By Darryl Ayo
I woke up at 2:45AM one Saturday, took a walk around the neighborhood at about 3:30AM and presently it is 5:51AM. Night time. Now that my sleep schedule is in “fun-mode,” I feel that I’m well-positioned to approach comics from the angle that I always wanted to: alone; in the quiet; looking out of my window, a block and a half away at another light that’s switched on; the people whose kitchen faces my bedroom. They know me well. So very well.
Today I am thinking about resources. Resources for readers of comics and for aspiring readers. What follows is a collection of periodical publications that regularly support comics as a part of their creative features or editorial features.
The New Yorker: the great-granddaddy of them all. The New Yorker gets made fun of a lot in comics circles for being stiff, dry and unfunny (preferring a gentleman’s chortle to a commoner’s belly laugh), but all in all, this is probably the best publication for comic and cartoon art in these United States. I would have bristled, once upon a time, to see the cartoons placed in the “humor” section, but nowadays I embrace that distinction. Bringing joy to the lives of regular people is a real honor. “Joy” is my middle name*
Boing Boing: the popular science/science-fiction/technology/etc blog currently boasts two comic features: Tom the Dancing Bug and Brain Rot. I deeply appreciate Boing Boing and I appreciate them even more now that comics are a prominent part of their blend of analysis, theory, daydreaming and wonder.
Make: from members of the Boing Boing team comes a magazine/website MakeZine which presents two comic features. I believe that their names are HowToons (by Saul Griffith, Joost Bonsen and Nick Dragotta) and Eureka (by Roy Doty) ,but I’m not yet a digital subscriber to this magazine and have a bit more research to do! Developing story!
Daily Kos: A progressive blog of news, opinions and activism, the Daily Kos is perhaps the most prominent place to view political comics outside of websites specifically geared toward them. The line-up at Kos is exceptional; all-star, if you want my opinion: Tom Tomorrow’s This Modern Life, Jen Sorensen’s Slowpoke, Eric Lewis’ Animal Nuz, as well as animations by Scott Bateman and Mark Fiore, fierce comic strips by Matt Bors and traditional political cartoons from Matt Wuerker. But that’s a lot of links to click. They’re all in a single blog-stream that you can get to from the top of the main site’s masthead, clearly labeled “comics.” I absolutely love that and I support Kos wholeheartedly because they support the inclusion of comics as editorial and intellectual equals. :SALUTES:
Vice: Meanwhile, on the other side of the political spectrum…we have Vice, the bawdy, rowdy, mean-spirited fashion magazine that can be seen as the hipster’s bible. It skews conservative, but in a liberal way. Does that make any sense? Anyway, don’t click anything associated with Vice magazine when you’re at your office, because as the name suggests, it’s NSFW (and likely blocked at your workplace anyway). The point is comics. Vice has a long tradition of comics, but also a long tradition of hiding those comics from view. God forbid if a fashionista logged in or picked up a magazine copy and saw something like THIS. The magazine boasts regular work from cartoonist Johnny Ryan as well as a website section that frequently features short work by many spectacular younger alternative cartoonists. I do appreciate editor Nick Gazin’s vision and taste even though I disagree with just about everything he types in his reviews. Nick: I disagree.
Slate: this is basically a newspaper. And it has one thing that I always look for in a newspaper. It has comics. Or, to be specific, it has ONE comic. That one comic is Doonesbury. Slate actually hosts Doonesbury’s official website which shows a mutual commitment to the relationship between newspapers and comic strips. Also, now that I am an adult, I like Doonesbury. Growing up is weird!
Saveur: this is a magazine and website about cooking, recipes, food culture and all that surrounds those ideas. It’s only logical that, just like MakeZine above, the DIY-centric magazine, that Saveur would incorporate comics into their mix of content. Behold “Recipe Comix!” I have one serious problem, however. I’m a heavy iPhone user and while Saveur does have a mobile website, the comics are not refitted for the size. They are fuzzy, pixelated blobs. Since the team at Saveur thought enough of mobile users to make a mobile site, I strongly urge them to reformat their images to make that content viewable as well. Also: no front-page navigation. A small indication would go a long way to helping to promote this otherwise lovely feature.
