we also credit our sources. The combination means that we're perfectly able to use the art on my site, even without asking first. (Or even when someone says we 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) We don't want to inadvertently overstep the bounds of fair use, so we specifically excerpt or thumbnail only, here. 2) We 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) Much of the time, we're extolling the virtues of a webcomic. Naturally, we want to increase traffic to the site in question. 4) Websnark is not made of bandwidth.
You think you're so smart! Do you think you can do better?
Eric:Well, I don't know if I can do better or not. I certainly can't draw. I try to write pretty well. But in the end, that's not really the point. I write criticism because... well, I am pretty good at that. Mostly.

Wednesday: Not yet. I use writing as a learning tool, and part of the reason why I became involved with writing about webcomics in the first place was to sort out for myself what works and what doesn't. It's an ongoing testing process. But many critics aren't themselves primarily creators -- Roger Ebert, to use an overly worn example here, is not exactly best known for his screenwriting, but his film criticism is no less valid.
I'm an webcartoonist, and I'd like your feedback. Will you give it to me?
Glad to! No promises on how quickly we 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?
Sorry, but no. You are fully free to comment on the snark, refuting it. We won't remove your comments unless they're outright inflammatory beyond responding to us. (We've never actually deleted a comment on the posts to date. We don't permit commenters to insult others in the thread, though, and have had to lock a couple as a result.) If you can convince us that we were wrong about something, we'll put up a snark saying so. But the original posts don't come 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 -- we'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 opinion. And, legally speaking, opinions are not libel, because they don't make a claims about you -- they make claims about one or both of us. They are the truthful assertion of what we think of you. See, if one of us were to claim you fucked dogs, and you in fact didn't fuck dogs, that'd be libel, and you could sue. If, on the other hand, we say that you seem like a dog fucker to us, that's an opinion being expressed -- in our opinion, you have qualities that put us in mind of dog fuckers. I'm not claiming you actually fuck dogs. It just seems, in our opinion, like you're the kind of person who would. That's not libel -- it honestly is our opinion of you. And you don't get to sue us because we have a different opinion from yours, y'damn dog fucker.
What's that phrase in your masthead that changes periodially 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. We make no claims for its success.
Do you have a list of past raison d'etres?
Sure! A partial one, anyhow:
  • 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!?
  • Two writers. One cat. 4000 miles of ocean. Let's do this thing.
  • Oh no! I have psychosomatic Kaposi's sarcoma!
What's that creature in the corner of the screen? He's so cute! Where did you get him?
Eric: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 our dedicated readers, coined the term "Snarkoleptics" as a title for the 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 we like it when people read our stuff. Also, it gives us 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, we 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 totally delights us. Sooner or later, we'll either ask to use one of those officially or make our own, but for now, there's no 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 we have are Eric's daily trawls. (Wednesday's still working on her equivalent ma.gnolia collection, since she finds it easier to make lists when there are extra toys involved.) If you produce something that we read every day, you might end up in one of the trawls. But right now, we pretty much link stuff in the actual snarks. As for linking buttons -- we don't currently use them. It's nothing against you.
Hey, I want to send you e-mail. What's your e-mail address?
The best place to send us 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 Eric. Not that he should have remembered that on his own or anything. It's not like he named the fucking website after it or anything.

FAQ: About Websnark.com

| 6 Comments

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.

FAQ: Lexicon

| 13 Comments

Some note has been made of the number of posts I've managed to bang out. It's amazing what kind of output you can get when you combine enthusiasm with living in New Hampshire and therefore having little to do with your time. Also, it's been very hot recently.

However, a kind of technical language has developed in this strip, and because there are so many posts, it's being kind of spread out. As readers have pointed out to me. And pointed out that a cast page is less important to this kind of project than a simple glossary would be.

So, this is the first of our FAQ pages, and it features a lexicon of terms.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: LEXICON

Biscuit, Tasty Tasty

When I think a particular individual strip really nails something -- be it a joke, an artistic device, a storyline point, a cliffhanger, or whatever -- I extol it. It's more than just saying "this is cool." It's saying "this is how it's done." It's a chance for others to learn. And I want to reward that webcartoonist who did this great thing. And it reminds me of something David Letterman once did on Late Night, back before the CBS Move. You see, he was doing Viewer Mail, and someone said "hey, Letterman -- you do this late night show, and it's funny! So what do you want -- a biscuit?" And Letterman said "yeah. I kind of do want a biscuit." So, the monumental NBC machine went into motion to fly the very finest of British Digestive Biscuits from London to New York, then run it up by courier to Letterman's desk. Since then, my mother and I always used "biscuit" as a reward for a job well done -- much like you would do with a dog. As for the tasty, tasty bit... well, the first time I used the biscuit thing, I followed it up by qualifying that it was tasty. And I happened to do it the second time as well, quite unconsciously. And when I realized that, I went with it. Besides, wouldn't you like to have a biscuit right now? A tasty, tasty biscuit?

