Sunday, July 31, 2005

Strip Search

from Kolchak:

The Web may be the cutting edge of mass media, but there are times when it definitely has a retro look. I like the way that the Web has sparked new interest in seemingly lost diversions, such as journaling and comic strips.

Some established strips have their own sites, while others can be found on sites operated by the syndicates that own them. In a few cases, strips that I thought were defunct proved to be still active. If you go to, you can read a recent Flash Gordon Sunday strip, written and drawn by Jim Keefe. Only one strip is available to casual visitors, though, and that strip comes from the first week of the previous month.

Along with the strips that can also be found in newspapers, there are comic strips that are available only on the Web.

Not surprisingly, the Internet gives the creators ofthese strips more freedom in subject matter and formats than they would have, if they were aiming for a spot on a family-friendly comics page. Some creators are using this freedom to model their strips after the classic Sunday strips of the 1930s, and ‘40s, providing more story and more detailed art than you can find in a modern strip, where two or three panels each week are designed to be jettisoned.

Because these strips are labors of love, they are updated according to varying schedules, although these schedules can sometimes turn into Whenever I Get a Chance.

Here are a few original webstrips that you might want to check out; if you want to recommend a strip, just let us know:

  • Fans of the original Dick Van Dyke show--and fans in general-- will appreciate the set-up of Greystone Inn , written and drawn by Brad J. Guigar. This series is about the backstage antics at a comic strip called (you guessed it) Greystone Inn. In this world, though, strips are produced like television shows, with actors, directors and writers. The star of Greystone Inn-- both versions, in fact--is a rowdy gargoyle named Argus. When the strip was launched in 2000, Mel Cooley--Richard Deacon’s character from The Dick Van Dyke Show-- was the producer but he soon left to take over Blondie. ARGUS: Good Lord, man! What is she--70? 80 years old? COOLEY: And she’s still got it!
    This arrangement gives Guigar the freedom to mix and match elements from pop culture, such as introducing a zombified Nancy and having one of his regulars team up with Godzilla for a stand-up comedy act.
    Access to the web site is free. As of late July, there is no archive of older strips, but paperback collections of Greystone Inn are on sale.
  • For another sort of workplace comedy, take a look at Midnight Macabre, another free site. The main character in this strip is a stand-up comic who has been hired to host horror movies at a very eccentric UHF station. Midnight Macabre is written and drawn by R.K. Milholland.
  • Supernatural Crime features
    both strips and text stories, set in the dark and dangerous city of Port Nocturne. Fighting the forces of evil though are pulp-style stalwarts like the mysterious woman known only as the Blonde and the dark avenger called Brother Grim. Other pulp archetypes who live in Port Nocturne are hard-boiled detective Red Nales; gentleman adventurer Dean Paladyn (also known as the Peregrine) and Rod Riley, a police detective with a yellow overcoat and a jaw line that will look familiar to those of you who remember Dick Tracy. The stories set in the world of Port Nocturne come from Christopher Mills and Ron Fortier, comic book veterans with a taste for old-school pulp action. The art is provided by other veterans: Joe Staton, Del Barral and Dario Carrasco. (Along with the adventures in Port Nocturne, the archives include unrelated stories--both graphic and text--by Mills, with art by Darren Goodheart and Fred Harper.) Access to everything in Supernatural Crime is free.
  • Another pulp icon is invoked at Tom Floyd’s Captain Spectre and the Lightning Legion. Thisstrip follows young Jim Moore as he discovers that Captain Spectre, a Doc Savage-like figure appearing on radio and in magazines, is, in fact, real. In addition to the strips, Floyd has created some clever extras, including a poster advertising Captain Spectre’s radio show and a downloadable membership card (So you too can join the Lightning Legion!) The only thing missing is a decoder ring.
  • Ted Slampyak’s Jazz Age also has a pulp feel to it, but there’s quite a bit of humor too, mostly coming from the interaction between the main characters, straight-laced Professor Clifton Jennings and the perpetually rumpled “Ace” Mifflin. Jennings and Mifflin are agents of a secret society that fight various supernatural menaces around the world. Along with being entertaining stories, Slampyak has done considerable research on Boston in the late 1920s and early ‘30s, where his heroes are based, and it shows in the artwork.
    Jazz Age recently moved to the Graphic Smash website, which hosts a number of strips. At Graphic Smash, the current installment of each strip can be viewed for free, but access to the archives requires a $2.95/month subscription.
  • Speaking of humor Realm of Atland, written and drawn by Nate Piekos, is a funny fantasy adventure strip--the main character is a barbarian called Barry the Brave-- which boasts world-building that some serious fantasy authors would envy. Full access here is also free.

No comments: