Monday, November 19, 2007

Zip and Li’l Bit (update)

Zip and Li'l Bit - Trade Loffler
I found myself in a sour mood the other day and in need of some distraction and entertainment that didn’t involve gunshots, car chases, fist fights, explosions, betrayal, murder, infidelity, gratuitous nudity, scandal, deceit, lies and horror.

So I turned off Fox News and looked to the list of web comics that I like to check in on periodically.

Much to my delight I realized that Zip and Li’l Bit, a lighthearted online comic by Trade Loeffler, had progressed well into a new story since I had last visited.

If you haven’t encountered Zip and Li’l Bit, I’ll refer you to my previous post and suggest that you start at the beginning of the first story, The Upside-down Me. If, like me, you’ve read the first, but not the new story, start at the beginning of that story, The Sky Kayak.

The site is well arranged except that the home page always opens to the most recent page. This is a fairly common paradigm in web comics, but one of which I’m not fond. It’s convenient for current readers who are following along as new pages are added (in the case of Zip and Li’l Bit, Thursdays and Sundays), but can be disconcerting for first time visitors, who are presented with a “walked into the middle of a movie” situation.

The new story is up to page 19 as of yesterday, and the young brother and sister protagonists are accompanied this time by a couple of new characters, notably Zip’s shadow and Willoughby, a talking stone lion on a cornice of their house.

In describing these gentle, well crafted adventures, the word “charming” springs to mind, both in terms of being charmed by the characters, setting and unhurried pace of the stories, but also in terms of being charmed by Loeffler’s drawings, which are deceptively simple, but reward closer inspection.

Closer inspection is conveniently provided using one of the site’s great “only on the web” features. Clicking on any of the panels produces a pop-up enlargement of the panel in which you can see it in detail. This works particularly well in Loeffler’s chosen format of uniform panel shape.

You can click through the enlarged panels with a hidden arrow at the upper right of the panel, until the end of the page. Notice, in the enlarged drawings, the loose but restrained linework in the backgrounds, accented with a bit of texture and a carefully controlled color palette.

Notice particularly, though, Loeffler’s nicely varied and beautifully controlled ink lines on the figures and foreground objects.

Zip and Li’l Bit was originally planned as a print project, and I hope it makes it’s way to print at some point. The strip would charm children at bedtime just as much as adults at their computers.

3 thoughts on “Zip and Li’l Bit (update)

  1. Danny Burleson

    Nice job showcasing Zip and Li’l Bit. It’s one of the finest comics works on the net right now.

    One question, though: you stated that you don’t like how webcomic home pages generally open to the latest comic. I’m curious, what would be a better way to do it? Most properly coded sites have a “First” button (Zip and Li’l Bit included) to allow new readers to catch up.

  2. Charley Parker Post author

    Danny,

    Thanks for the comment. While I think the “current strip on the front page” model works well for newspaper style gag strips, those with a story aren’t served well this way. The problem with this approach is that the empahsis is placed on convenience for current readers at the expense of new readers, leaving them to “catch up”.

    The current readers are more likely to be willing to make a second click to get to the current strip (or bookmark a separate page). The home page should be devoted to introductions for new, potential readers, who are more likely to go away if they feel disconcerted at walking into the middle of the story.

    I don’t hold my self up as a a paragon of how things should be done, but here is one way it could be handled: http://www.zark.com

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