Bringing the [whatever]

As an aficionado of Aaron Sorkin's writing, I have adopted some of his mannerisms. Yes, it annoys my friends and family too. One of those adopted phrases is 'bringing the' whatever we're talking about. On Websnark, this refers to the Webcartoonist bringing one of the core elements of a strip. For example, a webcartoonist can bring the Funny, meaning that there is a quality of humor that resonates with the reader. (Well, with me, anyway.) He can bring the Story, meaning that continuity and characterization are handled deftly and the reader wants to see what happens next. He can bring the Toolset, meaning he is bringing expertise in his craft. And so on.

Cast Page

One of the most important elements of a webcomic is its cast list. This can be a succinct list of characters and a short description, or it can be elaborate, updated in near-real time. However, it is absolutely necessary, because it provides the new reader with a fast roadmap so he can jump right in, and provides the long time reader with a quick reference to refresh his memory if need be.
That so many webcomics don't have a cast page mystifies we at Websnark. That some webcomics have a link or other site design for a cast page but don't actually have one can drive Websnark into a froth the likes of which few have seen and fewer survived. Few things like a nonfunctional Cast Page link can pull the word "dumbass" out of Websnark.

Cerebus Syndrome

The effort to create character development by adding layer upon layer of depth to their characters, taking a character of limited dimension (or meant to be a joke character) and making them fuller and richer. The idea is to take what was fun on one level and showing the reality beneath it. 'Cerebus Syndrome' refers to Dave Sim's epic, sometimes tragically flawed magnum opus, Cerebus the Aardvark. Cerebus started life as a parody of Conan the Barbarian starring an Earth-Pig born. Over time, it grew extremely complex, philosophical, and in many ways much much funnier. Then, Dave Sim went batshit crazy and Cerebus went straight to Hell, but that's for another day. People saw how Cerebus's humble roots could lead to glorious heights, and as cartoonists get bored with what they're doing, they decided to pull a Cerebus of their own.

Boredom is generally the key to a Cerebus Syndrome attempt. After a while, even a successful webcartoonist gets tired of fart jokes and sight gags and wants to make these characters more than they've been.

It is extremely hard to take a light, joke a day strip and push it through a successful Cerebus Syndrome. Dave Sim did it in stages, and at least in the early days of the transformation brought massive amounts of Funny to cover it over. Done perfectly, one only realizes in hindsight that the strip has turned out to be quite different than it used to be. Done sloppily, the Cerebus Syndrome fails, and the webcomic enters First and Ten Syndrome. Unfortunately, a failed Cerebus Syndrome is an excruciating process for the webcomic's fans to endure.

Please note that one can continue to bring the Funny while going for Cerebus Syndrome -- and in fact, probably should. It is far more common to drop the Funny, which increases geometrically the chance to fall into First and Ten. Note also that not all strips that bring heavy Story, mix humorous and serious elements, and have bad things happen to their characters are undergoing Cerebus Syndrome (or First and Ten Syndrome, for that matter). It's only those strips that began on a very light, even limited dimension level and then transform into something different that really shoot for the Cerebus Syndrome. So, Sluggy Freelance, which started out mostly humorous and now has a healthy dose of the Funny and the Story (with occasional forays into sequences like "Fire and Rain") is that rarity of rarities -- a successful Cerebus Syndrome. Digger and For Better or for Worse, on the other hand, had complex characterization from day one, and cannot be said to be in Cerebus or First and Ten. Got it? Good. There will be a quiz.

Daily Webcomics Trawl

Those comic strips I read every day, or at least every time they come out. Usually a combination of my personal enjoyment and a moderately regular update schedule combines to put a strip on the Daily Webcomics Trawl. The strips on the Daily Webcomics Trawl are the ones most likely to be snarked at any given time.

Execution

Contasted with Pacing. Execution is the way an individual strip does everything -- brings the Funny, brings the Story, sets up the joke, delivers the punchline, impacts us with seriousness, or whatever. Execution is local -- each strip is a separate execution.

