Tagged: Wikipedia

The Theory of Webcomics: A DC Wiki?

The Theory of Webcomics: A DC Wiki?

A few weeks ago, I discussed the usefulness of active, available archives for webcomics. Archives provide huge amounts of free content to draw in new readers; and they prevent continuity lockout by providing a way to easily go back and refresh your memory of previous events. With print comics, especially before the advent of everything getting collected in trade paperbacks, there really wasn’t a way to avoid that — which is a lot of why Silver Age stories needed to be as self-contained as they were.

Nowadays, people who are flush with cash can always go buy a TPB collection of stories they missed or forgot. Who the heck is this character in the latest issue of Ultimate Spider-Man? The editor’s note says he first appeared back in Ultimate X-Men #17. All it takes is one trip to Amazon.com, several days for delivery, and then reading time, and I’ll be caught up enough to understand what’s going on in the comic currently in my lap.

Of course, those of us with rent bills to pay have to make do with the lower-cost option: The internet. There are lots of choices to catch up on, say, DC Comics continuity: The DC Wikia, the Justice League Library, Heroes Wiki, and heck, even granddaddy Wikipedia itself.

But you know where you can’t go to figure out what happened in that recent issue of Batgirl you missed, or that Green Lantern plot point from 1988 that recently cropped up? DCComics.com.

Now, don’t get me wrong: If you want to see artwork previews, or check the list of everything that’s in print, or get a short graphic bio of most of the characters, DCComics.com is the place to go. But say you haven’t been following Trinity and want to catch up. If you go to the forum and ask for the best place to do so, they’ll point you to Wikipedia.

Of course, Marvel’s website already has their own version of the wiki and it’s pretty nifty, too.

So here’s my suggestion to DC: You need a wiki. You’ve got an army of fans just aching to show how much they know about the characters and storylines, as evidenced by the other wikis that crop up everywhere. You need accessible utilities that’ll help build a bigger audience, especially among younger people, who don’t have the continuity knowledge to get into most recent titles. You need to drive traffic to your website as effective advertising for your products, and keep people at your website, rather than shunting them off to an outside source. And you’ll want all of this to be under your nominal control.

Here’s how you do it: Acquire the Wikia content (I don’t know the legal channels, but I’m sure you could find them). Hire a few of your most OCD fans (and a couple of the ComicMix contributors come to mind) as moderators. Set a few ground rules (no spoilers for this month’s books, no speculation, no flaming), and let the fans go from there. Link in the original stories, history of the DC and other online content you currently have, and have the last line of the wiki entry for each ongoing book or characters be a link to a preview of the next issue. Heck, if you set up creator/author/artist pages right, you can have an “subtle” way of linking fans of one book to things that they would also want to buy.

Also, everything that currently in print? There should be a “Buy It Now!” icon. Not a tiny, blend-in-to-the-background “Subscribe to your favorite comics” down at the bottom of the page. That’ll also be really easy to transition to digital pamphlets when the time comes and the color ebook readers are ready.

Just because classic print comics and “webcomics” as I define them are different animals, doesn’t mean they can’t take lessons from each other about what works in terms of monetizing web content.

(On the odd chance someone official reads this and goes ahead with this idea, I’d also love to see a Showcase volume of my dad’s work from the 70s and 80s, particularly ‘Mazing Man. Also, a pony.)

Science Friction, by Dennis O’Neil

Science Friction, by Dennis O’Neil

The following will be about a column I didn’t write and it’s Vinnie Bartilucci’s fault. But that’s okay. I forgive him.

What Mr. Batilucci did was beat me to recommending Physics of the Impossible, by Michio Kaku. This Mr. B. did in a comment on last week’s column which, some may remember, described how awkward I felt being a published science fiction writer who was abysmally ignorant of science and how one of my earliest attempts at remedy of this ignorance was reading One…Two…Three…Infinity, by George Gamow.

My plan was to save recommending Dr. Kaku’s much more recent book – it’s on current best-seller lists, in fact – for this week.

Said recommendation would have come at the end of a blather that would have mentioned yet another elderly book, The Two Cultures, by a remarkable man who was both a scientist and novelist named C.P. Snow. According to the endlessly useful Wikipedia, “its thesis was that the breakdown of communication between the “two cultures” of modern society – the sciences and the humanities – was a major hindrance to solving the world’s problems.” I encountered Mr. Snow’s slim volume in college, probably when I should have been reading something some teacher had assigned, and it must have impressed me. (I mean, here we are, all these years later, and I still remember it.) The unwritten column would have culminated in the reiteration of something I mentioned some months ago, advice from my first comic book boss, Stan Lee. Stan said, in effect, that it’s a waste of space to “explain” comic book “science” because readers will accept what we tell them.


GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: Kampung Boy & Town Boy

GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: Kampung Boy & Town Boy

It can be a bit disconcerting to discover that whole comics industries exist in previously unsuspected places. We all know about the large French-Belgian comics market, and of course the massive world of Japanese manga, but who suspected that there was a great Malaysian cartoonist?

Well, there is, and his name is Lat. He’s been working in comics since the late ‘60s, but his work has never been published in the US before. His stories first appeared weekly in the newspaper [[[Berita Minggu]]] when he was thirteen years old, and he was awarded the prestigious Malaysian honorific title Datuk in 1994. (Think something along the lines of “Sir” or “Lord.”) According to Wikipedia, Lat’s real name is Mohammed Nor Khalid, and much of his work seems to be political or topical cartoons for the major Malaysian newspaper [[[New Straits Times]]]. (The Wikipedia entry has a list of his titles, and many of them sound like compilations of previously published work.)

Kampung Boy seems to have been his first standalone graphic novel, and begins his autobiography; Town Boy continues the story from the point Kampung Boy leaves off, and brings him up nearly to the end of his schooling. Kampung Boy is laid out more like a children’s book than like comics; the art spreads across the pages, accompanied by hand-lettered text set like captions. There are no panel borders, and only the occasional word balloon. [[[Town Boy]]] starts off in the same style, but turns into more traditional comics for much of its length, with long stretches laid out as panels with word balloons. The difference is that the purely narrated sections – all of Kampung Boy, and the parts of Town Boy covering general information or longer stretches of time – are done in the first style, while detailed, dialogue-intensive scenes need the immediacy of balloons and borders.

Kampung Boy begins like a traditional autobiography: Lat is born on the first page. The rest of the book chronicles his life in a very rural village, or kampung, up to about the age of ten, when he is sent off to a boarding school in the town of Ipoh. The details of his life are exotic, but the rhythms of rural life, and of boyhood, are very familiar and well captured. Lat may be a Muslim boy on the other side of the world, in a region that farms rubber and mines tin, but the life of a boy in a village, falling asleep during lessons in a small school and swimming with his friends in the river, is not all that different from Mark Twain’s childhood.