October 17, 2005

Eric: I wonder how T Campbell handles these situations...

So, as promised, a snark on or about Gossamer Commons. Specifically, on the future.

Gossamer Commons has to be the my most ambitious project, in all my online endeavors. John Stark makes me happy, and Websnark is by far the most successful thing I've done. But Gossamer Commons represents a true desire to make something -- to make a story, first and foremost, with some humor and with some drama. To take what I've learned from critiquing and do something with it. And to learn what no one on the outside can know.

And I've learned so much, so far. The pacing on Chapter Two reflects that, I think. I'm very excited, and very pleased. And of course, Greg Holkan's art has made it very special indeed.

Well, Greg has to step away from it, at the end of Chapter Two. He has too many irons in the fire. And I understand and support his decision. Most of all, I wouldn't want to see Gossamer Commons continue with him at the sacrifice of [nemesis], which is his story. He's not going away, mind. He'll still contribute art and projects, and he's going to remain a sounding board for me. And of course, every episode of Gossamer Commons will show his influence from now until the end, no matter what his role is.

Hell, the name Gossamer Commons came from a collaborative decision between the two of us.

But, it means it's time to look for someone to pick the art chores up, starting with Chapter Three. And that's just a few weeks away, even at three day a week updating.

And so, here we are. Hi. My name is Eric. I write a webcomic that's got thousands of readers. I need someone to draw it. Someone who will take the designs and work and concepts that Greg Holkan built, but not be afraid to let their own style influence and build upon that foundation.

It's going to be black and white art, as it currently is. And it's three days a week. I would greatly prefer a backlog of strips be built up, so that as trouble strikes we can deal with it. Absent a backlog, there is still a solid need for deadline-meeting fu. Missing updates is death for a story webcomic, after all. The artist in question will get an opportunity to brainstorm, to discuss, to influence the story as it's written -- I might be the writer, but the story is collaborative.

There is no money, at this time. However, if we go to print -- and that's still the intent, one day -- compensation will be divided equally for all pages the artist produces. And the artist in question retains their originals to do with what they will.

I'm pretty bummed, I'll admit. Greg has been a godsend. But he's not leaving in acrimony, and like I said he's not divorcing himself from Gossamer Commons entirely. I wish him well with everything he does, and I'm still going to read [nemesis] with every new post.

If you're interested, e-mail gossamercommons [funky at symbol] gmail [period] com. Or comment here.

And if you're of a mind, let Greg know how much he'll be missed. Because if anyone deserves applause right now, it's Our Mister Holkan.

Peace.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 7:47 PM | Comments (32)

September 25, 2005

Eric: It's like wearing pimp clothes, only without the sexism or the stereotyping!

You'll notice another sidebar tweak -- one that folks have asked for before. There's finally a link to other projects -- I've got a link to Gossamer Commons, if course. You'll also see a link to The Adventures of Brigadier General John Stark. That's right -- John Stark's voice has taken flight in my brain, and at least until I run out of ideas, he's going to appear daily at Webcomics Nation. The first strip is up -- the one you've seen before. I've queued up strips straight through to the end of the week. (I'm not sure if it's ripping off Daily Dinosaur Comics, Sinister Bedfellows or both, but I'm having fun so what the Hell?) As Weds and I develop our little online forays, we'll make sure there's appropriate linkage going on.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 12:30 AM | Comments (16)

August 1, 2005

Eric: Severe Tire Damage

p55.gif(From Gossamer Commons. Click on the thumbnail for full sized waiting!)

As always, this is not a snark, because I can't Snark Gossamer Commons. I wrote it.

I'm writing this link because A) it's been a while, and B) because it's been the requisite two weeks since the end of Chapter One, and so we have had guest strips. But now, Chapter Two has begun, as of today, so it's a good day to get back into it.

Not... er... that much happens today. But hey, we've all been where Malachite is, right?

And now... a brief story from my life. So that this is more than just a shameless plug.

It was Friday night, and I was driving north from Peabody, Mass. I had a stop to make there, to grab some things for Wednesday. But, it took longer than expected, and now I needed to drive fast and hard to make it to the mall in Portsmouth in time to grab other things on her care package list.

(If you're wondering just why I'd be putting together a care package to send to Wednesday... yeesh, man. You haven't been paying close attention, have you? But I digress.)

So I'm driving, listening to the iPod... and the car begins to vibrate. Rhythmically.

So, like all good drivers, I think "oh crap. Don't tell me I need to have an alignment done. God damn it." And then I sped up some more, because dude. I had to buy conditioner. Conditioner for Wednesday. And as I go faster, the vibration disappears.

