Lines and Colors art blog

A History of Webcomics

A History of WebcomicsTen years ago, the landscape of comics on the web was a vast empty plain dotted with a few (very few) examples of what we now call webcomics. One of them was my own online comic, Argon Zark!, which was the first long-form comic created specifically for distribution on the web (started in June of 1995).

It was preceded by short form and single strips that had moved from print to the web, most notably Where the Buffalo Roam by Hans Bjordahl, which had been distributed over the internet via Usenet newsgroups even before the first graphical web browsers came into use, and Dr. Fun, a single panel cartoon that had began running in September of 1993.

Soon after the first Zark page went up, newspaper cartoonist Bill Holbrook brought Kevin and Kell to the web. Other online comics started to dot the landscape and the nascent world of webcomics started to look like a small colony. In June of 1996, Peter Zale began the strip that would become Helen, Sweetheart of the Internet, the first webcomic that would move in the other direction, (eventually making the transition from webcomic to sydicated newspaper comic in 2000).

The tiny colony was fast becoming a thriving town. Major landmarks like Sluggy Freelance and User Friendly appeared, Scott McCloud began his “infinite canvas” online comics experiments, Penny Arcade and Keenspace erected their skyscrapers an the town grew into a city. By the turn of the century, the advance of webcomics began to snowball. Even the sleepy self-satisfied print comics companies were trying to figure out how to use this phenomenon to sell more of their usual wares.

It’s hard to estimate how many webcomics there are today, or even how many of them are added daily (yes, daily), but where once an empty plain stood is now a webcomics megalopolis, stretching as far as the eye can see in all directions.

The history of webcomics is a lot more complex an detailed than I can possibly indicate here, which is why it’s so cool that webcomics author and commentator T Campbell has done the painstaking research and organization to put together A History of Webcomics, which has just been released from Antarctic Press.

There isn’t a lot of direct promotinoal material available on the book. You can read an discussion board interview with T Campbell on the Comicon boards.

(There is also a good set of articles on The Webcomics Examiner, on The Artistic History of Webcomics, in which Campbell was also involved and Argon Zark! is also prominently mentioned.)

Campbell has traced the history of webcomics in considerable detail in this volume, and included a number of illustrations of key points and players in the field.

The book includes several illustrations of mine: two Argon Zark! pages, a drawing of my characters and a chapter heading (image at left, top) that I did specifically for the book, in which my characters Argon, Zeta and Cybert peer out of a Netscape 1 browser window (Netscape had just come out when I started Argon Zark!), and point at characters from Hans Bjordahl’s Where the Buffalo Roam (incorporating Hans’ own drawings), ensconced in windows of the first and second generation of Mosaic, the first widely used graphical browser on the web.

This has never been a personal sketch blog, and perhaps it’s a little self indulgent to feature a book that my work figures prominently in, but it happens to be quite a good book, and I’m allowed to be self indulgent today, it’s my birthday!



4 responses to “A History of Webcomics

  1. Many Happy Returns, Charley!
    Indulge away!

  2. Thanks, Michael!

  3. Davor Konfic Avatar
    Davor Konfic

    Hey, sorry I’m late, but I wish you a happy birthday, I mean – I hope you had a happy birthday.
    Hope next time I’ll pay a bit more attention and not be late.

  4. Thanks, Davor, I did!