First and Ten Syndrome

First and Ten was one of the earliest "made for HBO" television series, and bears about as much resemblance to The Sopranos as American Pie bears to American Beauty. It was a tits-n-ass fest with football player stereotypes and the always 'fun' plot of having a woman own the team. Because women? And football? Gosh, that could never happen. It was light, frothy and fun, in an exploitive way for a couple of seasons. And then, they decided to make it serious. The stereotypical coach became a browbeater who emotionally abused his assistant coach because he suspected the coach would leave. There were teen runaways and drug abuse and sexual abuse and darkness at all turns. It tried to become dramatic -- in part because it's felt drama is easier to pull off than humor.

Well, I admit it's hard to find the Funny if you don't know what you're doing, but losing the Funny in exchange for 'character development' leaves pure schlock, untouched by new viewers who weren't interested in the comedy series, but alienating the existing fanbase. When the E True Hollywood Story is produced 20 years later, inevitably the "change of direction" is touted as the reason for the inevitable decline and failure.

A strip falls into First and Ten Syndrome when they take a shot at Cerebus Syndrome and miss. Rather than be a mix of the Funny and the Story with much better developed characters and more of a sense of reality, the strips fall into a suckfest of angst and misery, with bad things happening to characters we like and all sense of fun beaten out with a stick. While webcomics that fall into First and Ten can continue to have good -- even great -- moments, it's an exercise in masochism to find them. The seminal First and Ten Syndrome comic was the original Roomies, which veered away from silliness into angst so deep that ultimately, Willis had to end the strip and start It's Walky. Note that Willis may have very different views on this transition.

The Funny

Born of Aaron Sorkin and Sports Night, the Funny is one of the core elements ascribed to webcomics by Websnark. The Funny is not so much humor than attitude. A strip can be said to bring the Funny when its overall tone is meant to appeal to a reader's sense of humor, sense of the weird or both. The Funny does not have to mean jokes, and jokes do not necessarily bring the Funny. Whether or not a given strip brings the Funny is a subjective decision -- for some, Superosity brings the Funny every day. For others, it doesn't bring it at all. When I snark about a strip bringing the Funny, it's always in my opinion. Of course, so's everything else on this site. It's an opinion site. You see how that works? Of course you do.

Please note, a strip can bring the funny, lowercase, without bringing the Funny. In other words, putting out a bunch of lame jokes does not the Funny create.

The nature of the Funny is that lapses in other elements of the webcomic -- the Story, the Action, the Execution, the Pacing, and so forth can be forgiven in the presence of the Funny. The Funny is the only attribute of a webcomic that can keep people coming back day after day if everything else fails. Which is not to say that strips with no interest in the Funny are doomed to fail -- they can be the best strips on the planet. But they have their work cut out for them.

The Funny, I should reiterate, does not mean rolling on the floor howling with laughter until bladder control is lost. To be honest, I rarely laugh vocally at any comic strip. I might smile a bit or, for a particularly humorous bit, snort, but the Funny doesn't require that. It requires a sense of humor to be present in the strip that appeals to my sense of what the Funny is. And mine and yours, like I said before, may differ. So don't bitch at me about it.

For the record? Foxtrot brings the Funny. Garfield does not. All clear?

Pacing

The development of a webcomic over several strips -- contrasted with execution, which is individual. Generally, Story strips need pacing more than Gag-a-day strips, though gag-a-day still sets a tone which can be considered pacing. Pacing is generally a reflection of the tradition that a given webcartoonist is operating in. A strip heavily influenced by manga is often slower-paced, letting the situation develop slowly. A strip heavily influenced by traditional four panel newspaper comic strips is generally much faster paced. Story-heavy strips, like adventure strips, can have slow or fast pacing depending on the nature of the story. Too fast a pacing can make a strip seem frenetic and unfun. Too slow a pacing can cause your readers to blow their own heads off in frustration. Combining slow pacing and irregular updating is a good way to get death threats, which seems like an overreaction. I mean, it's not like we're curing cancer or making pound cake, here. Mmm. Sweet sweet pound cake.