(When I told Wednesday this little tale later on, she let me know in no uncertain terms my priorities were screwed up.)

I make it to the mall at 9:22. I go to two different stores and buy two different things within eight minutes, and then talk to the Select Comfort saleslady through the metal grate. (I have a sleep comfort bed, and it has a slow leak. I asked advice. She gave me an eight hundred number and told me that apparently they'll just up and send replacement parts, free. Dude!)

I head out, feeling smug, and drive North... to the grocery store. There are foods one cannot get in Britain, you see. Foods which I can provide. Foods which are dirt cheap, which means bonus points without incredible expense.

And then I drive home. And put on the iPod. Specifically, one of the episodes of The Shadow I have. It is now late, and the radio play will help keep me awake, I figure.

So... I get within ten miles of my home. And the Shadow is playing. Specifically, a commercial. For the Goodrich Safety Silvertown Tire -- a tire that literally whisks water off the road like a windshield wiper working on a windshield, with the patented golden ply for extra blowout protection! (Goodrich was the national sponsor, while Blue Coal was the regional sponsor for New England. So, about once every three episodes we get Goodrich shilling tires.) The Shadow himself was advertising this particular tire, this particular episode.

"We'd like to talk to you about your tires," the announcer said. "After all, who knows--"

"The Shadow knows!" Orson Welles hissed, in his trademark voice, interrupting the announcer.

My car began to vibrate again.

"Your tires could be a death trap!" the Shadow hissed, in his trademark way. "Slipping! Skidding! Leading to a blowout! Leading to expenses, or injuries--"

The vibrating became a violent shaking. My eyes grew wide. This -- this was trouble, and I knew it.

"--or worse!" the Shadow cried.

My front left tire -- the one nearest me -- exploded.

I pulled over to the side of the road and put my blinkers on. And let me tell you, Orson Welles screaming at me that I was in terrible danger, using the intonations of the Shadow -- which was scary as Hell, thank you -- did not work to calm my heart rate down. Especially since I can't buy stupid Safety Silvertown tires. They haven't made them since before World War II!

I got out, and looked at my tire. Smoke was pouring from it. It had overheated, and that caused the blowout. So I call AAA. (I royally suck at changing tires in the best of situations. Given that I was on the side of a major arterial highway, trying to change a tire at nearly midnight with cars doing seventy around the curve right next to where I would be crouched seemed at best suicidal to me. Besides, I have AAA Plus for a reason, and this was it.

Forty-five minutes, they said. So, I listened to more Shadow episodes.

An hour and a half later, the guy shows up and changes the tire. In his defense, I live in the middle of New Hampshire. However, even with Shadow episodes to keep me company, an hour and a half in my car waiting for AAA was plenty long enough to shift me from freaked out to bored out of my skull. I watched cars blur past me all the while (including one person in a Mercedes going at least 90 who had the audacity to honk at me. I'm on the shoulder, my hazards on, and he honks. Yeeeeeah).

I go home. I shake a bit. I take Benadryl. Eventually, over the course of the weekend, I play City of Heroes, talk to folks, and price out tires (specifically designed to not overheat on the road). I make an appointment to get them replaced on Monday. Which is tomorrow.

And then, I uploaded Gossamer Commons. Because we're back, and blowouts may happen, but darn it, I had a deadline.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 2:26 AM | Comments (13)

June 2, 2005

Eric: Where Madison Avenue meets Milholland Drive. *pause* No, I can't believe I made that pun either.

vert.jpgSo. Let's talk about advertising. Yes, I'm going to snark actual webcomics today. Yes, I'm going to poke at more Shortbreads today. But for the moment, let's talk about advertising.

There's always a question, before you advertise, over whether or not it will do any good to advertise your webcomic. You know the conventional wisdom about advertising, but the conventional wisdom is often conventionally wrong. Still... I have a webcomic, alongside Soul Brother Number Nine-Fourteen Greg Holkan. You may have heard me mention it before. And while we've had a solid readership -- especially for a brand new webcomic -- obviously we want more. Lots more.

And that means advertising. Among many other things.

Now, to be fair, we had advertisements before. As part of my compensation for writing articles for Comixpedia, I get a certain number of ad banner impressions each month, and as soon as Gossamer Commons existed, I swapped over to that. (I've never felt a need to advertise Websnark. I'm not sure why. I did it -- with the worst banner ad in existence -- when that was the only website I had, but now that I have a webcomic my ad space went to that.)

But, we've had that from the very beginning. And it works. I do in fact get a number of monthly referrals from that ad. But that won't expand my readership, because we've always advertised there. If I were going to try the grand experiment, I needed to figure the best places to put ads for our strip where there were no current ads.

