Here’s a confession: I don’t really read webcomics.
Sure, I kept up with Diesel Sweeties for a while, but mostly, I have a hard time keeping up with them (this shouldn’t really come as a surprise, honestly, if you know I have trouble following monthly comics. That’s once every four weeks. Do you really expect me to be able to remember to read something every day or every week?).
But after seeing some of the creators behind ACT-I-VATE last night at Politics & Prose, I think I better start.
Haspiel is obviously awesome, and I liked his story of how ACT-I-VATE came about — he started by showing a photo of himself, all alone, working at his desk. You see, he said, making comics is lonely, and he found out that if he posted stuff to his LiveJournal (yay, LiveJournal!) people would respond. It began that just his friends were saying things, but soon, people he didn’t know were leaving comments too.
He saw that some of his creator friends were experiencing the same sort of thing. He thought they could join forces and therefore combine their respective fanbases.
ACT-I-VATE is a noncommercial enterprise — it exists, more or less, to just promote these creators’ work. Infurnari echoed this sentiment, saying he liked having a portfolio of his work online and that he could get feedback immediately. Fraser liked that he got control over his work — as primarily a creator for 2000 AD, he said he didn’t often get a lot of say what happens to his creations. (That was actually a point that was brought up many times by everyone — comics, especially at DC and Marvel, are work-for-hire. Creator-controlled works are the exception and not the rule.) He said he travels a lot and likes that he’s able to point people to the site when they ask him what he does.
DC local Dougan’s story was a little bit more of an interesting one. He’s a writer of comics and not an artist, so he’s had to find people to work with, and while the point wasn’t so much made, it was clear that the Internet makes it easier for him (Hyeondo Park, the artist of his ACT-I-VATE comic, Sam & Lilah, lives in Dallas).
Haspiel also told the story about how he encouraged Dougan & Park to submit Sam & Lilah to Zuda first, with the understanding it probably wouldn’t win (everyone seemed to have words of praise for Zuda, though, and everything I know about Zuda makes it seem like it’s a good deal). They joked about how after Sam & Lilah lost, they actually scooped the winner with their press release saying the comic was going to be on ACT-I-VATE.
While the event was for the ACT-I-VATE Primer, that seemed a little secondary to most of the discussion. They wanted to do the book because there’s still a print audience (although Haspiel talked about how that’s probably fading) and that there’s not necessarily a crossover between webcomics readers and print comics readers (I’m probably somewhat of an example of that). It was a good way to push people to the site that may have otherwise not known about it.
Then they read from their comics, accompanied by Dougan’s wife Rachel. This was, for the most part, hilarious and utterly charming. Fraser did voices and Rachel sometimes playfully stumbled over her parts (she said she hadn’t rehearsed). Haspiel called for audience participation when it came to sound effects. I’m all for this and I now demand that everyone does dramatic readings of their comics during panels. This was awesome.
The Q&A section was better than most, and allowed me to realize much too late that I was sitting behind Mike Rhode of ComicsDC. (I seriously didn’t make the connection until a little bit later, otherwise I probably would’ve said hi. So I’ll just say it here: Hi, Mike!)
It was a good presentation and I left an ACT-I-VATE fan. I foresee spending many, many hours on the site now.