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  1.  (9535.61)
    I think I've gotten a little off topic here, but...
    Let's assume you have a horror comic, and the monster is about to eat the hero, saying something like "Ooh, snacks! Does anybody have a ship load of guacamole?" This page would be entirely useless if you're searching for a guacamole recipe. So why have that word in the back end anyway? Aren't keywords like "man-eating monster" better?

    Yes, that would absolutely be better, but the engines will always favor actual page text over alt tags or other methods of getting appropriate keywords in there, so it's a mixed bag. If you watch the search engine visits to a site you'll often find strange and sometimes funny search results. An example is my "Ladies World Domination Society" T-shirts, which get a lot of visits from people who were looking for something pretty different.
    My point is that yes, you do everything else you can with alt text and additional page content, but you're still better off with the search engines if you can get your page's actual content available to the bots in something other than a graphic; maybe additional, maybe integrated into the display. It can only help. Even with the guacamole, which I've seen used as a weapon anyhow.
  2.  (9535.62)
    The most SEO-friendly approach would be to use actual text for dialogue and narration (and an image per panel, with descriptive alt text). Unfortunately at the moment you'd be restricted to rectangular blocks of text, though with HTML5 we might be seeing that loosen up a bit.


    Actually, it's CSS3 rather than HTML5 that will potentially allow non-rectangular blocks of text. HTML is pure semantic mark-up, whereas CSS controls the visual presentation of that mark-up. You can hack this on non-CSS3-capable browsers by using JavaScript.

    I doubt that many people would want to go that way unless you could use the same source material for both the web and print versions.


    ...which is what major (non-comic) publishers are doing (disclaimer: I work for one). Basically you store the original content as XML with assorted images etc stored in their highest resolutions in a lossless format.

    From that XML repository you can generate a print-on-paper book, an ebook, or a page of HTML by applying an XSL transformation. Similarly images can be resized on the fly and converted to appropriate file formats (most server-side languages can do this - PHP uses phpGD or ImageMagick) so that they are suitable for the use in question (high-res TIF/EPS/whatever for print, screen res JPG/PNG for webpage etc).
  3.  (9535.63)
    From that XML repository you can generate a print-on-paper book, an ebook, or a page of HTML by applying an XSL transformation. Similarly images can be resized on the fly and converted to appropriate file formats (most server-side languages can do this - PHP uses phpGD or ImageMagick) so that they are suitable for the use in question (high-res TIF/EPS/whatever for print, screen res JPG/PNG for webpage etc).


    That's just what I was getting at: a single source that you could export in multiple formats. That's about the only way that a sane person would try to get there.

    As to HTML/CSS3, you're probably right, but I was thinking about the canvas element as the real New Thing.
  4.  (9535.64)
    As to HTML/CSS3, you're probably right, but I was thinking about the canvas element as the real New Thing.


    The new Canvas element certainly offers a richer way to do it, although I don't think the search engines crawl content in a Canvas element since it's so tied into JavaScript.

    Incidental thought: for the "web" version, if you use a device-detection database (such as WURFL) then you can automatically detect the available screensize of the device (along with other capabilities - JavaScript, Flash, etc) and apply additional XSL transformations on the fly to provide CSS/HTML/image formats for different screen sizes or browser capabilities (if you're working from a single XML data source).

    Although the headaches that multiple layouts would give to writers/artists might cause a few heads to explode.

    This does provide a partial solution for the SEO problems - deliver the content in a canvas element for JS/CSS3 friendly devices, but automatically fall back to a full text version (maybe with a dynamically generated single image of all panels) for non-JS devices - Googlebots (and screen reader software) will fall back to the text version. Since it's legitimate content then there shouldn't be any penalties from Google.
  5.  (9535.65)
    Talking to Amazon, I got the impression they really want you to focus on the platform rather than on the device specifically. But with so many Kindles out there that bears some thinking about, and there are other technical issues to sort through. Honestly, I'd love to support them, though.


    Oh, myself as well. Honestly, with all the hubabaloo about "saving the industry" and "getting new readers"-- Amazon plays a huge part. My wife's father, a high school geometry teacher who LOVED Superman as a kid, got a Kindle over the holidays that he's absolutely addicted to. If (with my prodding) he could get a copy of JMS' Superman GN, or Waid's Birthright on the device, I think he'd become a causal reader again. Honestly, I think that goes for a LOT of other folks out there as well.

    That said, I understand Amazon's reluctance to try to re-launch the market with a color Kindle. When they lowered their price point late last year, the Kindle really started to find its foothold as a platform. Introducing a color version would undoubtedly raise that price point and confuse potential costumers ("Do I buy the B/W, or the Color? Fuck it-- I don't want either b/c they're making me choose!")