I was holding off on more general advertising strategy until we had a solid archive of strips for people to read through, as well. And I wanted to wait until I felt like we really had our voice. And the last couple of weeks of strips have hit on all cylinders, so this seemed like the time.

This week, we did this. We put a vertical ad banner on Something Positive, and we advertised on Blank Label Comics. For Something Positive, we took out ads on a few days on the sidebar graphic -- Greg put together a fantastic banner ad to meet the Something Positive size requirements. You see that same sidebar advertisement on this post. At Blank Label, we offered up the same horizontal ad banner we use on Comixpedia -- another excellent Greg Holkan design.

(Greg designs the ads, I pay for the advertising. This to me is way more than fair, since if we reverse the equation the ads would drive people away. You don't want to see what it looks like when I draw Sonata.)

There were two solid reasons for advertising on Something Positive. Pragmatically, Randy Milholland's strip is extremely popular -- not just with people in general, but with the sort of people I hope will actually like Gossamer Commons. The demographic seemed a good fit.

The emotional reason for advertising on Something Positive is because without Something Positive, Gossamer Commons wouldn't exist.

See, I knew I wanted to do a webcomic. Very badly. I knew I couldn't draw it, and that I'd have to find someone who could. But beyond that, I needed a solid idea and a solid premise. For a while, I thought it'd be a webcomic about Trudy Glick, kind of somewhere between Bruno and Girls with Slingshots.

The problem was... I couldn't make it work. I'm not a good enough writer, and Trudy as I envisioned her wasn't a strong enough character to support a webcomic by herself. I needed a Mary Richards, and she was one hundred percent Ted Baxter.

Now, years and years ago, when I was actually living in Ithaca, I came up with an idea for a novel. See, I knew the folklore. I didn't make up the whole "if you see a fairy you're marked for death" idea, though I think my implementation is somewhat different. I first heard about it when I was acting in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. So, I came up with an idea that a young man saved a beautiful (very much 'age of consent') fairy whose leg was caught in a trap, and so the Fae court decided they wanted to reward him instead of kill him. The joke in this story would be that they weren't very good at rewarding him. Ultimately, of course, the man married the fairy girl -- like I said, totally not Sonata, who is the fae equivalent of three years old -- and fathered children with her, and then died ironically.

As novel premises went, it was okay. The kind of novel you come up with when you're twenty-two years old and spending a lot of your time writing about crappy super heroes. But I never got around to writing it and stuck it in the back of my head. Something about the premise didn't quite work for me, you see.

So, I was casting around for an idea for a webcomic, trying to find something good. Something I could write. Something that -- while an original idea is next to impossible -- would be at least somewhat different.

And then I was rereading the Something Positive archives one day -- I don't even remember why -- and I came across this strip.

And something between the righteous "anti-cute-fairy" sentiment of the strip, plus the darkness of it, plus the phrase "winged harbinger of death" just absolutely clicked in my brain. My old story cropped back up and I was able to completely recast it in a more modern, less clich»d light. In particular, a sense of utterly dark humor that was missing from my original premise -- which was, after all, romanic comedy -- slid in, all Milholland-like. Certainly, Sonata's design was entirely designed around the kind of cute, cuddly, adorable tinkerbellesque fairy that someone like Anna would probably like to meet sitting on a toadstool, giggling and waving and marking Anna for a horrific death in the process.

So, it went without saying I'd advertise with Something Positive. I owed him, even though he didn't know it, and besides it made sound business sense.

Blank Label, on the other hand, was a happy coincidence. I was looking around for other venues -- things that could fit in my budget, which let out most of the Big Guns of Webcomics (the other advantage to Something Positive is it's affordable). But here's Blank Label, just starting up, but with six extremely established cartoonists working for them and extremely affordable ad rates for webcomics creators. Affordable rates that would put our ad banner on Shortpacked, Checkerboard Nightmare, Greystone Inn, Melonpool, Wapsi Square and Ugly Hill, among others. Solidly established strips, among the top tier, with (once again) compatible senses of humor to mine. It made a lot of sense to advertise with them.

Though I did find it morbidly amusing that this meant I was actually advertising on It's Walky. I'm waiting for David Willis to laugh and laugh and laugh at me. And then possibly do me an injury.

The Blank Label ads cost less, but Something Positive is a full day's sponsorship, which means a lot higher percentage of people seeing it. A good tradeoff.

So. The question... back from the beginning of this snark... was "is it worth it to advertise." I mean, we had a solid readership to begin with. Not huge, but pretty damn good.