New York Press: not to be confused with the right-wing sensationalist New York City tabloid daily paper The New York Post, the New York Press is a weekly alternative newspaper, akin to the famed Village Voice. If you go to NYPress.com and scroll to the bottom of the page, you’ll find a very small comic. Works for me!
The New York Post: not to be confused with the left-wing socialist New York City tabloid weekly paper, The New York Press, the New York Post ALSO CONTAINS COMICS ON THEIR WEBSITE (masthead: click the “entertainment” drop down menu). However, this does not appear to be replicated on their iPhone mobile website. Ooooh! So close, so far!
The New York Daily News: only one notch better than the Post, the Daily News also contains comics on their internet website under “entertainment” (and also, not on their iPhone mobile website. Bizarrely, the Daily News has opted to use a Flash-viewer for their comic content. Uhhh. Sure, that’s great.
The New York Times: aka “The Grey Lady,” aka “The Paper of Record,” aka “What the heck? A newspaper with no comics? Heresy!” So after one hundred years of dragging their feet, the New York Times finally decided to add some comics content to their publication. But so grudgingly. First of all, their comics content was in the New York Times Magazine (which comes bundled with the weekend paper). Second of all, they discontinued the program after a couple of years. This was the peak of the “graphic novel boom.” I am disappointed that the Times has chosen to cut this feature because, honestly, it’s the only reason I ever read the magazine.
The New York Times, Round Two: Presently, in the New York Times Sunday Review (not to be confused with New York Times Sunday MAGAZINE), my friend Brian McFadden of BigFatWhale has a strip that runs weekly. Cleverly named “The Strip,” and ingeniously hidden from all but the most determined of investigators, this is the New York Times’ version of going whole hog on comics. I wish McFadden’s strip was featured more prominently, because people will laugh–he’s funny. Also key: I’m a NYTimes digital subscriber and I’ve got no iPhone access to “The Strip” in the official app. The strip may only be viewed on the desktop website and in the paper itself.
This is why comics traditionally have a weak reader base. Because the persons in charge seem to be desperate to HIDE the comics at any and all costs–even the cost of paying for comics content and then burying it! Absurd. The Times should be proud of their editorial content. Their Funny Pages section was good, McFadden’s “The Strip” is really good. Why is this the only feature in the entire publication hidden from reach? Why is everything that I like so difficult to find?
One more item: a brief overview of comics websites.
I find it very strange that most comics websites do not contain content that is…comics. It makes a good fit. The Daily Crosshatch gives it the old college try and The Comics Journal does run periodic comics content, but mostly, the comics content on websites devoted to the form appear in the shape of company-distributed previews. That’s not editorial content, that’s not feature content, that’s advertisement. On the publisher side of things, Top Shelf Productions has their Top Shelf 2.0 program of short stories from a variety of creators. Domino Books has a “stories” section and Picture Box has some ongoing features in their blog. Fantagraphics Books has some readable content that they distribute through their blog. This is what every comic publisher ought to have. It should be a fact of life. I want to see more of this; just like we can go to many record label websites and listen to samples of their catalog, all comics publisher websites need to give visitors a reason to continue visiting. It’s important to the business and guess what: people will like it.
There is a larger task than simply “make good work” when it comes to expanding the comics culture and industry. We have to press forward, firmly pushing to build bridges between comics as a mode of expression and the outlets that could benefit from sequential art. We need to do more than tell each other about all of the wonderful comics out there; we need to tell our larger communities about these comics. What’s more, we need to put the comics into the communities and let people find them without our hands-on help (ie, pressure). We need to let comics get larger than our current tribal culture.