Premise

The conceit of the webcomic. A comic's premise is the short description of what the comic is about -- and what differentiates it from all the other comics about a couple of mismatched college roommates out there. Note that the more complex a strip's premise (ie -- the more that needs to be said about it to describe it concisely), the more labored the strip will seem. The more of the strip's trappings that can be cut away without inexorably changing the strip, the better. Superosity's premise, for example, is "an innocent man-child, the supergenius sentient board he lives with and the man-child's horrible little brother muddle through life, love and abusive friends and family." If time travel, nanotech suits, overly commercial movies and cat poop were all cut out of the strip, it would still be Superosity. If, on the other hand, Chris grows up (as he did once, though it didn't last) or Boardy goes away it stops being Superosity. Contrast this with College Roomies from Hell, which is "Three college roommates -- a cynical manipulator, a decent fellow, and a flake -- deal with romance, anger and the fight against evil with their counterparts -- a hard edged warrior, a beautiful woman who can't cook or deal with reality and a manipulative blond who has killed off her inner, better self -- while Satan plans to use them in different, terrible ways." CRFH needs all of the above elements to continue to be CRFH, which makes it harder (though hardly impossible) to support the premise. Story strips tend to have more elaborate premises than Funny strips, though this is hardly a law.

Safari Tabs

The way I trawl through my daily webcomics, on a daily basis, is to open a block of webcomics all at once in Safari (I am indeed a Mac user) and bookmark all of them at once as a series of tabs. So, when I click on "Day Comics" in my button bar first thing in the morning, something like twenty three tabs open up, all at once. While I read the first several strips, the rest download. As a result, it takes me very little time to read a whole bunch of strips each day. Which is how I can do this and not lose my job.

Snark

Snark, according to Dictionary.com, refers to Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky" and to unexpected computer disasters. And that's a nice pedigree, honestly. However, common usage in recent years has made "snark" into a verb, usually meaning "complaining about something in a sarcastic manner."

I'll be honest. When I was first putting this site together, I had a laundry list of things to call it, because I expected all the simple names to be gone. The leader, I'm sorry to say, was "stripping-the-web," off of Bloom County's term for cartoonist: stripper. I knew I'd get traffic I didn't want, but I assumed it would be available. When I finally sat down to register the site, on a whim I plugged 'websnark' in first, thinking that it would perfectly describe what I did -- a computer disaster on the web, often with sarcasm -- but that there was no chance in Hell it would be available. Which shows what I know, and here we are.

I don't review here. I don't do number ratings or critiques or recommendations. I pretty much just blather on about whatever's caught my attention, express my opinions, and move on. So when I use 'snarking,' I mean 'posting about stuff that interests me.' An individual snark is therefore an individual post on something that interests me.

Why not just use "post" then? Because "snark" gives people some preconception of what I'm doing -- and if they read the site, they know that they're not going to agree with everything. But that it's possible it'll entertain them.

Besides, I like the word. Snark-snarkity-snark snark snark.

Sporadically Checked

There are some webcomics -- including some I truly enjoy, like Men in Hats and FLEM Comics, that either because of incredibly sporadic updating or just personal preference I prefer to go and check every once in a while, reading all the strips I need to read to catch up. Certain Story strips, like General Protection Fault can end up on here when a story has bogged down a bit and would be better served read from beginning of the plotline to end. However, it's hard to ever get back onto the Daily Webcomics Trawl after this happens, and it's a short step from there to "You Had Me But You Lost Me."

The Story

Derived from 'the Funny,' the Story is another of the core elements ascribed to webcomics by Websnark. Encompassing continuity, plot and character development, the Story describes any strip where what happens now develops inexorably from what has come before. This can be comedic or dark, soap opera or adventure strip. Strips like Sluggy Freelance heavily rely on the Story, where strips like Men in Hats don't use it at all.

Strips that don't bring the Funny typically bring the Story, if they're going to truly be a webcomic as opposed to an online art sketchbook. Not that there's any problem with online art sketchbooks, but they usually have a problem keeping repeat readers. Unless, of course, the sketches are of naked ladies, but that's not important to this lexicon.

Toolset

The tools a webcartoonist brings to his trade. These can be artistic or textual, plot or humor oriented. Each creator brings different tools to his trade. Recognizing what toolset a webcartoonist possesses and works with is an essential step to properly bitching about assessing his work in a fair and honest way.

Webcomic

Some form of sequential art that is available via the web. Period.

Honestly, that's it.

No, I don't care if a comic strip also appears in newspapers. It's still a webcomic. I don't care if you have to pay to read it. It's still a webcomic. I don't care if it's full pages of a graphic novel being developed. It's still a webcomic. If it's sequential art, and it's on the web, it's a webcomic. Honestly, why is this so hard a concept?

