Category Archives: Illustrations & Graphic Arts

Happy National Poetry Month in Webcomics

Every Wednesday you can catch a new episode in Nonsense Poetry Comics posted by Sean Monett on Twitter @FlowerPower. On Tumblr each week’s update (often unrhymed) offers incisiveness lines with images that pack the major content points.

Since April is National Poetry Month in the US, what better way to discover webcomics? While wit is always apparent, images sometimes appear in black and white, sometimes in gorgeously hued tones. Some weeks bring multi-panel strips while others are single panel cartoons. Here’s a good place to find variety in comics communication styles as well as a moment of reflection with a smile.

Comics Cultural Laureate

As International Women’s Month rockets toward a close for 2018, kit’s a good time to give a shoutout to the Netherlands’ current Comic Artist Laureate. Stateside, the status of laureate seems to be a designation reserved for arts that have been awarded a kind of protected status: protected from hoi polloi and popular acclaim. Happily, European countries realize that celebrating cartoonists is important, too.

Margreet de Heer draws with whimsical delight that is both infectious and informative. Her books available in America include histories of religion and philosophy, each of which do the heavy lifting of big ideas with accessible observations as well as sweetly engaging imagery. Like these two volumes, her webcomic is about discoveries as well: Discoveries in Comics themselves. In addition to being a crackerjack artist, she’s an observer in awe of both ideas and daily life and that awe is infectious.

You might start by enjoying the emotional—and emotional rollercoaster—of her account regarding her appointment as Comic Artist Laureate of the Netherlands. There is no good reason to stop there, however: after all, laureate status indicates that the person has something worthy of notice by everyone. Move on to read her thoughtful comic on #MeToo. Her wordless account of the process of making comics is one fellow artists will find comforting, s knowing company needs.

There are also pieces about the family cat, political questions, and the research processes she uses when writing nonfiction comics. There are movie reviews, moments of fantasy, and autobiographical moments. Pick up your screen, settle in, and enjoy a good long visit with a laureate.

 

Your Rights as an Expressive Student

While not strictly a webcomic, this week’s feature in our sequential art category is free, online, and important for today’s planned nationwide student activism. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has published a comic explaining the rights of teens to express themselves on civic matters. This can be downloaded or, better, shared virally online.

Be Heard! A Comic For Student Rights From CBLDF & NCAC

 

Nor’easter Webcomics Reading

From Irma “Aimo” Ahmed and Allison Pang, this five-years-and-running fairytale-kissed webcomic offers some diversion for New Englanders about to head into our second Nor’easter of the week. Fox and Willow—with Fox being, well, a (perhaps enchanted) fox, and Willow, a harpist—the story unwinds from looting a graveyard through animal spirits readers will quickly recognize from folklore to the current arc which involves, yes, the prediction of a big snow coming….

Each page is generously sized and beautifully colored in a palette that suits the semi-Medieval setting. Readers unaccustomed to either webcomics or reading images wrapped with words on screen can spend the coming real life storm getting to know (and fall in love) with webcomics thanks to this beauty.

Little Vampires: Just what the Doctor Ordered for All Ages

Since 2009, Rebecca Hicks and her Lunasea Studios have been publishing a child-friendly, adult-welcome strip about twice a week. Little Vampires spills out in story arcs that keep a joke going just long enough to satisfy readers who need plotting while also providing a cast of characters that is small enough to keep individual characteristics clear and broad enough to include a healthy range of personalities.Jokes range from obstreperous grand pianos to the possibilities a fresh array of crayons offer to those with wild and colorful imaginations. Critters aren’t all vampires either: there is currently a green and squid-faced fellow and then there is the Old One who has glasses and ‘stache but no visible boundary lines pooling these attributes into a traditional face; more and less hairy humanoids who sometimes could be Sasquatch. Monsterdell, home to all these fine fellows, seems more delightful than frightening, more smarty than sentimental. In short, a little dab will do you and keep you feeling young enough to grin.

The Pit in Black and White

While producing full-color comics online can carry large loads of symbolic choices in shades and tints, the relentless black of India ink offers an equally evocative set of possibilities. In Banquet (2016-2018), Anne Szabla takes the latter route to fine success. The story of a toddler lost to the depths of Hell—via a hole in New Boston’s Boylston Street (hardly a difficult setup to imagine as unvarnished truth!)—deserves all the appearance of deepest dark an artist can construct and Szabla is equal to that task.

This webcomic isn’t a one-joke—or one nightmare—scenario, however. It’s a fully realized tale of nearly mythic proportion, featuring gods, warriors, and the kind of humor that allows readers to follow both the toddler’s experiences (he’s too young to recognize them as travails) and the very human attributes of the residents of this Bottomless Pit of Hell. Fans of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book can find a read-alike here. Here’s to the power of India ink in the age of pixels.

An Alternative History Webcomic Antidote to Alternative Fact Poisoning

Journalism, librarianship, and teaching all live and die by the sword of facts that inform and reasoned thought with which to shape new understanding. The power of metaphorical devices each of them may use trades on intentionally and openly skewing reality just enough to allow fresh perspective. Sometimes that twist allows for a deep and serious a-ha. And sometimes it’s simply good for a laugh, a laugh that relaxes rather than stupefying.

