Introducing Sequential Art Online: Webcomics
Randall Munroe’s webcomic XKCD regularly offers unexpected nuggets of information management insight as well as real answers to seemingly unanswerable questions

With the new year, NSR pushes further into published online content, including a weekly visit to the world of webcomics. This expressive medium has been around for more than three decades. It’s a realm of stories, reports, and visual creativity, some the early forms of later publication in paper or e-resource format. Others have, some will, and, meanwhile, a lot do live long and happy lives in web only form on such graphics-friendly blogging platforms as Tumblr, and through software custom-designed specifically for creating and sharing comics content.

Webcomics give both amateur and professional cartoonists a means for sharing out new content, experimental techniques, and fan art or homages to comics artists. The web has also become a right-sized location to build a following via webcomics to gain monetary support through Kickstarter for eventual paper publication. We’re not going to be dropping into these projects much except to note subject matter themes arising that reflect more broadly on content innovations.

Webcomics can offer support to readers advisors looking for new creative artists, forthcoming print graphic novels, and a means to introduce comics-reluctant readers to panel narratives beyond their memories of the Sunday funnies. Mark Siegel, Editorial Director at Macmillan’s First Second subdivision, as well as a children’s book illustrator and writer, unfolded across more than two years online what was to become, for older readers, a 2012 paper publication. Sailor Twain or, The Mermaid in the Hudson, garnered a webcomic readership in the tens of thousands who got to read it first in thrice-weekly episodes—for free-online. With the book available in print, the web archive is no longer public. Former NASA engineer Randall Munroe has been publishing XKCD, his “webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language,” under a Creative Commons license, for well over a decade. Three times a week (again!), a new strip is published.

Which brings us to the matter that webcomics support both long form narratives in serialized arrival—like Sailor Twain—as well as relatively self-contained strips that pack an idea, a joke, or even an imponderable into about three panels (or one, or four or five—as long as there is adequate set up, event, and response, within a single strip). Fan art and even editorial cartoons (which typically express all in a single panel) also live well in the web world of comics, too. And occasionally, we’ll check into who and what is exciting there.

For our first week in online sequential art browsing, there’s that sweet spot between a singular moment’s read and a long and developed plot that takes years to unwind. Emily Carroll’s short story “The Hole the Fox Did Make,” complete and just a click from the screen in which this post appears, first came to web in 2014 and remains online to haunt webcomics readers and ghost story devotees alike.