March 31, 2013

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Oily Comics: January 2013

Stare into the soul of Oily Comics
So Oily Comics had a sale on its subscriptions and I opted for one, because I enjoy mini-comics, I enjoy variety, and I support things that bring both to my door at an affordable rate.  (Sadly, I missed the one for Retrofit, because I'm an idiot.)

I figured it might be fun to do a review for each month's worth of comics, to see what my thoughts are and whether I am leaning towards re-subscribing.

Of course, I'm already behind in doing this, but what else is new?  So, better late than never, here's my thoughts on the first back, which I got roughly in January.

I'll do this in order of title, with a few words on each story, anthology-style.

The End of the Fucking World Part Fifteen by Chuck Forsman is the Oily Comics publisher's ongoing series that reaches its penultimate issue with this comic.  Having not read the others, it was a bit difficult for me to pick up the narrative mid-stream.  What I saw of the story was that two characters who are involved in a major event have their final struggle together.  I'm very curious what the struggle was.  Forsman's lines are simple and thin, not unlike a daily newspaper strip, and the action is clear, crisp, and quick.  It should make for good reading as a complete collection, which I assume Forsman will do at some point.

Foreground by Andy Burkholder got off to a bad start with me when I had to go to the website to figure out the title of the comic and who wrote it.  While I am a fan of the experimental, this one just made no sense to me, with characters changing shapes randomly and seeming non-sequitur moments.  It was my least favorite in this month's batch.

Gnomes by Sam Gasken is a cute joke comic where everyone's favorite lawn ornaments frolic together and do mischievous things, like tricking trolls or having a tickle fight.  Each vignette is short and drawn with thick sharpie pen lines, giving it a bit of a blocky feel.  It's not technically brilliant, but it was a lot of fun to read.

Lou #10 by Melissa Mendes is the only comic from a female creator for this month.  It's another continuing story, but was a bit easier for me to digest because the plot in this case is pretty self-contained.  The story involves a group of young people who look like they're in for some trouble.  The art reminded me a bit of Forsman in its simplicity, using short, direct lines to give us the characters without a lot extra.  I'm definitely looking forward to seeing more of this one.

The Virgin by Scott Longo is another more experimental piece, but it was easier for me to follow.  A narrator randomly expresses his (sometimes unpleasant) thoughts and the artwork wanders in structure to match the feelings, going from clear pictures to abstractions.  It's an interesting idea, though definitely not for everyone.

I walked into this subscription with no real idea of what I might get.  Overall, I was happy with the comics, especially since I was buying this blind.  Liking two of the five and being okay with two of the others is a pretty good ratio.  My only thought at this point is that it might be better if only one comic out of the five was a continuation, since not everyone subscribes from the same point.  (This is why I never understood having a subscription to Shonen Jump.)

Next time, we'll check in on February's comics!

March 30, 2013

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Admin: Google Reader and the Future of Panel Patter

Hi All,

I know it's been awhile.  When I am in teaching mode, sometimes Panel Patter takes a bit of a back seat.  I hadn't realized it had been this long.  Thanks for hanging in there.

Many of you are probably aware that Google has killed Google Reader.  It's not dead yet, but the patient is flat-lining and the King of RSS is left without a worthy heir.  (At least not one that I can find as of yet.  Feedly has been the best so far, but lacks the simplicity I loved in Reader.)

Why am I talking about this?  Because I think it impacts heavily on the future and viability of Panel Patter.

I don't know why Google has such a hatred of RSS, because it's really the ideal way to read blogs.  You don't have to keep an unwieldy bookmark file (this never worked for me) and you can pick up where you left off, which is good for those of us who sometimes cannot get back to our favorite sites for a few weeks.

I'm sure a lot of this has to do with monetizing blogs.  I'm not in this for the money.  I don't care about earning ad revenue.  I care about sharing a love of comics, especially those comics that wouldn't make it to the level of the bigger name sites (or even the bigger-name comics bloggers).

It's easy for people to remember to go visit the larger sites (like, oh, say, Newsarama, where I work as a comics reviewer) without an RSS.  It's easy for the mid-range sites (I'm thinking Johanna Draper Carlson's Comics Worth Reading) who have 10+ years to keep people coming back, or even to create a special Twitter/Facebook/what-have-you account that people would follow to get updates.

But I think for those of us who are in the lower-end, who have an audience that's steady but smaller, this is going to have a huge impact.  A person who might have seen a link to our work from a larger site might throw us in an RSS and check us out from time to time.  They are less likely, I think, to sign up to follow updates on a social media page for a person they don't know as well.  (Perhaps that's just my bias?)  Without RSS as a major player, I fear that it's going to make it more difficult for low-level blogging to continue to be viable.

Ultimately, what does this mean for Panel Patter (and its less-used sister blog, Book Stew)?  I don't know.  I   have a home for my as-they're-published comics reviews at Newsarama, and I love it there, but they don't gnerally cover mini-comics or really small indie books or allow me to rave about something from 2009 that I'm only just now discovering.  I really want to keep talking about those things and engaging the comics community in a way that's more on an individual level than I do at 'Rama.

The problem is that I'm no longer sure this is the best way to do it.  Or if I do keep using a blog, will I even have Blogger to do it?  (I know there's Wordpress, but I don't like Wordpress, and I do not want my own site, which would involve coding things.  Me and computer code do not get along.)  Further, if RSS is no longer a viable option, how can I best share things with others?  Create a new Twitter account that's only for posting blog notices?  (My current panelpatter Twitter is personal and blog-related, and I would not want to stop using it to talk about everything from baseball to zoology.)  I tend to feel a little weird about sending things across various social media, but I suppose that's how this game is played, eh?

I'm posting this mostly because a) I don't think I'm the only one thinking about this and b) I'm very much open to suggestions on how to proceed.  In the meantime, I'll keep up here, at least until I see how Google turning out the RSS lights impacts on things.