Holy crap, dude.

Our page views for the past three days have been in six figures. We did as much bandwidth yesterday as we did in April. We've done more bandwidth since May 31 than in the entire history of our webcomic combined times two. We have a huge number of people coming over. And a good percentage of those people are trawling back through the archives. I've gotten e-mail from new readers. We've gotten a passel of new links elsewhere. This has been huge.

The Something Positive referrals have been higher -- but then, as I said, that's a persistent ad. On the days I've sponsored, it's always there. That's huge. Certainly, we've had a solid response from Blank Label as well.

Now, part of the credit goes to the ad banners themselves. Greg Holkan knocked himself out on them -- look at that sidebar advert again. It's great. Visually it strikes you solidly. Hooks you in. Creates a sense of dissonance that makes the viewer want to resolve. It's the same sort of dissonance -- in a different form -- that he did with the vertical banner.

The next step is to let these advertisements run out, and see how many readers stick around. Once we've done that, then it's time to advertise again, possibly in these venues, but definitely in some others as well. Almost certainly, we'll advertise on Real Life Comics -- Greg Dean actually linked to us in his links list, and we get a decent number of referrals from that, so we owe him to begin with. And again, his audience is a good one to shamelessly beg to. When Modern Tales/Joey Manley's Ad Comics Nation spins up, we'll no doubt participate. And I'll start exploring the costs over at Dayfree and Dumbrella, where applicable.

(Why not Keenspot? I can't afford Keenspot. Q.E.D. It's not because I don't feel love. There is the love! See also PvP and Penny-Arcade and Sluggy etc. Frankly, I'm stunned that I could afford Something Positive. S*P is, for right now, one of the best values in advertising.)

In the meantime, advertising has clearly, solidly worked. Now it's our job to actually keep the new readers.

Because... I find I like having people read this webcomic. Go figure.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 9:36 AM | Comments (20)

May 19, 2005

Eric: Yet more talk about dancing bears.

(From Gossamer Commons. This is not a snark. This is only a rumination. Had this actually been a critique the thumbnail would have been followed by official opinion.)

It's been just shy of a month since the last Gossamer Commons notasnark, and I'm not really here to talk about the strip. This is more... well, an experience comment. Something of a philosophical snark, in other words. More or less.

Over the past few days, the premise of the strip has been made explicit (the process isn't fully over, but the premise could be pretty much stated from what has been said). And there's been a run of good strips, in my opinion. I think my writing's been as good there as anywhere in them, and Greg's art has been superb. And there have been increasing numbers of forum comments on what it all means, on the ground rules. And that's been cool.

With the above strip, however... things changed. With that strip... Gossamer Commons stood up on its own.

See, I mentioned a few snarks back the old saw about dancing bears. You know -- "it's not that the bear dances well -- it's that it dances at all." (Which Shaenon Garrity reports was originally about dogs and was sexist, but that's neither here nor there for my current purposes.) Only this time, I was the dancing bear.

I have been extraordinarily lucky. I got to have people reading a comic I wrote from the first day. Of course, that means that the inevitable shakedown strips at the start of especially the very first serious comic strip someone writes had a lot of attention. But it also means I didn't have to go through long periods of twelve people reading the strip. And, I even would get a few links and mentions. I seriously appreciated all of it, and I know Greg did too.

But all the comments outside of the forum, up until now, have been of the form "Eric Burns of Websnark is writing a comic of his own! Check it out! It's not bad!"

Like I said, we took it and were damn happy -- but the point was that the bear was dancing, not that the dance was good. The Websnark Guy was writing a comic strip.

Yesterday, there were a good number of links to the strip (including some from people I strongly respect, which blew my mind). But, almost without exception, they weren't about the Websnark Guy writing a comic strip. They were about yesterday's strip. Some people agreed with it. Some disagreed. A lot felt it resonated. It was about writing. About the dream of writing. One quote from it that I've seen quoted elsewhere was:

I want to inspire dreams. I want to be remembered. I want this to be my novel. I want to write it. And I want the world to know it. I want annoyed Freshmen in College forced to read this thing four hundred years from now. I want symposiums on Keith Onzeker. I want theses and discussions on where I fit as a voice of my age. That's the boon I want. If you're not going to give it to me, you might as well kill me right now.

This passage meant something to people. And they wrote about it. And they linked to it.

And a number of the links never mentioned my name.

I know this sounds weird, but the most complimentary thing anyone could have done was link to Gossamer Commons and not mention my name or Websnark. It means that they like the comic strip. They really honestly like the comic strip for itself. People are getting it. They're getting something from it. And it doesn't matter who's writing it.

