October 1st, 2012 | comics talk
I’ve mentioned Travis Charest’s SPACEGIRL here a couple of times over the years.
I loved the idea of SPACEGIRL. Newspaper humour strips transferred to (and were exploded/deconstructed by) the web, but the old drama strips… not so much. SPACEGIRL was just the daftest thing in the world to do – revive the newspaper science fiction strip serial, and not even do it on a daily basis — and I loved it for that.
If I knew anyone who’d fit it and would do it for free, I’d do one here on the site like a shot. (Or at least as soon as I thought of one.) Give it its own category. It’d still be nigh on impossible to read back effectively. But, you know, what the fuck. You do it for the idea. It’s nice when ideas are pretty and so simple the cat can operate them. But it’s not always necessary.
I did actually talk to a friend, in 2010, about trying just this. I think I wrote 15 panels to be going on with. That friend’s life got crazy and difficult soon after, and it never happened. (I never pushed, either, as they had quite enough going on without adding this to it!)
So I’ve been thinking about the newspaper adventure strip, that superquick blast of art spectacle and an idea. Which, as I said on Whitechapel, didn’t seem to convert to the web so well because it’s a form that finds it harder to capture eyeballs than the humour form.
And then I thought, on the other hand, if something like that was nested, as it was in a newspaper, inside a blog that already had a daily audience…
And then I thought, well, a proper and useful newspaper-width strip is actually a bit wide for a blog, which tend to containerise inside 600, 700 pixels or so. And maybe it’s the concept and intent of the thing that matter, not slavish replication of the physical object, because this is after all the web and we don’t have no laws or wear no stinkin badges and all that. Maybe your "strip" is the size of a card CD sleeve, or a horizontal half of a manga page, or (name your own).
SPACEGIRL, in some ways, is a pure descendant of the likes of FLASH GORDON. A single beat of plot or action in a beautiful science fiction illustration. And on a daily basis that’s really all you need to provide in a single instalment — something lovely, that frames a nice little idea. Makes pleasant electrical things happen in your brain for a moment. So you come back tomorrow to get that button pressed again. And, if the creator(s) is (are) lucky, you stick around long enough to see that this cascade of little sparkles are actually strung together with auctorial intent, and it assembles into something that’s bigger than the sum of its parts.
SPACEGIRL publishes at a width of 860px, which is why it looks a little squashed here.
As I may have mentioned – I know I mentioned it on Twitter – a couple of friends of mine are planning a newspaper-adventure-strip for the web, and I’m sick with jealousy. Not least because, as noted above, I Had A Plan Damnit, years ago, and I don’t get to play.
Warren can be shouted at about being crazy or cryptic @warrenellis or firstname.lastname@example.org
But, honestly, wouldn’t it be nice if a bunch of people started to bring strange ideas and new thinking to the dramatic form, in a low-impact serialised form like this? What if, just for the hell of it, the next 18000 webcomics weren’t about funny animals or core nerd wanking?
On second thought, hey, that’s not going to happen. And webcomics are a very important venue: as George Burns said about vaudeville, it’s the place the kids go to be lousy. It’s a learning space, and a play space. It’s important that it remains that way. But no-one could change that if they wanted to, and but it shouldn’t be just that.
Wouldn’t this be a demented, lovely, quixotic thing? If a bunch of people said fuck all you people who do nothing but newspaper comedy strips on the web, we’re going to do newspaper dramatic strips and do crazy stuff.
Obviously, that’s what my friends are going to do. But I wish more of you would join them. I’d dearly love a bunch of new panels to read every day, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.