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Which webcomics should follow Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant?

The Happy Undertaker art by Drazen Kozjan

The Happy Undertaker art by Drazen Kozjan

Webcomics that would make great books

– by Eric Buckler

It seems like the most efficient way to get artistic content these days is through an Internet connection and a computer of some sort. This has significantly changed the structure of the recording industry with the introduction of digital music and is currently changing the publishing industry with the Kindle and the iPad. Comics have seen as much change as any medium.

Enter the webcomic.

Webcomics are comics that are updated on web pages, most live entirely on the internet. This offers more comics to more people, yet there are also now thousands of comics that will never be seen by even the biggest comics fan on earth, and that includes comic book publishers. This has been exciting, it means that there are untapped resources, ones that hold an amazing array of talent and opportunity for new artistic interpretation in the medium.

The webcomic is not new, it has been around since 1985, according to Shaenon Garrity (click for her great article on the history of webcomics) at the Comics Journal. But with Kate Beaton‘s Hark! A Vagrant, originally a webcomic, making it to the number one spot on the New York Times Bestseller Hardcover Graphic Books list in October 2011, the form has become a proven source of stellar talent and popularity that can translate successfully into books.

Here are a few examples of Internet-only (so far) strips that would make fantastic books – comics that are written and drawn with the kind of care that goes into the best graphic novels, but still only exist on the web.

The Happy UndertakerDrazen Kozjan is a professional illustrator, children’s book author and cartoonist whose webcomic, The Happy Undertaker follows a smiley pumpkin-headed undertaker in a top hat through his days at a cemetery. The illustration is clearly the product of years of practice and an innate drawing ability, and the lines and movement are so sublime and sweet that even the scarier parts are like receiving fresh flowers. Etobicoke, Ontario’s Kozjan use of color is a mix between Halloween and Easter, which makes the dark parts even more interesting. And the Undertaker, who loves his job and delights in the gruesome outcome of his clients, is a wonderful character. Here is an early episode, when Kozjan started in 2007. It is his take on Little Red Riding Hood, whom he depicts perfectly. The comic is mostly self-contained one-page episodes, a format that would make for a great collection.

The Happy Undertaker webcomic image.

The Happy Undertaker.

His Face All Red – Emily Carroll does most of her online art directly in Photoshop. It would be impossible to tell, due to the fact that the Vancouver-based cartoonist emulates the amazing qualities of a pro like Richard Sala, while keeping a style all her own that can range from whimsical and bright to downright frightful. Her line work is sharp and entirely consistent, and keeps her aforementioned style integrated at all times. Her characters are very easy to fall right into and empathize with, even when they are murdering heathens. Case in point, His Face All Red.

The smooth line work and warm wash of colors in the comic are deceptively charming and simple, and the story stays dark and brutal until the very end. It would be great to see a collection of the stories currently only on Carroll’s website in print, both for her growing base of fans and to introduce her to those who don’t normally troll the Internet for comics. Hopefully we’ll see lots more from Carroll, who only began doing webcomics a couple of years ago.

His Face All Red by Emily Carroll

His Face All Red by Emily Carroll.

The Realist Asaf Hanuka‘s work includes illustration for the animated film Waltz With Bashir as well as for many comics.  The Realist charts his life in webcomic form. Originally published in the Israeli paper Calcalist, the Tel-Aviv-based cartoonist’s comic (originally in Hebrew) is an intimate trip through his life, accented by jumps into fiction. In one section early on, Hanuka is playing spacemen with his kid when his wife confronts him about finding a new place to live. The family has been told they have three months to vacate their current home due to a sale. Hanuka leaves the room telling his wife he will think about it as he is transformed into one of his child’s toy spacemen on the way to his toy rocket – a fitting metaphor for leaving a comfortable home for an alien place. The life depicted in the comic seems normal most of the time – a glimpse of the trials of a small family – but by putting his thoughts and perceptions into the mix helps Hanuka translate his own reality and take the strip beyond a diary.

Asaf Hanuka art from The Realist webcomic.

The Realist. Art by Asaf Hanuka

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