It's not about the dancing bear. For yesterday, at least, it was just about the dance. For at least one day, we succeeded on all levels.

That means everything to me.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 2:01 PM | Comments (21)

April 22, 2005

Eric: Best of all, Greg designed this kickass hat for Trudy.

(From Gossamer Commons. Click on the thumbnail for full sized NOT A SNARK BECAUSE DUDE, IT'S MY STRIP!)

Time moves far, far more quickly than one might imagine. At this stage, we have six full weeks of strips in the Gossamer Commons archives. (Technically, we've been out for five weeks, since we did the prologue all in one day). It seems like a fair enough amount of time has passed to discuss it again -- or at least to discuss the process end of it. There's been some shakedown stuff, and if nothing else a new webcartoonist might find this interesting. If not... well, you can always go reread Einstone The Destroyer's snark, and I'll do something else to follow this up, I promise.

On the quality side of things... I'm not really qualified to judge. I can say that Greg Holkan's art has exceeded my expectations, and I expected him to be great as it was. I'm a lucky person.

Folks are generally positive. There have been some who don't like it, or who don't like where it's gone, and if I were doing it over there are things I would do differently. Pacing, mostly. Along with a bigger mix of humor and gag strips in the first several. We're going through a run of humor right now that I think works pretty well, and then we have some humor and story queued up, and then we have some hard story stuff, and then back to humor. So, it's going in waves.

Though I'm trying to at least sow the seeds of story in the humor, and I'm trying to evoke a smile or two in the story parts. We'll see how it goes.

On the process side of things... we're finally at about 95% on the site. Wednesday has done a phenomenal job. We started things off with iStrip, but figured out pretty quickly we couldn't stick with it. The reasons for that were threefold -- no automated RSS feed (and it was annoying as Hell to update the RSS on a strip by strip basis), the future strips were renamed into something easy to predict, with no mechanism to prevent people from looking ahead to read -- I had one person send me some spelling corrections for strips that were queued two weeks in advance -- meaning I wasn't uploading the strips until the day they went up, which wasn't what I hand in mind, and most of all, there were spelling errors in the status messages on the admin screen.

Hey, it sounds minor, but when you have an error you can't correct staring you in the face every time you go into your site, it sticks out.

Anyway, most of the free automated systems didn't have RSS components either, so Wednesday, being ambitious and mighty (and a little foolhardy) proposed developing a WordPress based Content Management System. Over the next few weeks we did so, and as of today pretty much all the functionality is live -- up to and including RSS and Atom feeds that are automagically generated, delay posting, and a very simple interface for me to go in and update the FAQ, the Cast Page, and so forth. Which means I'm getting back on track with weekly updates to all of those things.

Which brings me to my end of the process stuff. I really am trying to do all the things I advocate here on Websnark, and I think it's bearing fruit. Having just published our eighteenth strip, I have as of today finished scripting strip #36. We have an About page that synopsizes the strip's story elements so far. We have an updated FAQ. We have a Cast Page, and it will be updated to the current strip later today. Having finished the tool that lets me update simply and cleanly, I'm going to be trying to keep those support pages updated on a weekly basis. (That was always my stated goal, but we needed to get WordPress into shape before I could really keep it. This we have now done.)

And we have a forum, and it's pretty active -- certainly given the youth of the strip. We have fans, and we have some detractors, but the latter are generally lucid and intelligent and make points worth making. We have a livejournal feed, and Bloglines feeds, and fan art.

Most of all, I'm enjoying Gossamer Commons immensely. I love writing the scripts. I love getting notes from Greg. I love seeing the art and sending notes to Greg. I love having Wednesday's reaction to things (there are ways she acts like an editor, since as the webmangler she tends to see things well in advance). I love having speculative threads talk about it.

I love seeing the completed strips. Love it. More than anything else, I like reading Gossamer Commons. I like going through the comic and realizing that something has been created here that didn't exist before.

We're not going to become the next Penny Arcade or Sluggy Freelance. We don't expect to. But we're going to keep putting the strip out, and we're going to like every minute of it.

And isn't that the best -- the only reason to do this in the first place?

In the meantime, I just hope people enjoy it. I'll do my best not to bring it up for another four or five weeks.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 10:01 AM | Comments (8)

March 25, 2005

Eric: Stuff I meant to mention in the last snark, so don't kill me for monofocus!

For the record, we have all the bits and pieces one should have on a website like Gossamer Commons all ready for you. We now have a Forum, for example, and as active a forum community as we can possibly ask for on day 3 of the strip. For those who want RSS notification of new strips, we have an RSS feed for you! Because we love you! And of course, an RSS feed means we have a Livejournal Syndication Group people can use on LJ if they wish.