Thank you, Tina Pratt, for The Paul Reveres. So far our tale of the British (music) invasion, patriotism/anarchy, and characters recognizable from Newbery Medal fiction (Esther Forbes’ Johnny Tremain) as well as wandering into a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow epic from his North End silversmith shop, has unfurled across nine years of beautifully colored panels and cheeky sendups of American Revolutionary War tropes.

With our own era drowning in “alternative facts,” here’s an antidote to overdosing on cynicism: perhaps three panels a day until current reality sees a restoration of fact and reason as the roots of information.

Coming of Age with Literary Webcomic Superpowers

Emma T. Capps has been recognized for her droll and beautifully colored print and webcomics since she was about junior high age. Now that she’s already published in a variety of kids magazines; earned stripes for being the youngest cartoonist Dark Horse Presents (#25, 2013) had collected their on-again-off-again anthology of new work and creators; and seen her webcomic The Chapel Chronicles into print, she’s continuing to concoct lovely work that is both sly and sweet—as well as a literary bonbon eater’s delight.

Welcome to The League of Fonts. The concept of a realm in which typefaces live, from their birth (creation as fonts) until each might fall into eternal disuse, is teased out with such wit that readers will get absorbed in contemplating the properties of identity bound up in those squiggles on the page and screen we typically (!) treat simply as means to an end rather than—as Capps show us—potential ends in themselves. It’s insightful, a fun view of design, but also a potent moral analog.

A word of warning: you may find yourself not only choosing your own fonts carefully after reading Capps, but also asking them if they’d like some tea.

 

Tech Instruction via Webcomic Wisdom

Over at geekculture.com, The Joy of Tech is carrying along nearly into it’s third decade. Nitrozac and Snaggy, as this pair of Canadians sign themselves for their work here, publish fast-to-understand lessons in the form of half a dozen or fewer panels per take-away. These are insights and explanations that speak to experienced geeks and casual users of technology alike:

Published between four and 10 times monthly, The Joy of Tech, as one would expect, has an elegantly searchable archives. While reading individual posts is of course free, site registration for geekculture.com is encouraged, and Nitrozac and Snaggy have also set up a variety of ways to pay for what is very much an effort worthy of monetary support. With laudable transparency, the donations page spells out, too, exactly where the money goes as well as the various Patreon, non-Patreon, and even advertising routes available. As with all aspects of the webcomic, even this part of The Joy of Tech experience gives the reader a great précis to apply to other sites and situations when investigating their monetizing strategies.

This is a webcomic with a community and even the casual visit is likely to send the individual reader off to find someone else with whom to share it. In short, this is a webcomic that not only explains tech but also evokes why tech in truly humane terms.

 

 

Let’s Mansplain That (in Webcomics)

With women in the United States continuing to refuse to step away from both mic and spotlight as they talk back to a Western tradition of white male entitlements, the time is suited to tuning into webcomic “Manfeels Park.” The team of Morag & Erin use commentary (from men) found in current news account and even quoted from found dialog that sits there begging for satiric puns. The art harkens to the title’s Jane Austen roots stylistically and also manages to introduce current day settings for the kinds of occasions in which the particularly featured commentary fits.

This is one of dozens of webcomics archived by the Library of Congress. For their parts, Morag & Erin go the distance to provide source notes for each strip’s commentary. Once a fellow fan of puns, satire, and active counter attacking of mansplaining falls for this gem, there’s some back matter worthy of exploring as well in the Links section of their webcomic, including a not-too-long of other webcomic recommendations, some recommended blogs, and a couple of other projects the creators of Manfeels Park are undertaking online.

Atlas Obscura highlights top digitization projects of 2017

Great post on Atlas Obscura on some of the best digitization projects—i.e., “amazing archival treasures” digitized in 2017—some unveiled for the first time this year, others expanded significantly with new content—including:

Read the full article for more information on each institution’s digitization efforts and growth in 2017 here.

Two million open access nature illustrations available on Flickr via Biodiversity Heritage Library

From Open Culture:

“The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), an ‘open access digital library for biodiversity literature and archives,’ has for many years been making it easy for people to connect to nature through nature writing and illustration. In 2012, they announced the “success story” of their Flickr streams, both containing thousands of illustrations and photographs uploaded by the BHL staff and readers from their huge collections of books.

The first stream, currently at 122,281 images, has been carefully curated, and includes searchable galleries and albums divided by book title or subject…The second stream, consisting of over 2 million images, is a massive grab-bag of photos, illustrations from nature, advertisements, and imaginative renderings.”

Read the full article here.


More about BHL, as noted on its web site:

“The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is a consortium of natural history and botanical libraries that cooperate to digitize the legacy literature of biodiversity held in their collections and to make that literature available for open access and responsible use as a part of a global “biodiversity commons.” The BHL consortium works with the international taxonomic community, rights holders, and other interested parties to ensure that this biodiversity heritage is made available to a global audience through open access principles. In partnership with the Internet Archive and through local digitization efforts, the BHL has digitized millions of pages of taxonomic literature, representing over 120,000 titles and over 200,000 volumes.”