January 16, 2012

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Digging into Digital: Studygroup Opens Webcomics Portal

The mini-comics publisher Studygroup debuted a webcomics portal today, promisingly free content from five creators every Monday through Friday, with additional one-off stories mixed in periodically.

The site consists of the content available to the reader on the main page, with links to contributor information, the webcomics themselves, information about Studygroup's print publications (along with a store where you can purchase them), and a blog.  The editors of Studygroup are hoping for readers to make this a regular part of their internet routine, and have smartly included an RSS feed to make that job easier.  (I have noted before that no matter how good your webcomic might be, if I can't put it in my RSS reader, I won't read it.  I do not have the time or inclination to go hunting up your webcomic, not when there are so many out there to read.)

According to the blog entry that goes along with the debut, the tone is extremely light.  They joke about having "too much free content" and encourage those who feel bad about this to buy their books, and even invoke the age-old chestnut about the site not being a library.  Their plans to keep up daily content, both in terms of comics and the blog itself is extremely ambitious, and I wonder just how much lead time they have right now.  I'm not familiar with their print comics, so I do not know if they are serializing older material or if these comics are brand new.  (If you do know, please tell me in the comments.)

While things are early yet, this set of webcomics looks promising and the admittedly limited samples I saw were enough to convince me that I should add the site to my feeds.  I like that the contributors appear to be a mix of comics veterans (including a person who worked with Jonathan Lethem), a few who may be new to the genre based on their bios, and people who might be better known for working in other artistic mediums.

I took an extended look at Danger Country from Levon Jihanian, the Monday comic and therefore the one most new visitors will see if they look today.  The first set of pages (and yes, there's more than one page per week, at least for this comic) were intriguing to me.  Someone is telling a story of what happens when the gods get angry, in the grand traditional of sages giving out the lore of their people.  I am betting that the protagonist will try to do something to change the status quo, and I look forward to finding out what.  The art on Danger Country is fairly pedestrian but gets across the information clearly.  What stood out to me, however, was the coloring, which is varied and bright and brings the overall quality of the art up quite a bit, at least for me.

Studygroup editor Zack Soto provides a bonus comic, a short piece titled Day 34 that can be read in its entirety.  From 2003 (if I am interpreting it correctly), the story is of a man lost at sea who finds a strange hole in the ocean.  The hole has a set of stairs, which is a great gag, and leads to a deadly secret and a struggle for life.  It's a very good one and done story and Soto's rough lines and imperfect style fit the tone just right.

The other comics, which start later this week, look interesting, with the possible exception of Yankee, whose premise of a dumb American doesn't really work for me.  Lone Wolf appears to be a ghost story, while Titan has sci fi elements, and Mourning Star appears to be somewhat post-apocalyptic, if I am reading the description correctly.  That's a nice variety of work, with a high likelihood of something for everyone.

If I have one minor complaint, it's that each comic does not have its own RSS feed.  That's a curious choice, as it forces readers who like feeds to read all the comics or none of them in that way.  I'd suggest giving the option to do individual feeds.

Overall, Studygroup looks to be a webcomics portal with a lot to offer fans of mini-comics.  Definitely check it out and see what you think!