So... um... enjoy!

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 11:51 AM | Comments (8)

Eric: The last day of indulgence on Gossamer Commons. Well, sort of.

(From Gossamer Commons. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Splash!)

As before, this is not a Snark. This is the strip Greg and I write, therefore I can't very well be snarking it, can I? Of course I recommend it -- I wrote it -- but I can't pretend to be unbiased, now can I?

As said earlier this week, this first week I figure people will forgive me the indulgence of mentioning each new strip as it came out. Moving forward, I'll do my level best to only bring Gossamer Commons up when it has some relevance to a point I'm making, or something of interest beyond the strip proper, or if I'm totally out of ideas for writing snarks. Or if I write about it because I want to.

What? Hey, look. You're not paying for this, you know.

Anyway -- we've got a splash page, and we've got the first overtly magical element in the series. This also happens to be the artwork Greg's done that I like the most, so far. The shadows and crosshatching on the walls are beautiful, the perspective is fantastic... it's just plain cool.

This has been a great week. It really has. We've gotten a good amount of attention -- far more than most comic strips get in their first week -- and we're both conscious of that and humbled by it. Response has been overwhelmingly positive (especially after we got out of the prologue and into the prelude to Chapter One, where... well, "things" started happening), and the negatives have been phrased constructively.

There's a ton of people I need to thank, for all their help and suggestions leading up to the launch of Gossamer Commons. A partial list (I'm not sure I could get everyone) in no order to speak of has to include Chris Angelini, Shaenon Garrity, Randy Milholland, Scott Kurtz, Joey Manley, T Campbell, Frank Orzechowicz, Roland Burns, Jon Robertson, Dian Burns, William George, Alexander Danner, Lisa Bankert, Dave Van Domelen, Chris Meadows, Russ Allbery, Bruce Baugh, David Bolack, Lon Underwood, the readers and commenters of Websnark, the Comixpedia gang (most particularly Xerexes and Kelly), and viewers like you.

And, of course, Greg Holkan before anyone, and Wednesday White, for all her help in sewing the costumes.

Anyone not mentioned above who should be should assume I just haven't had enough coffee yet this morning and it went clean out of my head. And naturally, Greg's list would look considerably different.

Thanks, everyone. I hope folks keep liking it.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 9:58 AM | Comments (24)

March 23, 2005

Eric: I'm not going to post here every time...

...but it's the first week. I get some slack on the first week, aren't I?

Anyway -- the new Gossamer Commons is up, and the older strips are now archived. This is mostly because Wednesday stayed up all night, because Wednesday is a better friend and WebMangler than we deserve.

We also have a forum now, so folks who are wont to discuss these things in a forum... well, can.

(EDIT: HTML is now fixed. Thanks, all!)

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 6:45 AM | Comments (15)

March 21, 2005

Eric: Losing my amateur standing.

keith.png (From Gossamer Commons. Click on the thumbnail for full sized... holy crap, I wrote this!)

This isn't a snark. It's about a webcomic, but it's not a snark. Because...

Well, because it's for Gossamer Commons.

Like we said last week... today's first strip is four strips worth long. It's a full, solid prologue, highlighting the beautiful artwork Greg Holkan's done. I couldn't be happier with the way things have turned out.

Is it any good? Not my call. But with a little luck, people will like it. In any case... I hope you come on over. I hope you like it.

It's the last day of my vacation, so I'm driving back to Maine. We'll see you when I get in. (Assuming I don't snark stuff between now and then.) The whole trip, I'll be looking forward to checking my statistics tonight.

Thanks, everybody. I'll try to shut up about it now. No promises, though. I'm entirely too excited about this.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 2:58 AM | Comments (64)

March 14, 2005

Eric: We are at T-7 Days and counting.

Hi all. It's been a little while since I've burbled about Gossamer Commons. As most of you know, Gossamer Commons is the webcomic that I've been writing and Greg Holkan has been drawing -- which makes it sound like Greg's just an artmonkey, which is totally untrue. He's a full creative partner and he's fantastic. We've spent the last several weeks building a backlog of stuff and getting things ready for a launch.

A launch that is exactly one week away, now. That's right. Day one of Gossamer Commons will be hitting the Internet on Monday, March 21. (Well, assuming we iron out the website, get everything loaded up, get everything into the can and ready, et cetera, and so on, and so forth... and me going to Ithaca on Thursday. Aie yie yie....)

To celebrate the grand opening (and to give everyone a nice bit of archive to start with, instead of simply having the one strip), we've actually decided that 21 March's strip is going to be four times normal length. That's right, you're getting a full extra week's worth of comic next Monday, to give you a chance to dive in with both feet. (After that, it's going to look like we actually launched Gossamer Commons a week early, because in the logs it's going to stretch back into four strips instead of one long one.)

It's a credit to Greg that the extra long strip flows perfectly, I would add. And looks absolutely beautiful.

I'm really, really excited about this, gang. I think there's some tremendous times ahead.

Of course... with four strips -- each already about the length of two standard strips (we're tending to 6-8 panels per strip, three times a week) -- one on top of the other, people will have to scroll down a little bit to see the end of it....

That's right. Our first day of Gossamer Commons is going to be a FUCKING INFINITE CANVAS STRIP.

I can hear Shaenon Garrity laughing at me already....

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 2:40 PM | Comments (10)

February 21, 2005

Eric: Sonata!

For those wondering about Gossamer Commons, we have the first teaser pic for you all. This is Sonata, as drawn by partner in crime Greg Holkan.

Greg's putting the finishing touches on the first two weeks of strips. Our goal is to have a four week buffer, as I've said so many times you're sick of it. I asked Greg to say a few words, and he did. But of course, you didn't hear him. So I quote:

Gossamer Commons is probably the most ambitious project I've been involved with so far, with a really small private scope that pulls from a very wide mythological base. Things are going to get interesting for me as the story develops and things get wonky. I'm going to get the chance to use some techniques I haven't had a reason to touch yet, and I'm excited.

[Gossamer Commons] looks to be really interesting. The issues we're dealing with regarding identity and behavior are really fun. The artwork gets a chance to reflect that somewhat in that I get a chance to spend more time on the inkwork, and I can use more techniques than I get a chance to use with Nemesis.

This will really test me as an artist, because it's set in a real place I've never visited, and to which I have limited access. Thank goodness Eric seems to have someone out there snagging the occasional reference photo for me.

I just want to point out that Greg uses "wonky" in casual conversation. As I do the same thing, I take this to mean this partnership's going to work.

More teasers as we go along!

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 11:15 PM | Comments (3)

February 9, 2005

Eric: A Formal Announcement

There are huge numbers of massively talented people in this world. A disproportionate number of them responded to my call for artists for my webcomics doings. This has been an exciting time for me, and I've been humbled at the skill, talent and enthusiasm I've gotten to see.

There are several artists who could have easily been selected, and I'm actually working on a couple of other projects now based on my interactions with some of them. But in the end, a collaborator and partner has been chosen, and I'm excited as anything to announce it here.

His name is Gregory T. Holkan, and his portfolio, art projects and own online comics can be found over at Seppuku Online. In particular, he's got an ongoing comic called Nemesis that's pretty dang spiffy. This new project's highlighting his black and white/pen and ink skills, which are tremendous.

He's also enthusiastic and intelligent, and has already had lots of great suggestions and thoughts, from the thematic to the artistic to the name of the strip -- its working title had been "The State Street Shuffle," but I didn't like it. Greg and I bounced thoughts around and came up with a new title.

So, now we have several weeks of drawing and writing and bouncing stuff off each other and web design ahead of us. We're going to get a buffer and we're going to show what we get to people who have more experience than we do, and most of all we're going to have fun.

And sometime this spring, you're going to get a chance to read Gossamer Commons.

So, I'm pretty psyched.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 2:11 PM | Comments (6)

February 7, 2005

Eric: Ways I've Cursed Myself

In plotting out the evolution of the comic strip, I keep thinking oh crap -- this strip will appear and I'll get twenty e-mails saying "hah hah! You went for Cerberus and you landed in First and Ten!"

He who lives by the Snark, dies by the Snark.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 3:24 PM | Comments (19)

February 5, 2005

Eric: It's like this when I catch a story, too.

I'm now six weeks into my scriptwriting. By the time I actually have an artist selected, I'll probably have a cool 3 months of scripts written. Now, bear in mind, said artist will have a chance to say what he or she thinks of the scripts and the story -- this is going to be collaborative, not dictatorial -- and so all of it might change along the way. But still, this is a heady brew. I think right at the moment I know how T. Campbell feels.

In a way, it's frustrating as Hell, because I can see this in my mind's eye so clearly. I know exactly how I would draw it, if I could draw. Which I cannot. And I know that no artist can draw what's in my brain. I have my Big Friend Frank taking perspective shots of the Ithaca Commons, so that the artist can at least see what the real life locations look like, but the art won't end up looking a thing like those shots. Nor should it, in the end.