[Webcomic] For Dummies

This refers to those strips (often with overly elaborate premises or extremely slow pacing) that desperately need third party sites to fill the gap for confused new (and even existing) readers. As the plotlines for these comics descend into a self-referential pit requiring deep commitment on the part of readers to keep straight, a webcomic can either document things simply (generally on a cast page or some kind of synopsis) themselves, or rely on their fanbase to produce some of their own. Megatokyo is one of the worst offenders in this regard, and several fan Megatokyo for Dummies sites have appeared in answer to the need.

Why Do I Read This Webcomic, Again?

A list of webcomics that, whether because of changes to the strip or a lack of changes to a strip (no one said this stuff was easy) has become more of a chore than a pleasure. It remains on the Daily Webcomics Trawl, but it's far more likely to get a cynical snark out of me than a happy one, and it can fall off the list and onto "You Had Me But You Lost Me" all too easily. User Friendly is a strip on "Why Do I Read This Webcomic, Again." It's Walky recently dropped off it onto the "You Had Me But You Lost Me" list, and General Protection Fault and Real Life Comics are rallying to emerge back into the good graces of the Daily Webcomics Trawl.

You Had Me But You Lost Me

Sometimes a strip that I liked or even loved just... drifts apart from me. We start doing more and more things alone. I don't call as often. Look, baby. You know you deserve better, but... it's not you. It's me. Okay? I think I need to read other webcomics, and you need to spend time with a different audience. Let's still be friends, okay? Oh, I'm gonna need my records back.

Still to come

Penny Arcade Defense

FAQ: Cast Page

| 14 Comments

So, I've received more than one note from folks that while it's all well and good for me to campaign for webcomic cast pages, I don't have one of my own here on Websnark.com.

"But..." I said in reply. "This isn't a webcomic."

"Put up or shut up," they replied.

So. Here's the cast page. Enjoy.

ericbiopic-april06.jpgEric Alfred Burns is one of the heroes of our story. Like all good English majors, he makes his living as a systems administrator. He also has a bad habit of writing. Born in a very small town in the very far north of Maine, Eric has lived in different places in Maine, in New Hampshire, in Ithaca and Syracuse, New York, and in Seattle, Washington. He currently lives in New Hampshire, but is wondering if his roots are beginning to get a touch long and therefore need uprooting.

While systems administration puts food on his table, Eric lists his occupation as writer. In addition to Websnark.com, Eric has written and published short fiction and poetry. He has also written for and designed Role Playing Games, including work for Decipher and Steve Jackson Games. He was one of the primary authors on the ENnie nominated Sidewinder: Wild West Adventures, and the subsequent Sidewinder: Recoiled won the Gold ENnie for best Electronic Game (non-free). He's listed as a contributing author on Recoiled, and would be much prouder if the sum total of his 'contributions' wasn't stuff from the first edition of the game which they rewrote parts of to make it sound less like the somewhat urbane Bat Masterson and more like Festus from Gunsmoke. But Hell, they got the gold with it, so why should he complain?

In the webcomics world, Eric writes a monthly column called "Feeding Snarky" and occasional features and reviews for Comixpedia, where they have learned to curse his procastinating name.

In addition, Eric has the unfortunate distinction of being an amateur novelist, but is deep into work on a novel that will hopefully change his professional standings. He has tried his hand at webcartooning himself, and epitomizes the old saw "those who can't draw, snark." He has learned from this mistake and is now hard at work at writing webcomics instead. He is hard at work on Gossamer Commons, as drawn by Greg Holkan and Peter Venables.

Eric has a cat named Sarah, which is short for Seraphim Kyriotate. He has yet to notice angelic behavior from her.


wedsbiopic-april06.jpgWednesday White is, at most, a cameo in all things. An uneducated boor, she used to sneak onto university newspapers' staff because the high school papers wouldn't let her in. Every few years, it occurs to her to write something. This time, it landed her in webcomics. "If I write about it for a little while, I'll learn how to do my own sensibly." You see where that gets you.

This way lay contributing to Comixpedia then throwing stuff at The Webcomics Examiner. She's worked as a free-floating associate editor for Comixpedia, and handles site maintenance and script editing tasks for Gossamer Commons.

She loves trashy religious pop culture (all religions; she's not fussy), Canadian public radio, and sorting through artistic trainwrecks.

The pair can be reached at "websnark" "at" "gmail" "dot" "com." It's like a reverse rebus, isn't it?

Logo: Sleeping Snarky