Author: Chuck Rozakis

Webcomics You Should Be Reading: ‘Player Vs. Player’

It started as just a gaming comic, but expanded to much, much more. It’s one of the most popular independent webcomics out there. It’s spawned books, cartoons, shirts, and even plush toys. It’s won an Eisner Award. And it shows no signs of stopping after ten years online.

It’s Scott Kurtz’s PvP .

Cole, Brent, Jade, Francis and Skull make up the primary cast, and the staff of PvP magazine, a gaming-centric publication that’s typically ignored by the cast in favor of wacky misadventures. Cole is the responsible grown-up (when he’s not jumping ditches in his replica General Lee), Brent is the Mac-loving artist type (and constant victim of panda attack), Jade is the hot chick who also plays games (and is often the “straight man” of the group), Francis is the twitch-gaming teenager, and Skull is the loveable-but-incredibly-stupid mythological creature (he’s a troll).

Kurtz’s style is a broad-based humor, backed up with ongoing plotlines. Pretty much every strip has a punchline, but there’s a continuity over weeks and years, and the characters develop throughout the strip’s run. It plays like a newspaper comic, if the average reader was a software engineer, rather than a little old lady.

If you’re intent on paying for additional PvP, there are six books available, five through Dark Horse (collections of pamphlets produced by Dark Horse, which are “enhanced” collections of strips published online) and a book of original material produced by Dork Storm Press. Shirts and books (and toys, as they’re produced) are available from the store, and then the random-and-amusing animated series.


The Theory of Webcomics: What are Webcomics?

The Theory of Webcomics: What are Webcomics?

Help me Wikipedia, you’re my only hope! What are webcomics?

Oh, okay. They’re comics published on the web. That was easy. What else have we got? Over 18,000 exist, few are self-sustaining, blah blah blah, some are like newspaper comics and some are like graphic novels, yadda yadda yadda, sometimes use sprites, pixels, photos or 3D Poser art. Some are funny, some are not; and they cover a wide variety of genres.

But really, what are webcomics? “Webcomics” is the collective name we’ve given to sequential art that appears online. Scott Kurtz’s PvP is a webcomic, as is Scott McCloud’s Zot!, but so are the reprints available from Marvel Digital Comics and the online For Better or for Worse strips. Same name, wildly different products: Kinda like comparing a 1940s Superman story with Neil Gaiman’s Sandman or Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor. They’re all “comics”, but the similarity stops there.

We’re going to need a little more granularity: Typically, one will use the phrase “webcomics” to refer to creator-owned properties published originally and/or primarily online. Reprinted newspaper strips would still fall under “newspaper comics”, and reprinted superhero material would still be “print comics” or “comic books”. So our narrowed “webcomics” would include DC’s Zuda Comics, but not Marvel Digital or FBoFW. This is still hazy for cases like Diesel Sweeties, which started on the web, and published both on the web and in syndicated papers simultaneously (with different content) for a time; but it will do.

And that’s the definition I’m typically using and tend to focus on when I talk about webcomics. When I talk about how webcomics make money, I’m thinking about how Kurtz or McCloud would make money, not how Marvel would monetize their website. When I talk about “the most popular webcomics,” I don’t mean Dilbert. The collection of comics that are creator-owned, published online, usually maintained by one or two authors and typically full of geeky content are a community and a genre all their own, and deserve the same singular attention that we give to, say, sci-fi novels.

These are the comics that you find on Keenspot [link:], Zuda, Blank Label, Dumbrella, Modern Tales, and similar collectives. These are the comics that get their start on Comic Genesis [link:], Drunk Duck, or Webcomics Nation.

And yes, these are the comics that obey Sturgeon’s Law much more so than any others—after all, the barriers to entry are very low; anyone with a computer and a bunch of free time can create one. (I myself had a short-lived sprite comic, now gone from the web and never to be seen again.) This means they’re often drawn and written by hobbyists with limited time, no editors, and the occasional limited grasp of spelling and/or grammar. Which is, of course, the other reason I like to talk about them: There are some fantastic gems of comics to be found, if you know where to look.

I’m  going to be picking apart how these comics exist as an art form and what makes them different; discuss how they make money, why some do so much better than others, and which ones you really should be reading. Though be warned: The only thing that sucks up more of your free time that creating a webcomic is reading them.

‘Schlock Mercenary: The Teraport Wars’ Coming in October

Schlock Mercenary: The Teraport Wars is now available for pre-order. The Teraport Wars is the fourth collection of Schlock Mercenary strips to make it into publication; in true George Lucas style, Book 3 and Book 4 were released first. This book fits between The Tub of Happiness and Under New Management, and with it the first 1000 strips are available four hard-copy volumes.

This 228-page volume is in full color on glossy paper, and contains all the strips and footnotes from November 12th of 2001 through March 8th of 2003. It also features some new footnotes, commentary, guest art, concept art, deck plans for the Post-Dated Check Loan, eleven pages of all-new bonus story, and an introduction by Brandon Sanderson. The book is expected to ship October 9.

Schlock Mercenary is a webcomic by Howard Tayler that follows the adventures of a mercenary company aboard a starship in a 31st-century space opera setting. Schlock Mercenary updates daily at, and has been doing so continuously since June of 2000, a near-unheard-of feat in webcomics. Schlock Mercenary was previously featured on Keenspot, and is now a member of the Blank Label Comics consortium.

Webcomics You Should Be Reading: ‘Darths & Droids’

Webcomics You Should Be Reading: ‘Darths & Droids’

Though Star Wars fandom is full of disagreements and divisions, most of us fanboys are in agreement about a few things: Jedi, lightsabers and force powers are awesome. Anything Timothy Zahn writes is going to be better than anything Kevin J. Anderson writes. And Lucas probably would have had a better script for The Phantom Menace if he’d hired a seven-year-old to write it.

Enter the Comic Irregulars (Andrew Coker, Andrew Shellshear, David Karlov, David McLeish, David Morgan-Mar, Ian Boreham, Loki Patrick, and Steven Irrgang), who you might recall from their work on the action figure/photo capture comic Irregular Webcomic. Inspired by Shamus Young’s work on DM of the Rings, they ask the question, “What if Star Wars was a roleplaying campaign that went far, far away from what the Game Master intended?”

And thus was born Darths & Droids.

The comic is set in a universe where Star Wars never existed, and the unnamed game master/narrator has designed the world from scratch for his game. Before the game begins, the players don’t know anything at all about Jedi, or Tatooine, the Skywalker family, because they only exist in the GM’s mind. The setting is built up over the course of the story in response to what the players do, and what they do is never what the GM expects, in a classic roleplaying maneuver known as “going off the rails.”

The plot follows Jim (playing Qui-Gon), Ben (playing Obi-Wan), and three other players who join later as they demonstrate why you shouldn’t make laser swords the cheapest available weapons, why you shouldn’t bring your little sister to roleplaying group, and how much more sense the plot of Episode I makes when filtered through the chaotic lens of a roleplaying game.