    I still say it's only a matter of time before we see higher powered Kindles and Color ones to boot-- but that time might be longer than I think.
    Besides that, I have to admit, what it does (read books) it does very well.

    I did notice they have a bunch of IDW stuff in the Kindle store now that I've been meaning to take a look at.


    I did a little digging around, apparently Mike Jasper and Niki Smith of In Maps and Legends figured out how to get their digital comic up there...


    ...which was based on the research and work that Alex de Camp did on Valentine.

    Mike didn't mention anything about the 64k limit on his writeup, so hopefully that's something they've gotten around. If I find out more, I'll report back!
  6.  (9535.66)
    I still say it's only a matter of time before we see higher powered Kindles and Color ones to boot-- but that time might be longer than I think.
    Besides that, I have to admit, what it does (read books) it does very well.

    They'll get it right over the long term. They're not primarily a hardware company and that's something that takes awhile to figure out. They make mistakes but Amazon is quietly a pretty interesting company.

    Mike didn't mention anything about the 64k limit on his writeup, so hopefully that's something they've gotten around. If I find out more, I'll report back!

    It's been awhile since I looked at it but weren't some people trying to get around this by splitting up the graphic?
    •  
      CommentAuthorLee Edward
    • CommentTimeMar 14th 2011 edited
     (9535.67)
    I tend to think about formatting issues far more than is good for me, but I have noticed that my tastes in other peoples' web comics tends to run to the vertical, mostly because I have a scroll wheel, and will suffer nothing less. I'm typing this on my sister's old PowerBook G4 (with a Logitech mouse), and have been thinking about getting a mighty mouse for side-scrolling, but I don't think I'll ever design with that in mind, given the limited number of people with like ability.

    Mainly, I just try not to think too much about web comic formatting any more, simply because the old McCloud idea about infinite canvas seems to have suffered an ignoble death in the face of web comics going to print. The best compromise I can see for people starting out who aren't thinking about print, it's probably best to build single page or vertical scroll comics and deal with the PDA issue only if it's really close to your heart. I don't mean to be exclusionist, but really, I think comic pages look stupid on a little handheld screen, and I can't seem to find it in my heart to simply write/draw a comic one panel at a time. It doesn't feel like comics to me. Might just as well stick to text and spot illos for those folks, even if they have a really pretty iTouch screen or whatever. Some things simply aren't meant to work on a little screen.

    That said, I love it when an artist proves me wrong.
  7.  (9535.68)
    The Death to the Universe blog had an excellent article about webcomic format today:

    //The Coming Thing\\

    I've definitely been seeing more and more of these sort of infinite scroll type webcomics where you just scroll down through the story instead of clicking to a diffrent page or anything.
    •  
      CommentAuthorLee Edward
    • CommentTimeMar 15th 2011
     (9535.69)
    Actually, after giving it a little more thought, I have to say that, on the whole, the vertical infinite strip format is actually pretty unrewarding. I've looked at a number of such strips in the last couple of days, and to be quite frank, I think it's already over. We need to use the internet better than this if we want to explode the format and create something lasting and beautiful. Most of what I just saw in that The Coming Thing article not only felt trite and drab, but frankly, didn't really impress upon me the strength of the format. Changing the direction of the page isn't much of an achievement, gang. Even print comics experimented with sideways down directional storytelling, and it looked and felt better, too.

    *wanders off to grumble and consider the problem some more*
  8.  (9535.70)
    The problem with the "infinite scrolling" format is that many web-comics are supported/subsidized via advertising. Clicking through pages increases page-view counts for the site and therefore brings more money for those charging per-impression rates.

    Or did someone explain this already? I'm an old man and I forget shit sometimes.
    • CommentAuthorTom Akel
    • CommentTimeMar 23rd 2011
     (9535.71)
    The books we have releasing this year at MTV are all done in print format ratio, even though they're on web. One of the creators is toying with all 2-page spreads, and it looks great. But everything is in the comixology player and not that it has to be print ratio, but it helps when selling on the iPad or for collected print editions down the road. For those who mentioned the guided view thing, I agree and we're not using that online but on a handset it's a necessity. Though I tried messing around with reformatting my book Anywhere for WAP and as I got further into it started to really like the results. It's just a pain in the ass to do (example here: http://heroverse.com/wap/comics_anywhere7.html) and I wound up bailing on it.

    For those discussing SEO, the dialog in your comic really doesn't hold much SEO value, so it's probably not worth bothering with it. Just as the individual items in a recipe don't hold much value, it's your title and meta data that will drive search traffic.