In the end, the results will be better than I could do on my own even if I could draw. I honestly believe that. But I wish... you know?

And yeah, I know. If I wished that much, I should be practicing and actually developing these skills I claim to want.

Part of me wonders if these posts are of any interest. I realize I should be snarking about other peoples' comics, but my brain is so... focused right now. I get this way with stories, too. Everything seems to relate back to them, and they become what I'm mostly focused on during that point.

On the other side of it, I've got lots of good jazz to listen to now. My mother clearly doesn't know what she's talking about, when it comes to Jazz Clarinet.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 11:59 PM | Comments (12)

February 4, 2005

Eric: Scribbling in the night, listening to jazz clarinet

I'm listening to a Buddy DeFanco AAC I got off of iTunes, from a birthday gift certificate scored from my friend Bruce that I'm slowly depleting. It's pretty fucking cool -- riffs off of "I'm Glad There Is You" and "There's No You," which if you think about it are two songs that were made to be mashed together by a sextet. I'm writing scripts for my comic strip sekret projekt, which features a jazz clarinetist.

I made her a clarinetist because my mother is a clarinetist. She's not a jazz musician, mind, but I felt a certain kinship to the clarinet based on... well, her existence. So I started doing research on clarinetists... but all the research seemed to tap out around 1945 or 1950. So I called my folks. My Dad mentioned Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw and Pete Fountain. And of course we have to mention Woody Allen, who plays Dixieland Jazz on Monday nights in New York, when he's available. It's why he perpetually missed the Oscars in the 70's and 80's. I mean, sure -- he could have accepted his Academy Award for Annie Hall in person, but damn it, he had a gig. And jazz gigs are hard to come by.

He then gave the phone to my mother. The very person who I decided to make the character a clarinetist for.

"Hey," she said.

"Hey," I said. "Tell me about Jazz Clarinet."

"It sucks," she said.

I kind of blinked. "Excuse me?"

"Jazz clarinet sucks. Oh, Dixieland is okay. The same way Jazz Banjo is okay in Dixieland. And maybe some Swing."

"I hate Dixieland Jazz," I said.

"There you go," she said. "You want a good Jazz instrument? The kind of thing you'd hear Dave Brubeck put his piano talents with? Go with flute."

"Nah," I said. "I never cared for flute."

"Piano?"

"She's a street musician. Keyboards would be a pain in the ass. And don't say saxophone. Talk about clich»..."

"All right. Go with Trumpet. Or flugel. Or cornet. Those are good jazz instruments."

"Yeah. Definitely. Still... that's so common. This character's kind of weird anyway."

My mother laughed. "Then make her a clarinetist who's at the forefront of a new jazz movement. It's a comic strip, Eric. If you tell the audience she sounds good, she officially sounds good. No one's going to say she doesn't."

My mother's a smart woman.

Besides, since then I found Buddy DeFranco. And that's good enough for me.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 11:47 PM | Comments (21)

February 3, 2005

Eric: This is really coming together. I mean, *wow.*

So, I've got several people interested in the Sekret Project Comic Strip so far. I've gotten tons of character sketches from folks, and people who are deeply interested. I'm getting comments and bits of art and suggestions. It's really amazing.

Now, after I see some character sketches, I'm sending along a sample script for a comic strip to folks, to see how well they can take what I wrote and transmute it into something we *both* did. And I got my first one of those back tonight.

Amazing. Astounding.

This is going to be so cool.

Also, I have the first two weeks of strips written.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 11:53 PM | Comments (7)

January 21, 2005

Eric: Good Lord there are talented people out there.

I'm getting ready to hit the road for Arisia. While I wait for my laundry to finish drying, however, I've been going through some of the submissions and sketches I've been getting for my Webcomics Project. (In honor of Chad Underkoffler, who is the master of public secrecy, this is Sekret Project Triple-S. Not to be confused with Sekret Project L, which will be soon published by e23.)

I'm getting some astoundingly good character sketches, based on what I sent out to interested people. (Kate Sith -- your e-mail is bouncing. Please for to let me know if you got the "Pitch" document.) There are clearly very very talented people out there, and I'm thrilled some of them are expressing some interest in working with me.

(If you've expressed interest but haven't received any direct e-mail from me outlining the terms of the project, followed by a pitch document, please send me e-mail at websnark AT gmail DOT com or comment on this entry: to my knowledge, I've sent things out to everyone interested, but there's always a few.)

Sometime later this year, I might be able to call myself a webcomics creator in some way other than ironically. That excites the Hell out of me.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at 12:03 PM | Comments (4)