    To answer your question though, Warren, we think about it all the time, but being able to print collected editions is still something that everyone wants so no one has deviated from that yet. I'd love to publish a digital comic that completely defies tradition so long as it was done to better serve the story. So who's up for doing a book that's an ongoing series of 100x150 pixel animated gifs neatly stacked over 40 blog posts?
    • CommentAuthordarrylayo
    • CommentTimeMar 26th 2011
     (9535.72)
    To address Mr. Ellis' point in the first post.

    Do enjoy Freak Angels quite a bit. But I would never have been able to hang in here as a regular reader if it were not for this ingenious format. I read other long-form graphic novel webcomics, and I find the standard format used (ComicPress powered by WordPress, for example) to be tedious and discouraging as a reader.

    Part of why I love Freak Angels is because the website is an actual pleasure to use. I hope that you use this system in your next webcomic project.
    • CommentAuthorbuhbuhcuh
    • CommentTimeMar 28th 2011
     (9535.73)
    I think its fascinating that the boundry between comic format and site design is so thin. I'm going to keep my design ideas in their own thread for now, but I would like to touch on one point I haven't seen anyone talk about.

    The information density of any monitor compared to that of paper. 72 dpi vs ~300 dpi. (Phones and tablets are currently higher density, but iPad2 is still sitting at a measly 132 dip)

    I am writing a comic right now that is designed for the web foremost, but with the option for print if it becomes successful. I just finished the first draft of the first chapter's script, and it was written for a "page" that has a 4:3 aspect ratio, no more than 1024 pixels wide.

    If this was printed at the same resolution, it would be a "landscape" book, about 3.5 inches wide, and about 2.6 inches tall. (We'll produce the art for print, so it's not a tiny book).

    That really informs what I can do with a page - large panels with limited detail. Watching how much dialog I can cram in. The script turned out to be more terse than I was expecting (not a bad thing.)

    This is sacrificing a lot, but it should result in a comic that is enjoyable on any monitor or tablet, without having to worry about what downsampling will lose, or what happens to the readers flow on a page they can't see the entirety of.

    Screw phones, by the way, I want my comic to take up at least 1/4 of your main perceptive arc when you are reading it.
  9.  (9535.74)
    Part of why I love Freak Angels is because the website is an actual pleasure to use.

    All glory to Ariana on that score, by the way.
  10.  (9535.75)
    I read other long-form graphic novel webcomics, and I find the standard format used (ComicPress powered by WordPress, for example) to be tedious and discouraging as a reader.

    Out of curiosity, what don't you like about it? Freakangels is (I believe) running on a highly modded Wordpress layout-- I'm guessing custom coded.

    The reason I ask is that I see a lot of Comicpress hate, that I just don't get. It's just a platform, and a highly customizable one at that.
    Is it that you've run across webcomics that are widget'ed to death? Or haven't bothered to change anything beyond the stock template? Or is it something else?

    Again, just curious--
    • CommentAuthordarrylayo
    • CommentTimeApr 2nd 2011
     (9535.76)
    @Warren: good to know. She has produced a classic of web design, in my eyes.

    @Tim: FreakAngels is built on WordPress, but not with the ComicPress application. I personally DO like ComicPress, but just find it very tiresome to read long sustained novel comics on it. The primary exception for me would be Meredith Gran's Octopus Pie, which the author customized further from the out-of-the-box ComicPress design.

    For my purposes as a reader, Comic Press works best with with either comic strips or narratives that are relaxed, not terribly dense, etc. Part of it is usage more than inherent design. Part of it is what is left out of the application. But the design of the application stresses the individual update, ie, one page or strip at a time. Even if you were to update with several pages in sequence, it's a strange experience to completely click to a new website page just to continue a train of thought. Acceptable if you are reading through a series' back archives--pretty uncomfortable to read "live," at the pace that a given cartoonist is able to draw.

    I guess it's just the nature of the application that it encourages piecemeal updating. Fine for strips, but it's really hard to stay intellectually and emotionally engaged with longform work.

    Full disclosure, my own webcomic was made with ComicPress. Before the site exploded on me. And I thought it was six shades of ugly.

    Finally, I wouldn't characterize my feelings of ComicPress as "hate." We all know that hate is a very strong word that should only be used when talking about BlogSpot.
  11.  (9535.77)
    I'm a pretty big Comicpress fan, even though, as darrylayo says, it's not the best fit for my mostly longform work. It's easy enough to supplement the daily installments with gallery pages for smoother reading, though.
    •  
      CommentAuthorAriana
    • CommentTimeApr 3rd 2011
     (9535.78)
    Darryl: Why, thankya!